Rafael Nadal: 'We'll see where he arrives'

The tennis world is waiting to see if Novak Djokovic can pull off the feat that neither Nadal or Federer have managed.

    There will be no time for Djokovic to lie around this season if he is to sweep the board of grand slams [GALLO/GETTY] 

    When the year began common logic suggested Novak Djokovic would struggle to emulate his extraordinary 2011 but after retaining his Australian Open title in astonishing fashion on Sunday the question is can anyone stop him setting the bar even higher.

    While Sunday's epic was desperately close and Rafael Nadal should arguably have won the fifth set against an exhausted opponent, there were long periods of the match when Djokovic called the shots and only Nadal's tenacity kept him in contention. 

    "Now he's the best of the world," Nadal said after losing the longest grand slam final ever.

    "That's how great it is. Five grand slams, so the history says that he has a part in the history today winning five grand
    slams, winning a lot of titles, number one of the world."

    "We'll see where he arrives," said the 25-year-old.

    The Serbian world number one now towers like a chunk of granite at the top of the men's game.

    Having risen through the ranks in an era when Roger Federer and Nadal shredded the record books the 24-year-old now looks capable of achieving the feat that eluded both of them, and many more of the game's greats, the fabled calendar grand slam.

    Djokovic won three of the four majors last year, only tripping up in the semi-finals of the French Open to an inspired
    Federer who himself collected three pieces of the jigsaw in 2004, 2006 and 2007 - each time Nadal proving an insurmountable barrier on Parisian brick dust. 

    Made for any surface

    Nadal won the French, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open during his dominant 2010, since when Djokovic has taken over.

    While Federer has never mastered Nadal's topspin brutality at Roland Garros - his only triumph coming there when Nadal was injured in 2009 - and Nadal often suffered on the hard courts of Melbourne and Flushing Meadows, Djokovic's game is tailor-made for any surface.

    His rubber-limbed movement means any ball appears within his reach, his serve is now a major weapon and his ability to generate pace off either wing by stepping inside the baseline means virtually all his matches are played on his terms.

    Even when Murray launched a staggering onslaught in Friday's semi-final, Djokovic weathered the storm behind his steely defences.

                 Nadal was a stubborn opponent of Federer's but he now has to deal with a superb Serbian [EPA]

    He proved last year that he had Nadal's number on slow clay, de-throning the Mallorcan powerhouse in Madrid and Rome without dropping a set - defeats that eroded Nadal's aura of invincibilty on a surface he has ruled on since 2005.

    While talk of a calendar grand slam, a feat not achieved since Rod Laver in 1969, is loaded with pitfalls, Djokovic was
    doing nothing to play down the possibility after his five hour 53 minute victory against Nadal on Sunday.

    "I'm prioritising grand slams this year, as every year, and the Olympic Games. I think that's one of my highest goals,"
    Djokovic said after becoming just the fifth player to win three of them in succession.

    "That doesn't mean of course that I'm not gonna prepare well and perform my best on the other tournaments. It's just that, you know, the grand slams matter the most."

    Clay has proved the most problematic for former greats such as Federer, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors but Djokovic has no demons on the surface and he clearly believes the French Open is winnable for the first time this year.

    "I want to do well and I want to get the first final at least in Paris, you know," he said.

    "I have never been in finals there, and I have a feeling that I'm ready this year to achieve that."

    Despite Nadal's upbeat reaction to defeat by Djokovic, a seventh consecutive defeat to the relentless Serb will have left mental and physical scars - similar to the ones he seems to regularly inflict on Federer.

    Tennis is so competitive right now, Djokovic will know there's someone itching to knock him off his thrown.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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