The tennis lives of these two have collided so many times in the past. The Spaniard and the Serb have met in nine previous Grand Slam finals, and with Djokovic and Nadal the top two favourites in the 2021 Australian Open odds, there’s every chance their paths will cross once again in the final of the Melbourne tournament.
Over ten years have passed since the pair squared off in the final of the US Open, a match in which Nadal got the better of his Serbian opponent with a four-set victory. Their most recent face-off in a Grand Slam final was last year’s French Open final, where Nadal eased to the title with a straight-sets triumph.
But while Nadal victories bookend the pair’s Grand Slam final history, their head-to-head record in these major finals is anything but one-sided. Out of the nine previous showdowns, Djokovic has won four finals while Nadal has won five. Their overall head-to-head history is also incredibly close, with Djokovic leading by 29 wins to 27.
The parallel success of these two tennis legends is the reason why they have clashed so often in showpiece finals over the last 10 years. Nadal has been winning tournaments since the mid-2000s, but Djokovic’s run of Grand Slam success only really kicked off around 2011, when he won his second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, eventually winning three Grand Slam titles that year. Since then, they have both been competing for the sport’s biggest prizes.
The Serb has been the most successful player of the last decade, but Nadal is not far behind, and the fact that the Spaniard is at the top of his game after multiple injury setbacks is testament to both his talent and his determination. There is a huge mutual respect between these two great champions, and it would be fitting if the upcoming Australian Open was to pit them against each other for the 10th time in a major final.
They are on a collision course if the current seedings remain intact until the tournament begins. But it is by no means a certainty that either player will reach the final as a formality. Last year saw a number of players begin to flex their muscles as potential challengers to the dominance of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer. Thiem triumphed at the US Open, while the likes of Medvedev and Alexander Zverev also enjoyed moderate success in 2020.
But if Djokovic and Nadal both play to their true ability, it’ll be no surprise to see them lining up against each other for the Melbourne showpiece. And it would be fitting to see them play out a five-set thriller, and prove why they are two of the best players the sport has ever seen.