Novak Djokovic says beating Rafael Nadal at French Open is 'ultimate challenge'
"Beating Rafa in Roland Garros would be and is one of the ultimate challenges of this sport as is winning against Roger (Federer) in Wimbledon."
Last Updated: 15/04/19 12:58pm
Novak Djokovic says beating Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is one of the "ultimate challenges" in tennis as he prepares to begin his clay-court campaign at the Monte-Carlo Masters.
The world No 1 has beaten Nadal just once at the French Open in seven previous meetings and the 31-year-old is bidding for a third title in the principality this week.
Djokovic is expected to pose the biggest challenge to Nadal's quest for a remarkable 12th Monte-Carlo title and he says his great rival's French Open dominance is comparable to the success Roger Federer has enjoyed at Wimbledon.
"It would definitely be not too bad," Djokovic said, when asked what it would mean to beat Nadal at Roland Garros.
"Beating Rafa in Roland Garros would be and is one of the ultimate challenges of this sport as is winning against Roger (Federer) in Wimbledon.
"I have been fortunate enough to experience both, so it is quite a special feeling because they have dominated those surfaces so much in their careers."
Djokovic begins the clay-court season looking to rediscover the form which saw him win his 15th Grand Slam at the Australian Open after consecutive early exits at Indian Wells and Miami respectively.
The Serb will meet either Thanasi Kokkinakis or Philipp Kohlschreiber in his opening match and believes success at one of the big three clay tournaments - Monte-Carlo, Madrid and Rome - will give him the best chance of victory at Roland Garros.
"It would be definitely better to approach Roland Garros with a win in one of the big three clay court events prior to the French Open," he added.
"But at the same time I had great Roland Garros tournaments in the past where I maybe didn't win any of the big ones before.
Clay court Masters 1000 tournaments
|Monte-Carlo Masters||April 14-21||Rafael Nadal|
|Madrid Open||May 5-12||Alexander Zverev|
|Italian Open||May 12-19||Rafael Nadal|
"So, (it) doesn't necessarily mean it's going to affect completely my state of mind approaching Roland Garros, but it would definitely serve the confidence better if I have one coming into Paris."
Djokovic, who has been based in Monte-Carlo for most of his career, insists Nadal remains the "very clear favourite" on clay despite it remaining open, with Federer due to return to the surface after two seasons completely away.
"I thought tennis was missing him definitely on clay last year, but you know I think personally most of people understood why he decided to skip the clay season last year and also understand why he wants to play," he said.
"Definitely for our sport it is better that he plays and so we are looking forward to see him."
Nadal is scheduled to face Roberto Bautista Agut or John Millman in the second round in his first match since pulling out of the Indian Wells semi-final against Federer and his decision to skip the Miami Open.
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