Djokovic enjoys Nadal rivalry
Novak Djokovic believes his rivalry with Rafael Nadal that is currently dominating tennis can only be good for the game.
The pair met in a fourth successive grand slam final at the French Open at the weekend, the first time two men have ever played each other in every final in the space of a year.
Nadal, the victor in a rain-delayed final to earn a record seventh Roland Garros title, has now reached the final at the last five grand slams while Djokovic has been in six out of seven finals.
Only Roger Federer, in Paris last year, and Andy Murray, at the Australian Open before that, have managed to break the sequence, and neither emerged victorious.
The quality of their most recent clash, which began on Sunday and finished yesterday, was not as consistently high as the titanic final at the Australian Open, which lasted almost six hours, or the US Open last summer, but it was compelling and dramatic nonetheless.
This era is already regarded as one of the best in tennis history, but Djokovic and Nadal have clearly pulled away from their rivals, and there is a risk of it becoming predictable.
Djokovic said: "Federer and Nadal have still, I think, the biggest rivalry in the sport, because they have been at the top for so many years, they have been so dominant. I just joined that rivalry recently, a couple of years ago.
"I think the sport is experiencing some really good times now. We're attracting a lot of attention to men's tennis because we have these two great players, and Murray, myself, and we really have some great players, some charismatic players, a lot of personalities. This is good for tennis."
Despite Murray's failure to win a grand slam event, he has always viewed it as a positive thing to be playing in such a strong era, while Federer, Nadal and Djokovic would all have won a lot more major titles had the others not been around.
Nadal moved level with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver on 11 grand slam titles yesterday, leaving him one behind Roy Emerson, three adrift of Pete Sampras and within five of Federer.
The Spaniard said: "I feel very lucky to have achieved what I have achieved. I have great rivals and I'm more than happy to enjoy matches. I enjoyed a lot the final in Australia. I suffered, but I enjoyed it.
"There have been a lot of important finals for me, a lot of important matches that I was able to enjoy against fantastic players like Novak, like Federer, like Andy. For me, you can feel unlucky or lucky, both."
Nadal has made Court Philippe Chatrier his own stage since winning his first French Open title on his debut in 2005, with only one defeat in 53 matches at Roland Garros.
And, after losing to Djokovic in London, New York and Melbourne, he conceded it would have been very difficult to come to terms with defeat in Paris as well.
He said of his victory: "There was a lot of emotion. There always is in such moments. You don't know if this year is going to be the last one.
"I achieved it this year, but as time goes by you give more value to those very precious moments. Last year I lost three grand slam finals in a row. In the US Open I felt I could win the match and I didn't.
"In Australia I was pleased with the tennis I played, yet I was a bit disappointed as well, because I had the opportunity of winning.
"If I had lost a fourth final, this would have been very difficult for me. So I felt it really was worth it giving my best, given everything I have achieved since the beginning of the season and since the beginning of my career.
"When you lose, it's because you don't deserve the title. So in my mind, this was the final I had to win."
Djokovic willingly conceded Nadal had been a worthy winner, even though when they stopped for rain on Sunday night he had been in the ascendancy, and the Serb hailed his rival's prowess on clay.
"He's definitely the best player in history on this surface, and results are showing that he's one of the best players that ever played this game," said the world number one.
"He's only 26 years old. We are very young, and we played over 30 times against each other, and hopefully we can have many more battles in the next years."