Djokovic discusses end of Nadal’s 18-year streak as showdown addressed

Novak Djokovic has had his say with Rafael Nadal’s 18-year streak inside the world’s top 10 set to come to an end. Currently ranked at No 8, Nadal will exit the top 10 on March 20 for the first time since he made his debut there in April 2005, and long-time rival Djokovic has lauded his feat. The world No 1 also addressed a potential meeting on the clay, with the Spaniard now ruled out of Indian Wells and Miami as Djokovic’s fate also looks uncertain.

Nadal’s time in the top 10 was officially stamped with an expiry date on Thursday after Taylor Fritz advanced to the Acapulco semi-final. That is a result that means the Spaniard will drop out of the elite group in the rankings on the first Monday after the Indian Wells Masters following his withdrawal from both tournaments in the ‘sunshine double’. The 36-year-old has never left the top 10 since his debut in April 2005 and will hold the record for the most consecutive weeks there – totalling at 912 by the time he exits.

And Djokovic has paid tribute to his rival for his epic streak in the top 10 before it finally comes to an end, telling reporters in Dubai: “It’s incredible consistency. He has been well-known for that over the years. Yeah, just full respect for him. Just being able to for almost 20 years be in top 10, that’s unheard of, honestly.”

The world No 1 was also impressed by Nadal’s ability to stay at the top despite suffering multiple injury setbacks of the course of the 18 years. “It speaks about the quality of the tennis, just his consistency throughout the year, playing well on all surfaces,” he continued.

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“Plus with the injuries, he had quite a few injuries that took him out from the tour, even sometimes for almost six months, but he still managed to stay there at the top. ‘Chapeau’ for that.”

Both Nadal and Djokovic’s future now looks uncertain, with the Spaniard revealing that he did not have a return date in mind while the 35-year-old is still waiting to learn whether he can play next week’s Indian Wells Masters following his Dubai semi-final loss to Daniil Medvedev. The two rivals are now unlikely to play until the clay season, and Djokovic has already been asked about a potential meeting with the man dubbed the ‘King of Clay’.

The 93-time title winner was asked whether it was a possibility that he could beat Nadal on the world No 8’s favourite service, and was quick to share his confidence. “If it’s not a possibility, my friend, I wouldn’t be playing tennis,” Djokovic stated.

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The five-time former champion in Indian Wells is now waiting to see if the American government responds to his request for a “special permit” to enter the country and compete while unvaccinated travellers remain banned until May 11. Djokovic has already confirmed that he will withdraw before the draw is made if he hasn’t received a response, and reiterated that he was still waiting on a verdict as of Friday.

“I’m still waiting for the news from America. If there’s no America, I guess I’ll play clay,” he said. “Monte-Carlo is probably the next tournament. If that’s the case, I’ll take some time off, I’ll prepare. Clay, as we’ve said, is the most demanding surface. It takes time more than any other surface to prepare for.”

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