Fifty-two matches. Seven in Grand Slam finals. One here at Melbourne Park, a record-breaking affair – and now, a second on Sunday. For Novak Djokovic, 27 victories; for Rafael Nadal, 25. No two men have met more often in the Open era, and no two men have pushed one another further.
The Serb and Spaniard will meet in Sunday’s Australian Open 2019 final, a rematch of the 2012 epic that left both men struggling to stay upright to collect their trophies after five hours and 53 minutes of jaw-dropping tennis.
Djokovic prevailed that day, as he has in all six of his Australian Open finals to date. And now, with a record seventh men’s singles title on the line, he faces Nadal, the benchmark’s benchmark, bidding to become the first man in the Open era to win all four majors at least twice.
“Nadal has historically throughout my life and career been the greatest rival that I ever played against, on all the surfaces,” Djokovic noted after his 6-0 6-2 6-2 rout of Lucas Pouille in the semifinals.
MORE: Djokovic jumps into seventh AO decider
“Some matches that we had against each other were a great turning point in my career. I feel they have made me rethink my game.
“I had some disappointing moments where I lost to him. I think I’ve lost to him nine times so far in the Grand Slams, and I lost some tough matches in finals and semis at the French Open and US Open. I won also some great matches.
“Those kind of encounters have also made me the player I am today, without a doubt. These are the kind of matches that you live for: finals of Slams, playing the greatest rivals at their best. What more can you ask for? This is where you want to be.”