Novak Djokovic will be fired up by a hostile crowd in his blockbuster showdown with Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals, according to his coach Goran Ivanisevic.
The two greats meet under the lights at Roland-Garros on Tuesday evening, with Nadal expected to have the lion’s share of support having won the title a record 13 times and Djokovic’s wavering popularity.
“I am glad that 80% of the crowd will cheer against Novak. He’s got a reason to get angry and to fight even more,” Ivanisevic told Serbian journalists.
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With Nadal winning his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, Djokovic has extra incentive to defeat to his great rival as he bids to equal his haul of majors in Paris.
And Ivanisevic revealed he is pouring over old footage in a bid to find any small advantages. Djokovic leads the head-to-head 30-28, although the record is flipped 7-2 in favour of Nadal at Roland-Garros.
“I watched the match from last year, I watched the 2020 match 10 times, I am going to watch them again. There is always something,” he said.
“We need to give due respect to a man who has won Roland Garros 13 times. We are in his living room. Show respect, but not too much. ‘Well done, Rafa, but I will try to beat you’.
“If you’re not playing well, it doesn’t matter when the match is played - five in the morning, noon or 9PM.
“If Novak wants to win, he needs to be ready to play 27 sets and 57 hours.”
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The cooler night-time conditions are expected to favour Djokovic, with Nadal unable to generate his fabled topspin with the ball becoming heavier.
Much was made of the scheduling dilemma for the organisers at Roland-Garros given that Nadal had made it abundantly clear that he does not enjoy playing on clay in the evening.
Carlos Moya, Nadal’s coach, was not happy with the decision.
“I wouldn't say disrespect, but here at Roland-Garros, Rafa has credit," Moya told RMC Sport.
"He has won the tournament 13 times, and if he has a request, you should listen to him. He is part of the history of Roland-Garros.
"We know that nobody is bigger than [the tournament], nobody is bigger than the Grand Slam, but in the end, it is a question of business and we understand that.”
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