Nadal praises Djokovic’s ‘amazing season,’ says he’ll be hard to match
BANGKOK — The text message wasn’t enough, so Rafael Nadal praised rival Novak Djokovic in person Thursday for the top-ranked Serb’s ”amazing season” after winning his third major of 2015 at the U.S. Open.
The seventh-ranked Nadal is in Bangkok for a sold-out exhibition match against Djokovic dubbed ”Back to Thailand.”
Friday’s event was organized by local authorities to boost confidence in Thailand’s safety after a deadly Aug. 17 bombing that left 20 dead in the heart of the capital.
Seated beside each other at a packed news conference, Nadal was asked if he hoped to get revenge on Djokovic, who won their last two tour matches at the French Open and in Monte Carlo.
”Not really,” the 29-year-old Spaniard said, laughing. ”No, even if I win tomorrow it will not be revenge.
”It’s an exhibition match,” Nadal added, as Djokovic smiled. ”The purpose is to try to play a good match where we have some fun and create good fun for the people.”
Nadal went on to lavish Djokovic with praise — and express some apparent skepticism about beating the 28-year-old Serb who also won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and has clinched the year-end No. 1-ranking for the fourth time.
”Novak is having an amazing season. I texted him after the U.S. Open but I want to say today in a public way, it’s amazing the way that he’s playing during the whole season,” Nadal said. ”The mental strength and the level of tennis is difficult to equal.”
Djokovic silently accepted the compliments and said he hoped to ”put on the right show and perform well” for the Bangkok crowd.
Djokovic and Nadal have faced each other 43 times in tour-level matches, with Nadal winning 23. Djokovic’s two wins over Nadal this year were on clay, the Spaniard’s best surface.
Before Friday’s match, the two players will get full VIP treatment with an escorted visit to the Grand Palace followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Djokovic last came to Thailand in 2008 when he lost the final of the Thailand Open to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while Nadal visited the capital in 2010 for the same tournament and lost in the semifinals.