RAFAEL NADAL, who surpassed Novak Djokovic by winning a record 21st Grand Slam title last month, beat the Serb in the Italian Open final last year in May.
Novak Djokovic has been told he will be able to exact revenge on Rafael Nadal for his Italian Open defeat last year. The Serbian will no doubt be out to beat the Spaniard at the soonest opportunity, especially after he won a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
That success meant Nadal overtook Djokovic and Roger Federer in terms of the number of major singles titles won by a male player.
Federer was absent from the competition, while the other one of the ‘big three’ was not able to play after being deported following his visa wrangle.
That situation has cast doubt over when and where Djokovic will be able to play, due to the fact he is not vaccinated against Covid.
He is set to begin his 2021 season next week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. However, Nadal will not be in the draw after choosing to play instead at a separate ATP 500 event in Acapulco, Mexico.
The rest of Djokovic’s season is far from clear, with his ability to travel to many countries dependent on what their rules regarding vaccination are at the time.
He has been told of one tournament he should be able to appear at, though, in which Nadal would be expected to compete.
Djokovic has been cleared to play in the Italian Open after a senior government official in the European country specifically spoke about his case.
The tournament, scheduled to begin at the start of May, is one of the biggest non-Slams on the tennis calendar as an ATP 1000 Masters event.
Last year’s final saw these two tennis heavyweights meet, but while Djokovic had the last laught in the French Open a few weeks later, he was beaten in Rome by Nadal.
The Serbian has been given the green light by Italian undersecretary for sport Valentina Vezzali to enter the country and take part in the competition, with the aim of exacting revenge on his rival for that result.
“In the outdoor singles there is no reinforced green pass and therefore Djokovic, if he wants to come and play in Italy, he can do it without hotels or restaurants, but he can play,” she said, per Italian outlet Fanpage.
Vezzali added: “We must also consider that from March 31, depending on the decline in the epidemiological curve, the state of emergency should end and the situation will be evaluated well.”
Her words appear to go against what she has previously said about Djokovic.
In the wake of his scandal in Australia, Vezzali, a 16-time fencing world champion and six-time Olympic gold medallist, expressed the opinion that the Serbian is a role model who should be made to follow the rules.
“In life there are rules that must be respected, that we all must respect,” she said on January 16.
“Sport teaches us this and an athlete of a certain level must lead by example.”
As the current champion, Nadal can reasonably be expected to be present when the tournament comes around again to defend that title.
If Djokovic were to come up against the Spaniard in that competition, though, he will have to be at his very best if he hopes to overcome him.
After all, the tournament takes place on a clay surface – and Nadal is, of course, the ‘King of Clay’ and has won the Italian title a record 10 times.
Djokovic is no stranger to success on the courts in Rome, however, having won the competition five times himself, most recently in 2020.