Djokovic leads Nadal in the overall head-to-head, 28-26. Nadal won their last meeting in the final of Rome last year, but Djokovic has won their last eight hardcourt meetings, and all in straight sets.
No other pair of ATP players in the Open Era have even played each other 50 times—Djokovic and Roger Federer have the next-most career meetings with 49. Djokovic leads that head-to-head, 26-23.
“Historically, throughout my life and my career, Nadal has been the greatest rival that I have ever played against, on all the surfaces,” Djokovic said going into their meeting in the Australian Open final last year, which the Serb won, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. “Some of the matches that we have had against each other were a great turning point in my career. I feel like they have made me rethink my game.
“He’s my biggest rival in my career. I’ve played so many matches against him, epic matches.”
Both Nadal and Djokovic have played a lot of tennis over the last week and a half at the ATP Cup, and particularly over the last two days. Nadal has spent a total of four hours and 36 minutes on court in the last two days, a 6-4, 7-6 (3) loss to David Goffin on Friday (2:23) and a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Alex de Minaur on Saturday (2:13). Djokovic has played five hours and 27 minutes, beating Denis Shapovalov on Friday, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) (2:40) and Medvedev on Saturday, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 (2:47).
Nadal was asked about taking on Djokovic after his comeback win over De Minaur on Saturday night.
“It’s going to be a tough match for me, of course,” the World No. 1 said. “Novak has been playing some great matches this week. I’ll have to be ready at my highest level to have my chance tomorrow.
“But I think I finished with positive energy tonight, and I’m just happy tonight to be where we are, in the final of the ATP Cup. This isn’t just a singles competition, this is a team competition. So for me and us, it’s always a team thing over an individual thing. Tomorrow is a tie with three matches.”
The Spaniard seems to lift his game in team environments, too—he’s trying to win his third team event in the last four months, having lifted the Laver Cup and Davis Cup trophies last fall.
Nadal and Djokovic might even play each other twice on Sunday—after the two singles matches, which pit Roberto Bautista Agut against Dusan Lajovic and then Nadal against Djokovic. The doubles match is currently set to be Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta against Djokovic and Viktor Troicki.
Djokovic may lead Nadal in their singles head-to-head, but Nadal leads Djokovic in their doubles head-to-head, 2-0. They played in doubles in the first round of the Masters 1000 event in Canada in 2009, with Nadal and Francisco Roig beating Djokovic and Dusan Vemic, 7-5, 6-4; and in the semis of Doha in 2015, with Nadal and Juan Monaco beating Djokovic and Filip Krajinovic, 7-6 (3), 6-1.