the Nadal-Djokovic documentary or the story of a rivalry “that started badly”

Prime Video explores the rivalry between the Spaniard and the Serbian through their epic duels at Roland-Garros since 2006 and a very particular quarter-final between the two giants of the courts.

Unlike Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal is not present in the casting of Roland-Garros this year. But the Spaniard takes the lead in the excellent documentary Nadal-Djokovic, duel at Roland-Garros (available on the Prime Video platform since May 26). 62 minutes to understand the greatest rivalry in the history of tennis through the prism of arm wrestling between the two men on Parisian clay. A dive from 2006 to 2022 and some legendary matches between two rivals with different origins, different backgrounds but the same secret ambition: to become the greatest player in history. Antoine Benneteau, the director confided in Le Figaro a few meters from the Philippe-Chatrier court.

THE FIGARO. – Why did you choose the rivalry between Nadal and Djokovic in your documentary? ?

Antoine Benneteau. – Because they are the two greatest even though my idol is Roger Federer. But in their rivalry which has 59 matches in total, including ten at Roland-Garros from 2006 and given what their entourages reveal on the subject, this face-to-face was essential. Djokovic even admitted it, in Paris, Nadal was and is the biggest challenge of his career. Rafael Nadal has lost only three times at Roland-Garros, and it was twice against him. And this is now the outcome that we are all waiting for in the race for the Grand Slam tournaments. We have the impression that Novak Djokovic, due to his state of health, will p in front of the Spaniard but this is only a hypothesis… This documentary was a good summary before this final sprint that everyone has been waiting for since Roger Federer’s retirement.

What aspects of this rivalry surprised you the most while making the documentary?

I knew the story well but I liked to delve into certain aspects. I am thinking, for example, of the fact that if today Nadal is adored at Roland-Garros, this has not always been the case. When he lost against Soderling (in the round of 16 in 2009), the public was in favor of Soderling. The public has sometimes given the impression of being a little tired of seeing this kid who has won everything. There is also the evolution of the character of Novak Djokovic who has long tried to seduce the public by probably doing too much sometimes. Then, he ended up accepting this lack of popularity and even fed on it to go even higher.

The two men have faced each other ten times in Paris, Djokovic won twice. GONZALO FUENTES

Did you try to get Nadal and Djokovic to talk in the documentary?

We quickly realized that it would be complicated to contact the entourages very close to the two players and their absence is, in the end, a bias. We freed ourselves from all this by relying on great witnesses like Guy Foret, Marian Vajda, David Ferrer, Sergi Bruguera, Fabrice Santoro who saw these players grow. Alexander Zverev, Dominik Thiem or Stanislas Wawrinka also agreed to speak. These are opponents who have played against them, even if they have often suffered the law of the duo. There is admiration on their part but also a part of bitterness in their remarks even if there is always a smile on their lips.

Off the courts, we know that they are not the best of friends.

Antoine Benneteau

How Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic get along off the courts?

They have immense respect for each other on the pitch. Rafael Nadal knows that if there’s one guy who comes out of the locker room armed to beat him in Paris, it’s Novak Djokovic. Off the courts, we know that they are not the best of friends. They don’t have the same ways of doing things or the same ways of communicating either, but that’s okay because they’re rivals. It also takes a bit of disenchantment to get the little extra centimeter, the extra km/h to hit the ball even harder and hurt the other person more.

Novak also had his mentors but he grew up in a country at war, which allowed him to develop a form of rage that Rafael Nadal does not have.

Antoine Benneteau

Their separate backgrounds did not help to bring them closer…

True, they are also different clans. They had a different education and cultures that we show in the documentary. Rafael Nadal grew up on an island, in Manacor, with a stable family clan, shaped by his uncle. Novak also had his mentors but he grew up in a country at war, which allowed him to develop a form of rage that Rafael Nadal does not have.

Has this rivalry known excesses?

It started badly because in 2006, Rafael was defending champion and played Djokovic in the quarter-finals. At the time, we know that Novak is a very promising youngster but we do not yet measure what he will become. He is only 19. Novak is a little overwhelmed on the field and we see him making moves, pulling his leg and then giving up (after 6-4, 6-4, editor’s note). That day, some wondered if there had not been a form of obstacle refusal. There was no photo and yet, in a press conference, Djokovic affirmed that he felt strong enough to beat him and that Rafael Nadal was not in control of the game. Nadal got wind of these remarks and replied a little taken aback to those around him “What, what did he say?“. We feel that he did not appreciate this outing. As much on the field, he likes confrontation, as much outside, it’s different. He didn’t seek to comment but their rivalry went from there.

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