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Published: 14:40, June 23, 2022
Nadal's calendar Slam bid faces Djokovic challenge on grass
By Reuters
Published:14:40, June 23, 2022 By Reuters

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (left) shakes hands with Spain's Rafael Nadal after their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, June 11, 2021 in Paris. (MICHEL EULER / FILE / AP)

Rafa Nadal's hopes of winning Wimbledon for the first time in over a decade and staying on track for the calendar year Grand Slam will meet a familiar adversary in Novak Djokovic who is bidding to extend his domination at the grasscourt major.

For the first time in his career, the Spaniard has won the Australian and the French Open back-to-back and has the chance to become the first man to win all four majors in the same year since Rod Laver achieved the feat in 1969.

Serbian Djokovic finished one match short of accomplishing it last season when he won the first three Grand Slams but lost to Russian Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.

For the first time in his career, Rafa Nadal has won the Australian and the French Open back-to-back and has the chance to become the first man to win all four majors in the same year since Rod Laver achieved the feat in 1969

When Djokovic won Wimbledon for the sixth time and the third in a row in 2021, it was his 20th major title - putting him in a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Nadal in the race for the most Grand Slam titles among men.

The 35-year-old Djokovic has not won a major since while Federer has not played since last year's Wimbledon.

Djokovic's fans argue that Nadal's job was relatively easier at Melbourne Park this year as he did not have to beat the Serb who was not allowed to defend his Australian Open title due to his unvaccinated status against COVID-19.

ALSO READ: 'Poorly prepared' Nadal: French Open title most unexpected

The 36-year-old Nadal, who has not played Wimbledon since his 2019 semi-final loss to Federer, beat Djokovic in the Roland Garros quarter-finals this month before going on to lift a record-extending 14th French Open title and 22nd major.

Spain's Rafael Nadal lifts the trophy after winning the final match against Norway's Casper Ruud in three sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0, at the French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France on June 5, 2022. (MICHEL EULER / AP)

Nadal's chronic foot problem will again be in focus but his task at Wimbledon, where he won in 2008 and 2010, is expected to be more challenging with Novak Djokovic unbeaten there for 21 matches

Nadal's chronic foot problem will again be in focus but his task at Wimbledon, where he won in 2008 and 2010, is expected to be more challenging with Djokovic unbeaten there for 21 matches.

With second-ranked Alexander Zverev missing due to injury, Djokovic is the top seed and Nadal number two.

The duo can only meet in the July 10 final if they progress through the draw.

"Novak might probably be the man to beat because he's been doing very well," said Eurosport pundit Alex Corretja.

"He's been winning there. He's the defending champion, and it's going to be super difficult to beat him. He serves great, he returns perfect, he moves well, he plays deep.

"So I don't think there are too many guys on the draw that really feel they can beat Novak best-of-five on grass."

Italy's Matteo Berrettini returns to Botic van de Zandschlup of the Netherlands during their semifinal tennis match at the Queen's Club Championships in London on June 18, 2022. (ALBERTO PEZZALI / AP)

Main challengers

Matteo Berrettini, runner-up last year, will fancy his chances of challenging Djokovic, having won titles on grass at Stuttgart and Queen's in the lead-up.

The big-serving Berrettini has won 20 of his last 21 matches on grass with his only loss coming in the 2021 Wimbledon final.

ALSO READ: Berrettini overcomes Murray to win Stuttgart title

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz (right) poses with the trophy next to Russia's Daniil Medvedev after winning the men's singles final match at the ATP 500 Halle Open tennis tournament in Halle, western Germany, on June 19, 2022. (CARMEN JASPERSEN / AFP)

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz will also count himself among the challengers after crushing Russia's Daniil Medvedev to win the ATP 500 grasscourt tournament in Halle, Germany on Sunday

Poland's Hubert Hurkacz will also count himself among the challengers after crushing Medvedev to win the ATP 500 grasscourt tournament in Halle, Germany on Sunday.

Britain's Andy Murray, who has lifted the trophy twice on Wimbledon's Centre Court, and Australian Nick Kyrgios will be unseeded threats.

Murray, ranked 51st, showed strong grasscourt form with his runner-up finish in Stuttgart but is racing against time to be fit after sustaining an abdominal injury during his loss to Berrettini.

The temperamental Kyrgios skipped the claycourt season to prepare for grass and considers himself a top-five, top-10 level player on the surface.

The 45th-ranked Australian reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle.

READ MORE: Murray into Stuttgart final after Kyrgios loses cool on 'racial slur'

"If I would be in the Wimbledon draw and I would be seeded, I would pray not to play Kyrgios in the first rounds," Corretja said. "It's so difficult to play against him, his serve is probably one of the best on tour right now."

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