Rafael Nadal said what Novak Djokovic achieved in tennis is amazing and backed the Serb to do more great things in the future.
The Spaniard was speaking after Djokovic was knocked out in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.
The former World No 1 was beaten 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 by Kyle Edmund as his poor run of form continued.
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Djokovic has struggled to achieve any result of note since return from elbow surgery he had in January, leading many to wonder if his best days are behind him.
But Nadal is confident that his old rival will snap out of his current funk and become a serious contender again.
“Well, at the end of the day when Djokovic plays, normally he’s always favourite. Whenever he loses, it’s a surprise,” Nadal said.
“But we’re talking about a sport that the matches are normally decided in a few shots, small details. When things are going well, everything works out.
“When things are not going so well, then everything seems more difficult. I believe a lot in dynamics, in momentum. For example, my match today, I had a breakpoint in the first set, then with 2-0 I had a breakpoint against me. I managed to save some breakpoints, and I was 3-Love. Something that could have been 3-Love down was 3-Love up, so.
“These are things that matter, things that happen. Usually when you have confidence, these things fall on your side. Maybe when you don’t have momentum, you’re in a more difficult moment, other things happen.
“When you don’t have that momentum, you’re in a negative way, these things happen. Saying that, I think he’s going step by step to be able to recover and be at the category he deserves.
“I don’t have any doubt that he’s going to be back up at the highest level.
“Things are difficult. Nothing is easy in our sport. I really believe that he knows that, I know that, and everybody knows how difficult is stay there all the time, no?
“What Novak did in this sport is amazing. He will continue doing a lot of great things in the future. I don’t have any doubt of that.”
As for the man himself, after the loss to Edmund, Djokovic could only acknowledge his poor form and vow to keep fighting.
“Well, you know, look, there are obvious things that are not working well for me.
“But I have to keep working on them and pray that – and hope that my game will get stronger, get better as definitely as the matches, you know, go the distance.
“Especially, you know, such big tournaments against quality players, you’ve got to, you know, step in. I tried but obviously, yeah, wasn’t to be today. Hopefully, next one.
“It’s not the end of the world, you know. Obviously, I’ve played this sport so many years and had a bunch of success. I try to always remind myself and be grateful for that.
“At the same time, you know, nobody is forcing me to play this sport. I do it because I like it. I want to do it. And that’s something also that makes me fortunate, you know, to play the sport.
“So, you know, that’s where I draw my strength. And, you know, as long as I keep going, as long as I love the sport, I’ll keep going. And that’s all it is.”