Casper Ruud has acknowledged that going on an exhibition tour with Rafael Nadal in the off-season probably hindered his performance this season.

The Spaniard is perhaps the greatest clay-court player of all time. However, his performances on the surface were far from impressive in 2015, considering his lofty standards. He was unable to win a single tournament on clay that year after winning at least one title on the surface in every year from 2005 to 2014.

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Rafael Nadal reached the quarterfinals of the French Open that year and lost 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 to Novak Djokovic, thus ending his five-year winning streak at the Major. This was also the Serb’s first win over the Spaniard at Roland Garros.

Djokovic defended Nadal in his post-match press conference and claimed that it was normal to have a subpar season. He also stated that those questioning Nadal’s game should take a look at his career achievements.

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Well, I think that’s something that we are going to see. I mean, how he’s going to reflect on what has happened this year on the clay courts, which was below his standard and something that is expected from him considering all the results he had in last ten years,” Djokovic said.

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“But in the end of the day, he’s human, as well, and it’s normal to have some seasons like that.I understand that people are questioning now his game and, you know, where he’s going to be. But if you need a reminder of who he is, you just look at his career stats and Grand Slams that he won.”

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Djokovic claimed that Nadal’s achievements spoke volumes about the champion that he was. He said that his rival’s form at the time was nothing to worry about and that he would be back to his best soon.

“I think that says enough about his quality as a player and as a champion. He’s somebody that understands what he needs to do when he’s feeling down to come back and fight to be the best,” Djokovic said.

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“That’s what he has done after nine months of absence from the tour and he came back, had one of the best years of his life in 2013, if I’m not wrong. So I don’t think that this is a big deal still.

“I think he is 29 and still has years in front of him, and I’m sure he’s going to bounce back and play very strong.”

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