Djokovic: Nadal, Federer ‘Defined Me As A Player’
After capturing a record 23rd major title at Roland Garros on Sunday, an emotional Novak Djokovic was full of pride when reflecting on his historic achievement.
The Serbian defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud in straight sets to become the first player to win all four majors at least three times.
“I knew that going into the tournament, going into the match especially today, that there was history on the line,” Djokovic said. “But I tried to focus my attention and my thoughts into preparing for this match in the best way possible to win like any other match.
“My team has created a good bubble around me. We did, I think, a great job in just staying into the present moment and performing as good as we wanted to. When I saw his forehand going wide, I felt a huge relief, and I was overwhelmed with wonderful emotions. I’m very happy and very proud of it.”
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With his victory, Djokovic moved one clear of Rafael Nadal (22 Slams) and Roger Federer, who retired last year having won 20 slam titles, in the major race.
The 36-year-old discussed his admiration for the Swiss and Spaniard when comparing achievements.
“I have always compared myself to these guys, because those two are the two greatest rivals I ever had in my career,” Djokovic said. “I have said it before many times that they have actually defined me as a player, and all the success that I have, they have contributed to it, in a way, because of the rivalries and the matchups that we had.
“Countless hours of thinking and analysing and what it takes to win against them on the biggest stage for me and my team. It was just those two guys were occupying my mind for the past 15 years quite a lot. In a professional sense. It’s amazing to know that I’m one ahead of both of them in majors.”
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Djokovic’s title run in Paris, where he defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals, means he will return to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on Monday for a record-extending 388th week.
The Serbian was asked during his post-match press conference to reflect on where he stands in the game.
“When you talk about history, people mostly talk about the Grand Slams won or the amount of time you spent at the No. 1 ranking,” Djokovic said. “I have managed to break the records in both of these statistics, which is amazing.”
He later added: “I don’t want to say that I am the greatest, because I feel, I’ve said it before, it’s disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of our sport that was played in completely different way than it is played today. I feel like each great champion of his own generation has left a huge mark, a legacy, and paved the way for us to be able to play this sport in such a great stage worldwide.”
Djokovic, who has climbed to first in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, is still hungry for more. The Serbian is halfway to becoming the first man to win the Grand Slam — claiming all four majors in the same season — since Rod Laver in 1969. In 2021 the 36-year-old won the year’s first three majors before losing in the final of the US Open.
“The journey is still not over,” Djokovic said. “I feel if I’m winning Slams, why even think about ending the career that already has been going on for 20 years. I still feel motivated. I still feel inspired to play the best tennis on these tournaments the most… I look forward already to Wimbledon.”