Novak Djokovic says he knew when he started out that overcoming Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would be huge challenges.
Federer and Nadal were already multiple Grand Slam winners when Djokovic was still searching for his first, and he has been playing catch-up in the race for history ever since.
Djokovic is slowly reining in the records though, with him becoming the player with the most weeks spent at world number one this week.
He, though, says no one should overlook the impact that Federer and Nadal had on developing his game to the level we see today.
“When I started in the men’s professional tennis world 15 years ago, I had two of the highest challenges, which was to overcome Roger and Rafa,” Djokovic told the BBC.
“Back in 2008, when I won my first Grand Slam, I thought OK, this is now my time. I’m going to be competing with these guys; I have the ability to win slams.
“But then, for three years, I didn’t win a major title and I was losing most of my big matches against them.
“They made me really sit and realise what I need to do, and how I need to improve in order to win against them.
“They definitely made me the player that I am today. Those rivalries are the ones that were the most impactful on my tennis game and evolution,” he said.
It’s a simple quirk of fate that the week Novak Djokovic takes the historic world number one record is the same week that Federer makes his return to tennis after a year out injured.
Djokovic, though, like everyone else, is glad to see him back.
“What Roger is doing still at his age is something that is very inspirational for me and many other tennis players, and it’s great to see him back,” Djokovic said.
For more exclusive content from Tennisbuzz, including news, features, trivia, promotions and more, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below or via our home page.
Why not test your tennis knowledge by tackling one of our fiendish quizzes too?