Novak Djokovic says Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have ‘absolutely’ made him a better player and continue to inspire him even at this stage of his career.
Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer have been battling it out for tennis history for a decade and a half now, with them carving up almost all of the sport’s major records between them.
As with any rivalries, there have been moments of tension between them during matches, but Djokovic says not only have they been good for each other, but good for tennis as a whole.
Asked by Chervin Jafarieh if Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had made him a better player, Djokovic said: “Absolutely – 100 per cent.
“Both of these guys have been my biggest rivals. Nadal and I have played against each other more than any other two players in the history of sport.
“We have played I think 55 times, or maybe more – I’m not really sure. I have played Roger also nearly 50 times.
“I felt there was a rivalry and an intensity in the rivalry from the very beginning. Right from 15 years ago. For 15 years we have been pushing each other to the limit and making each other better.
“I think rivalries are so good for the sport. Rivalries one of the biggest reason the sport draws so much attention from fans.
“The Joe Frazier/Mohammed Ali, or Kobi Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal, or whatever… Lionel Messi/ Cristiano Ronaldo, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield… so those types of rivalries are important not just for the sake of the sport, but also for us as athletes.
“We need the rivalries because we need to measure ourselves in a way. ‘How am I doing?’ ‘How is my biggest rival doing?’ If he is doing great, that actually inspires me.
“That gives me motivation. When I started playing, Roger already had multiple Slams. Rafa as well, and they were kicking my ass for the first five years.
“I was losing most of my matches against them, especially the big ones. And then that changed as we went toe-to-toe, and we are still going toe-to-toe after so many years.
“I want these guys to keep on playing, because they are one of the greatest sources of my motivation, without a doubt.”
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?