Novak Djokovic says he has immense respect for Dominic Thiem, saying 'nobody deserved a Grand Slam title more' than the Austrian.
Thiem won the US Open this year - his maiden major title - as well as taking Djokovic to five sets in a brilliant Australian Open final.
He is the defending champion and second seed at Vienna, which starts this week, meaning he could face Djokovic in the final if they both get that far.
If that happens, Djokovic will be playing someone for whom he has a great deal of admiration.
“I respect Dominic so much, he deserved the Grand Slam title more than anybody else with the way he works," Djokovic told reporters.
"But it’s a long way to the finals, we want it, but we have to take one match at the time.”
This year sees an unusually stellar line-up in Vienna, with a field that looks more similar to a Masters tournament than an ATP500 event.
Typically, though, that is something that Djokovic is relishing.
“The field is extremely strong. The quality of matches from the first round will be very, very high."
“You have six out of the Top 10 players playing here at an ATP 500 event.
“I think this must be if not the hardest or toughest men’s draw of all-time at a 500-category event, then definitely one of the hardest ones that we have ever seen, that I was ever part of.
“It’s great to be here. I have some amazing memories from this city. I haven’t been to Vienna and I haven’t participated in the tournament here for 13 years.
"The last time I was here I won the tournament and I had great support. This is definitely one of the best tournaments in this category.”
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