A while back, Novak Djokovic reflected on his on-court battles with two of his greatest rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, claiming that his skills and mentality towards the game have grown due to them. He accredited them for being the player he is today.
The year was 2020, and Novak Djokovic was gearing up to face a familiar foe, Roger Federer, in the Australian Open’s Semi-finals. The in-form Novak had sailed through his competition quite comfortably in the prior rounds to set up a clash with a member of the Big 3.
The Serbian made an interesting take on his rivalry with his next opponent Federer and also shed light on how he and Nadal had shaped his career.
Upon beating Milos Raonic in the quarter-final, Novak spoke to the press, revealing his anticipation for the match against Federer. The talented Serbian praised his Swiss rival’s achievements and said that he had ‘tremendous’ respect for him.
“I have tremendous respect for Roger for everything he has achieved, He is definitely one of my two biggest rivals,” said Novak.
Furthermore, Novak said that his rivalry with Nadal and Roger Federer was instrumental in shaping him as the player he is today.
“The match ups against Roger and Rafael have made me the player I am today. I am grateful to have had so many great matches against those guys.”
The Serbian also denied being astonished by his rival’s fierce comeback against Tennys Sandgren and said that there is nothing left to be astonished about Federer’s competitiveness or skills.
“Not particularly, to be honest, But I know that whenever we get a chance to play each other, we understand it takes a big effort, and it’s required from us to come up with the best game in order to win against each other.”
He cited last year’s Wimbledon match-up against the Swiss as an exemplary reason as to why he doesn’t get surprised with Federer’s grit and perseverance.
“Wimbledon last year, he had two match points, he was one shot away from winning that match. It’s not like I’ve been dominating the match ups. I’ve had success against him, as you said, in Grand Slams in particular.”
“But Roger is Roger. You know that he’s always going to play on such a high level, regardless of the surface. He loves to play these kinds of matches, big rivalries, semis, finals of Grand Slams.”
“I mean, he’s probably going to confirm that that’s probably the biggest reason why he’s still competing, to be able to compete at the Grand Slams against the best players in the world.”
“What he did today was really amazing. I mean, to come back and save seven match points at his age, I mean, he’s still playing such a great tennis and proving that he deserves to be up there.”
“He’s a great fighter. Obviously I have lots of respect for him.”
Down a set, but still wins another Australian Open title; Novak Djokovic did it again.
Novak Djokovic successfully crossed his hardest hurdle in the competition in the finals as he overcame the challenge from Dominic Thiem to win the Australian Open again.
Djokovic had dominated all of his matches before the Finals, dropping a single set, that too in the first round of the competition. He even clean-swept his long-time rival Roger Federer with a scoreline of 7-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Novak came into the finals as a favourite to win it all and even started with the right intentions taking the first set 6–4. However, the match would turn around in favour of the Austrian Thiem who fought back well and claimed the next two, just one away from capturing his first Australian Open title.
But, things would not go as planned for him. Novak, a known player for his mental fortitude and incredible comebacks did it again. He broke back into the game in the fourth set, tying the match at 2 apiece. Eventually, taking the fifth set as well, winning it 6–4.
That win made sure that not only would he capture his eighth title in Australia, cementing his legacy there, but also claim back the ATP World No.1 ranking.