Novak Djokovic ‘won’t miss Roger Federer’ as Nadal rivalry heats up
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Australian Open favourite Novak Djokovic ‘won’t miss Roger Federer’ despite the Swiss star’s recent retirement putting an end to the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis. Along with 36-year-old Rafael Nadal, the trio have dominated the elite end of their sport for the better part of two decades.
Federer, 41, became the first men’s player to clinch 20 major trophies and was long considered the benchmark for many in the sport. But Nadal has since overtaken that tally with 22 majors to his name, and Djokovic, 35, may well be glad to have one less world-class competitor in his sights as he trails by a single Grand Slam.
“Novak said he misses Roger on the tour, but those rivalries got him to where he is now,” former world No. 7 Barbara Schett told Eurosport. “All three, four of them, actually. They made each other better players.
“He won’t miss Federer now because he has a very good chance to go down in the history books as winning the most Grand Slam titles ever, but Nadal is still there. His [Djokovic’s] body is in such good shape; he has niggles here and there, but he doesn’t have any major injuries, looking after his body. He is still so driven. 21 Grand Slam titles are not enough for Djokovic. That’s great to see.”
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All signs suggest ‘Nole’ will lift a record-extending 10th Australian Open come Sunday, though he must first overcome American Tommy Paul in Friday’s semi-final. An injury-hit Nadal was ousted from the running in Melbourne early on by Mackenzie McDonald, clearing the way for Djokovic to draw level as the joint-record-holder in men’s major titles.
While most top-tier athletes may wish to win by beating the best, the desire to etch their names in the history books is the key driving factor for many. And seven-time Slam-winner Mats Wilander suggested Djokovic has plenty left in the tank to keep adding to his collection.
“Novak will be the last of the big three to keep playing because of his body,” said the Swede. “Okay, he’s got a little injury here, but he seems to be able to deal with the injuries that he gets. He looks so fresh and young.
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“He is going to beat Federer at skiing, I’m assuming because he grew up skiing! We’re going to miss him [Federer]. Lleyton Hewitt told me that we don’t have to worry about those three going away because it’s all about rivalries.”
Federer won the last of his major trophies at the 2018 Australian Open, but his powers gradually declined in the years leading up to his eventual retirement in 2022. He and Djokovic faced off on 50 occasions (the Serb triumphing in 27 of those), with Nadal and Djokovic being the only men’s match-up to have been played more (59 meetings).
Gone but far from forgotten, Federer will still be fondly remembered as the greatest of all time for many a tennis fan. However, with time on his side and the motivation to nudge Nadal out of his path, Djokovic looks to be well on way to eclipsing all who came before him at some point in 2023.
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