French Open 2023 final: Novak Djokovic says others must decide who is ‘the greatest’

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Novak Djokovic says it is not down to him to decide if he is the greatest player of all time after he won a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam title.

Serbia’s Djokovic won the French Open on Sunday, moving him one clear of Rafael Nadal in terms of men’s majors.

He is level with Serena Williams on 23 and could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 at Wimbledon in July.

“I don’t want to enter in these discussions. I’m writing my own history,” Djokovic, 36, said.

“I don’t want to say I am the greatest. I leave those discussions to someone else.”

In the past several years Djokovic has been locked in an engaging battle with Nadal and Roger Federer, who retired last year with 20 major titles, to finish with the most men’s Grand Slams.

By beating Norway’s Casper Ruud at Roland Garros, Djokovic has moved clear of his long-time rivals for the first time.

On this evidence Djokovic looks a good bet to extend the gap further, especially with the injured Nadal planning to retire in 2024 and 41-year-old Federer already retired.

“It’s amazing to know that I’m ahead of both of them in Grand Slams, but at the same time everyone writes their own history,” said Djokovic, who also regained the world number one ranking in Paris.

“I feel like each great champion of his own generation has left a huge mark and a legacy.

“I have huge faith, confidence and belief in myself and everything that I am, who I am and what I am capable of doing.

“This trophy is another confirmation of the quality of tennis that I’m still able to produce.”

How many more Slams can Djokovic win?

Djokovic will attempt to tie Court’s record at Wimbledon – a place where he has already won seven times and will be the favourite to equal Federer’s record tally of men’s titles.

“Grand Slams are the biggest priorities on the checklist, not just this season but any season, especially at this stage of my career,” Djokovic said.

“The journey is still not over. If I’m winning Slams, why even think about ending the career that already has been going for 20 years?

“I still feel motivated and inspired to play the best tennis in these tournaments.

“These are the ones that count the most in the history of our sport.”

Djokovic has cut back his schedule at tour level in recent years in a bid to peak at the right time for the four majors.

That strategy is clearly working, with Djokovic now having won six of the past eight majors he has played.

“He has this software in his head that he can switch when a Grand Slam comes,” Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s long-time coach, said.

“The day we arrived here [in Paris], he was better, he was more motivated, he was more hungry.

“It’s fascinating to see, because sometimes you think ‘OK, now you have 23’.

“But he’s going to find some kind of motivation to win 24, maybe 25 – who knows where is the end?”

Does he still have the physical strength to win more?

Djokovic came into Roland Garros without a great deal of preparation having been hampered by an elbow injury in the European clay-court swing.

After needing treatment in his third-round win over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Djokovic said he had a list of injuries “too long to name” and added the only way to deal with physical issues was to “accept it”.

“I don’t like to think about age and, it sounds like a cliché, but I really feel age is just a number in my case,” said Djokovic, who surpassed 2022 winner Nadal as the oldest Roland Garros men’s singles champion.

“My body is responding differently. I have to deal with more things physically than I have had maybe in the past.

“Maybe five to 10 years ago I was recovering much quicker or just didn’t feel as much pain in the body.”

Ivanisevic said he was never worried about Djokovic’s condition and believes he still has “a lot more” in his body to win majors.

“He’s keeping his body great – there’s little ones [injuries] here and there but not major,” said the Croat, who won Wimbledon in 2001.

“He’s unbelievable and he’s still moving like a cat on the court. He’s there like a ninja, he’s everywhere.”

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