Having set the record for the most weeks spent at No 1 in the 48-year history of the ATP Rankings, Novak Djokovic spoke about his special rivalry with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and how he needed them to push him to do better.
As it happens, Djokovic broke Federer’s record of 310 weeks at No 1 on Monday to re-write history.
“For 15 years we have been pushing each other to the limit and making each other better,” the Serb was quoted as saying by TennisHead.
“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.
7-year-old @DjokerNole wanted to become No.1 ☺️
26 years later, he's the No.1 of No.1s…🤯
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 8, 2021
“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.”
Djokovic, who captured his ninth Australian Open trophy and 18th Grand Slam title last month, also holds a record 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies and first attained the No. 1 ranking on 4 July 2011.
He has since held the top spot in the rankings across five different stints for a record 311 weeks, one week longer than Federer, who broke Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at No. 1 on 16 July 2012.
The 33-year-old Djokovic fell as low as No. 22 on 21 May 2018 and returned to the top spot on 5 November 2018.
The Serbian has since spent 88 weeks at No. 1, across two different stints, and last season finished as the year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for a record-equalling sixth time.
“It really excites me to walk the path of legends and giants of this sport,” Djokovic told the ATP.
“To know that I have earned my place among them by following my childhood dream is a beautiful confirmation that when you do things out of love and passion, everything is possible.”