Novak Djokovic has promised that as long as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer continue to grace the sport, he will duel with them as the “three tennis knights”.
And just after seeing his 18th grand slam win, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic thinks he can see no end in sight to the sporting wonders of the “incredible” trio.
After beating Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final, Djokovic laughed that his prediction before the game that the ‘big three’ were not about to make way for the next generation had been “risky”.
But he was convinced that his 18th grand slam was due to the inspiration he continues to draw from his race with Nadal and Federer, who both have 20 each.
That was the 7-5 6-2 6-2 hammering that Medvedev thought the Russian had been moved to – affectionately, he insisted – “tennis cyborgs.”
When asked what he would call them, Djokovic couldn’t help but smile when he suggested “The Three Knights of Tennis” – a title that will now inevitably endure.
“I don’t know how else I would describe the three of us,” said Djokovic.
Roger and Rafa inspire me. I’ll say it again. I mean, I think as long as they go, I will go!
“I think in a way it’s a race that plays more tennis, I think, and wins more. It’s a competition between us in all areas.
“But I think that’s exactly why we are who we are, because we drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”
Djokovic, at 33, looked stunning again while Nadal, just a year older, made it to the quarter-finals impressively as they took nine of the last 10 strokes won between them.
But Ivanisevic also looks forward to seeing Federer, who turns 40 in August, back after his injury layoff.
He even wonders if the Knights might prove even a little less courtly by going past Serena Williams ’23 slams and Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
“You don’t know where the end is with these guys. They are incredible. They surprise me every day. Rafa is definitely going to win one, I hope not two, but I’ll give him one. Who knows?” said the former Wimbledon champion.
“Every time you think they’re gone, the young guns come. They’re here, but these guys are better, one step better in the final.”
‘I don’t know where the end is. Maybe they’ll pass Margaret Court and Serena, maybe not. But it is amazing what they do.
“I’m waiting for Roger to come back … it’s just great. The race is here. I said a few years ago that Rafa and Novak will both overtake Roger. I still think so.”
Djokovic for his part knows that it cannot last forever. “It is clear that they (Medvedev and co) are slowly but surely taking the helm at the top of the men’s competition,” he said.
“(But) it’s not happening yet and people have been talking about it as if it has already happened – but the top spots are still in the hands of Rafa and myself.
“The next generation is already here, they are winning big titles, they are competing for the majors. Rafa, Roger and I, we are still trying to make it difficult for them!”
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