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‘When I’m ready, I’m the best – that’s not arrogant’ – Djokovic on GOAT rivalry with Nadal and Federer

Novak Djokovic has spoken about the GOAT race once more

Novak Djokovic Novak Djokovic speaks during a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia February 22, 2023 (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Novak Djokovic is once again at the top of the men’s Grand Slam standings, with 22 major titles, equal with Rafael Nadal.

A year younger than his Spanish opponent, though, he seems to be in a better position to break and hold the outright record.

And in an interview with The National, the Serbian says that he can understand the mentality that led basketball player LeBron James to say: “I feel like I’m the best basketball player that ever played the game. That’s just my confidence, that’s just what I bring to the table.”

Djokovic pointed to the number of athletes in their thirties and forties and still at the top of their performance levels across sports, from Tom Brady to Serena Williams to Roger Federer, and confirmed: “Yes, I can relate to that because I believe that what worked for me and still works for me is that self-belief and confidence level – of course always balanced with the respect towards the opponent, towards the game, appreciation for the moment and for what you’re going through. But just self-belief that, hey, I know that when I’m ready, when I’m there out on the court, on any surface, against anybody, I’m better, I’m the best.

“And I don’t think there’s anything arrogant or pretentious about it. I don’t see anything wrong in that.”

Djokovic: Hungry like a wolf

Equally, he says he would be satisfied if he and Nadal ended their playing careers with the same number of Slams.

“I would like more than my biggest rival, but look, when that moment arrives, when I have to draw the line and look back on the history of my career and what I have achieved, even if I stop here and he wins another 10 Slams, I have to be overall satisfied.

“Maybe there’s going to be a little part of me that’s going to be regretting that I haven’t had more than him, but at the end of the day, how much is enough? You know what I mean?

“I also ask myself that because it’s a balancing act as a professional athlete, being in a sport that is very demanding, it’s a very long season and it’s a lot of opportunities – there are four Slams every year, so you have the opportunities. And of course you need to have the competitive mind, you need to have this fierceness, the mental approach of a wolf in a way, hungry for more and more, because that drives you, at least in my case.

“But at the same time, there’s also time to balance and say, okay, wow, a lot was achieved, you have to be proud, you have to be thankful and grateful for all these things, be present and be humble about it. It’s both kind of personalities that you have to deal with and live with at the same time.”

Djokovic will be competing in Dubai next week, unbeaten so far in 2023. Nadal has not played since his second-round exit at the Australian Open in straight sets to Mackenzie McDonald.

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