“I don’t want to say that I am the greatest” – Djokovic stays humble after Roland-Garros glory

Novak Djokovic won his 23rd Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros, but that doesn’t mean he now considers himself to be the greatest of all time

Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023 Novak Djokovic, Roland-Garros 2023 – © JB Autissier / Panoramic

June 11, 2023, a historic day in world tennis. For the first time, a man, Novak Djokovic, has 23 Grand Slam titles to his name, an all-time record. The Serb is ahead of Rafael Nadal (22), Roger Federer (20) and Pete Sampras (14). This is the first time in his career that the 36-year-old has topped this ranking.

It is, unsurprisingly, a very important record in the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) debate raging among world tennis observers and fans alike. Djokovic is now the man with the most Grand Slam and Masters 1000 titles, who has finished the season as world No 1 the most times (seven times) and who has remained world No 1 for the most consecutive weeks.

Asked in a press conference whether he could be the greatest tennis player of all time after claiming his record 23rd Grand Slam title at Roland Garros on Sunday, Djokovic refused to fuel the fire. The Serb was very respectful and explained that he preferred to concentrate on himself.

“I don’t want to say that I am the greatest, because I feel, I’ve said it before, it’s disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of our sport that was played in completely different way than it is played today.

“So I feel like each great champion of his own generation has left a huge mark, a legacy, and paved the way for us to be able to play this sport in such a great stage worldwide.

“So I leave those kind of discussions of who is the greatest to someone else. You know, I have of course huge faith and confidence and belief, you know, to myself and for everything that I am and who I am and what I am capable of doing. So this trophy obviously is another confirmation of the quality of tennis that I’m still able to produce, I feel.”

Djokovic: The Big Four created a golden era of men’s tennis

For a long time behind the Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal duo in the number of Grand Slam titles won, Novak Djokovic has overtaken the two tennis monsters for the first time. Having already overtaken the Swiss by winning his 21st title at Wimbledon in 2022, he has now overtaken the Spaniard by winning on home soil at Roland-Garros.

In a press conference following his success in Paris, the man who will once again become world No 1 on Monday was quick to pay tribute to the two champions who pushed him to be better and to surpass himself in order to beat them on court – and made sure he mentioned the other man who edged his way in to create a quartet at the top of the game, Andy Murray.

“The truth is that I have always compared myself to these guys, because those two are the two greatest rivals I ever had in my career. I have said it before many times that they have actually defined me as a player, and all the success that I have, you know, they have contributed to it, in a way, because of the rivalries and the match-ups that we had.

“Countless hours of thinking and analyzing and what it takes to win against them on the biggest stage, you know, for me and my team, it was just those two guys were occupying my mind for the last 15 years quite a lot – in a professional sense!

“So it’s amazing to know that I’m one ahead of both of them in Grand Slams, with Rafa, but at the same time, everyone writes their own history. So, you know, I still think that everyone has a unique journey that they should embrace and stick to. But of course having the three of us, with Andy of course, as well, that we cannot forget, in the last 20 years, it’s kind of reached the golden era of the men’s tennis, as people like to call it.

“So I’m really grateful to be part of this group of guys.”

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