Novak Djokovic’s coach confessed that his charge has been “lucky” to have Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer around. Goran Ivanisevic explained that he had no trouble when it came to motivating the world No 1 because he could do that himself. And the Croat thought that Djokovic had been spurred on even more by his intense Big Three rivalry.
Djokovic was a latecomer to the rivalry that Federer and Nadal had already formed between themselves. By the time the Serb won his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open, Federer already had 12 to his name while the Spaniard had three.
But the 36-year-old crashed their party and started challenging his rivals for the biggest titles in the sport and the No 1 ranking. And Ivanisevic believes that Djokovic was lucky to have such a strong competition with Federer and Nadal to help him continue to improve.
“He’s a winner. He’s the guy who is self-motivating,” Ivanisevic – himself a former Wimbledon champion – said during the Entrepreneurial Attitude conference. “He had luck to have guys like Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer come before him, so they pushed each other, but he’s a born winner.”
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The former world No 2 still knew that Djokovic would have been able to achieve greatness without the rivalry, however, as he added: “For him, when you tell him he cannot do something, it’s even worse. Then he’s going to show you that he can do it.”
Competing against Federer, Nadal and their past records has paid off for Djokovic as the 36-year-old has come from behind to surpass them. It was Federer who first broke the men’s singles Grand Slam record when he won his 15th in 2009 and he went on to win 20 across his career.
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Nadal then moved the goalposts when he picked up his 22nd Major crown and Djokovic was able to overtake him this year. He became the first man in history to win a 23rd Grand Slam trophy at the French Open and later won his 24th at the US Open – standing alone in the Open Era and tying Margaret Court’s all-time record.
Djokovic also has the most all-time weeks at No 1 in the world with 395 and counting – and the figure will continue to increase as he currently sits atop the rankings. With the Serb only getting greater as he gets older, Ivanisevic knows that he’s also lucky to get to work with the 96-time title winner. “I am happy to train a genius, the best tennis player of all time and one of the best athletes in general,” he added.
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