Ever since Novak Djokovic pipped the young Carlos Alcaraz to take the top spot on the ATP rankings with his incredible Australian Open haul, all tennis fans could talk about is the new rivalry that could probably define this period with Rafael Nadal struggling with injuries and others stars fighting to match that level. However, Djokovic shut all the talk about his rivalry with Alcaraz with a stunning remark on Nadal ahead of 2023 French Open.
Djokovic is presently tied with Nadal on 22 Grand Slam singles titles following his 10th Australian Open title win, yet the talk in world tennis has all been about the possible rivalry between the Serb and Alcaraz with both eyeing the top spot in ATP rankings with the clay-court season about to start in the build up to Roland Garros.
While Djokovic hailed Alcaraz as the “next big thing” in tennis, he reiterated that Nadal remains his “biggest rival” in the sport.
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“Alcaraz is playing at a great level,” Djokovic said. I mean, especially after several months of absence from the tour with injuries that he was struggling with. It’s amazing that he is able to find the top level right away. That is actually a characteristic of a mature player. He doesn’t have so much experience, but he is showing maturity very early on, and with the way he handles himself on and off the court.
“He is a great guy and has a very good team of people around him. He deserves all his success and he is, I think, bringing some new, fresh energy into tennis, you know. He is a very dynamic player and personality and is very liked all around the world. So he deserves everything.
“I cannot call him my main rival. My main rival is still Nadal, you know, even though Alcaraz is obviously No. 2 [in the world rankings]. He was No. 1, he has won a Slam.
“He is arguably the next biggest thing in our sport or he is already there. I just feel the rivalry with Nadal is something that is difficult to eliminate just because someone is doing great things in the last year and a half, you know. Nadal has been the biggest rival, and he probably will remain the biggest rival I ever had in my career.”