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7 things Novak Djokovic has said about Roger Federer over the years

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the 2018 Laver Cup
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the 2018 Laver Cup
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Ewan West

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are two of the greatest players in the history of tennis. They have both won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, one fewer than record holder Rafael Nadal.

The legendary pair are involved in one of the sport's best and fiercest rivalries, with the Serb having won 27 of their 50 matches. Only Djokovic and Nadal have played more times (58) on the men's tour in the Open Era.

While the duo share great respect, their rivalry has had slightly more edge than any other in the men's game over the past two decades.


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Here is a look at seven of the Serb's best quotes about his Swiss contemporary:

#7 "You really have to wonder if he’s even from the same planet" (2006)

Roger Federer at the 2011 Monte-Carlo Masters
Roger Federer at the 2011 Monte-Carlo Masters

Djokovic and Federer contested their second meeting when Serbia and Montenegro faced Switzerland in the 2006 Davis Cup World Group playoffs. The Swiss prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth rubber to seal the tie for his nation.

Following the defeat, the then 19-year-old Serb reflected on his defeat to the then World No. 1.

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"Today I was playing my best tennis, trying lots of different things, but nothing worked," Djokovic said. "When you’re playing like that and he still comes up with all those great shots, you really have to wonder if he’s even from the same planet."

#6 "Probably the best player ever in this sport" (2007)

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After losing his first four meetings with Federer, Djokovic earned his first victory over his great rival at the 2007 Canada Masters. Following his 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-6(2) triumph in the Montreal final, the Serb had high praise for his opponent in the trophy ceremony.

"To win against probably the best player ever in this sport - it's a dream for me," said the Serb.

#5 "I just handed him the win" (2015)

Roger Federer at the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals
Roger Federer at the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals

During the round-robin stage of the 2015 ATP Finals in London, Djokovic was beaten 7-5, 6-2 by Federer, ending his 23-match winning streak. The Serb credited the Swiss's performance, but suggested he gifted his rival the victory with his own poor display.

"You have those days when you are not feeling your best, not even close to the best," the World No. 1 said. "Credit to Roger for mixing up the pace, giving me always a different ball. He used the slice and spin very wisely. He served very efficiently. I made a lot of, lot of unforced errors. I just handed him the win, especially in the second set. He tactically played well. Undoubtedly, he was the better player on the court. But I think I also allowed him to play and penetrate through the ball and dictate the tempo from the baseline."

#4 "I'm the player I am today because of him" (2018)

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in doubles action at the 2018 Laver Cup
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in doubles action at the 2018 Laver Cup

At the 2018 Laver Cup, Djokovic and Federer joined forces for the only time in their careers to compete for Team Europe. Prior to their three-set defeat to Team World's Kevin Anderson and Jack Sock, the Serb lauded the Swiss' impact on his career.

"I'm the player I am today because of him. We're very excited for this unique experience," said Djokovic. "We never played doubles together so this is what this competition is all about, bringing us all together."
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#3 "He's so talented - he's got a perfect game for this surface" (2019)

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer shake hands following the 2019 Wimbledon final
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer shake hands following the 2019 Wimbledon final

At the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, Djokovic famously defeated Federer in a remarkable five-set final after saving two championship points. In his post-match press conference, he discussed the victory and the challenge of facing his great rival on grass.

"It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of," the Serb said. "I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia [in 2012] that went almost six hours. But mentally this was different level, because of everything."
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"First of all, playing against Roger on any surface, but on grass, in a finals, it's a lot of constant pressure because he stays close to the line," he added. "Regardless of who he's playing against, whether the serve is coming 150 miles an hour or as mine, 120, he's there. He blocks the shots very well. He anticipates very well. He's so talented. He's got a perfect game for this surface."

#2 "Federer is a role model even for me" (2019)

Roger Federer at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals
Roger Federer at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals

In the round-robin stage of the 2019 ATP Finals, a 38-year-old Federer defeated Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to progress to the semifinals. After the defeat, the Serb revealed the Swiss is someone he looks up to, despite the pair's rivalry.

"(On Federer's performance) Well, it motivates me," he said. "I mean, it shows me it's possible. No, I mean, well, I have utmost admiration for him and everything he's doing on the court. What he has achieved over the years and what he's still showing on the court is phenomenal. I mean, he's a role model even for me that I'm one of his rivals and, you know, [he is] one of the toughest opponents I had in my career. You know, looking at his career and what he still is doing, it just inspires you."

#1 "What Roger is doing still at his age is something that is very inspirational for me and many other tennis players" (2021)

Roger Federer congratulates Novak Djokovic following their 2020 Australian Open semifinal
Roger Federer congratulates Novak Djokovic following their 2020 Australian Open semifinal

In March 2021, Djokovic broke Federer's ATP record of 310 weeks as World No. 1. In an interview with the BBC after achieving the feat, the Serb paid tribute to the 20-time Grand Slam champion's longevity.

"What Roger is doing still at his age is something that is very inspirational for me and many other tennis players, and it's great to see him back," said Djokovic. "When I started in the men's professional tennis world 15 years ago, I had two of the highest challenges, which was to overcome Roger and Rafa. Back in 2008, when I won my first Grand Slam, I thought OK, this is now my time. I'm going to be competing with these guys, I have the ability to win slams. But then, for three years, I didn't win a major title and I was losing most of my big matches against them."

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Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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