Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are two of the finest tennis players to have ever graced the sport of tennis. They have both won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, one fewer than fellow great Rafael Nadal.
The legendary duo are part of one of tennis' fiercest rivalries, with the Serb having won 27 of their 50 meetings. Only Djokovic and Nadal have faced off more times (58) on the men's tour in the Open Era.
Despite the great respect between the pair, their rivalry has arguably had slightly more edge than any other in the men's game over the past two decades.
Here is a look at seven of the Swiss' most interesting quotes about his Serbian contemporary:
#7 "I think he's still got many areas where he can improve, so there is some potential, absolutely" (2006)
Federer and Djokovic contested their first-ever match in the opening round of the 2006 Monte-Carlo Masters, where the Swiss prevailed 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. During his post-match press conference, the then World No. 1 said the Serb, who had qualified for the event, had "potential."
"Well, I definitely think he's a good player, yeah," the Swiss said. "I mean, we're gonna play him again in Davis Cup so it's going to be interesting to see. Yeah, I mean, he was alright from the baseline and everything. I think he's still got many areas where he can improve, so there is some potential, absolutely."
#6 "I think he’s a joke when it comes down to his injuries" (2006)
Federer and Djokovic met for the second time later in 2006 when Switzerland faced Serbia in the Davis Cup World Group playoffs, with the former triumphing in straight sets. On the opening day, Djokovic had recovered from two sets to one down to beat Stan Wawrinka, leveling the tie.
Federer was critical of the then 19-year-old for calling the trainer during the five-setter against his friend and compatriot.
"I don’t trust his injuries. I’m serious," Federer said. "I think he’s a joke, you know, when it comes down to his injuries."
#5 "He's not a guy who's never given up before, it's disappointing" (2009)
At the 2009 Australian Open, defending champion Djokovic retired during the fourth set of his quarterfinal match against Andy Roddick due to heat exhaustion. Federer took issue with the Serb's withdrawal in an interview after his quarterfinal win over Juan Martin Del Potro in Melbourne.
"It's happened before, he's not the guy who's never given up before, so that's kind of disappointing to see," he said. "I mean, he gave up against me in Monaco last year because of sore throat. Those are the kind of things you wonder about. I've only given up basically once in my career. Andy totally deserved to win that match. I'm almost in favor of saying, you know what, if you're not fit enough, just get out of here. If Novak were up two sets to love I don't think he would have retired 4-0 down in the fourth."
#4 "Things are cool since a long time between me and him, I've always respected him" (2012)
In an interview during the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, Federer spoke about his relationship with Djokovic and insisted there were no issues between the pair. The Swiss also explained why he had been irritated by the Serb's behavior during his Davis Cup victory over Wawrinka six years prior.
"I was just upset at him calling the trainer out for no obvious reason against my buddy, Stan, in a five setter," said the Swiss. "That was it. We had a quick chat about it in Madrid after that, and things are cool since a long time between me and him. I've always respected him. Have I gone out for dinner with him? No. But we have had many meetings at the players council, and then now with the Grand Slams. He's been nice to work with. We've met on several occasions because of other things together. I have no issues with him, and I hope you believe me."
#3 "He's perfected his game on the hardcourts, no doubt about it" (2015)
In 2015, Djokovic defeated Federer in a four-set final to win his second US Open title and 10th Major crown. In a press conference after the match, the Swiss praised the season his great rival was having and commented on how many more Grand Slam titles he could win.
"He's having a wonderful season, like in 2011," Federer said. "He's just really consistent. Seems like there are not many guys that can hang with him, don't have the tools or dare to go forward, or they [don't] dare to serve and volley against him because he's so good on the return. Which he is. He's perfected his game on the hard courts, no doubt about it."
"He was always a great claycourt player, and because he moves as well as he does, he's solid and consistent now on the grass," he added. "To say the least, it's very impressive. He's having unbelievable career. You know, I think everybody knows that he knows that, as well. Tonight is another example of that. Clearly he can win many of them (Grand Slams). He already has a ton, so obviously he's got to stay healthy and all that stuff and hungry, but obviously you would think he will win more after tonight."
#2 "It has been a pleasure to play against Djokovic and he’s one of the players who have made me a better player" (2021)
Speaking ahead of his return from injury at the Qatar Open in Doha last year, Federer discussed his rivalry with Djokovic. The 20-time Major champion praised the qualities the Serb possesses and identified him as an all-time great of the sport.
"I enjoy playing against him," Federer said. "I really feel like we get the best out of each other. We have different playing styles, it almost depends on the day, which court we’re playing on and how the matches have been leading up to that match. Against the best players you know you have to bring your best game. Otherwise, it will not be enough. Especially against somebody like Novak who can go into a mode where he is not going to miss."
"He can defend very well and be aggressive, he has a very good balance. That’s why he is one of the greatest players ever," he added. "It has been a pleasure to play against him and he’s one of the players who have made me a better player. It’s great to have him in the game."
#1 "What Novak did this year was, of course, truly exceptional" (2021)
In 2021, Djokovic won the first three Majors of the year, before losing to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final, leaving him one win win short of a historic Calendar Grand Slam.
Speaking to Mercedes-Benz ahead of the 2021 Laver Cup, Federer hailed his great rival's historic season.
"(On the Calendar Grand Slam) I think it is possible that it's going to happen again," said the Swiss. "We saw it with Novak, myself and Rafa [Nadal] that we come extremely close. But, you know, just doing it, I think you need a bit of luck. You need perseverance, strength. You need everything you know. And that's why I think it's going to be hard. But it's possible. And I have to ask also what Laver thought because he was sitting first row watching Novak play. But what Novak did this year was, of course, truly exceptional."
Rod Laver is the only man to win all four Grand Slam titles in one season in the Open Era, accomplishing the feat in 1969.
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