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17-year-old Novak Djokovic: Federer is the King of Tennis now, but for me it'll always be Sampras

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 02 Aug 2020, 17:35 IST
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2005 was an eventful year for current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, as it saw him make his debut on the ATP tour and also qualify for the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time. In addition, the Serb also played his first-ever ATP 1000 event in 2005, and climbed more than a hundred places in the ATP rankings. 

That same year also saw a 17-year-old Novak Djokovic giving one of his earliest recorded interviews as a pro on the ATP Tour. The interview, conducted by Yugopapir, recently resurfaced on Twitter and showed the teenage Novak discussing the likes of Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Maria Sharapova.

Marat Safin is probably the only one who can dethrone Roger Federer: 17-year-old Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer

This interview took place in March 2005, when Novak Djokovic was all of 17 years old and just about finding his way on the tour. On the other hand, his great rival Roger Federer was already a four-time Grand Slam champion by then.

The Swiss was also the World No. 1 player at that point of time, and seemed to be turning into an unstoppable force. So it was no surprise that when Novak Djokovic was asked who the ‘King of Tennis’ was, he named the Swiss.

At the same time however, the Serb also made it a point to express his admiration for Pete Sampras.

“Yugopapir: Who is the king of tennis?"
Novak Djokovic: “At this moment it's Federer, although I prefer Safin, because probably he's the only one who could dethrone him. Anyway, for me personally, the king of tennis will always be Pete Sampras.”
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Pete Sampras is a long-time idol for Novak Djokovic
Pete Sampras is a long-time idol for Novak Djokovic

The then 17-year-old Novak Djokovic was also asked about the player that he would like to face one day. Like several other budding tennis players, he chose Pistol Pete and Roger Federer.

Little did a young Novak (or for that matter anyone) anticipate that he would go on to play Roger Federer 50 times (and counting).

Yugopapir: “You wish to play against?"
Novak Djokovic: "The first one on my wishlist is Pete Sampras, but sadly he's retired, so the next one is currently No. 1 player - Federer."

17-year-old Novak Djokovic wanted to hang out with Maria Sharapova

Novak Djokovic with Maria Sharapova
Novak Djokovic with Maria Sharapova

The interview also saw Djokovic being asked a few cheeky questions. The teenager was asked to pick one the tennis player he’d like to hang out with, but was only given the choices of Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva.

The then 17-year-old - who by his own admission used to be a fanboy of Sharapova - picked the rising Russian rising star and explained the rationale behind the choice by saying:

Yugopapir: “You would like to hang out with: Kournikova, or Dementieva, or Sharapova?"
Novak Djokovic: "With Sharapova. She's my age and I think it could be fun. Outside the tennis world, my choice would be - Halle Berry."
A 17-year-old Novak Djokovic at the 2005 Australian Open
A 17-year-old Novak Djokovic at the 2005 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic was fresh off his first Grand Slam appearance at that point. He had qualified for the Australian Open, but failed to progress beyond the first round as he lost to eventual champion Marat Safin.

Nevertheless, the 17-year-old Djokovic picked this experience as his favorite tennis memory (till that point of time) by saying:

“There are lots of them, but I'd like to mention the newest one, from Australia, when I played in front of a crowd of 15, 000 on the centre court in the Australian Open.”
Published 02 Aug 2020, 17:35 IST
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