Serena Williams is, without a doubt, one of the greatest legends in tennis history. The American has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles to go with 16 doubles Majors, and her longevity at the top of the women's game has few parallels in the modern era. Men's World No. 1 Novak Djokovic thinks so too, and on Thursday the Serb showered rich praise on Williams.
Djokovic called the 39-year-old one of the greatest athletes of all time, and revealed that he feels privileged to be playing alongside her.
Novak Djokovic made the comments while speaking to the media after his straight-sets win over Aslan Karatasev to reach a ninth Australian Open final. The Serb will next face the winner of Friday's semifinal between Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Djokovic's tribute came just hours after Serena Williams was knocked out of the women's singles semifinals by Naomi Osaka.
"She’s such an amazing champion that inspires both male and female athletes around the world," Djokovic said. "But I think when you see a larger picture for her and everything that who she is, what she stands for on and off the court... She’s one of the greatest ever; athletes, not just tennis player."
"I’m just proud and honored to be playing at the same time she does and to see her greatness, experience her greatness is a thrill," he added.
"I can empathize with Serena Williams and what she’s going through" - Novak Djokovic
While Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to winning an 18th Grand Slam title and closing in on the all-time record in men's tennis history, Serena Williams was denied yet another chance to equal the same record in women's tennis.
Serena Williams' breakdown at her press conference following her loss to Naomi Osaka made headlines across the world on Thursday.
The 39-year-old left her press conference in tears while speaking about her loss. And Novak Djokovic said he could empathize with Williams, who has come close to equaling Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles on several occasions over the past few years.
"I can empathize with Serena and what she’s going through,” Djokovic said. "When you’re chasing big things that are related to the history of the sport, obviously it has a lot of weight, a lot of pressure. And regardless of the amount of years that you have played on the tour and the experience that you have, you still feel it on your shoulders.”