Novak Djokovic believes Rafael Nadal is his "greatest rival" ever, ahead of Swiss legend Roger Federer. The Serb made this claim after his opening-round win against Gael Monfils at the Madrid Masters on Tuesday.
Speaking to the media after his 6-3, 6-2 win over the Frenchman, the Serb was informed that the ongoing Madrid Masters is the first tournament since the 2021 French Open in which both he and Nadal are part of the draw.
The World No. 1 was then asked if Nadal's presence changed the dynamics of the draw and if it affected him in any way. Djokovic responded in the affirmative before declaring the Mallorcan as his "greatest rival," ranking him above Federer, even though he did not directly name the Swiss.
"Well, of course it affects, because he's my greatest rival of all time. You're right. I mean, I wasn't thinking about this, but we have not been in the same draw for a while. You know, things are changing," Djokovic said. "We have young players, and we are both trying to do our best to compete for the top spots of the world. I think we are still going strong, so it's nice to see that."
"Andy Murray's one of the most important names that we have" - Novak Djokovic
The 20-time Major champion will face either Andy Murray or Denis Shapovalov in his next match at the Madrid Open.
During his post-match press conference on Tuesday, Djokovic was asked if he had been watching Murray's performances this year. The Serb responded in the affirmative, mentioning that he watched the Scot's win over Dominic Thiem in Madrid.
The world No. 1 went on to lavish praise on the three-time Major champion, calling him "one of the most important names" in tennis.
Djokovic also waxed lyrical about Murray's "resilience and fighting spirit," pointing out how the Scot has overcome multiple injuries and surgeries to keep playing the sport.
"Well, I have seen a few of his matches, actually I saw some of his match from last night with Dominic. He's moving well, playing better and better. It's really fantastic to see, because he's an important player for our game," said the Serb. "He's made his mark in the history of our sport by winning multiple slams and gold medals and No. 1 of the world. He's one of the most important names that we have."
"To have him still compete is great, and to have him even play at the high level as the time goes by is impressive, considering the surgery and what he has been through in the last few years," he added. "His resilience and fighting spirit is really inspiring."
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