Defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has admitted that finishing ahead of great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the chase to win the most Grand Slam titles is his chief motivation in the final years of his career.
With 15 major titles already etched onto his glittering record, world No.1 Djokovic is five titles behind Federer and three short of Nadal in the battle to claim the most prestigious record in the game, as he told Indepenent.ie that his desire to usurp the greatest names in the sport is now driving him to more success.
“At this stage of my career, all my motivation is to try and win more Grand Slam titles,” begins Djokovic, speaking at The Boodles exhibition event at Stoke Park.
“The other tournaments on the tour are obviously important, but you are remembered for what happens in the big tournaments and that is what we are all focusing on now.
“I’m aware that making history in the sport I truly love is something special. If I continue to have a love for the game and my motivation remains high, I know that anything is possible in the final few years of my career, but that desire needs to stay strong for me to stay competitive.
“The first motivation always has to be a love for the game,” he stated, ahead of a tricky first round clash against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Centre Court tomorrow.
“That might sound like a cliche, but it is important to keep that hunger because without that, you cannot expect to play at your best and beat a hungry opponent.
“You need to stand up every single day and have a fuel that drives you. I love standing there with a racket in my hand, trying to get the best from myself and so long as the motivation is there, I can continue to have success and it is never hard to get excited about this next tournament.
“Wimbledon is always the most special tournament in our season. When I was six or seven years old, I used to make an improvised trophy and pretend I had won the tournament. I would look in the mirror and imagine I was lifting that trophy, so it was pretty amazing for that image to become a reality on more than one occasion.
“Dreams really can come true, regardless of where you come from. If you believe in your dreams and have passion and work really hard for it, everything is possible.”
Wimbledon’s decision makers have caused a stir after relegating Nadal to No.3 seed for next week’s tournament, despite his world ranking of No.2.
Using a formula designed to reflect performances of the top players on grass courts, world No.3 Roger Federer has been bumped up to the second seed at Wimbledon, with Nadal not holding back in his criticism of that decision and he has found support from Djokovic.
“They do it differently to everyone else and you have to respect that, although it is a little bit surprising,” stated Djokovic, who has added 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic to his coaching team for the third Grand Slam of the year.
“Roger Federer is the greatest of all-time on grass courts and he has won more Wimbledon titles than anyone else in history, but the guy he is being moved ahead of in the seeings is Rafael Nadal. For that reason, it is surprising a little bit, but it is what it is.”
Nadal’s seeding demotion has contributed to a nightmare draw at Wimbledon, as he faces potential battles with Nick Kyrgios, Denis Shapavalov, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem before a potential semi-final against Roger Federer.
Britain’s Andy Murray will continue his comeback from injury as he teams up with Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the Wimbledon doubles event, with Djokovic hoping his old friend and foe makes it back into singles action later this year.
“I saw highlights of Andy Murray’s win in the doubles last week and it was so great to see him back on a tennis court, smiling and happy,” he added, after Murray won the doubles title alongside Feliciano Lopez at Queen’s Club.
“We all feared he had played his last game at the Australian Open earlier this year, but he is looks to be moving well and I wish him all the best. All the players have these sentiments as he is so popular with all the players on the tour.”
Novak Djokovic – 5/4
Roger Federer – 11/4
Rafael Nadal – 6/1
Stefanos Tsitsipas – 16/1
Alexandre Zvererv – 25/1
MOST GRAND SLAM WINS
Roger Federer – 20
Rafael Nadal – 18
Novak Djokovic – 15
Pete Sampras – 14
Roy Emerson – 12
Rod Laver – 11
Bjorn Borg – 11