Novak Djokovic is at the top of the sport, World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for a record 378th week. After advancing to the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday, the Serbian made clear he has no intention of relinquishing his position without a fight.
“New generations are coming,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview. “But I’m not afraid.”
The 35-year-old paused before delivering the end of his message. And once he did, Djokovic cracked a wide smile. Whether the Serbian was joking or not, he has proven his words true.
Djokovic is now 14-0 on the season. Since the start of Rome last May, he has won 49 of his 52 matches, including 22 victories against Top 20 opposition.
During the World No. 1’s post-match press conference in Dubai after defeating Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3, a reporter asked about athletes throughout sports who were born in the 1980s — including himself, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James — succeeding later into their careers.
“I don’t believe in coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason. It’s great that the big names that you mentioned were all born in the same decade,” Djokovic said. “I’m sure that things that we talk about today, we feel some of the achievements are just not reachable maybe in 10 years’ time or whatever, that we’ll be seeing someone surpassing basketball’s biggest records, or tennis. I would be surprised if that didn’t happen, to be honest, because everything is improving so much.
“One is getting to learn from people that came and have done some great things before them. I’m sure that the young players in tennis are studying Federer, Nadal, my career, how we go about things on and off the court, what made us successful. That’s what I was doing. I mean, if you really want to be No. 1 in the world, best in your craft, so to say, you need to learn from the people that have been in those shoes.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic continues to put his records farther out of reach of his peers and future generations. For example, Roger Federer is second for most weeks at World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with 310 weeks, more than a year of accrued time less than the Serbian. But Djokovic did not get to this point by believing the records in front of him were too far to strive for.
“Now some achievements look far from reachable, but maybe that was the case also 10 years ago or something for some of the achievements in tennis,” Djokovic said. “But everything is possible.”
So far in his sets @DDFTennis, @DjokerNole forehand #ShotQuality scores have been 💥
9.5 Set 1
6.8 Set 2
9.4 Set 3
9.5 Set 4
9.6 Set 5
What score is up next vs Hurkacz in the 1/4 Final?#TennisInsights | @atptour pic.twitter.com/hdgq6XeW5O
— Tennis Insights (@tennis_insights) March 1, 2023
With that in mind, Djokovic is not done pushing for more in his career.
“I still have lots of desire to break records, to play. Every match is different, but that’s the beauty of competitive tennis, is that you never know what the next day brings. So you have to always figure out the way by yourself on the court,” Djokovic said. “It’s kind of a little bit symbolic to life, as well. Of course, there’s a team of people around you, but then you have to take responsibility for your actions.”
For now, Djokovic is focussed on claiming a sixth title in Dubai this week. The top seed will play fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals.