New York: Novak Djokovic was thrilled to match Pete Sampras with a 14th Grand Slam title at the US Open here, Sunday, but he said it’s Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who have made him the player he is.
“Pete Sampras is one of the biggest legends ever to play the game,” Djokovic said after earning a third US Open crown. “He was my childhood idol. He was someone I was always looking up to. He inspired me to start playing tennis. There is a lot of significance of me being now shoulder to shoulder in terms of Grand Slam wins with him.”
The victory will also see Djokovic rise to No.3 in the world behind Nadal and Federer – the rankings again reflecting the ‘Big Three’ status they have shared for so long.
Djokovic faced neither of his greatest rivals en route to the title in Flushing Meadows. He emphasised he would have relished taking on either – or both, although he admitted that early in his career that wasn’t always the case.
Federer and Nadal have made me the player I am today. I owe it to them
“Maybe 10 years ago I would say I’m not so happy to be part of this era with Nadal and Federer,” he stated. “Today I really am. I feel like these guys, rivalries with them, matches with Federer and Nadal, have made me the player I am, have shaped me into the player I am today. I owe it to them.”
Juan Martin del Potro was gracious in defeat and said Djokovic can end his career as the most successful Grand Slam title winner, surpassing Roger Federer’s current mark of 20.
“Of course he can,” said Del Potro when asked if Djokovic can claim the record over Federer who is almost six years his senior. “He has 14 (Grand Slams) already. He won two in one year. He’s healthy. He has a great team working with him.”
Del Potro insisted he is happy to be playing in the era of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. “Of course, it is a big challenge to take these kind of tournaments to them. But also I think we are proud to be close to these legends,” said the 29-year-old.
“I’ve been during all my career learning with Novak, Roger, Rafa, seeing them winning these events very often. It’s amazing,” he added.