Novak Djokovic insists it is “disrespectful” to hail him as the greatest player of all time after clinching a record-breaking 23rd men’s Grand Slam title on Sunday.
The 36-year-old Djokovic defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets in the French Open final, breaking the tie of 22 majors he shared with longtime rival Rafael Nadal.
A third Roland Garros title added to his 10 Australian Open trophies, seven Wimbledons and three at the US Open.
He is the only man to win all four Slams on at least three occasions and on Monday he will return to the world number one ranking and start a 388th week on top of the pile.
“I don’t want to say that I am the greatest, because I feel it’s disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of our sport that was played in completely different way than it is played today,” said Djokovic.
“So I leave those kind of discussions of who is the greatest to someone else. I have of course huge faith and confidence and belief in myself and for everything that I am and who I am and what I am capable of doing.”
However, despite becoming the oldest ever French Open champion, he warned he is far from finished.
When asked if he could win 24 or 25 majors, he replied: “Why not?”
Eleven of his Grand Slam titles have been secured since he turned 30.
Retirement is a long way off for a man who has already seen Roger Federer hang up his racquet with 20 majors to his name while 37-year-old Nadal, sitting out the rest of the season with injury, has already said 2024 will be his last as a professional.
“Of course the journey is still not over,” said Djokovic. “I feel if I’m winning Slams, why even think about ending the career that already has been going on for 20 years.
“So I still feel motivated, I still feel inspired to play the best tennis in these tournaments. Those are the ones that count I guess the most in history of our sport.
“I now look forward to Wimbledon,” added Djokovic where he will look to equal Federer’s record of eight titles.
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic hailed the Serbian star for being able to install special “software” every time a Grand Slam tournament rolls around.
“It’s fascinating to see, because sometimes you think, okay, now you have 23. But he’s gonna find, again, some kind of motivation to win 24, maybe 25, who knows where is the end,” said Ivanisevic.
– ‘Not an easy guy’ –
“He’s keeping his body great, he’s in great shape. He’s unbelievable, and he’s still moving like a cat on the court. He’s there, like a Ninja.”
However, the former Wimbledon winner admitted Djokovic is “not an easy guy” such is his intensity to make history.
“Especially when something’s not going his way. But we are here to put our back and to get beaten, we are here for him to feel better, for him to perform better.
“Sometimes not easy. Sometimes it’s very complicated. But overall, this is for what you live, you know, the tournaments like this, the finishing like this.”
Djokovic arrived in Paris having endured a mediocre clay court season, failing to get beyond the quarter-finals of any of the three events he played.
There was the added worry of the recurrence of a longstanding wrist injury.
“The day we arrived here, he was better, he was more motivated, he was more hungry. Every day he played better and better,” said Ivanisevic who believes Djokovic’s victory over world number one Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals was key in his title push.
“I thought against Alcaraz one-and-a-half hours he played unbelievable smart and unbelievable tennis,” said Ivanisevic.
“And today he just finish what we started actually in Monte Carlo, to practise, and now it’s payday. We cash the cheque.”