Novak Djokovic is so inspired by Roger Federer that he’s quietly plotting to smash the great Swiss’s all-time grand slam titles record.
Djokovic says Federer’s extraordinary longevity and ability to challenge for more grand slam singles crowns at 34 gives him “a comfort and excitement” that he too can play on for years to come.
The Serb joined tennis legends Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg on 11 career majors with his record-equalling sixth Australian Open triumph this week.
But unlike Laver, who was denied the chance to add to his tally during five years in grand slam exile and Borg, who retired at 26, Djokovic has big plans to keep piling up the majors.
The clean-living 28-year-old world No.1 said 17-time grand slam champion Federer, a father of four who turns 35 in August, was living proof he too could remain competitive well into his 30s.
“Roger is inspiring in so many ways for many people,” Djokovic told AAP.
“He’s a great champion, somebody who is very persistent. He keeps on going, keeps on playing at his age on the highest level.
“We played a couple of grand slam finals last year – at Wimbledon the US Open. He reached the semis here (in Melbourne) again so he’s definitely not giving up.
“He feels like he can fight for the major titles and I don’t see a reason why he should stop playing. There is no reason.
“He’s playing at the very high level. He’s moving well, he’s playing great and he’s 34.
“That also gives me a kind of a comfort and excitement because I do definitely feel like I have plenty of years in front of me.
“Whether or not I’m going to reach that age and play at that level as he is right now, I don’t know, but I’m going to definitely try my best.”
Djokovic also has the chance this year to become the first man since Laver in 1969 to win four consecutive grand slam titles.
Djokovic would also become only the eighth man in history to complete a career grand slam set with a breakthrough French Open triumph in June.
“Well definitely it’s one of the priorities each year,” he said.
“Naturally I understand that people start speculating on whether I can win the French Open this year, but there’s still plenty of tournaments to play, the season is very long and I’ll try to keep my attention only to what’s coming next.”
The world No.1 insisted reigning in Paris wasn’t the be-all and end-all for him personally.
“I’ve managed to achieve so much in my life and my career so far and most of all what’s dearest to my heart is that I see through my achievements I got to inspire many kids, especially from my country and all over the world, to start playing tennis, start doing sports, start leading a healthy lifestyle,” Djokovic said.
“These kind of influences is a privilege and it’s an honour to be in a position to do something like this.
“So I don’t take anything for granted. I’m very grateful to be in this position, to have this status, and whether or not I win the French Open, it’s not going to change the way I feel about my career so far.”
MEN’S ALL-TIME GRAND SLAM SINGLES TITLES LEADERBOARD:
17 Roger Federer (SUI)
14 Pete Sampras (USA), Rafael Nadal (ESP)
12 Roy Emerson (AUS)
11 Rod Laver (AUS), Bjorn Borg (SWE), Novak Djokovic (SRB)
10 Bill Tilden (USA)