Thursday, June 23, 2016

Roger Federer: Novak Not Unbeatable, Rafa is Greatest Rival

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals and arrives at SW19 this month as only the third man to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously.

Djokovic's dominance has not diminished Federer's belief that the world No. 1 is beatable.

“Is Djokovic now the man to beat? Absolutely," Federer told The Guardian in a new interview. "Does he deserve to be where he is? 100 per cent. But is he beatable? Yes, of course he is. I beat him last year three times.”

Read Federer's entire wide-ranging interview with The Guardian's Simon Hattenstone here.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion calls Rafael Nadal his greatest rival though he says that could change if he plays more major finals against Djokovic.

“For me, (Nadal) has been (my greatest rival)," Federer tells the Guardian. "It could still change if I play Novak another few times in bigger matches. Novak and I have obviously had really big matches, but somehow the match-up with Rafa will always stay unique – because of the Wimbledon final in 2008.”

Federer, who defeated Robin Soderling in the 2009 Roland Garros final to complete the career Grand Slam, said there's a reason he never beat Nadal in Paris: He wasn't good enough.

"Sometimes I was outplayed, sometimes I was close, but never quite good enough to beat him at the French," Federer said. "But I never lost hope or faith that it could happen.”

Though fans of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal sometimes spar on social media over their allegiances, the former No. 1 cites Nadal and Stan Wawrinka as two of his long-time friends on tour along with two prominent rivals.

“Andy Murray is very funny. I like chatting with him," Federer said. "Gael Monfils is good fun, he’s always chilled out. There’s not one guy I don’t get along with, which makes the tour so much more enjoyable. At the start of your career, yes, you can be tough, focused, a warrior on the court, but we get away from it and have a nice time."

Federer believes good relations among top players could contribute to career longevity.

"That’s why I think we see players hanging around longer," Federer said. "Before, everyone was so serious and like, ‘I hate that guy.’ Is it nice when 50 players don’t like you? I think they needed it to get jacked up.”

The 34-year-old Swiss hasn't won a Grand Slam title since the 2012 Wimbledon, but says his love for the game has deepened.

“I don’t want to say I’m enjoying it more, but it’s different. I have a deeper love for the game today," Federer said. "Before it was chasing the dream. Today it is living the dream and appreciating I can still do it. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

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