'Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer get a much easier ride', says former No. 1

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'Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer get a much easier ride', says former No. 1

Novak Djokovic will overtake Pete Sampras in second place in terms of number of weeks at number 1 in the ATP ranking (since 1973) on 21 September, the day of the final of the International BNL of Italy. "Breaking the record of Pete Sampras, who was an idol, is great.

His record shows how tough he was on the pitch, physically and mentally. Breaking Roger Federer's record, winning as many Grand Slams as possible, is my motivation." It is not easy, he admitted, "to go quickly from the US Open to Rome," said Novak Djokovic in the press conference before the tournament.

"I happened to go for example from the US Open final to the Davis Cup on hard, I know how complicated the fast transition to clay is." Novak Djokovic is the target of far too much unfair criticism, says former coach Boris Becker, who says Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer get a much easier ride.

Becker on Novak Djokovic

The London crowd can be especially cruel to the Serb, with him having double faults cheered at the ATP Finals last year. “He’s a people person, he does a lot of charity work in Serbia through his foundation,” Boris Becker said of Novak Djokovic.

“And yet people only talk about him when he breaks the rules. Novak Djokovic is a champion, he always wants to win, but sometimes he makes mistakes too. In men’s tennis, fans are divided between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Then here comes Djokovic who crashes the party – this is why he gets so much criticism. Nobody is perfect. Roger double faults, Rafa double faults… they don’t get booed”. Djokovic, the world No. 1, was on his way to reaching the final and vying for his 18th Grand Slam before he was disqualified for inadvertently hitting a linesperson in the throat with a ball in the round of 16.

The 33-year-old was undefeated in 2020 and his legacy perhaps is taking the biggest hit from the coronavirus cancellations and postponements. Djokovic is the most in-his-prime, while 39-year-old Federer (out rehabbing a knee injury) has been in the twilight of his career for a while now.

Nadal (34), meanwhile, opted not to travel to New York for safety concerns and is back home training for the French Open — an event he's won 12 times — as it was rescheduled for late September.