Novak Djokovic is the greatest tennis player of all time. He has won 24 Grand Slam Titles (the most of any player in history) and has spent 399 weeks as the World Number 1. Novak Djokovic has been absolutely dominant throughout his career (especially after he got rid of his early jitters). In this post, we will find out the secret behind his dominance, straight out of his rivals’ mouths. Let’s get started.
Novak Djokovic: What His Opponents Think Of Him
As world number one Carlos Alcaraz says, it’s about the pressure that Djokovic creates on his opponent. Alcaraz met Novak in the semi-finals of Roland Garros, when, after winning the second set, he started getting cramps from which he did not manage to recover until the end of the match.
“The main reason for the cramps I got was the tension I felt because I was facing Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. I have to deal with it, but it’s something I really want. I hope to play the final here against him. But for me this is probably the most difficult thing when I play against Novak. I mean, he does things very, very easily. He moves very well. He hits the ball really well and cleanly. He has a clean shot. I’d say he’s not doing anything wrong. He always makes everything look easy. It’s really hard to find some weaknesses in his game”, Alcaraz concluded.
The world’s fifth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas lost two Grand Slam finals to Djokovic – the Australian Open in 2023 and Roland Garros in 2021.
“I don’t think there are any holes in his game. There are no major weaknesses that you can expose. His forehand and backhand are equally good. So yes, you can beat him, but you have to be very persistent and hit hard at times when you can’t stand back and wait. He also serves well. I thought in the past that his forehand wasn’t that good, but I’ve changed my mind – he has a great forehand. People say he has a great backhand, but I think his forehand and backhand are equally good,” the Greek star said.
Matteo Berrettini, world number 38, lost to Djokovic in the 2021 Wimbledon final. That year, he also lost to Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and the US Open.
“His skills are amazing.” He is constantly improving. If you look at the match against me, he had a lot of volleys, which is not what you think of when you think of Novak. He is always able to push his limits and become better and better. Then, like the other two (Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer), I think they’re just great players. They know themselves better. They really went deep into their bodies and minds to be the best version of themselves. He continues to do so. That’s why I think he is the man to beat”, said Berretini.
Denis Shapovalov, ranked 29 in the world, has lost all eight matches with Djokovic, including the 2021 Wimbledon semifinals.
“He just puts a lot of pressure on you. It makes you earn everything. He is always there. You really feel like he’s there if you make the slightest mistake, whereas in other matches, with other guys, you might get away with it. Look at how he plays in tiebreaks – it’s crazy. It shows that he really makes you earn everything in big moments and that he is able to get better. As soon as he somehow smells the blood,” said the Canadian.
World No. 6 Holger Rune has beaten Djokovic in two of their three meetings, including the Paris Masters final in 2022. The Dane says the most challenging thing about Djokovic is his mindset.
“When you play against him, even though you play some good points, it doesn’t seem to touch him at all. He is there on every point, often playing his best tennis on every point, giving maximum effort. It may sound easy to put full effort into every point, but in the heat of the moment, it’s not. It’s really impressive to see that,” said the 20-year-old.
Lorenzo Muszetti, ranked 16th in the world, took a two-set lead against Djokovic at Roland Garros two years ago but Djokovic pulled away while trailing 4-0 in the fifth set.
“The timing he has is probably the best I’ve ever seen.” It’s amazing, especially his return. He seems to know where you are going to serve a few minutes in advance. It’s amazing how he rebounds and how he’s always leaning forward and never going back. If I have to pick one thing, it’s probably his timing on the ball, especially with his backhand. It’s never late, it’s something really incredible,” said Musetti.
World No. 4 Kasper Ruud lost to Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final last month.
“I think he took defensive tennis to a new level.” The way he moves and the way he was able to counter-attack from deep, to the edge of the pitch. It’s really hard to hit ‘winners’ against him. He hits balls you think he can’t. Even from those positions, he is able to hit excellent counter-attacks with good depth. And on top of that he reads the game really well. “Every time you get a short ball against him, it’s hard to know which way to go because he hits it right most of the time, and even when he doesn’t, he can get there,” said the Norwegian.
The seventh ranked tennis player in the world, Andrej Rublev, lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon quarterfinals a few days ago.
“He has a perfect game because he has really, really good feet. And he really knows how to take advantage of a player’s speed. Sometimes, the harder you play against him, the more comfortable he is. With the legs he has, he uses your speed and plays without mistakes. In the end, he makes you look for additional shots and miss,” concluded the Russian.
Janik Siner, the eighth ranked tennis player in the world and Djokovic’s semi-final opponent at Wimbledon. He took a two-set lead against Djokovic in the 2022 Wimbledon quarterfinals, but lost in five sets. In 2023, however, Djokovic won in straight sets in the semifinals of the same tournament.
“He’s hard to beat because he has very, very good timing on the ball and moves very well. I feel like his serve has improved a lot, so it’s also hard to see where he’s serving. Obviously, he’s very strong mentally, so there’s a lot of things he’s great at. There’s a lot to it, but every time I play with it I feel something different. To win so many Grand Slams and tournaments, it’s amazing, but you also have to be physically fit, because you’re playing five hours a day and he’s ready for that. That’s crazy. I am happy that he is here so I can learn from him”, said Siner.
Nick Kyrgios, ranked 33rd in the world, lost in the Wimbledon final to Djokovic last year. From their other two meetings (both in 2017), the Australian emerged victorious.
“I think people just forget how hard this sport is, how hard it is physically. I feel like in the outside world people don’t understand. That they think that just because there is no contact between the players, that it is not so physically difficult. I challenge someone to go out and play four hours with Novak and see how they feel afterwards,” said Kyrgios.