Novak Djokovic has promised that as long as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer keep adorning the sport, he’ll be duelling with them as the “three knights of tennis”.
And fresh from seeing his charge win his 18th grand slam, Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic reckons he can see no end in sight to the sporting wonders being perpetrated by the “unbelievable” trio.
After outplaying Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final, Djokovic laughed that his pre-match prediction about the ‘big three’ not being about to make way for the next generation had been “risky”.
But he was convinced his 18th grand slam was down to the inspiration he keeps taking from his race with Nadal and Federer, who both have 20 apiece.
Such was the 7-5 6-2 6-2 hammering that Medvedev took that the Russian was moved to call them – affectionately, he insisted – as “cyborgs of tennis”.
Asked what he’d call them, Djokovic couldn’t help smiling as he suggested “The Three Knights of Tennis” – a title that’s inevitably bound to stick now.
“I don’t know how else I would describe the three of us,” said Djokovic.
“Roger and Rafa inspire me. I’ll say it again. I mean, I think as long as they go, I’ll go!
“I think in a way it’s, like, a race who plays tennis more, I guess, and who wins more. It’s a competition between us in all areas.
“But I think that’s the very reason why we are who we are, because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”
Djokovic, at 33, again looked dazzling while Nadal, just a year older, reached the quarters impressively as they made it nine out of the last 10 slams won between them.
But Ivanisevic is also looking forward to seeing Federer, who’ll be 40 in August, back defying time after his injury lay-off.
He even wonders if the knights may even prove a little less courtly by going past Serena Williams’ 23 slams and Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
“You don’t know where is the end with these guys. They are unbelievable. They surprise me every day. Rafa, for sure is going to win one, I hope not two, but I give him one. Who knows?” said the former Wimbledon champ.
“Every time when you think they gone, the young guns are coming. They are here but these guys are better, one step better in the finals.
“I don’t know where is the end. Maybe they’re going to overpass Margaret Court and Serena, maybe not. But it’s amazing what they doing.
“I’m waiting for Roger to come back … it’s just great. The race is there. I said couple years ago Rafa and Novak are both going to overtake Roger. I still think so.”
For his part, Djokovic knows it can’t last for ever. “Obviously, they’re (Medvedev and co) are going to slowly but surely take over at the top of the men’s game,” he said.
“(But) it’s not happening yet and people have been talking about it as if it’s already happened – but the top spots are still held by Rafa and myself.
“The next gen are already there, they’re winning big titles, they’e contending for the majors. Rafa, Roger and myself, we’re still trying to give them a hard time!”