Novak Djokovic told Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal aren’t his biggest rivals anymore

Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification

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Novak Djokovic has been told that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are no longer his “main rivals”, despite spending his career competing for records with his fellow Big Three members. The world No 1 is currently competing in the final event of the year, the Nitto ATP Finals, where former pro Greg Rusedski says he is the “favourite”, despite his new rivals being the younger players also in the field.

Djokovic is already through to the semi-final at the Nitto ATP Finals for the 10th time, topping the Green Group after victories over Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev.

The Serb is a five-time champion at the year-end finals but has not won since 2015, while every winner since – Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev – has been a first-time champion.

Despite his title drought at the season-ending championships, former world No 4 Greg Rusedski believes the 34-year-old is the favourite to win this year, which would see him equal Roger Federer on a record six ATP Finals titles.

Djokovic is the only member of the Big Three competing in Turin this year, with Federer and Nadal both ending their 2021 seasons early due to injury.

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Although his long-time rivals are absent, Rusedski doesn’t think this is what will help the world No 1 finally lift a sixth ATP Finals trophy, as he says they are no longer his “main rivals”.

“He’s fresh. He’s had two months off since the US Open. Usually coming into the end of the season, he’s a little bit tired, he’s played a lot more tennis. He’s managed his schedule well because he’s 34 years of age,” the former British No 1 said, explaining why the Serb was the favourite to win this week while speaking exclusively to Express Sport.

Although the 1997 US Open finalist thought the likes of top young players and recent champions Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev were now Djokovic’s rivals, he thought the top seed would be extra motivated by trying to beat the next generation of tennis stars.

He continued: “I also think he’s ready to beat this next generation of rivals.

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“His main rivals are not Nadal and Federer anymore because their health isn’t there.

“It’s Medvedev, it’s Zverev, it’s Rublev, it’s Tsitsipas. These are his new main rivals that are gonna be there week in, week out.”

Rusedski also noted that Djokovic’s recent practice session with Medvedev in Paris paid off when the pair met in the final, as the Serb came from a set down to defeat his US Open conqueror.

He added: “And he did a lot of practising with Medvedev the week before Paris as well and tactically that kind of made the difference for him in the Paris finals.

And now it’s going to be interesting to see what Daniil Medvedev does because Medvedev and Djokovic are the two best tacticians in my opinion.

“Novak’s serve has improved out-of-sight since Goran’s gotten on board, his accuracy. And he’s the greatest return-of-serve player in the history of our game and probably the greatest mover. Federer used to be, Djokovic is now.”

As the former British No 1 talked down Federer and Nadal’s significance as Djokovic’s current rivals, he also expected the Serb would meet his “biggest rival” of 2021 in the final match of the season on Sunday (November 21).

“I would say Novak Djokovic has to be the favourite. Daniil Medvedev, No 2 in the world, obviously his biggest rival this year, have probably played the best tennis,” he declared.

“I think the No 1 and No 2 players in the world are on a crash course in the ATP Finals with Djokovic being the favourite but Medvedev is the guy who really looks like the biggest threat to take his crown away from him next year.”

The ATP Finals can be watched exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the UK at no extra cost to Prime members from 14 Nov to 21 Nov.

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