The tide turns into tennis legend Novak Djokovic‘s favor of gaining the respect he deserves from followers of the sport, but he may have to wait for years after retirement to be fully appreciated, says Daniil Medwedef. World number two Medvedev spoke after Djokovic returned from a set-off to beat him 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final in Paris on Sunday for a record-breaking 37th Masters 1000 title. It came a day after the 34-year-old Serb won his semi-final to secure himself another milestone – the season-ending world number one for a seventh time.
Thus, he ended Medvedev’s slim hopes of overthrowing him, two months after the Russian destroyed Djokovic’s dreams of a Grand Slam whip in the final of the US Open.
Djokovic spoke of the love he felt that day for the American Open crowd, which was not always the case elsewhere – in the Wimbledon final this year, he was upset on several occasions by spectators who sided with opponent Matteo Berrettini .
He has also been seen for many years as the odd one out of the three big competitors who have won 20 Grand Slams each.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are generally loved, but the intense, deep-thinking Serb elicits lukewarm sentiments.
However, Medvedev believes the man he calls “his friend” will eventually get the recognition he deserves for his achievements.
“I have a feeling that people are starting to respect more and more what he did in tennis,” said Medvedev.
“Because, well, he continues to beat the records.
“I feel that unless they are true haters, who are not real fans, people are starting to see what he has done and to see that he is capable of doing more.”
– ‘Break all the records’ –
Medvedev says this understanding of how big a player Djokovic is will not quickly reach full bloom.
“I think it is maybe ten years after he retired, because there will be people who will start watching tennis who will not see him play,” said Medvedev.
“Like me, I did not see (Pete) Sampras play, I was too young, but I heard he was incredible – it will be the same.
“New people will come to tennis who will only read in Wikipedia what the results were.
“Who was the world number 1 for most weeks, for most times in the end, and they will see Novak everywhere.
“That’s when people are going to start understanding, Okay, it’s amazing what he did.”
Djokovic has a stock answer to questions about how he rates his achievements.
“Of course, when I surpass one of the previous champions, especially someone I looked up to when I was a kid like Pete Sampras (before Saturday he was level with the American at six for the end of the season’s world number one) , it means the world to me, ”Djokovic said.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling. But, yeah, I mean, in general terms, it’s just hard for me to reflect fully on what’s been achieved.
“Not just this week, but just in general in my career, I can not really dedicate myself to thinking about the historical achievements.”
However, Djokovic makes no secret of his desire to continue setting new standards.
“It’s a goal, yes, to prove that I can break all the records,” he said. “I am very motivated to keep going.”
In his moment of triumph, he encouraged ‘The Octopus’ as Medvedev is known for his ability to pull balls out of impossible positions.
“He’s a complete, versatile player,” Djokovic said.
“He closes on the world’s number 1 rankings. I’m sure he’s going to get it eventually, and when he does, it’s totally deserved.
“He’s the leader of the next generation of players, challenging our three guys.”