Roger Federer hails ‘incredible’ Novak Djokovic for ‘writing history’ with 23rd Grand Slam

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Roger Federer is backing long-time rival Novak Djokovic to win grand slams ‘for a long time still to come’ after the Serb set a men’s record with his 23rd at the French Open.

Djokovic brushed Casper Ruud aside in straight sets at Roland Garros to pull three clear of Federer, and one clear of Rafa Nadal.

But there was no jealousy or ill-will on the part of Federer, who was back standing on a court in London for the first time since retiring at the Laver Cup last year. 

‘I thought what Novak did is incredible,’ Federer said at an event in Greenwich.

‘Honestly, it’s great for tennis, great for sports when tennis writes its own history and keeps on adding to it like we’ve seen with Serena Williams as well, Rafa then myself and now with Novak.

Roger Federer was in east London to help open two renovated tennis courts for local kids

Roger Federer was in east London to help open two renovated tennis courts for local kids

He was full of praise for Novak Djokovic after he won his 23rd Grand Slam title in Paris

He was full of praise for Novak Djokovic after he won his 23rd Grand Slam title in Paris

‘It’s a great time in tennis to be a fan as well, but also a player.’

Federer was in town in his role as a Mercedes-Benz ambassador, helping open two new courts in the borough of Greenwich as part of his Neon Legacy project.

The renovation and refurbishing of the street court, located in Bostall Gardens, was delivered in collaboration with renowned post-graffiti artistic duo Low Bros – brothers Christoph and Florin Schmidt from Berlin. 

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And with plenty of local school children in attendance, Federer was quizzed on everything from Djokovic’s success to whether he resented the fact he had such stiff competition during his career.  

‘I remember when I came on tour, and Pete Sampras reached 14 [slams] we thought “Okay, that one is gonna stay forever”,’ Federer added. 

‘Then I went to 15, I eventually ended up at 17, and then we pushed each other to 20 – I don’t remember who was first – and then Rafa pushed it to 22.

‘Then now Novak pushed it to 23 and he looks like he’s gonna keep on doing that for a long time still to come, which is great. And I wish him all the best.

‘I think also the way he’s doing it still – he isn’t the youngest anymore, we forget. He looks young and he does it in a young way, but it’s not easy, and I thought it was an amazing victory. So I couldn’t have been more happy.’

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have been at the top of the sport for the past two decades –  but Federer was keen to also highlight his admiration for Andy Murray, who has been right there with the trio for years.

Mercedes-Benz ambassador Federer took pictures with local schoolchildren at the launch

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Mercedes-Benz ambassador Federer took pictures with local schoolchildren at the launch

He even grabbed a racket to have a hit as he showed he still has it despite retiring in 2022

He even grabbed a racket to have a hit as he showed he still has it despite retiring in 2022

Federer was quizzed by visitors on his idols and how he is finding life as a retired player

Federer was quizzed by visitors on his idols and how he is finding life as a retired player

Murray is still battling on despite having major hip resurfacing and for his sheer commitment to the game Federer is a ‘big fan’. 

‘Andy is a special man and I’m very happy he’s still able to play. He loves it,’ Federer added.

‘He truly loves it. With all the complications he’s had with his hip, it’s amazing to see that he’s still going and I think we all should give him like, a proper sort of a round of applause if you like, because what he’s going through and what he’s achieving with what he’s gone through is incredible. 

‘Funny enough, he just won a Challenger, I believe in Surbiton last week. I played that back in ’99, lost in the semis. And he won the same week as Novak got to this incredible record of 23 slams, that also deserves so much respect. 

‘So I’m a big fan of of Andy’s as well and I wish him all the best for Wimbledon as that’s his best surface in my mind, especially nowadays. So I hope he wins many, many rounds at Wimbledon in a couple of weeks.’

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Federer joked that he is loving life in retirement and has taken up a new job as a ‘professional driver’ for his four children.

He spoke very highly of Andy Murray as an inspiration for his continued desire to keep playing

He spoke very highly of Andy Murray as an inspiration for his continued desire to keep playing

He still holds plenty of sponsorship commitments, including with Mercedes-Benz, and he is preparing to be back in London for the start of Wimbledon at the All England Club in a few weeks.

‘You know I must say retired life is good,’ he concluded. ‘I was just speaking before that the best part of being retired is just not having to put the body through the wringer. 

‘Of course, I still enjoy going out on the tennis court, especially nowadays with my children. So whenever I get a chance to go back on the tennis court, it makes me very happy. And especially even more so here in London where I’ve had such a great history in terms of results and memories, of course, over the years. The Olympics, O2 arena, and then as well at Wimbledon, so I added another court to my collection [today] that’s a beautiful one. Very special.’ 

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