Roger Federer believes that Novak Djokovic has firmly established himself as one of the all-time greats of tennis over the course of his glittering professional career. The Serb kicked off the new year by strolling to victory at the Australian Open despite struggling with a troublesome muscular injury to bring his tally of Grand Slam wins up to 18.
Federer, who has been out of action since last year’s tournament after undergoing surgery to fix a knee problem, is preparing to make his return to the court at next week’s Qatar Open.
He will take on either Jeremy Chardy or British No 1 Dan Evans in the second round of the competition after being handed a bye, with the possibility of a showdown against top seed Dominic Thiem on the cards if both men progress to the final.
Speaking ahead of his long-awaited return, Federer was asked about Djokovic while taking part in an Instagram Live session with Qatar Tennis.
He explained that there is no room for error when facing the world No 1, with anything less than a stellar performance likely to end in defeat.
“I enjoy playing against him, I really feel like we get the best out of each other,” said Federer.
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“We have different playing styles, [so] it almost depends on the day, which court we’re playing on and how the matches have been leading up to that match.
“Against the best players you know you have to bring your best game. Otherwise, it will not be enough. Especially against somebody like Novak, who can go into a mode where he is not going to miss [a shot].”
Djokovic currently leads the head-to-head with Federer, with the 33-year-old having emerged victorious on 27 occasions compared to the Swiss icon’s 23 wins.
Since the pair’s first on-court meeting at the 2006 Monte Carlo Masters, they have played each other in almost every calendar year with the exception of 2017.
Djokovic has made it clear in recent months that his long-term goal is to match his rival’s total of 20 Grand Slam titles, and could be in line to achieve this feat before the end of the year if he manages to maintain his red-hot form.
Federer continued, claiming that Djokovic’s strong all-round game makes him an extremely tough nut to crack and suggesting that he will be remembered as one of the finest competitors to have ever graced the sport.
“He can defend very well and be aggressive, he has a very good balance,” added Federer. “That’s why he is one of the greatest players ever.
“It has been a pleasure to play against him and he’s one of the players who have made me a better player. It’s great to have him in the game.”
Federer, who is currently ranked at No 5, will be hoping to make a winning comeback in Doha in order to prepare for a return to the Grand Slam circuit later this year.
Immediately after the conclusion of next week’s event, he will make the short trip over for the Dubai Tennis Championships along with Thiem.
Appearances at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo will be targeted by the 39-year-old this year as he looks to reclaim his spot at the top of the game.