Young Novak Djokovic: ‘Roger Federer is one of the greatest players in history’

An 18-year-old Novak Djokovic qualified for his first Masters 1000 Monte Carlo event in 2006, getting the opportunity to play against world no. 1 Roger Federer! It was the first clash between two tennis giants, and Roger grabbed a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory in an hour and 49 minutes, controlling the sets he won and overcoming the second set deficit to find himself in the second round. Novak was among the youngsters to beat in those years, proving that in this encounter after a thrilling performance in the second set before running out of steam in the decider. Roger had more winners and more forced errors, suffering two breaks in the second part of the match and never experiencing troubles in the other two to find himself over the top. Federer forged a handy 52-39 advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes thanks to service winners and earned his victory in that segment.

Novak Djokovic praised Roger Federer after their first clash in Monte Carlo 2006.

Djokovic stayed competitive in the mid-range exchanges and created a 10-6 lead in the most extended ones, although it wasn’t enough to carry him home. Federer seized the fifth break chance at 1-1 to gain an early advantage and delivered another break at 5-3 to secure the opener after 33 minutes. Playing on a much higher level in set number two, Novak broke Rogers at 1-1 and 4-2, serving well and dominating from the baseline to clinch the set 6-2 and gather momentum ahead of the decider. Still, the youngster started to struggle physically, spraying more errors in the second game of the decider than in the entire second set to suffer a break and push Federer in front. The Serb couldn’t his best tennis, allowing Roger to seal the deal with a hold at 5-3.

“Roger is one of the greatest players in history, that’s for sure. The problem is, people usually lose against him before even stepping on the court, getting scared of the rival on the other side of the net and not believing in themselves. Also, they know they have to play on their maximum to stand a chance against him, which is not easy to produce. I started a bit nervous today as well, and he grabbed an early break. I thought I had to change something in my game, realizing he is good but not an alien or something, not hitting a winner in every point but playing a very smart game while staying calm all the time. Then I started playing my game and draw Roger’s errors. That’s why I played that well in the second set. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep that level until the end. Roger’s worst surface is clay, and yet he is still among the world’s best three clay-courters. He will play even better in the upcoming matches,” Novak Djokovic said.

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