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03 June 2023

Tennis-Djokovic says 'Big Four' rivalries made him tougher


Novak Djokovic said his rivalries with Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray had helped him become stronger in the face of adversity, after the world number one battled his way into the last 16 of the Italian Open.

The 35-year-old Serb was a set and a break up in Sunday's match with Grigor Dimitrov but was then dragged into a decider, where he raised his level again to close out a 6-3 4-6 6-1 win after more than two hours.

"Luckily for me, in my career, I managed to win more matches than I lost when I was facing difficult circumstances," Djokovic said.

"For a few years, whenever I needed to make that final step or win a Grand Slam, I didn't manage to do that, so I learned a lot.

"I got stronger because of the rivalries, particularly with Federer, Nadal and Murray," he added.

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray were dubbed the 'Big Four' as they won a combined 67 Grand Slam titles in an unprecedented period of dominance and were involved in some of the most memorable matches over the last two decades.

"Staying the course, staying patient and believing in the process and the journey," Djokovic said. "Understanding what works for you best, what's your winning formula mentally and also physically and emotionally, and then sticking to it."

Djokovic, who is gunning for a men's record 23rd major title at the French Open starting later this month, will face Briton Cameron Norrie on Tuesday for a place in the Rome quarter-finals.