It was a rare moment of tennis kumbaya.
“I have to pay a tribute to Rafa and Roger, they are legends of our sport,” Novak Djokovic told the Centre Court crowd after beating Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, and tying those two legends, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with 20 Grand Slam titles.
“They are the reason I am where I am today,” Djokovic continued. “They’ve helped me realize what I need to do in order to get stronger mentally and physically.”
“Where Djokovic is today” is a place few other male tennis players have been. With his win over Berrettini, he became the first man to win the opening three legs of the calendar-year Grand Slam since that other GOAT, Rod Laver, did it in 1969. And even at 34, Djokovic is still putting more distance between himself and the rest of the ATP pack. This year he has faced three younger, next-generation opponents in the finals of the three Slams—Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland Garros, and Berrettini at Wimbledon—and has turned them all back.
Maybe most impressive is the way Djokovic beat his younger opponent today. Weapons-wise, he showed that he’s still refining his game after 16 years on tour. Speed-wise, he showed that he hasn’t lost even half a step during that time.