Novak Djokovic has explained the reasons why he has not maintained a close relationship with either Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal.
The three tennis players are the men with the most Grand Slams won in the history of the sport. Djokovic and Nadal have 22 each, while Federer celebrated 20 before retiring.
“We have never been friends – between rivals you can’t – but we have never been enemies,” Djokovic told Corriere della Sera.
“I have always had respect for Federer, he was one of the greatest of all time. He had an extraordinary impact, but I have never been close to him.
“[Nadal] is only a year older than me, we’re both Geminis. At the beginning we even went to dinner together. But even with him friendship is impossible.
“I have always respected and admired him a lot. Thanks to him and Federer I grew up and became who I am.
“This will unite us forever. Therefore, I feel gratitude towards them. Nadal is part of my life. In the last fifteen years I have seen him more than my mother.”
The Serbian star went on to recall a moment from his childhood that marked him forever.
“One day I was alone in the woods and I met a wolf,” he said.
“I felt a deep fear. I had been told that in these cases you have to retreat slowly, without losing sight of it. We looked at each other for ten seconds, the longest of my life.
“Then he turned left and walked away. I felt a very strong feeling that has never left me: a connection of soul, of spirit. It was a short encounter, but a very important one. Because the wolf symbolizes my character”.
The vaccine controversy
His decision not to take the Covid-19 vaccine sparked a huge controversy. Now, Djokovic looks back and recalls how he experienced that period.
“I suffered it all on my skin,” he noted.
“A lot of people appreciated that I stayed consistent. Ninety-five percent of what has been written and said on TV about me in the last three years is totally false.
“I am pro-choice: I stand for freedom of choice. It is a fundamental human right to be free to decide what things to inject into your body and what not. I was labeled as anti-vaccine, a completely false thing, which still gives me a stomach ache.”
Djokovic explained what it was like where he was held in custody Australia while the authorities decided whether he would allow him to participate in the Australian Open.
“[It was] a prison. I couldn’t open the window,” he added.
“I stayed less than a week, but I met young people, war refugees, who had been there for a long time.
“My case has served to enlighten them, almost all of them have been released and that consoles me.
“One young Syrian had been there for nine years. Now he is in America. When I return this summer I want to meet him again and invite him to meet me at the US Open. I feel connected to him too.”