Novak Djokovic was taken by surprise when asked whether US Open champion and world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz is now his biggest rival on tour. The Serb spoke to the media after an ’emotional’ few days at the Laver Cup, which was dominated by Roger Federer‘s retirement.
Team World were in no mood to play nice, despite news of Federer’s decision to walk away from the sport after a glittering 20-Grand Slam career. The Swiss’ blockbuster doubles partnership with Rafael Nadal was bettered by Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe on Friday night, as the American duo won a three-set thriller.
Djokovic won his own doubles assigmment alongside Matteo Berrettini and made light work of Tiafoe in the men’s singles, before losing to Felix Auger-Aliassime. With Team World’s dramatic victory sewn up on Sunday, the Serb paid tribute to long-time rival Federer.
“I think these were a few emotional days, because of Roger’s goodbye and we felt the great energy of his farewell,” he told Spanish media. “He is one of the founders of the Laver Cup, so I think it was a great way to say goodbye to tennis.
“This is a unique competition, we have fun together. I am very happy to have been part of Team Europe. We lost unfortunately, but I think this was a fantastic week that I will remember for a long time.”
Djokovic was then asked about who his biggest rival is on tour, given that Alcaraz is fresh from a dramatic US Open triumph which propelled him to world No 1. “Well… Nadal is still here, isn’t he?” queried the surprised Serb. “Obviously, it’s still Rafa, as long as he plays, he is my biggest rival.”
Djokovic is next due to appear at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open this week. He did, however, complain about a troublesome wrist injury during an action-packed weekend at the Laver Cup.
“The two matches [on Saturday] probably had an effect,” he said after losing to Auger-Aliassime. “Today [Sunday] was not easy. I couldn’t serve as fast or as accurately as I would like to. That has affected the whole game. He was serving extremely well. Of course I’m not taking anything away from his performance. It was outstanding, big serving, and very solid from back of the court. You know, he deserved to win, no doubt.”