Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic in war of words over grand slam ‘obsession’

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Novak Djokovic has rejected Rafael Nadal’s claim he is “obsessed” by the grand slam race, saying he is simply motivated to reach his potential.

Nadal said in a recent interview with Metro UK the world No. 1 is “more focused” about chasing major titles than anyone else on tour, but maintained he didn’t mean it “in a negative way.”

“He’s more focused on just these things and it means a lot to him, all of this stuff,” Nadal said. “He’s always saying and talking about these records and well done for him … but it’s not my approach to my tennis career.

“I have a healthy ambition. Of course, I am ambitious, if not I would never be in the position I am today but I have probably a different kind of ambition than him, for example.

“I just keep going, keep doing what I’m doing and just try to put myself in a position to keep enjoying the tour and, of course, try to achieve as much as possible.”

Djokovic has made no secret of his desire to win the most grand slam singles titles of any male player in tennis history. He has 18 major trophies — two behind Nadal and Roger Federer.

The Serbian recently surpassed Federer’s record for the most weeks spent at No. 1 by hitting 311, which he celebrated with a public party in Belgrade, but he still wants more silverware.

Djokovic was asked about Nadal’s comments at a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Serbian Open, where he disagreed with the Spaniard’s characterization.

“I cannot speak on his behalf, I do not know the way he thinks, but it is his right to voice an opinion, how he sees me in regards to records, etc,” Djokovic said.

“Personally, I do not feel that I am obsessed with anything in life. What I feel is passion and huge desire. I am going towards achieving my goals and I have never had a problem verbalizing it.

“Maybe someone cannot say something and then stick to it, but I never found it hard to say, ‘I want to break that record or reach a certain goal’. I do not know why would that be a bad thing, not just in terms of records, but anything.

“Ever since I was a young player, I did not fear voicing my goals. I wanted to be No. 1 and to win slams. Of course, those goals are growing — when you fulfill one, another one appears. It is my path, and it is unique, just like Rafa’s.”

Djokovic said he respects Nadal “probably more than any other player in the world,” and admires the 34-year-old’s dedication to dominating tennis for so long. However, he believes his greatest rival is wrong when it comes to assessing his motivation to continue in the sport.

“I have said a lot of times in the past that the love for the sport is the main motive why I keep playing professional tennis,” Djokovic said. “I mean, guys, if I did not really love the competition … there would be no other reason for me to compete.

“I go on playing because I still feel the fire and the desire to win, and because I have the support of my close ones. I will keep on going as long as it is like that.”

Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in the final to win the Australian Open in February and will chase grand slam title No. 19 when the French Open kicks off in May.

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