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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, September 28, 2022


"I always want to progress. Especially when you have guys like Alcaraz, who is full of power and adrenaline," Novak Djokovic said.

Photo credit: Tel Aviv Watergen Open Facebook

Shut out of the North American summer swing, Novak Djokovic is ready to rise in the fall.

The seven-time Wimbledon winner headlines this week Tel Aviv Watergen Open.

Nadal: Seeing Federer Get Emotional Made Me Cry

The top-seeded Djokovic faces Pablo Andujar in his Tel Aviv singles opener and is partnering Jonathan Erlich in the retiring Israeli doubles specialist's tournament farewell. Asked why he agreed to partner Erlich in doubles, Djokovic replied: "He agreed to play with me! It's the other way around."

"That’s his last tournament and I am honored to be next to him on the court at this time, in front of his crowd in his hometown," Djokovic said. "Hopefully it won't be just one match, we will try to go as far as possible. I still haven't seen him here, but we will practice tomorrow. I hope, he'll get the support that he deserves."

Erlich's exit marks the second straight week Djokovic has honored a departing champion.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion joined fellow Big 4 icons Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray for the 41-year-old Federer's emotional farewell at Laver Cup last Friday night.

While Djokovic plans to play for years to come he said experiencing Federer's retirement celebration at London's O2 Arena caused him to consider how he will call it quits someday. Djokovic said he hopes to have family, friends and former rivals on hand for his retirement. 

"First of all, I have a massive respect for Roger, and to what he had contributed to our sport," Djokovic told the media in Tel Aviv. "He had an epic career, he can be proud of it. He's one of the most recognized athletes of all times. His retirement is a sad moment for tennis. As for me, I would also love to have all the important people there, when I say good-bye to tennis, like my family and my biggest competitors.

"But I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis. I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level."

The unvaccinated Serbian was not permitted entry into the United States for the US Open Series and US Open. Djokovic watched 19-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz's pulsating run to the US Open title and the world No. 1 ranking.

Seeing the younger generation of stars inspires Djokovic, who says the secret to his successful longevity is there is no secret. It's a commitment to tennis as a complete lifestyle and his dedication to improving daily that Djokovic credits for his ability to consistently lift his level of play when it matters most.

"There isn't one secret or one key that solves all the problems," Djokovic said. "It's a combination of things that are part of your character: who you are, how you train, what's your lifestyle. It all creates the image of success. That formula had worked for me.

"But I also try some new things, because I always want to progress. Especially when you have guys like Alcaraz, who is full of power and adrenaline. So you always have to figure out how to improve and take yourself to a higher level."


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