He shaped me into the player I am – Djokovic talks up Federer rivalry

Ahead of another likely meeting with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic talked up their rivalry.

Novak Djokovic   -  Getty Images

Novak Djokovic talked up his rivalry with Roger Federer ahead of an expected US Open showdown between the pair.

Djokovic brushed past Joao Sousa 6-3 6-4 6-3 to move into the quarter-finals in New York, where Federer awaits if the Swiss maestro can beat John Millman later on Monday.

The Serbian holds a 24-22 win-loss record against Federer, while he is 27-25 against another great in Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic paid tribute to the duo and said Federer had helped turn him into the player he had become.

"Next to Nadal, my biggest rival I've had throughout my professional career. The matches I've played against him have shaped me into the player that I am today. That's something that I was saying before," he told a news conference.

"Both, matches against Nadal and Federer, and [Andy] Murray as well, have made me the player I am today because those were the guys that I always wanted to win against because those were the guys I had to beat in order to be the number one, to win slams, and have the career that I had behind me.

"At the beginning of the career, I probably wasn't seeing things that I'm seeing now in terms of being in an era with these guys.

"Now I'm grateful that I was, that I still am, in the era with these guys, that I get a chance to witness their greatness as well, their rivalry, Nadal and Federer, which is the biggest rivalry, one of the biggest, of all time, and at the same time to be competing against them on such a big stage every year for a long time."

Djokovic has won his past three meetings with Federer, including in Cincinnati last month.

While the 13-time grand slam champion said there was potential to hold a slight mental edge, Djokovic added the smallest details were decisive.

"I was behind in head-to-head with both of these guys [Federer and Nadal] up to recently. I managed to win some big matches against them in the last couple of years, but also lost some," he said. "There's no particular rule, so to say, of direction or trajectory of the rivalry.

"We've witnessed throughout our rivalries that it's almost 10, 15 years, there are periods and intervals, so to say, where I win a couple matches in a row, then they win a couple matches in a row. It just goes in swings, I guess, a little bit.

"But once you win more than a match against your top rival, you start to feel like you have maybe a little bit of a mental advantage. It just depends, again, on how you feel playing against them, which kind of surface it is, what part of the year, so forth. Many different, so to say, elements that play a role in these particular matches, and very few points really, very few details decide winner of those matches."

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