Novak Djokovic insists it is ‘impossible’ to be friends with Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic has revealed it is “not possible” for him to be friends with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer due to his rivalry with his fellow legends.

The world No 1 spoke of his respect and admiration for his two great adversaries but explained he has never been close to either of them.

The 35-year-old was defeated in three sets by 20-year-old Dane Holger Rune in the last eight of the 2023 Italian Open on Wednesday.

Djokovic has played Nadal a men’s Open Era record 59 times and holds a 30-29 lead. The Serbian also faced Federer 50 times, finishing with a 27-23 edge against the Swiss, who retired last year.

In an interview with Italian news outlet Corriere della Sera, Djokovic was quizzed about his relationship with Federer.

“We have never been friends, between rivals it is not possible, but we have never been enemies. I’ve always had respect for Federer, he was one of the greatest of all time. He had an extraordinary impact, but I’ve never been close to him,” Djokovic said.

The Serbian denied the suggestion he shared a friendship with Nadal until he started having success on court against the Spaniard.

“No. Nadal is only a year older than me, we are both Geminis, at the beginning we even went to dinner together, twice. But even with him friendship is impossible. I have always respected and greatly admired him,” he explained.

“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 a part of my life, in the last fifteen years I have seen more of him than my mother.”

Djokovic also refuted the claim that he stopped doing impersonations of fellow players because Federer asked him and revealed he still imitates his peers and celebrities.

“Federer didn’t ask me and I didn’t stop with the impersonations, this year at the Monte Carlo [Masters] Players Show I did Andy Murray, [Daniil] Medvedev and the rapper Snoop Dogg. I’ve never imitated someone to offend them but to amuse myself, like seriously,” the 35-year-old said.

“And then they asked me, like Lea Pericoli in Rome in 2009 in front of Nadal. I imitated Rafa because he had won, if I had won I would never have done it. I would have thought: ‘if I imitate him after I beat him, Rafa will kill me’ (laughs).”

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