MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic deserves a “little star” next to his name for a spectacular 2015 season that saw him win three grand slams among his 11 titles but the men’s game is not simply a matter of the Serb versus the rest, Roger Federer said on Saturday.
The world number one’s dominance has seen pundits line up to declare the end of the ‘Big Four’ — suggesting Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray are unable to compete on equal terms at grand slams with Djokovic.
The Serb heads into the Australian Open a raging favourite to capture his sixth title at Melbourne Park but Federer gave short shrift to talk of a Djokovic dictatorship, pointing to Stan Wawrinka’s victory over him in the French Open final.
“It completely depends what you’re looking at. If you’re looking at (Djokovic’s) season, he was the most dominant player by far last year,” Federer told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“Then if you look at just who won the slams and the Masters 1000s, doesn’t hold truth, because Stan won the French.
“Who’s had the most success? The top five guys really, with Stan, you know, Murray, myself, Novak and Rafa.
“Now the rankings are back to more normal again after Rafa’s worked his way back up.
“Yeah, I still think the same guys are playing very well. But, of course, Novak deserves like a little star next to his name right now because he’s been doing extremely well.
“Same for Stan, really.”
Federer, seeded third in Melbourne, was beaten in the U.S. Open and Wimbledon finals by Djokovic last year, as well as in the decider for the season-ending World Tour Finals.
However, the 17-times grand slam champion still showed last year that he has the weapons to topple the Serb, winning three of their eight clashes.
After parting ways with Stefan Edberg, 34-year-old Federer has brought Croatian former world number three Ivan Ljubicic, a close friend of Djokovic’s, into his coaching team.
The Swiss denied that he has been focusing on Djokovic and said he was more concerned about improving his own game.
“I’m always on the lookout for how to play certain players or certain tournaments or about my own game,” he said.
“So Novak might be a small piece of the puzzle, but it wasn’t the (only) piece. I’m more focused about my own game than any other player.
“I always believe there’s new things you can learn, but there’s always sometimes a way of staying motivated,
staying hungry. Someone like Ivan can also help do that.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford; firstname.lastname@example.org)