Roger Federer drops some truth on what he thought of young Novak Djokovic

In the new Federer documentary, the Swiss great reveals what he thought of a young Djokovic.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at Coupe Rogers
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at Coupe Rogers / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The new Roger Federer documentary, Twelve Final Days, is going to be fantastic. The film, which premieres on Amazon Prime on June 20, has already been screened for some critics and the reviews are excellent. But the vast experiences that Federer will discuss in the doc are going to be worth watching for every tennis fan.

Of course, Federer will likely talk at length about his rivalry and personal relationship with other excellent players at the height of his career. This will obviously include Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The difference between Nadal and Djokovic, as it relates to Federer, is that Nadal ascended to being a top player sooner than Djokovic did. Therefore, people got used to Fed versus Nadal sooner.

Once Djokovic came along a couple of years later, tennis fans seemed reticent to accept him. Or as Federer says in the documentary, "I guess he was the party crasher of Rafa and Roger fans. There was a lot of Rafa-Roger love there, so when Novak came probably a lot of people said, ‘Look, we don’t need a third guy. We’re happy with Roger and Rafa’."

Roger Federer discusses how he viewed a young Novak Djokovic

That is not Federer throwing shade at Djokovic. That was the truth then and seemingly remained the truth for many years. Was the reaction to Djokovic unfair? Yes. Did the reaction likely spur him on to even greater excellence wishing to prove his critics wrong? Absolutely.

Federer was never overly critical of the young Serb, at least not in public, but he admits in Twelve Final Days to having his doubts about how good Djokovic could be. The Swiss great was not sure the player could match the hype. Over the years, Federer would learn that Djokovic was every bit worth the expectations of him, and he exceeded those as well.

The two players faced each other 50 times. Djokovic got the better of Federer on 27 of those occasions, including taking six of the last seven meetings and the last six times they played at Grand Slams. Federer played beautiful tennis; Djokovic had the greater drive to win.

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Federer said of first playing a young Novak Djokovic, "Even though there was some hype around him, I wasn’t really fully convinced. I think I didn’t give Novak the respect he deserved because of his technical flaws. I felt like Novak had a very extreme forehand grip and his backhand for me wasn’t as fluid as it is nowadays. But then he ironed those things out super well and became an unbelievable monster of a player."

Thankfully, tennis fans got to see Federer and Djokovic play a lot. Also, if you are keeping score at home, Djokovic played Rafael Nadal 59 times and the Serb leads that rivalry 30-29. Nadal and Federer played 40 times with the Spaniard taking 24 of those meetings.

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