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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Friday, March 8, 2024

Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have created rivalry revelry and massive major history. 

The iconic champions share a similar approach to career closure.

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Meeting the media at the BNP Paribas Open, the Grand Slam king said he's pursuing major titles with passion as he and Nadal continue to push the possibilities for over-35 champions.

"Let's see how far we can push the needle. We’re still hanging in there," Djokovic told the media in Indian Wells. "It’s sad for the tournament that Rafa had to withdraw and also for him.

"I actually traveled with [Rafa] to America that was not planned. It was nice to see him and his family. I know he came early because he wanted to adjust to the time zone get as much practice as possible that’s why he came early.

"So he gave his best. It wasn’t to be. He wants the peak of his abilities to come with Roland Garros in only a few months times."

The world No. 1 was one hand in London's O2 Arena to support Roger Federer when he retired after a farewell doubles match alongside Nadal.

Barring injury, Djokovic will likely outlast both 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal and two-time Olympic gold-medal champion Andy Murray, who have both said 2024 will likely be their final seasons.

Time is tennis' only undefeated champion.

The 36-year-old Serbian superstar says while Nadal's impending retirement is the end of an era, he prefers to celebrate the magic they created in the most prolific rivalry in ATP history rather than mourn the curtain closing on another champion's career.

"Very important part of my career. These two guys along with Andy Murray, been an inseparable part of my development as a player and everything that I have achieved," Djokovic said of the Big 4. "A lot of it has to do with the rivalries that I have with these guys.

"We all know those moments will come for all us but when they actually come and you understand that’s it. Roger finished his career. Rafa and I probably aren’t going to play much more. It’s kind of one era coming to an an end."


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Parting can be painful, but Djokovic says the Big 4 can all look back with pleasure on what they achieved individually and collectively.

"It’s sad but at the same time there are so many wonderful moments in matches, milestones we can celebrate when it comes to each one of us—and us as a group—the rivalries," Djokovic said. "And one of the greatest rivalries if not the greatest rivalries the sport has seen between the three, four of us."

Still, when the curtain closes on the careers of all four Big 4 champions, Djokovic says they will share a common connectivity for life: Their shared commitment to growing the sport.

"There’s new kids on the block so to say with Alcaraz, Sinner, Rune they are leaders of the next, next generation," Djokovic said. "Obviously, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, these guys are still Top 5, Top 10 in the world. These guys are amazing.

"I think tennis is in good hands. Hopefully the contributions we made in the last 20 years can serve the purpose of expanding on the popularity of tennis and growing the sport. The bottom line is that we want that.

"We are all passionate about the sport. We all want to see the sport grow."

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty