Mark Philippoussis has asserted that, while Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have demonstrated incredible professionalism, Novak Djokovic has taken it to a degree he has never seen before.
The two-time Grand Slam finalist hailed Djokovic for his diligent approach to all areas of his career and his drive to improve and gain a “one per cent” edge wherever possible.
Djokovic overcame world No 3 Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the final of the 2023 US Open last month to win a fourth title at the New York Major in a record 10th final appearance.
The world No 1 claimed three of the four Grand Slam tournaments this year, while he also lost in five sets to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final. The Serbian legend has now won 12 Majors in his 30s and has a 12-3 record in Grand Slam finals since turning 30.
The 36-year-old has won a men’s record 24 Grand Slam titles, ahead of his great rivals Nadal and Federer – who are on 22 and 20 Majors respectively.
Philippoussis recognized the remarkable professionalism of each member of the ‘Big Three’, but explained why he feels Djokovic has set himself apart in this respect.
“As incredibly professional as you’ve seen Rafa be, or Federer, where they’re competing and making sure that they’re going into Grand Slams mentally and physically the fittest, Djokovic [has] taken that to a level and it’s just amazing,” said the Aussie in an interview, as quoted by Yahoo Sport Australia.
“You have to eat, breathe and sleep tennis to be winning multiple Grand Slams. Not only has he won 24, which is a crazy number, he’s still continuing to see where he can improve. Like, where can he get his one per cent here, one per cent there.
“Is it on the eating, which we know he does everything on the eating side. What he puts into his body, what he does before the match, the way he warms up, his stretching. He looks at one per cent, everywhere, because that counts in the Grand Slams.
“He was incredible to watch at the US Open. If he’s got a practice court at one o’clock, he’s in the gym by 11 o’clock. He’s walking onto the practice court already sweating.
“He finishes his training, he’s into his drinks and his eating and everything is exactly in place where it needs to be. I haven’t seen a professional like that. There’s been a lot of amazing professionals but I’ve never seen the degree that Djokovic does it.”
Philippoussis, who reached a career-high ranking of world No 8, reached the final of the 1998 US Open, where he was defeated by countryman Pat Rafter.
The 11-time ATP titlist was also a runner-up at Wimbledon in 2003, where he was downed by Federer as the Swiss great claimed his maiden Grand Slam.