'Illusions of your ego': Novak Djokovic's blunt message to Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer after the 2015 Wimbledon final. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic believes he will win the most grand slam titles and become the longest-reigning world No.1 by the time he retires.

With 17 grand slam titles to his name - two behind Rafa Nadal and three fewer than Roger Federer - the world No.1 says he has no doubt in his ability to overtake the other members of the so-called 'Big Three.'

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“I'm always very confident in myself,” he said in an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger.

“I believe I can win the most slams and break the record for longest No.1. Those are definitely my clear goals.”

The 32-year-old Serb was in imperious form before the coronavirus pandemic brought the circuit to a halt in early March.

He lifted the ATP Cup with Serbia, won an eighth Australian Open title and then completed a fifth triumph at the Dubai Tennis Championships, extending his unbeaten run to 21.

Swiss great Federer also owns the record for total number of weeks at No.1 - 310 - and consecutive weeks at the top position, with 237, compared with Djokovic's 282 and 122.

Federer turns 39 in August and Djokovic says he can envision himself still playing at 40.

“I don't believe in limits. I think limits are only illusions of your ego or your mind,” he said.

“I will not be able to play at this intensity, with this many tournaments and this much travelling, for a long time.

“I might be playing at 40, but then there will probably be a focus on the biggest tournaments and the tournaments that mean the most to me.”

Djokovic was ‘quitting’ after horror run in 2018

It wasn't too long ago Djokovic had an entirely different outlook on the game.

After falling in straight sets to unseeded Benoit Paire at the Miami Open in 2018, his wife, Jelena, said he was ready to hang up the racquet.

“He said to me that he's quitting and that's the truth,” she said in the interview.

“He lost in Miami. It was a terrible loss. And then he just, you know, gathered all of us and said, 'You know guys, I'm done.'

Novak Djokovic in action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)

“And I was like, 'What?' And he goes like, 'Yeah.' He said, 'Edoardo, you can speak with my sponsors. I want to be clear with them. I don't know if I'm stopping for six months, a year or forever.'“

Djokovic did not go through with his retirement plans and bounced back to triumph at Wimbledon that July.

In the wide-ranging interview, Djokovic also discussed past struggles with his health, his marriage and surviving the bombings in his native Serbia in 1999.

The full interview will air in the US this weekend on local affiliates, and on international and regional sports networks next week.