World No.1 Novak Djokovic has hit back at reporters after he was asked whether this year’s US Open would be easier to win without Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the main draw.
Nadal confirmed he would not defend his title after ‘following his heart’ and deciding not to travel during the global pandemic.
The Spaniard’s decision follows Federer having already announced he would take 2020 off after a reoccurring knee injury, which has left the US Open without two of the ‘Big Three’.
The last time at least one of the two were not part of the Main Draw of a Grand Slam tournament was before the turn of the millennium in 1999.
Considering the ‘Big Three’ have won the last 13 Grand Slams between themselves, many have pointed out the US Open could be the easiest GS title to win in years.
But when Djokovic was asked by a reporter on his chances without the pair in the main draw, he hit back claiming it was “disrespectful” to the tour to presume it would be easier.
“Every Grand Slam is a title opportunity, but I’m not the only one. It would be disrespectful to say that I have better luck without Roger and Rafa for all the other players,” he said, according to French publication L’Equipe.
“Thiem, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Medvedev, these guys are as strong as the three of us.
“Anyone can win, even more after six months without a tour. We don’t really know how we’re going to feel on the court.”
Despite hitting back at thee reporter, Djokovic recently admitted a huge part of why he decided to take part in the US Open during the coronavirus pandemic was to try and overtake Federer’s Grand Slam record.
Djokovic chasing Federer record at US Open
Djokovic says he nearly skipped the US Open but plans to play the New York grand slam in part to chase tennis history.
The 17-time grand slam champion said trying to catch Federer's men’s record of 20 slams was “of course” a major factor in his decision to play the Flushing Meadows fortnight that begins August 31.
“One of the reasons why I keep on playing professional tennis on this level is because I want to reach more heights in the tennis world,” Djokovic told the New York Times last Thursday.
The 33-year-old has won five of the past seven men’s singles grand slams but came to the New York hardcourts only after assurances from European officials that players returning from the US Open would not face a long quarantine before upcoming European events such as the French Open.