Roger federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic ‘wanted to be Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer,’ claims former player

Novak Djokovic spent too much time early in his career wanting to be like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the expense of his own authenticity, says Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Djokovic was the last of the big three to come into tennis but he has now surpassed both Federer and Nadal in terms of the statistics.

Where he probably hasn’t surpassed them is in the popularity stakes, and Tsonga believes that used to bother Djokovic to the point where he would try to present himself similarly to them.

However, Tsonga says those days are long behind him, and now he is truly loved for the athlete and character he is.

Speaking on the Generation Do It Yourself Podcast, Tsonga said: “Why do some people hate Djokovic?

“Because I think there was a period where he didn’t really want to be himself. He wanted to be Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal, and maybe he should have stayed himself from the beginning.”

“Today, he is himself, completely honest, while being divisive, and that’s also why he is appreciated by many people.

“He no longer does things to be appreciated but because he wants to. I think you gain a lot from being yourself.

“For a moment, he wanted to get out of this warrior image that he has. He experienced difficult things in his childhood. So in reality, he is a warrior!

“And he would have had to assume that from the start, and I think he would have been even more appreciated, that he would have been loved for that, like the gladiators.”

Novak Djokovic ‘hated’ for being too good?

One man who may disagree with Tsonga is Patrick Mouratoglou, who also recently spoke about the level of popularity Novak Djokovic enjoys compared to the big three.

He has a slightly different take, claiming that Djokovic’s unpopularity at times isn’t due to inauthenticity at all, but rather being authentically better than Nadal and Federer.

“Rafa and Roger were the biggest superstars of tennis, but Novak Djokovic came in and beat both of them and the crowds hated him for that,” Mouratoglou said at the ultimate Tennis Showdown in London.

“I think he is booed for other reasons as well. He says he doesn’t like this negativity, but sometimes he pushes the crowd to boo him because it helps him during the matches.”

Djokovic is too often cast as the third wheel in the Big Three when it comes to popularity, with many claiming he isn’t as loved as Nadal and Federer.

“What we should not forget is has 14 million followers on Instagram. He is a huge hero in Serbia. He is the biggest name in tennis and we will all miss him when he stops playing the sport.”

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.