Nikola Pilic made some rather bold statements regarding Novak Djokovic at a recent award ceremony
Nikola Pilic, under whom Novak Djokovic trained as a 12-year-old, has proclaimed that the Serb is not just one of the greatest tennis players of all time, but rather the undisputed GOAT. As for the reasons why, the Croat noted that his total time spent as the World No. 1 should be enough, adding that it is a record that might last another 1,000 years before it gets broken.
The World No. 1 did not have the final he would have wanted at the 2022 Serbia Open, losing 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-0 to Andrey Rublev. Despite that, he is guaranteed to spend the next week atop the ATP rankings, racking up his 367th week in the position.
In terms of time spent as the top-ranked player, Djokovic has held the position for at least an entire year more than the second-best placed player — Roger Federer with his haul of 310 weeks. Overall, only 22-time Grand Slam champion Steffi Graf leads the Serb (377 weeks), but the 20-time Grand Slam champion could beat the German’s tally within the year.
Speaking at a pre-arranged ceremony at the trophy presentation after the Serbia Open final, Nikola Pilic heaped praise on his former pupil. The 82-year-old opined that spending more than seven years as the World No. 1 in the same era as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray should suffice to seal the 34-year-old’s legacy as the greatest of all time.
“I do not know what to say. It is a great honor to be here. One small correction, he is not one of the greatest of all time, he is the greatest of all time. In the competition of Federer, Nadal, Murray and company, 366 weeks to be number one, that is more than seven years,” Pilic said. “In my humble conviction, it may take 1,000 years for that record to be broken.”
Pilic asserted that he had always known the 20-time Major winner would go on to be a “great champion.” While he was happy with that part too, the 82-year-old was even more proud of the World No. 1 for how he has also managed to remain a “great man.”
“I don’t understand why I can’t speak normally. I am attached to Novak Djokovic and I wish him all the best. For me, I’m not subjective, he’s the best player of all time. I have to say one more thing – Srdjan and I always thought he would be a great champion,” Pilic said. “He was, he stayed, but the most important thing is that he is a great man.”
The former World No. 7 also hailed the Serb’s father Srdjan and mother Dijana, thanking them for treating him as part of their own family. Finally, the Croat reserved high praise for the crowd in Belgrade, reminding them at the end that they should be pleased to have produced a player like Novak Djokovic.
“Srdjan and Dijana Djokovic treated my wife and me as a family. I want to say one thing … When you are 80 years old, your emotions are even greater,” Pilic said. “I have 60 years of experience and this is one of the best audiences I have ever seen in my life. One more sentence – you can be proud that there is one in this country like Novak Djokovic.”
“I am always on Novak Djokovic’s side in the most important moments of his life and decisions” – former coach Marian Vajda
Marian Vajda (L) also heaped praise on Novak Djokovic during the ceremony
Marian Vajda, who recently ended his tenure as Novak Djokovic’s coach after training him for almost his entire career, also spoke during the ceremony. Vajda thanked the Serb for everything he has done for him, as well as his family for trusting him at the beginning of their son’s career.
The Slovak remarked on how he has always been with the World No. 1 during the most important moments of his life, adding that he was grateful to watch the 34-year-old endure everything that has been thrown at him over the years.
“Thanks to Nole for the last 15 years, I enjoyed everything most of the time. Secondly, thank you to the Djokovic family who chose me at the beginning of Novak’s career, and thank you to my family who support me, even today,” Vajda said. “And lastly, thank you for enduring everything. I am always on Novak’s side in the most important moments of his life and decisions. Thank you very much.”