I owe you, guys: Djokovic thanks Federer and Nadal for making him better playerSports | 11 Sep 2018
Novak Djokovic is thrilled to match Pete Sampras with a 14th Grand Slam title at the US Open, but he says it's Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who have made him the player he is.
"Pete Sampras is one of the biggest legends ever to play the game," Djokovic said after claiming a third US Open crown with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro.
"He was my childhood idol. He was someone I was looking up to. The first actual thing I saw related to tennis on the TV was his first or second Wimbledon championship. That inspired me to start playing tennis. There is a lot of significance of me being now shoulder to shoulder with him in terms of Grand Slam wins."
The victory puts Djokovic, 31, three Slam wins away from Nadal's 17 and six behind Federer's record 20. It will also see him rise to No 3 in the world behind Nadal and Federer - the rankings again reflecting the "Big Three" status they have shared for so long.
Djokovic had tumbled down the rankings, slowed last year by an elbow injury and a loss of confidence. Since bursting out of the slump with an unexpected Wimbledon title, the Serb has gone from strength to strength, adding a Cincinnati Masters title to his resume before adding the US Open title to those he won in 2011 and 2015.
Djokovic faced neither of his greatest rivals en route to the title in Flushing Meadows. Federer lost to unheralded Australian John Millman in the quarter-finals, while Nadal hobbled out of his semi-final against Del Potro after two sets.
Djokovic would have relished taking on either - or both, although he admits that early in his career that wasn't always the case.
"Maybe 10 years ago I would say I'm not so happy to be part of this era with Nadal and Federer," he said. "Today I really am. These guys, rivalries with these guys, matches with Federer and Nadal, have made me the player I am, have shaped me into the player I am today.
"I owe it to them."