NEW DELHI: French veteran Richard Gasquet has drawn comparisons between the Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic and NBA legend Michael Jordan, highlighting their unparalleled achievements well into their thirties.
Gasquet, himself a seasoned player at 37, expressed his astonishment at Djokovic's ability to maintain his elite level of play even as he approaches his late thirties. Drawing parallels to Jordan, who defied age and continued to excel in basketball. Gasquet marvels at Djokovic's ability to win Grand Slam titles at almost 37 years, a feat rarely witnessed in the sporting world.
“Have we ever experienced this in sport, apart from perhaps Jordan? Lionel Messi plays in Miami, the others in Saudi Arabia, he is world No. 1... I can't explain how a guy like that is so strong at that age. At 37-38 years old, normally you are not as good as at 25. I never thought I'd be playing the year I turned 38. Unimaginable,” said Gasquet as quoted by Eurosport.
However, fellow tennis maverick Nick Kyrgios offered a different perspective, likening Djokovic's enduring brilliance to NBA icon LeBron James. Kyrgios pointed out LeBron's longevity and continued dominance in basketball even as he approaches his forties, suggesting that Djokovic's sustained success aligns more closely with LeBron's career trajectory.
"No, he is LeBron. LeBron is still doing this at 40. Jordan stopped a lot earlier and wasn't as dominant,” said Kyrigos to Eurosport.
Despite the differing analogies, there's no denying Djokovic's unparalleled achievements in tennis. With three Grand Slam titles under his belt in 2023 and just one away from breaking the all-time record, Djokovic remains a formidable force on the court, retaining his world No. 1 ranking and setting his sights on further major triumphs.
Looking ahead, Djokovic is set to make his return to Indian Wells next month, where he will continue his pursuit of tennis greatness. His record against Gasquet, standing at an impressive 13-1, underscores his dominance over the French veteran, who has recently slipped down the rankings to No. 131. It is the first time he has been outside the top 100 since 2005.
For Gasquet, the decline in ranking marks a new chapter in his illustrious career, prompting reflection on his journey and future aspirations. Despite the challenges of aging in professional tennis, Gasquet remains resilient, determined to compete until physical limitations dictate otherwise.
“It was a bit difficult,” he says about the fall in ranking. “I knew it was going to happen one day or another. I didn't think I would stay in the 100 for so long. I suspected that after Auckland (when his points dropped off from winning the title last year) it would become inevitable.”
Reflecting on his career trajectory, Gasquet acknowledges the inevitability of his ranking drop but remains focused on his love for the game and his ability to compete at the highest level. With no regrets and a willingness to push himself to the limit, Gasquet's commitment to the sport shines through, epitomizing the spirit of a true competitor.
“It's just that you shouldn't suffer on the court. That's what will make me stop: physical pain. If I feel I can no longer win a match, or if I'm in pain, if I can no longer arch, no longer make the effort... It's a bit harder than last year. I haven’t had good results in 2024. For three, four, months, I haven't played very well. There was a little setback, though…(Andy) Murray had it too. You feel like you have a little less legs.”
“As long as there is a little spark...I don't have any particular pressure. When things have to stop, they'll stop by themselves. The good thing is that I would have given until the end and I have no regrets. I've already pushed it this far…”
As he contemplates potential farewells, Gasquet acknowledges the significance of events like Roland-Garros and Bercy in his native France, hinting at the possibility of bidding adieu to the sport on familiar ground, much like his compatriots Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon.
“When you're French, it's either Roland-Garros or Bercy. As did Jo (Wilfried-Tsonga) and Gilles (Simon) I think about it a little, but not too much,” he concluded.