Tennis legend Pete Sampras has hailed Novak Djokovic as the "greatest of all time" after he ended up as the top-ranked player in the world on the ATP Tour for the seventh time.
Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam singles titles during his illustrious career before he retired following the 2002 US Open, also ended seven different years as the world number one.
Djokovic, who has repeatedly referred to Sampras as his 'childhood idol', received praise himself from the American after he equalled his ranking record at the ATP Finals in Turin.
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"Seven years for him, I'm sure he sees it as a bonus to all the majors that he's won," Sampras told the ATP Tour.
"But I think he'll appreciate it more as he gets older. He did it at a time where he dominated two of the greats, in Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal], and he handled the next generation of players very well – all at the same time.
I do think what Novak's done over the past 10 years, winning the majors, being consistent, finishing number one for seven years, to me it's a clear sign that he is the greatest of all time.
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"I was 'The Man' for those number of years, and he's been 'The Man' even more so.
"I think he's been more consistent, he's won more events, he's got more majors. I could go on and on talking about his career. I don't think you will see [seven year-end world number one ranking trophies] again."
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The 34-year-old Serb was presented with the year-end world number one trophy after his win over Casper Ruud in Turin on Monday.
"I was four or five when I saw Sampras play at Wimbledon for the first time," Djokovic said after the match in Turin.
"I asked for a racquet and fell in love with tennis. To know that I hold this record now, after Pete, it's incredible."
After Djokovic beat Daniil Medvedev in Paris to claim revenge from the US Open final and a record-breaking 37th Masters 1000 title, he spoke of emulating his hero, Sampras.
"One of the biggest goals, and always one of the biggest goals, is to be number one,” he said.
"To do it for the record seventh time, surpassing my childhood idol and role model, is incredible.
"I’m very grateful and blessed to be in this position, and what a way to achieve that.”
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