Novak Djokovic has denied Rafael Nadal’s suggestion that he is “more obsessed” with how many Grand Slam titles he wins than some of his rivals.
Djokovic is currently third in the all-time Grand Slam standings with 18, two behind joint-leaders Nadal and Roger Federer.
Nadal said on Monday that Djokovic is "more obsessed about this" than he is and "it means a lot to him all of this stuff" – although he did add he didn’t view this in a "negative way".
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Asked about Nadal’s comments ahead of playing in the Belgrade Open, Djokovic said: "I cannot speak on his behalf, I do not know the way he thinks, but, it is his right to voice an opinion: how he sees me in regards to records, etc.
"Personally, I do not feel that I am obsessed with anything in life; what I feel is passion and huge desire. I am going towards achieving my goals and I have never had a problem verbalising it.
"Maybe someone cannot say something and then stick to it, but I never found it hard to say: ‘I want to break that record or reach a certain goal’. I do not know why that would be a bad thing, not just in terms of records, but anything, politics in tennis for instance.
"Ever since I was a young player, I did not fear voicing my goals: I wanted to be number one and to win Slams. Of course, those goals are growing – when you fulfil one, another one appears. It is my path, and it is unique, just like Rafa’s."
Asked whether he feels his source of motivation is different to Nadal’s, the world No 1 added: “It is all a matter of perception and interpretation of what one says. I respect Rafa, probably more than any other player in the world; he is the biggest rival I had in my life.
"Everything he has achieved, his dedication to tennis and the way he goes about practising and tennis in general, these traits of his are worthy of admiration. He knows what sources of motivation he has, I cannot go into that.
"I have said a lot of times in the past that the love for the sport is the main motive why I keep playing professional tennis. I mean, guys, if I did not really love the competition there would be no other reason for me to compete, there is no pressure of any kind.
"I go on playing because I still feel the fire and the desire to win, and because I have the support of my close ones. I will keep on going as long as it is like that."
Djokovic is set to face either Kwon Soonwoo or Roberto Carballes Baena match in his opening match at the Belgrade Open while Nadal is competing at the Barcelona Open this week.
Both players made their return to the court last week at the Monte-Carlo Masters, with Djokovic losing in the last 16 and Nadal bowing out in the quarter-finals.
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