Novak Djokovic has paid tribute to Serena Williams after the American tennis legend reached 1,000th professional matches.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion lost the landmark match to Nadia Podoroska - who won 7-6 7-5 - in the second round of the Italian Open on Wednesday, in what was her first competitive match since she lost out to eventual Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in their semi-final in Melbourne.
Djokovic lauded the impact that Williams has had on both men's and women's tennis and described her as "an icon to this sport" and an inspiration.
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Serena Williams - Internazionali d'Italia 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

"Serena, congratulations on your big milestone (of) playing 1,000 matches in your career," Djokovic said in a recorded video message in Rome.
Words cannot describe how much you contributed to the tennis in general, both male and female side. You've been an icon to this sport.
"Thank you so much for everything you have done on and off the court and what you keep on doing.
"You inspire myself and many other players on both men and women's side. And we are so excited to share the same era as you as well.
"So, wishing you all the best champion, keep going and (so) happy to still watch you on the court."

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As for Djokovic, it was a contrast of emotions after he was left furious with the umpire for not suspending play during his rain-affected Italian Open second-round match against Taylor Fritz on Tuesday.
"How much do you wanna play?," the 33-year-old shouted at umpire Nacho Forcadell. "I asked you three times, you are not checking anything."
The match was eventually suspended for three hours before Djokovic went on to secure a 6-3 7-6(5) victory.
"It's not the first time or probably the last that I'm going to experience such conditions," Djokovic told Amazon Prime Video.
"And even with that much experience behind me I still get upset and lose my cool. But it's okay. At the end of the day these are great lessons - I will try and take away some important things from this day."

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