Novak Djokovic says Rafael Nadal is the best tennis player in the world, despite his victory over the Spaniard in the Wimbledon semifinals.
The Serbian defeated Nadal in five sets before beating Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 in the final to win his fourth Wimbledon title.
But Nadal, who currently holds the French and US Open titles, retained his World No. 1 status in the latest ATP World Rankings, with Djokovic climbing 11 spots to No. 10.
For Djokovic, beating Nadal in the Wimbledon semifinal was a hugely significant moment. After a difficult couple of years that saw the 13-time Grand Slam winner lose form, motivation and struggle through an elbow injury, victory secured a first appearance in a Grand Slam final since the French Open in 2016.
"I was very close to defeat," Djokovic said to Serbian public broadcaster PTC. "He [Nadal] is the best, deservedly the best tennis player in the world and dominated throughout the season on the clay.
"I proved to myself in that match against Nadal that I could do it, because in the last fifteen months, including the six-month period when I was away from tournaments, I wasn't sure whether I could go back to the level that I have been accustomed to and that has characterized me for many years.
"Professionally, this is definitely one of my greatest successes for the simple reason that I have been through an elbow injury and many other situations that have made my professional career more difficult for the last two years."
Djokovic and Nadal share one of the greatest rivalries in the history of tennis. The pair have now met 52 times, including 14 times in Grand Slams, with Djokovic leading overall 27-25.
The Wimbledon semifinal was the third time Djokovic and Nadal had gone to five sets. The match, which was played over two days, took 5 hours and 15 minutes.
Speaking of his future, Djokovic said he sees himself playing for "many years", as long as there is a "spark" in him. He also had a special message for Croatia after they reached the final of the FIFA World Cup.
"I would also want to congratulate Luka Modric and the entire Croatian national team for outstanding success," the Serbian said.
"It is very nice to see that such small countries from our region are on a worldwide scale, such as the World Cup in football."
"It is further evidence that our region has a huge sporting talent that definitely needs to be nurtured."