Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return (Photo: Reuters)
Novak Djokovic has described his longtime rival Andy Murray as a "warrior" and says he is "inspired" by the former world No.1's journey back from a career-threatening injury.
Djokovic watched Murray's recently-released documentary that chronicled the Brit's two-year battle with a hip issue that required multiple surgeries and was moved by what he saw.
Just 11 months ago, a tearful Murray told reporters at the Australian Open that he might never be able to play tennis again but the 32-year-old has since undergone a hip resurfacing operation that saved his career. He returned to singles action in Cincinnati in August, and remarkably lifted his first trophy in two and a half years in Antwerp in October.
While his preseason preparations have been hampered by a groin injury sustained late in the year, Murray is planning on contesting next month's Australian Open – something that seemed highly unlikely when he bid farewell to the tournament in Melbourne last January.
"I've seen his documentary about four, five days and it was tough to watch to be honest, as a tennis player, and as someone that knows him for a long time," said Djokovic, who is exactly one week younger than Murray, and has competed against him since they were 12 years old.
"To see what he has been through, I think it was a great insight into his last couple of years and the struggles he had, mental, emotional, physical.
"Just amazing warrior that he is in life really, to be able not to give up after everything that has happened and all the recovery and preparations and trying to heal and play a couple of matches in the whole season and still after everything he's been through in his career and having family at home, not give up on that and have support of the close ones, it's really impressive and inspiring."
Addressing the press in Abu Dhabi, where he is contesting the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition this weekend, Djokovic will face the winner of the clash between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in his opener on Friday.
The 21-year-old Tsitsipas, who owns two wins in four meetings with Djokovic, is coming off of a huge finish to his 2019 season, having clinched the ATP Finals title in London last month.
Tsitsipas told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday that he hopes to break the stranglehold of the 'Big Three' (Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Rofer Federer) on the Grand Slams and the top positions of the rankings, and Djokovic feels the Greek youngster, and his contemporaries, are getting dangerously close to achieving that.
"I think it's a logical and a natural cycle. Roger, Rafa and I were saying that it's going to happen that we're going to be replaced in the top three spots and the new guys are going to start winning Slams," said the Serbian 16-time major champion.
"We're trying to prolong that kind of change in men's tennis, but it's inevitable that it's going to happen and each year they are coming closer and closer. Dominic Thiem played finals of Roland Garros back-to-back. Tsitsipas now won the year-end championships, Alexander Zverev won London the year before. They're definitely out there challenging the best players in the world and they want to be the best players in the world and they will be, they will become eventually.
"They are already established top-five, top-10 players and our task is that doesn't happen very soon but it seems like it's coming closer and closer."
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)