MELBOURNE • Novak Djokovic deserves a "little star" next to his name for a spectacular 2015 season that saw him win three grand slams among his 11 titles, but men's tennis is not simply a matter of the Serb versus the rest, Roger Federer said yesterday.
The world No. 1's dominance has seen pundits line up to declare the end of the Big Four - suggesting Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are unable to compete on equal terms at grand slams with Djokovic.
The Serb heads into the Australian Open a raging favourite to capture his sixth title at Melbourne Park, but Federer dismisses talk of a Djokovic dictatorship, pointing to Stan Wawrinka's victory over him in the French Open final.
"It completely depends on what you're looking at. If you're looking at (Djokovic's) season, he was the most dominant player by far last year," Federer said.
"Then if you look at just who won the slams and the Masters 1000s, doesn't hold truth, because Stan won the French.
"Who's had the most success? The top-five guys really, with Stan, you know, Murray, myself, Novak and Rafa.
"Now the rankings are back to normal again after Rafa's worked his way back up. Yeah, I still think the same guys are playing very well.
"But, of course, Novak deserves like a little star next to his name right now because he's been doing extremely well. Same for Stan."
Federer, seeded third in Melbourne, was beaten in the US Open and Wimbledon finals by Djokovic last year, as well as in the decider for the season-ending World Tour Finals.
However, the 17-time grand slam champion still showed last year that he has the weapons to topple the Serb, winning three of their eight clashes.
The Swiss denied that he has been focusing on Djokovic and said he is more concerned about improving his own game.
"I'm always on the lookout for how to play certain players or certain tournaments or about my own game," he said.
"So Novak might be a small piece of the puzzle, but it isn't the (only) piece. I'm more focused about my game than on any other player."
Meanwhile, world No. 2 Murray said emphatically that he will abandon the pursuit of his first Australian Open title if his wife goes into labour early.
The men's final of the year's opening grand slam is scheduled for Jan 31 and with his wife Kim expecting their first child in mid-February, it should give him time to return home to Britain for the birth.
But the Scot said he would abandon the tournament if his wife went into labour in the midst of it.
"For me, my child is more important to me, and my wife is more important to me than a tennis match," said Murray.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE