At the end of 2020, two men were at the top of the Grand Slam leaderboard list; Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with 20 titles each. This statistic which many consider the be-all and end-all of the Goat debate favored Fedal.
The 2020 Flashback
Novak Djokovic, the third part of this holy trinity, was sitting on 17 Grand Slams. He started 2020 by winning the Australian Open for a record 8th time, but then the pandemic halted his momentum.
First, he was defaulted in the US Open in a freak accident and then lost to his greatest rival Rafael Nadal in the French Open final in straight sets.
With Federer out injured and the next-gen including Thiem, Medvedev, and Tsitsipas all improving, all things pointed to Nadal winning the Goat race as he was primed to take over Federer at his beloved Roland Garros. Still, first, it was time for the Australian Open.
Djokovic wasn’t at his best and nearly lost in the 3rd round to Taylor Fritz and suffered a muscle tear but fought through. He beat a red hot Medvedev in a one-sided final to edge closer to Fedal.
It was the catalyst for one of the all-time great seasons on the men’s tour. Djokovic then went on to do the unthinkable; beat Rafa Nadal in a Roland Garros Semi-Final.
It was the 1st time Nadal had been beaten in an RG Semi-Final. This feat alone could be enough in many people’s eyes to bestow the Goat status on the Serbian. Nevertheless, the Serb continued his dominance and clinched his 2nd French Open Title.
Djokovic wasn’t done yet and produced another scintillating display at Wimbledon, clinching the tough RG and Wimbledon double (Channel Slam) in a matter of few weeks and equaling Federer and Nadal’s 20 Grand Slam title haul.
Who’s the tennis GOAT?
Why am I recapping the tennis season from this and last year, you ask? Because with Djokovic joining Fedal at the top of the pile, everyone’s favorite tennis debate, ‘Who is the Goat?’ was the hot topic again.
First of all, let me make it clear. The Big 3 are the 3 greatest male tennis players of all time. Now with that set aside, the question that everyone has been asking is, ‘ Is Novak the best among the Big 3?
The Goat debate is a risky one, and everyone has their favorites and truth be told, each of the Big 3 have a strong case as Goat. The Big 3 are all tied up on 20 Grand Slams so, we will have to look at the other accolades to determine who stands immortal.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
In Tennis or any other sport, you can’t compare eras. Still, with the Big 3 more or less playing in the same era, the statistics are a fairer way to judge the true ‘Goat,’ and Novak Djokovic is the undisputed Goat according to numbers.
- Most Weeks At #1 (330 and counting)
- Highest Masters 1000 Titles (36, tied with Nadal)
- Most Year-End No. 1s (6, tied with Sampras)
- Most Big Titles (Grand Slams, ATP Finals, Masters 1000, Olympics) 61
- Nole Slam (Holding all 4 Grand Slams together in 2015-16).
- Two Career Grand Slams
- Two Golden Masters
- Leads H2H against both Federer and Nadal
- 1st Player since Rod Laver to win the first 3 GS of the year.
Those numbers and honors are just too big to ignore now with the Grand Slam titles all tied up. Federer and Nadal have a few things in their favor. Nadal has the elusive Olympic Gold in singles, making him the only one with the Career Golden Slam.
Federer has won the most titles out of the three, but the sheer weightage of accolades means Djokovic is the Goat.
Neither Federer nor Nadal have been able to complete the full set of Masters Titles. Djokovic has done it twice. He also has completed the Career Grand Slam twice. He has beaten both Nadal and Federer at their kingdoms at RG and Wimbledon, respectively.
The Golden Differential
While all 3 have won a lot of tournaments. Djokovic’s CV isn’t missing a lot. The Olympic Gold medal is all that’s missing. He has the complete set of Masters Titles and won them all at least twice. He’s won the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup. Djokovic also has won each Slam at least twice making him the only one with a double career Grand Slam.
In contrast, Federer and Nadal even with their trophy laden career have some glaring omissions on their CV. Neither Federer nor Nadal have been able to complete the full set of Masters Titles. Nadal is also missing the ATP Tour Finals accolade. In addition, both the players have not won each Slam twice like Djokovic.
The Head to Head
Putting aside the accolades and purely pitting the Big 3 on the basis of their head to head record also puts Djokovic ahead of his great rivals. He holds a 27-23 record against the Swiss. He also leads his other great rival in the most epic rivalry of tennis 30-28.
While Federer has beaten Djokovic at Australian Open (Serb’s most dominant Slam), it was way back in 2007. Djokovic has beaten Federer at his favorite tournament at Wimbledon, in 3 finals no less. He also has done something considered nearly impossible in Tennis by being the only man to beat Nadal in a RG semi-final.
The case for Djokovic being the Goat is loud and clear and he has the chance to shut it altogether if he can do the impossible and complete a Calendar Golden Slam.
He’s at the Olympics and is the favorite to win the Gold medal, and he will be the favorite to win the US Open, too, and I don’t see anyone stopping him.
Djokovic said after winning Wimbledon, “I consider myself best and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning slams and making history, but whether I’m the greatest of all time or not, I leave that debate to other people”.
The debate may be over already, and the evidence hints at Novak Djokovic to be declared as the best tennis player to grace the court.