It can be hard to choose just one player as the greatest of all time in men’s tennis. But Novak Djokovic is making a pretty good argument for himself these days. Beating Nadal in the final of the Australian Open gave him his 15th Grand Slam title. Djokovic now has more Grand Slam titles that Pete Sampras. The Australian Open win puts him two titles behind Nadal and five behind Federer.
Djokovic seems to be at the top of his game. And it doesn’t hurt that his victory in the Australian Open was against Nadal, another name in the running for greatest of all time.
Djokovic is only 31 years old and showing no signs of slowing down. Amazingly, he seems to be getting better. He’s won three majors in a row after coming back from an injury that could have put him out of the top tiers of tennis forever. This kind of determination combined with Djokovic’s dedication to living as healthily as possible means that he could have many more Grand Slam titles in his future.
Nadal and Federer are the first names that come to mind when we think of the possible greatest player of all time. They are both older than Djokovic. Nadal is 32, only one year older than Djokovic, but Nadal’s game is much more dynamic. Djokovic doesn’t move around the court as much as Nadal and so has not put the same toll on his body.
Federer is six years older than Djokovic, at 37. Federer doesn’t seem to be slowing down but approaching 40, it is only a matter of time before his age catches up to him.
Head-to-head against Nadal, Djokovic comes out on top with 28 wins to Nadal’s 25. Against Federer, Djokovic has won 25 times while Federer has won just 22. So while the other two players have won more Grand Slam titles than Djokovic, he seems to be the better player when it comes to one-on-one competition against his rivals.
Does Winning The Most Titles Mean Everything?
Some say that the player who has won the most Grand Slam titles is obviously the best player around. But is this too simplistic a way of looking at things? If this is the only criterion for the greatest of all time, the Federer is clearly the GOAT. But how can Federer truly be the greatest if Djokovic has beaten him more times than not?
If we are going on head-to-head record alone, then Djokovic is the likely candidate for being the GOAT. He’s beaten the each of the other top three players (Nadal, Federer, and Murray) more times than they’ve beaten him. Based on this statistic, some might say that because no one can consistently beat Djokovic, he is clearly the best.
But perhaps there is a more nuanced way of looking at things. Head-to-head competition means something of course. But so does making it through a tournament, staying consistent, and beating many opponents with different styles of play. If we truly want to know who is the best we have to look at both head-to-head wins against the top players and number of wins at major tournaments.
The French Open
Djokovic has just won three major titles is a row. In 2018 he won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Now, in 2019, he has just won the Australian Open. If can win the French Open he becomes one of few players to ever win the four major tournament consecutively. The feat, if accomplished, might be enough to push some of the naysayers onto team Djokovic.
But even if Djokovic can’t win a perfect four in a row, he is still in the running for the GOAT, as he clearly has a lot of brilliant tennis in his future.