Why Novak Djokovic Is Already The Greatest Male Tennis Player Of All Time

After beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim his second French Open title, Djokovic became the first player in history to win each of the Grand Slams on multiple occasions
10:41, 14 Jun 2021

It’s time to start talking about Novak Djokovic as the greatest male tennis player of all time.

The Serb may not be as popular as fellow greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but in beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim his second French Open title, he has now become the first player in history to win each of the Grand Slams on multiple occasions.

Nadal’s dominance at Roland Garros has seen the Spaniard win 13 of the last 17 Paris tournaments on offer, with Djokovic’s comeback win over Tsitsipas taking him onto two titles in France.

That alone might not seem worthy of ‘GOAT’ status, but hear this…

US Open titles: Three

Wimbledon titles: Five

Australian Open titles: Nine

Yes, you read right, nine Australian Open titles. In fact, the 34-year-old has never lost a final at Melbourne Park, a statistic that doesn’t receive the credit it deserves.

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In beating Nadal in Friday’s French Open semi-final, he extended his head-to-head advantage to 30-28, while his 27-23 winning record over Federer only looks like increasing if the Swiss is to continue playing into his forties.

The trio of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have been dominating tennis for over a decade now, with Andy Murray threatening to gate-crash the party with three Grand Slams and two Olympic golds between 2012 and 2016.

However, before Djokovic, there was just Federer and Nadal battling it out for superiority. It was the perfect rivalry. Federer’s finesse and grace was the complete opposite to Nadal’s power and athleticism.

In 2008, Nadal seemed the only realistic alternative to a decade of Federer dominance, despite Djokovic winning his first Australian Open that year. A straight sets defeat in the second round of Wimbledon later in the year brought him crashing down to earth, and the very idea of him now reaching 19 Slams was unthinkable.

Back then, Djokovic was meant to be in the same category as Murray. A world class operator capable of upsetting the big boys from time to time in lifting a handful of major titles, but not on a consistent basis that would see him enter the ‘GOAT’ conversation.

Perhaps that in itself is why the Serb isn’t given the credit he deserves. Tennis fans are a nostalgic bunch, and that rivalry between Federer and Nadal had everything. There was no need for a third wheel to come along.

Or perhaps it is due to the fact that Djokovic never seems to be too far away from controversy. In the last 12 months alone, he has admitted to being sceptical about vaccinations, has tested positive for Covid-19 after organising a tournament during the pandemic, gave his backing to a breakaway tour, and was disqualified from the US Open after accidentally hitting a lineswoman during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

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Love him or hate him, if he isn’t already the greatest player of all time, he is fancied to surpass the 20 Grand Slams that Federer and Nadal both sit on, which would surely propel him to the top of most lists when debating that particular argument.

This is no flash in the pan opinion. In 2011, a full decade ago, Djokovic enjoyed arguably the greatest season on record. Federer and Nadal managed just one win each against him, while he came out on top against them both on 10 separate occasions. He embarked on a 41-match winning streak and won three of the four majors in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Four years later, he reached every Grand Slam final, winning another three of them. In 2016, he became the first player in history to hold all four major titles at the same time on different surfaces. That is some feat in any era, but with his two biggest rivals also in their prime, and with Murray and Stan Wawrinka threatening to join the elite party, it is truly incredible.

Djokovic has reigned supreme in six of the last 10 Slams on offer and shows no signs of slowing down. He is almost six years younger than Federer, who last won a major title in 2018, and a year the junior of Nadal who has only won two of the remaining three Slams outside of Paris in the past six years.

This is no flash in the pan opinion. In 2011, a full decade ago, Djokovic enjoyed arguably the greatest season on record. Federer and Nadal managed just one win each against him, while he came out on top against them both on 10 separate occasions. He embarked on a 41-match winning streak and won three of the four majors in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Four years later, he reached every Grand Slam final, winning another three of them. In 2016, he became the first player in history to hold all four major titles at the same time on different surfaces. That is some feat in any era, but with his two biggest rivals also in their prime, and with Murray and Stan Wawrinka threatening to join the elite party, it is truly incredible.

Djokovic has reigned supreme in six of the last 10 Slams on offer and shows no signs of slowing down. He is almost six years younger than Federer, who last won a major title in 2018, and a year the junior of Nadal who has only won two of the remaining three Slams outside of Paris in the past six years.

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This year provides an opportunity for ‘Novak’ to pull off the ‘Golden Slam’ by lifting all four major titles as well as Olympic gold. He has two to boast of already.

If he manages it, he will become the first male player to do so in the same year, while also surpassing the Grand Slam titles of Federer and Nadal. Surely then, there can be no arguments that he would be the greatest player of all time.

For us, he already is.

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