It’s Novak Djokovic against the world. The ATP No. 1-ranked player has been grabbing all the attention since his debacle at the Australian Open in January. Then he was tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam titles won at age 20 and in a position to break the record. However, since he couldn’t compete in a tournament he dominates (he holds nine AO titles), Djokovic couldn’t challenge for that record.
Instead, we saw Nadal makes an epic – and I mean epic – comeback against world number 2 Daniil Medvedev in the final to win only his second AO title since 2009 and his 21st major, breaking the slam record and passing both Federer and Djokovic. Nadal lost two sets to love-and-serve at 2-3 and love-40 in the third set…and won! According to the win predictor, Nadal had a 4% chance of winning.
Four percent and he did it, at 35, against the current best hard-court player in the world, down two sets, triple break point in third, on crutches not long after s recovered from COVID-19 and he just came out and did the impossible. The only person who believed Nadal could do it was himself and that was all he needed.
So Nadal must surely be the greatest ATP player of all time and now with Djokovic potentially out for a while due to his stance on vaccination, the Serb cannot claim GOAT status. Then, with Federer at the end of his career, by elimination, Nadal is the GOAT. According to Twitter, it’s as simple as that.
I’m here to give you the answer that the male singles tennis player is actually the GOAT, and I mean the greatest not only of this generation but of all time. With Nadal now holding the title lead and Djoker potentially out for the foreseeable future, it’s best to squash that debate now.
What Makes Every Gamer Great
Let’s start by distinguishing what makes each player great. Besides the records, titles and accolades, it was the way each player fought and each had a different style of play that made them so unique and difficult to understand.
For Nadal, it’s his heavy top spin game that makes him extremely difficult to redirect. It’s his left-handed play that adds another element of difficulty for opponents. Being left-handed is important because it allows players to serve wide on the backhand of a right-handed player in the ad serve zone on big runs. Adapting to a lefty is difficult. Add to that it’s Nadal as a left-hander and yes, good luck. Combine Nadal’s defense with his ironclad mindset and it’s no surprise to see him excel in this game.
For Federer, it’s his unique forehand. His grip allows him to have total control from anywhere on the field. Simply put, it’s commanding. His serve is top notch, winning 89% of his service games in his career, ahead of Nick Kyrgios and behind three players including John Isner. It’s a matter of consistency. If you give him a target, Federer will hit it. Not to mention it has one of the best net games combined with the best slice.
For Djokovic, this is his return match. It doesn’t matter how powerful your serve or how many aces you’re used to hitting because your ball comes back when you’re playing Djoker and you better be ready for it. His ability to counter is a beauty and his flexibility helps him play the best defense.
What do the three have in common? A versatile game with a no-give-up mentality. As we saw during Nadal’s comeback. As we can also see in Federer’s fight to come back from injury at 40.
GOAT debate: Should we break records?
Tennis is the greatest game there is. In America, we love our football, but there’s something about tennis: purity. The thought of one man facing another 80 feet across and what separates you isn’t always the skill set, but the mental edge, the mental toughness, the no-give-up mentality like a bull – that’s wonderful.
I’ve always thought that Djokovic is undoubtedly the greatest, because he’s at the top of head-to-head records against the greatest (27-23 against Federer and 30-28 against Nadal). But he could also ultimately hold the record for major title wins when all is said and done.
We must recognize that there is no man on this planet who can beat a “prime” Nadal at Roland-Garros (record of 105-3). The 2020 season confirmed this with Nadal’s admirable and commanding win over Djokovic in the final. You can look at Djoker’s 2021 four-set victory over Nadal at Roland Garros and think it’s been done before, but last year wasn’t an optimal display of Rafa’s talents as he got injured while throughout the season. However, to counter this, Federer and Djokovic both know how to dismantle Nadal on a hard court.
my last answer
All three are the best trio to ever power a single sport. Without Federer, the games of Nadal and Djokovic would not have reached the level they have today. Without Nadal, Federer wouldn’t have improved the much-needed backhand that helped him control 2017. And without Djokovic, Nadal and Federer wouldn’t have evolved their style to beat so many baseliners today.
So who is the ultimate winner here? The sport of tennis and its fans. These three giants gave so much to the game. They showed how complicated tennis really can be and complication makes for fun. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, they show you something entirely new. And what separates these three from the rest is the ability to make mid-game adjustments and then perform to win.
I am sincerely grateful and full of joy to have had the great chance to see these three beasts discover new elements to the sport that I love to watch. As Jimmy Connors said, it’s “boxing at 90 feet.”
Who is the GOAT? All three. They are best at breaking through each other’s weaknesses and enhancing each other’s strengths.
As fans, we just need to sit back and cherish the moments that we have to watch them shine because, for one, I’m terrified of the day when we don’t even have the Big Three in play anymore – a day that could come soon.
One thing is guaranteed, however, and that is that we are in the midst of these greats passing on their knowledge, inspiration and influence to the next generation of gamers. Medvedev could certainly lead the charge, but you see glimpses of inspiration through players like Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Djokovic doesn’t need another title to cement his place in history. Federer could retire tomorrow. Nadal could win another major tournament. All three could happen and it wouldn’t change the fact that these three legends form the greatest trio in the history of the sport and that we as fans are blessed to have experienced the evolution of greatness.
In a recent interview, Italian star Fabio Fognini put it perfectly, the new generation of players “all have the same style of play. They just hit hard. There will never be players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and del Potro again.”