Is Novak Djokovic the best athlete in the world?

The Serbian champion is one of the candidates for the 2024 Laureous Award and, based on what he did in 2023, he seems to be the 'greatest of the great'

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Is Novak Djokovic the best athlete in the world?
© Al Bello / Staff Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic is officially among the candidates for the final victory of the Laureus World Sportman of the Year where he will face strong competition. For 2023 there is also Lionel Messi (winner of the Laureus 2022 thanks above all to the FIFA World Cup and who this year remains in contention after winning the Ballon d'Or and the Concacaf League Cup, with his Inter Miami-ed. ).

The Argentine has fewer chances than last year, but his name remains quite important by right. Many big names in the running this year besides Djokovic and Messi. Among them the Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, winner of 19 out of 22 Grands Prix, the athletics champion Noah Lyles, the pole vault champion Mondo Duplantis and above all Erling Haaland, leader of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City and decisive to reach the Treble.

The Norwegian has amazing numbers despite his young age and is a true leader of the English club. A great competition but one that sees Novak among the main favourites. Meanwhile, the Serbian champion expressed his thanks for the nomination for a truly very important award which certifies the growth of tennis in recent years.

"It's an honor to be nominated for Laureus 2024 World Sportsman of the Year. A special group to be a part of, congratulations to my fellow nominees @erling.haaland @mondo_duplantis @nojo18 @maxverstappen1 @leomessi #Laureus24," he wrote on Instagram.

Novak Djokovic's 2023 has been nothing short of sensational. The Serbian champion, despite being over 36 years old, has once again lined up all the other stars of world tennis, young and more experienced, and has proven to be the best on the ATP Tour.

With this year Nole has perhaps certified to everyone that he is the GOAT of tennis (and probably not only), he has won three Slam titles and the ATP Finals at the end of the year in Turin. The only big defeats came at Wimbledon against Carlos Alcaraz and in the Davis Cup against our Jannik Sinner's Italy, but despite this it was a top-level year.

Is Novak Djokovic the best athlete of the last decade?

In light of this, can we consider Novak Djokovic the best athlete in the world, considering at least the last 10 years?
The competition with talents such as Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Lewis Hamilton and, recently, Mondo Duplantis, Erling Haaland and Max Verstappen is tough and intense. Haaland and Verstappen have already won a lot but they are still young and still have a lot to do in their careers. Djokovic's real rivals (in addition obviously to the other three great tennis players of this era, namely Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, also including women's sports), are Messi, LeBron and Hamilton.

They are the ones who have won the most of all. They are the ones who, like Djokovic, can aspire to be considered the best athletes ever. To them must obviously be added the swimmer Michael Phelps, who however gave the best of his career between the 2004 Athens Olympics and London 2012. And obviously there is Tiger Woods, who gave the best of his career before 2010.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Ryan Pierse / Staff Getty Images Sport

Djokovic has spread his winning career basically since the victory at the 2008 Australian Open. Since 2011 he has started to dominate. Except for periods in which there were psycho-physical declines, from 2011 to 2023, Nole dominated tennis. The Serbian champion did what no other tennis player has ever done. he broke every record. He dominated his rivals technically, athletically and mentally, taming all those who attacked his reign.

In an individual sport like tennis, this is even more true. In teams, like those of Messi and LeBron, the two stars are the added value to a team game. Hamilton, Woods and Phelps also played an individual sport, although for Hamilton it is actually a team game, despite the fact that the Briton goes on the track.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Mark Kolbe / Staff Getty Images Sport

A sport like tennis, which practically has no breaks during the season and which tests players physically throughout the season, has produced an athlete (Djokovic) capable of dominating everyone up to the age of 36! He's crazy, in my opinion.

This is why, in light of these considerations, it is easy for me to define Novak Djokovic as the greatest athlete of the last ten years.

Novak Djokovic