One of the heated debates of the 21st century, which has been going on for a while, is whether Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal is the Greatest of All Time in tennis. While Federer is generally considered the GOAT, his lopsided head-to-head record with Nadal (10-23) is one significant factor that casts a shadow on that argument.
Federer’s credentials take precedence to Nadal’s, but the Spaniard is the first and for long, the only player who brought the Swiss maestro to his knees. Then, Nadal being the vanquisher of the GOAT, shouldn’t be placed below Federer.
Indeed a dilemma. The already impenetrable situation has been further complicated by the inclusion of Novak Djokovic lately. The World No: 1 hasn’t scaled the heights of the other two, but his phenomenal evolution makes him a prospective GOAT.
The sequence goes like this. Federer, with 17 Slams, is on the top; Nadal based on his 23-10 H2H lead, can be regarded better than Federer, but the same time, can’t be regarded for sure as ‘greater’ than the latter when you look at a bigger picture; Djokovic being the sole player who has dethroned these two greats, is currently the best, but when you look at the numbers, he comes below Federer and Nadal.
Djokovic vs. Federer Their head-to-head is tied at 21-21. Looking at their last 10 encounters, it is 6-4 in favour of Djokovic; the last 20, it is 13-7. The Serbian has been dominating the Swiss maestro for a while. It’s just a matter of time he outstrips Federer.
Four Grand Slam finals, three titles, not to mention the four Masters titles from six finals, Djokovic is on a roll. His fantastic feat is likely to extend to forthcoming season as well. As of now, the only person who truly can beat Djokovic is Federer; their Wimbledon and the US Open final encounters were pretty close-fought.
When it comes to number of Masters titles, Djokovic and Federer stands on the same pedestal, having won 24 titles each. Federer’s 24 come from 42 final appearances, whereas Djokovic’s come from 36. Yet, seven Grand Slams still divide these two men.
There was a Nadal to slow down Federer, there was a Djokovic to slow down the aforementioned two. But who can really stop Djokovic now? There is an incredibly talented Andy Murray, who is also a chronic choker whenever he faces Djokovic.
A Wawrinka can stop him may be once in a blue moon. Then comes the list of overrated next-gen players like Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic etc., who still seem to be waiting for the right moment. Further down, there are youngsters like Nick Kyrgios and Borna Coric who will have to wait for some more years before they could pose real challenge to a player of Djokovic’s standard.
Apart from Federer, no one can scare the Serbian.
Nadal Nadal is the only person who boasts of a head-to-head advantage over Djokovic right now, however slight that margin be. He has one win more than his rival from their 45 encounters. When you look at their last 10 encounters, the margin is 7-3 in favour of Djokovic; the last 20, it’s 13-7.
These stats reiterate that Djokovic has been closing in on the wide gap that once divided the duo. This season itself, if at all they face each other, Djokovic can surpass Nadal. Talking about the Masters crowns, Nadal, who holds the record with 27 titles from the past 10 years, has three titles more to Djokovic’s 24.
Again, a record which Djokovic can break easily. Their Grand Slam title difference is 4, and assessing by Nadal’s recent progress, it wouldn’t be too optimistic to conclude that he can end his Slam drought the coming season itself, most probably, with a 10th title in Roland Garros.
Djokovic as well will further up his mark, further closing the gap that separates him and Nadal. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Djokovic eclipse Nadal’s Grand Slam record in the next two years. The probability of Djokovic transcending Nadal and Federer is high.
He is an impeccable player, and it’s impossible to spot his Achilles heel. The physical and mental aspects of his game are remarkable. No one can stop him, not unless he falls out of love for tennis, which is highly unlikely.
There won’t be a satisfactory answer for the G.O.A.T debate. Had Bjorn Borg not retired at the age of 26, he would have won many more Majors for sure. The longevity of a player’s career has increased much in the past decade for top players have fitness team to condition their bodies to suit the game which has become more physical.
Federer at 34, is playing better than any teen or someone in his early 20s. He isn’t retiring because there is no need for him to do so as long as he is playing a superior game. Djokovic, like Federer, is one of the fittest player on tour, and at 28, has many more years ahead of him.
In a year or two, the debate would be whether it is Federer or Djokovic, and Nadal is likely to be pushed to the third place. For Djokovic, it would be hard, but not impossible to break Federer’s all time record. Once he does that, that too by including a French Open title, there wouldn’t be a reason to not call him the GOAT.