Novak Djokovic shares why he refuses to answer GOAT question directly

Djokovic owns the two biggest tennis records but he is refusing to declare himself the GOAT.

by Dzevad Mesic
Novak Djokovic shares why he refuses to answer GOAT question directly
© Getty Images Sport - Elsa

Novak Djokovic says he will never directly or publicly reveal his pick for the greatest tennis player of all time as the current world No. 1 says he is doing that out of respect for other great champions and wants to leave that discussion to the general public. 

Djokovic, who will be celebrating his 37th birthday on Wednesday, owns the all-time Grand Slam record of 24 titles and he is also the first player in tennis history male or female to reach 400 weeks at the world No. 1 spot. In his resume, Djokovic owns many other outstanding records but the Grand Slam and ranking records are usually viewed as the biggest metrics in the GOAT debate.

And since Djokovic currently has two more Grand Slams than Rafael Nadal and will finish his career with at least four more Majors than Roger Federer, some think the GOAT debate is won and sealed by the Serb. The talks of Djokovic being the GOAT increased last year after he won three Grand Slams to become the first-ever man with 24 Grand Slams and also the first-ever player to have spent more than 400 weeks at the world No. 1 spot. 

While Djokovic is certainly proud of his success and he never hides the fact that he is hungry for more, he has never declared himself or anyone else the tennis GOAT. 

During an appearance on Nick Kyrgios' podcast, Djokovic was again asked to address the GOAT debate. And while Djokovic answered the question, he didn't reveal his GOAT pick. 

"For me it’s so hard to have this discussion but I think when it comes to tennis, I enjoy people talking about it. And the reason why – the more people talk about it, the more discussion there is towards tennis, so the more tennis benefits from that and as a tennis player, I want that for my sport, I want more children involved in the sport," Djokovic said on Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios.

"But I will never say who I think the GOAT is in tennis, I will never say that, I’ll leave it to others. Mostly out of respect to all the greats and all the champions in all the generations before us."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Then, Djokovic also compared himself to greats from some other sports, who have also never publicly declared themselves the GOAT. 

"Something I really admire with LeBron [James], and something I identify with, and Tom Brady as well and Serena [Williams] is first of all incredible mind of a champion, hunger for success, for improvement, Cristiano Ronaldo is also like that," Djokovic said.

Nadal declared Djokovic 'the best player in tennis history'

When the 2023 season started, Nadal had an all-time record of 22 Grand Slam titles. After the season finished, Djokovic was the one owning the record with 24 Grand Slam titles, leaving Nadal behind. 

And just days after Djokovic won his 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open, Nadal dropped the ultimate praise on the Serb. 

"I believe that numbers are numbers and statistics are statistics. In that sense, I think [Novak Djokovic] has better numbers than mine and that is indisputable," Nadal told AS last September. 

"This is the truth. The rest are tastes, inspiration, sensations that one or the other may transmit to you, that you may like one or the other more. I think that, with respect to titles, Djokovic is the best in history and there is nothing to discuss about that."

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

How Djokovic responded to Nadal's GOAT comment?

When asked about Nadal publicly calling the best player ever, Djokovic admitted that he was flattered to hear that from one of his biggest rivals. But Nadal's GOAT statement didn't lead to Djokovic declaring himself the GOAT as well. 

“No, I'm not going to say I'm the best of all time. It's not for me to say, I’ll leave it for other people. I am very proud that my biggest rival says such things, but this discussion is for others. I am honored to be a tennis player who is leaving his name in the history of tennis. It's not a priority for me. I need to stay focused on what is important to me," Djokovic said.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Shaun Botterill

Meanwhile, Djokovic is still at 24 Grand Slams after suffering his first Australian Open loss since 2018 earlier this year. 

Going into his French Open title defense, Djokovic has yet to win a title this year and he hasn't had a great preparation. However, Djokovic is playing at this week's ATP 250 tournament in Geneva, where he will try to get some wins and improve his confidence levels before going to Paris.

If Djokovic defends his French Open title this year, he will become the first-ever player male or female to have won 25 Grand Slams.

Novak Djokovic