How different would the GOAT race be if 16 of the most recent Grand Slams had been won by someone other than Novak Djokovic? As confusing as it may seem, there was a time when this scenario could have become a reality. "In 2010 I lost to Melzer in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros,” Djokovic told Sky Sport Italia.
“I cried after being knocked out. It was a bad moment, I wanted to quit tennis because all I saw was black”. Two years after conquering his first Grand Slam title (Australian Open 2008), the Serbian was dismissed from Roland Garros in the quarter finals by Jurgen Melzer, the Austrian 22nd seed that recovered from being two sets down to win the clash 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.
"It was a transformation, because after that defeat I freed myself. I had won in Australia in 2008, I was number three in the world, but I wasn't happy. I knew I could do more, but I lost the most important matches against Federer and Nadal.
From that moment I took the pressure off myself, I started playing more aggressively. That was the turning point." A turning point it was indeed, as the Serbian has since claimed his place in the GOAT race and revealed himself as the missing member of the Big Three.
He went on to win 16 more Grand Slams in the successive years and was the first to lift the trophy of each of the nine Masters 1000 events. He reached the spot at the top of the ATP rankings for the first time in 2011, and has been fighting for it on and off against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - and eventually Andy Murray - ever since.