Novak Djokovic
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Who Comes To Mind When Discussing The GOAT?

Tennis fans around the world make their case as to why their favorite player is the GOAT of tennis “Rafael Nadal is the greatest because he has been the most dominant player to ever compete on clay.” Or, “Roger Federer is the GOAT because he is able to achieve high levels of success at such a relatively old age.” However, Novak Djokovic is on track to pull something off, that would end the debate once and for all. Novak, a 34-year old Serbian entered the ATP tour in 2003, immediately competing against the two most dominant players in the men’s circuit at the time, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer. This established Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic as the Big Three of tennis and the face of the up-and-coming generation in the early 2000s. Roger and Rafael always seemed to have the edge over Novak when it came to statistics and accomplishments, but the transition to 2021 has brought magic to Djokovic’s game. This year, Djokovic has won the Australian Open and the French Open, during which he beat Nadal, the greatest clay-court player ever, in just four sets.

Taking A Deeper Dive Into The Numbers

The main talking point that comes up when discussing tennis professionals is grand slams. Currently, Novak Djokovic has 19 grand slams and is chasing his 20th at Wimbledon. Both Nadal and Federer have won 20 grand slams in their careers, and people will of course use this stat against Djokovic. But hey, if we just looked at championships, Michael Jordan would certainly not be considered the GOAT.

Next, a look at head-to-head records. Djokovic boasts a winning record against both of his rivals, up 27-23, including a 4-1 grand slam final record, over Federer and 30-28, including a 15-13 grand slam final advantage, over Nadal. His finals record advantage over both men demonstrates just how well Djokovic plays under pressure – he truly comes into his own.

Another major part of a professional’s tennis career is how well they represent their country, most notably at the Olympics. Only Nadal can boast about a gold medal in singles, as Federer and Djokovic have both fallen short in the past.

Novak Djokovic’s Path To Achieving The Golden Slam

For context, a golden slam is when a player wins all four grand slams and wins gold at the Olympics in the same year, and a path is laid out for Djokovic to achieve this triumph. If Djokovic is able to finish strong at Wimbledon over the next couple of days, he will have tied both Roger and Rafael at 20 grand slam wins, and the next major tennis event would be the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Here, Djokovic would once again have a shot at bringing Serbia the gold, as well as bringing himself one step closer to achieving a golden slam. However, tennis legend and analyst John McEnroe does not believe Novak will win in Tokyo because of the different format. I do agree that winning in Tokyo will be a difficult task for Djokovic, but his play has been so stellar recently that the sky is truly the limit.

However, a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics would not complete Djokovic’s journey. The final step in completing the tremendous feat would be winning the last grand slam of the year, the US Open. Doing this would put Djokovic in front of both Federer and Nadal in grand slam championships. And yes, I know it sounds outrageous to reach so far in the future, but Djokovic looks unstoppable.

So What Does A Golden Slam Do For Novak Djokovic?

The golden slam is often regarded to be the finest tennis achievement and if Novak can pull it off, he would be the first man to ever do so. And, again, it would also solidify his lead of 21-20-20 in grand slams against Roger and Rafael, and would increase his leads against both men in head-to-head record. Put simply, winning a golden slam this year will allow Novak Djokovic to add one more accomplishment to his belt: GOAT status.


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