Novak is the GOAT

The conversation is over, the debate is done, Novak Djokovic is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time after winning his 23rd major in Paris on Sunday. We can quibble about the overall greatest as Margaret Court is on 24 Slams and Serena 23 but at least on the men’s side he has no peer.

Roger is retired on 20 Slams; Rafa has 22 but will miss this season after having hip surgery two weeks ago. The Spaniard indicated in a press conference he hopes to return to pro tennis at some point “my goal is to give myself an opportunity to enjoy next year that’s probably gonna be my last on the professional tour”.

If the bull from Mallorca does make it back on tour it’s highly unlikely he’ll reach the physical requirements to win seven best of five set matches to add another Slam to his total, which leaves us with this. No man is capable of surpassing Novak’s 23 Slams, at least not in this generation or perhaps even the next. Consider this, Novak now has more majors than Sampras (14) and Agassi (8) combined. Insane!

At the end of the 2010 season Djokovic had only one Slam, the 2008 Australian Open. There was no discussion about ‘greatest ever’ or even being much of a rival of the big two, at the time Federer was on 16 Slams and Rafa 9.

But then, Novak went on a run, an historic run. Over the course of the next 12 years he would win 22 majors, not forgetting he was disqualified from the 2020 US Open for accidently hitting a linesman with a ball in the 4th round, was deported from the 2022 Australian Open without hitting a ball and never made the US Open that same year because of the American Government’s vaccination policy. That’s three majors where the Serbian was the favorite for the title.

For years Roger and Rafa dominated the locker room, players were mentally beaten before they took the court, but Novak knew if he ramped up the fitness and worked on his mind he could at least compete on equal footing.

Well, he did that and more, now he leads the head to heads vs Federer 27-23 and Nadal 30-29. At 36 years old you could say at least he physically has 2 more years left before the inevitable decline, that’s 8 Slams. It’s conceivable he ends up with 27 or 28 Slams. Also, this year the calendar Slam is still on, winning all four majors in the same season, he went close in 2021 before losing the US Open final to Medvedev.

Rod Laver was the last man to do it in 1969 and if Novak wins Wimbledon in a few weeks don’t bet against him in New York. On a popularity level will he ever be loved like Roger and Rafa, no, but Djokovic thrives on the ‘me against the crowd’ mentality, it’s right out of the Lleyton playbook. It adds some nitrous to the tank, a competitive combustible mix that wins a lot of matches.

We’ve been blessed the last 20 years or so to witness Roger, Rafa and Novak chase majors, but in the end it was the Serbian who will go down as the ‘Greatest Of All Time’.

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