Who is the Greatest Men’s Tennis Player of All Time?

Who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time? That’s a hot topic on tour these days and for good reason. This is the golden era of men’s tennis. In my opinion, the three best players ever are playing right now; ranked #1, #2 and #3-still. Those players are Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic.

Who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time?

I’m well aware that it’s hard to compare eras, the equipment is different, top players travel with physios, nutrition is different, Rod Laver won a Grand Slam, Pete Sampras won 14 majors, players didn’t really start playing in Australia until the mid/late 80’s and there aren’t as many great players as there used to be, etc.

Who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time?

All those arguments have some merit but to me, it’s a no-brainer, the three greatest tennis players that ever lived are playing right now, at the top level and I don’t even think it’s debatable. So, who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time?

Who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time?

First let’s look at the numbers:

Who's the greatest mens tennis player of all time

When you examine these hard numbers you have to look a little closer at them and put some context to them. Roger Federer is 5 and 6 years older than Nadal and Djokovic respectively. He won his first ATP title in 2001, whereas Nadal won his first in 2004 and Djokovic 2006. Federer had his most dominant period from 2004-2007 where he won an absurd 11 grand slam titles.

While Nadal has always been incredibly consistent winning the French Open 11 times dating back to 2005; his most dominant period was 2008-2010 where he won 6 majors and completed the career grand slam.

Novak Djokovic had his extended period of dominance from 2011-2016 where he won 11 majors and was in 7 other finals. He not only completed the career grand slam to match Federer and Nadal but he also held all four grand slam titles at the same time. Something nobody had done since Rod Laver won the grand slam in 1969. I remember because I was in Paris to witness his 2016 Roland Garros win over Andy Murray!

The reason I mention the period of dominance and age is because during each players dominant years they accumulated a lot of titles and statistics while keeping the others down. Hence, the descending age to title chart with these 3 players. However, what really sets them apart to me is the head to head matchups and those numbers might surprise you.

Djokovic vs Federer

Djokovic leads 24-22 overall, 13-6 in all Finals, 5-3 in Masters Finals and 3-1 in Grand Slam Finals with Federer’s only win coming in the 2007 US Open Final which was Djokovic’s first ever Grand Slam Final. Plus Djokovic beat Federer twice in the Wimbledon final without losing one to him.

Djokovic vs Federer

I’ve seen nearly every one of these matches between these 2 greats. Federer won the majority early in the rivalry and Djokovic has pretty much dominated in the last several years taking the head to head lead and more importantly-winning handily the biggest matches, the finals.

Advantage Djokovic

Djokovic vs Nadal

Djokovic leads 28-25 overall, 15-10 in all Finals, 3-2 in Masters Finals and they’re tied 4-4 in Grand Slam Finals. It needs to be noted that Djokovic has beaten Nadal in all 4 Grand Slams including Roland Garros where Nadal has won 11 titles and only lost 2 matches since 2005. Federer never beat Nadal at the French Open in 5 opportunities including 4 finals along with a semifinal.

Djokovic vs Nadal

These are perhaps the most entertaining matches in the history of tennis. I’ve been fortunate to witness several in person and yearn for more. The most interesting thing in this rivalry is that Nadal leads on clay 16-7. 7 losses to Djokovic is more on clay than Federer, Murray, Wawrinka and basically everyone else combined.

Advantage Djokovic

Nadal vs Federer

Nadal leads 23-15 overall, 14-10 in all Finals, 7-5 in Masters Finals and 6-3 in Grand Slam Finals. Nadal beat Federer in Finals in Australia, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Federer beat him in Australia and Wimbledon but is 0-5 at the French and only 2-7 in clay Finals and 2-13 overall on clay.

Federer vs Nadal

This is a tough one for any Federer fan to swallow because Nadal basically has owned Federer over the years. Yes Roger has won the last 5 meetings to narrow the gap a bit but his inability to beat Rafa on clay and never beat him in Paris, never even taking him to 5 sets at Roland Garros, definitely hurts his case.

Advantage Nadal

So, who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time? After really examining the numbers and the fact that I’ve meticulously watched these 3 warriors for the last 15 years I can make an argument for and against each of them for being the greatest of all time but in my mind here are the bottom line arguments.

big 3

Roger Federer, at the moment has the most grand slam titles. But his inability to beat Rafael Nadal consistently and basically at all on clay hurts his case. How can you be the best of all time if you cannot beat your biggest rival at Roland Garros in 5 tries especially when Nadal beat Federer at Wimbledon and took him to 5 another time. He’s also lost to Djokovic at all 4 majors and twice in Wimbledon finals.

Wimbledon Federer

Rafael Nadal is unquestionably the greatest clay court player of all time. In fact, his dominance on clay may be the most dominant thing in any sport-ever. Of his 80 titles, 57 are on clay. Of his 17 majors, 11 are French Opens. Nothing against his amazing clay court prowess but it overshadows the rest of his game; which is also great. But he is not the best all court player of the 3 men and he has a losing record to Djokovic as well.

Nadal on clay

Novak Djokovic took his lumps from Federer and Nadal early on in his career, learned, waited patiently and then took over. His peak was and is better and more dominant than any player-ever. More importantly, he wins finals against his biggest rivals. He is 28-16 in all finals against Federer and Nadal. That’s a big number. Plus, he has a winning record against them both and has beaten Federer at Wimbledon multiple times and has beaten Rafa at Roland Garros. Additionally, he is the only person ever to win all 9 Masters 1000 events-that cannot be understated. Add that he’s the youngest of the group and I don’t think he’s done yet. Barring injury he’ll add more titles to continue his assault on the other 2 guys.

Djokovic

All that said, Novak Djokovic is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time! I know all 3 are still playing and each should add to their numbers. But at this point in time, I don’t see how you can conclude anything else than the greatest of all time is Novak Djokovic. As a Federer loyalist that hurts to say, but sometimes the truth hurts. In the end, many of the victory numbers will more or less even out. However for me, Novak Djokovic consistently beats his biggest rivals in the biggest matches on all surfaces. That’s the bottom line as to why Djokovic is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time. What do you think?

Comments

  1. I love your argument backed up by numbers. However, until someone overtakes Federer with major wins it’s hard for me to say it’s anyone but him.

    • I hear you but there’s more to a great player than simply number of majors. Do you not consider Tiger Woods the best golfer ever? Do you penalize him because he only has 14 majors to Nicklaus’s 18? I don’t.

  2. I personally believe that Roger Federer is the best Tennis player of this generation indeed.

    • He’s certainly my favorite player but it’s hard to argue against what I wrote.

      • Brennan Sanchez says

        Your post as well as the statistics that you’ve pointed out as your basis of who’s the GOAT in tennis were very accurate and i couldn’t agree more if we talked about analytics. However, don’t forget that there are intangibles as well and the strongest case why Roger Federer is still the GOAT is the fact that he has the most major title wins and he spent the most no. of weeks being the No.1.
        I like your argument about Novak because it’s a pretty strong argument. However, many pundits and sports journalists of today, still consider Roger as the GOAT and Rafa as No.2.. Infact, they have Novak currently at No.3.
        The only legitimate and precise statement that you had in which i totally agree 100% is that the 3 of them clearly are the greatest tennis players of all-time.

        • It’s aobviously all opinion and people get emotional about Roger and Rafa. However, I did offer pretty compelling numbers to back up my statement but of course it’s still opinion. In the end I think we’ll have distinct answers in 5 years or so when they’re all done playing and you can really compare the full numbers. Although I imagine most Federer fans will never accept anything other than Fed as the top.

          • Let us be out of emotion then. I pretty much agree with you in one thing: it is between Roger, Rafael and Novak, Borg is out of his league here, mostly due to a shorter career. Rod Laver is perhaps hardest to judge, as he\’s a player from two different eras (pre-open and open) as well as… having both, amateur and pro Slams. He dominated pre-open amateur era, as well as pre-open pro era, as well as… early time of open era itself, and was even able to win all of GS titles in one year (he did it twice, I know… but once in open era). He seems to be somehow too good to be placed among best players of open era, and yet not good enough, to be placed above them.
            You did a good work, but there are some points, that I\’m not agree with you:

            \”He’s certainly my favorite player but it’s hard to argue against what I wrote.\”

            Is it? Not at all. Lets start with Roger vs Novak, okey? It wont be very oryginal, but there is a very important thing, that had to be noted: Roger is older. So, that\’s why he has an inferior bilans to Novak? Yes and no. Look at this:
            2003 – Roger takes his first GS title at the age 21.
            2008 – Novak takes his first GS title at the age 22.
            2004 – It\’s a first year that he dominated in terms of GS and rank. His prime starts here, age 22.
            2010 – he past his prime a little bit, but still was nearly at his peak. It will be his last seaon when he\’s taking at least a one GS title. Excluding Nadal, taking only Roger and Novak into account, Roger\’s prime ends here.
            2011 – It is the first year, since 2008, when Novak won a majority of GS titles and – in my opinion – his best year in terms of playing (2015 might be more succesful, but was easier as well). Let us do an assumption:
            2003-2010 – \”Roger\’s Era\”
            2011 – 2018 \”Novak\’s Era\”
            They met:
            2006: Federer 2:0 Djokovic
            2007: Federer 3:1 Djokovic
            2008: Federer 2:1 Djokovic
            2009: Federer 2:3 Djokovic
            2010: Federer 4:1 Djokovic
            2011: Federer 1:4 Djokovic
            2012: Federer 2:3 Djokovic
            2013: Federer 0:2 Djokovic
            2014: Federer 3:3 Djokovic
            2015: Federer 2:5 Djokovic
            2016: Federer 0:1 Djokovic
            2017: Federer 0:0 Djokovic
            2018: Federer 0:2 Djokovic
            19 times during \”Roger Era\”, score was: 13:6 for Roger
            28 times during \”Novak\’s Era\”, score was 20:8 for Novak
            As you see, there were a years, when Roger played better and worse, even in his prime years, same for Novak. Pitty for Roger, that they have not met in 2017, perhaps he could improve his H2H. Anyway, as you see, it\’s a bit pointless to taking H2H as some maijor factor – they would have to met each other in the same tournaments each year, – that would make it a fair factor. For now, GS titles, weeks as top1, tour finals titles, atp 1000 titles… it\’s all that truly matter, and Roger has some advantage in those terms. Until now.

          • Your argument is certainly backed up by real numbers. If we are considering the greatest,
            Then why are the rivals able to beat each other only on certain surfaces. The greatest player is put to the test by performing well on each surface and is consistently playing well and winning, likewise when we are talking grand slam titles we must understand that some of these finals did consist of luck, any 5 set final could have been any winner, so my argument is simply, the grand slam totals are irrelevant to how they actually perform when playing each other, for this reason Novak Djokovic may not be crowd favourite for the win (roger but also Rafa have so many fans) , but Djokovic is the GOAT. Federer fans will eventually come through with understanding, since we are still watching them play

          • You can’t control who you play in tennis and Roger dominated and was #1 over 15 years at times. In the end I think Novak will overtake him in number of weeks at #1 so it’ll be a cut and dry argument. But Federer has Roddick, Safin, Hewitt and still Agassi plus others to deal with in his beginning of dominance as well.

        • I would like to comment on Federer having the most number of weeks at No.1. Clearly, he holds the record but let us not forget that this happened in an era where he was dominating all other players except Nadal of course on clay courts. But with Djokovic’s case, you cannot discount the fact that he is battling with more competitive and respected opponents such as Nadal , Federer, Murray and the likes of Wawrinka, Del Potro, etc. He’s generation is far more competitive than than when Federer dominated tennis with Nadal on his way. So I think Djokovic should be given due credit for winning big matches against big opponents.

  3. To say that anyone other than Roger is the best ever just shows you have no idea what you’re talking about. You should stick to travel and leave tennis to the tennis writers.

    • That’s a really well thought out comment. Thanks for taking the time to formulate rational thoughts backed up with hard numbers or at least reasonable opinions. You’re clearly a tennis person!

  4. I think it’s Nadal because he has beaten Federer so many times. Plus, he won the epic Wimbledon match against the 5 time defending champ Fed.

    • You know it’s really funny. You take the time to do all this research and have hard numbers and facts to back up your claims and people just say blanket things as opposed to listening to reason. Tennis, basically the Fed/Nadal debate is like politics-people become irrational. Then add in Djokovic and people are all out of sorts, barely even acknowledging him.

  5. I didn’t realize Novak had a winning record versus both other guys. I agree Nadal’s clay dominance hurts his greatest ever claim because the numbers are so skewed. I also appreciate you mentioning Masters events as those are even more telling at times than Majors. They show more consistency. I also think they elevate Andy Murray because he’s won several albeit only 3 majors. I’m clearly a Murray fan!

    • You know Murray is an interesting case in terms of all time rankings. As you mentioned if you just go by majors then what’s to distinguish him from Wawrinka? Well 14 I think it is masters wins to Stans 1 or Del Potro’s 1. Murray is similar to Andy Roddick in that if it wasn’t for the 3 greats, he’d be an all time great.

  6. You cannot compare Novak to Roger. Roger has so much grace and a beautiful game. Novak is just a counterpuncher with no real game. Roger is way more accomplished than Novak and is the best ever.

  7. I agree with just about everything you’re saying. The numbers don’t lie although I think he still needs a few more grand slams before I say he’s definitely the GOAT.

  8. Roger won’t even play clay tournaments now because he is scared of Rafa. I think that hurts his legacy and I’d say Rafa is the best ever.

  9. Well said, it’s about time someone gave Djokovic the credit he deserves. His game translates across all surfaces and h’s literally won everything possible in tennis. Rafa and Roger cannot say that.

  10. Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg

    • I was wondering when someone would go old school on me. All respect in the world to the Rocket for winning a Grand Slam and then another pre open era. Borg didn’t stick around long enough or surely he’d have a claim that may be hard to argue.

  11. Interesting observation, very nice article indeed, as an ex tennis player i must disagree, as much as i like djokovic, he is few steps below federers supremacy, its just his universal style of playing is mind blowing, not to mention consistence, i also like to see the big picture od tennis overall throughout history, so its unfair to exclude old school players as lever, bjorg, mcnroe, sampras

    • it’s hard to compare different eras but mcenroe nor sampras ever won a french open or had much success on clay at all. The 3 I mentioned are all contemporaries which is why it’s fun to compare them.

  12. Ryan Michael says

    No one will will argue that Novak is better than Federer. Unless Novak wins 7 more Slams
    Federer is the greatest of all time.

  13. Please stick to travel and not post such a dumb post

  14. Robert Star says

    You make fair points and I too am inclined to agree that Djokovic is and will finish as the GOAT. He has so many facets to his game and when he is on, it is a site to marvel. His tennis is intelligent as well. He is quite the athlete and his peak levels have surpassed even that of Fed or Nadal.

  15. Great article Lee! I am a big Djoker fan so it’s very easy for me to agree with your conclusion. I do agree with the poster above that at least a few more Grand Slams will be required for Djoker to be the clear cut GOAT. One thing that’s pretty clear is that Djoker and Roger are extremely similar with their success on all 3 surfaces. Nadal’s greatness is so concentrated to clay (although he has won the other 3 Slams, 6 in all, which doesn’t measure up to the other two but is still pretty impressive.) The next 6 years or so will settle this argument, if Novak stays healthy over that period he will surely put this debate to rest!

  16. I agree with your breakdown. I have been on Camp Nole for some time. It all started with my despise (don’t get me wrong he is pure genius too) for Nadal. Djoker was the only one who could stop him and Fed hadn’t figured him out. Then I started to notice what Djoker was accomplishing. In this era of Nadal and Fed, he managed to topple them both, at their peaks that too! It is a phenomenal feat that just goes unnoticed and way too underappreciated. Part of it is the lack of indepth knowledge of stats among fans who are just drawn in by Fed’s grace. It helped (and only natural) that he was the first to emerge. Everything just fell in place for him. He had just enough time to grab all those slams before the other two (better players at their peak) started to find their place. At the end of the day slam count speaks to most casual fans and hence it will be a hard sell to convince them about Djokers dominance over Fed etc. They will always use Feds age as an excuse. Hope Djoker can overtake Fed and Nadal and plant himself at the apex of tennis greatness. In my mind, he has already proved himself way above the rest. I am hoping he can grab another French, that too from Nadal. That would be really something. As many slams as they have one, none of them have two of each slam.

    • I’m a firm believer that both Nole and Rafa have shown higher peaks than Fed, thus making them better players. But does that mean they’re better than Federer when time comes into the equation? Federer’s level is so ridiculously high and his game is so complete, you need peak Rafa in 2008 to dethrone him from Wimbledon, and at 37 years of age, he’s taking peak Nole at 31 to tiebreaks. Best of all time, well, includes time. As of 2019, Federer has now survived and thrived in 3 different generations of tennis players, he’s survived changes to tennis technology, and the absolute slowdown and homogenization of all tennis courts. He’s survived the test of time better than both his main rivals, and has been the most consistent of the three over the past 20 years… Again. Time. His peak level in 2017 where he vanquished peak Rafa 4 times was also something to behold, and did a lot to erase doubts in my mind about his mental game. Not to mention the versatility of the man’s game. You can’t honestly say either Rafa or Nole are better at the net than Fed. Or that either player possess a better all court game than Fed, or a more complete game. They just don’t. They’re better counter punchers with games that evolved to neutralize the best attacking tennis we have ever seen. So could Fed be the best of all time for helping create the two best players of all time? It’s hard to pick.

  17. The problem is that the best player ever is an emotional choice, not statistics.
    And we all try to use statistics (the ones that suits us) to convince ourselfs.
    That’s human, that’s fine,
    But if you use statistics , the start should be the definition.
    Then look at the data, and eventually the result.
    What determines the best player ever?
    What is you definition (one that can be measured)?
    So we end up arguing about our personal definition.

    Please think about your definition , I like Djoker a lot, but to come up with a reasonable definition that makes him the best tennis player ever, is very tough.

    Kind Renards,
    Sander

  18. Brennan Sanchez says

    Your post as well as the statistics that you’ve pointed out as your basis of who’s the GOAT in tennis were very accurate and i couldn’t agree more if we talked about analytics. However, don’t forget that there are intangibles as well and the strongest case why Roger Federer is still the GOAT is the fact that he has the most major title wins and he spent the most no. of weeks being the No.1.
    I like your argument about Novak because it’s a pretty strong argument. However, many pundits and sports journalists of today, still consider Roger as the GOAT and Rafa as No.2.. Infact, they have Novak currently at No.3.
    The only legitimate and precise statement that you had in which i totally agree 100% is that the 3 of them clearly are the greatest tennis players of all-time.

  19. This isn’t as clear cut of a case as you make it out to be. Head to head hardly tells the whole story. For example, Djokovic only started beating federer on a consistent basis after Federer had crossed the red line of 30 and his play started to dip. The six year age gap between them is no joke and its part of the reason why Djokovic has dominated their rivalry. In addition, Djokovic reached his peak around the time courts started to slowing down. This benefits Djokovic’s defensive game and minimizes Federer’s more aggressive style of tennis where he seeks to finish points as quickly as possible. Go watch Federer play back in 2003-2007. You’ll notice that the court speeds are faster and thus Federer’s attacking game is unparalleled. His forehand was like a cannon back then and I think could have broken through Djokovic’s defenses. So no, the particular statistics you picked out don’t even come close to telling the whole story. If you’re going to make an argument about who’s the greatest of all time, you need to look at everything and even then it is hard to come up with a definitive answer. Also, let’s be honest here. Djockovic’s brick wall of a game can be just flat out boring to watch. If we’re talking about who has the most entertaining game of all time, Roger takes it by a mile.

    • I never said it was an easy cut and dry, I just made my case

      • “But at this point in time, I don’t see how you can conclude anything else than the greatest of all time is Novak Djokovic.”
        That sounds pretty clear cut, doesn’t it? And the fact that you boiled it all down to a couple of statistics makes it seem like its an easy cut and dry.
        I just pointed out how the case you made isn’t nearly comprehensive or in depth enough to warrant the conclusion you came to.

        • Good valid comment from Drew

        • I have to agree with Drew here. You made a nice case with numbers to back it up, but your conclusion is way too strong for the evidence you presented.
          I personally would make a case for Rafa. His head-to-head vs Federer is more impressive not just by the numbers but also because he started beating Fed during Fed’s peak. On the other hand, Novak’s head-to-head vs Rafa is not dominant at all. In fact, I would argue it’s pretty much a tie. They both lead the other on their preferred surface. Novak leads the overall math-up by 2 because they’ve played more matches on Novak’s preferred surface. Nadal leads on clay 16–7, while Djokovic leads on hard courts 18–7, and they are tied on grass 2–2. And Nadal leads him in Grand Slam Finals 4-3. There’s no advantage Novak here.
          The idea that Nadal’s clay dominance overshadows the rest of his game or discredits his versatility is widely overstated. The man has won a title on all surfaces. He’s been to 5 wimbledon, 4 US open and 2 Australian finals. His winning % in each of the the grand slam tournaments is above 81%. Please also bear in mind that Rafa’s career has been plagued by injury more so than the others. He is the only one of those 3 to win the olympic gold medal in singles – which he won on hard court, btw. At age 32, he’s won the same number of grand slams a Federer did at that age, and he did it against stronger competition. See here for proof: https://www.economist.com/game-theory/2017/09/13/sorry-roger-rafael-nadal-is-not-just-the-king-of-clay

          I think there’s a strong case for Nadal, but it’s hard for me to argue against Federer given the sheer total of titles he has with the consistency and longevity he’s displayed.

          I think both Nadal and Novak have to close the tittles gap before they can claim the GOAT title from Federer. Nadal is closer and I personally feel he is the best player of the three. Also, I’m not sure I’d put Novak over Sampras just yet.

  20. La mia classifica all time è questa :1)federer2)laver3)djokovic4)pancho Gonzales 5)nadal6)rosewall7)sampras8)borg9)kramer10)mcenroe

  21. Tony Laurent says

    Bjorn Borg. He was for sure the coolest tennis champion.

    His record with regard to the competition he faced, standard deviations and the time he played marks him as the best. His mastery on grass and clay – winning the French and Wimbledon within months of each other several times – is without parallel.

    The most accomplished? Well, i guess you can just tot up the number of grand slam titles. But that is not the same as the best.

  22. I personally would make a case for Rafa. His head-to-head vs Federer is more impressive not just by the numbers but also because he started beating Fed during Fed’s peak. On the other hand, Novak’s head-to-head vs Rafa is not dominant at all. In fact, I would argue it’s pretty much a tie. They both lead the other on their preferred surface. Novak leads the overall math-up by 2 because they’ve played more matches on Novak’s preferred surface. Nadal leads on clay 16–7, while Djokovic leads on hard courts 18–7, and they are tied on grass 2–2. And Nadal leads him in Grand Slam Finals 4-3. There’s no advantage Novak here.
    The idea that Nadal’s clay dominance overshadows the rest of his game or discredits his versatility is widely overstated. The man has won a title on all surfaces. He’s been to 5 wimbledon, 4 US open and 2 Australian finals. His winning % in each of the the grand slam tournaments is above 81%. Please also bear in mind that Rafa’s career has been plagued by injury more so than the others. He is the only one of those 3 to win the olympic gold medal in singles – which he won on hard court, btw. At age 32, he’s won the same number of grand slams a Federer did at that age, and he did it against stronger competition. See here for proof: https://www.economist.com/game-theory/2017/09/13/sorry-roger-rafael-nadal-is-not-just-the-king-of-clay

    I think there’s a strong case for Nadal, but it’s hard for me to argue against Federer given the sheer total of titles he has with the consistency and longevity he’s displayed.

    I think both Nadal and Novak have to close the tittles gap before they can claim the GOAT title from Federer. Nadal is closer and I personally feel he is the best player of the 3.

    • Nadal is great and has been great on all surfaces. But clay does overshadow his other performances in my view. Not in a bad way but it ups the ante for other guys. So when Novak beats him 7 times and counting that’s a lot. Their head to head is a relative draw but the numbers are what they are and in the end they’ll work themselves out and I think Djokovic ends up on top.

  23. Funny I used to say if it wasn’t for Federer, Nadal would be talked about as the greatest of all time. Then Novak came to prominence and started winning everything. While I still think Roger is still the greatest, when all three hang it up, I think Novak will be the greatest of all time.

    • The numbers will sort themselves out in the end but it sure of fun to talk about it now that they’re still playing and have resided the bar so much

  24. David Dolinga says

    Djoker Nole G.O.A.T
    Sory Fed. sory Nadal…

  25. Historically, there have never been 3 players that have dominated tennis so thoroughly. Total number of grand slams, 1000 masters and No 1 rankings almost belong to them.
    You can find an argument for each player to be the best and their fans will provide valuable arguments.
    The age difference makes it difficult to make proper assessment. Using time period as a factor we could conclude that in the last two decades Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were the greatest players of all times.

  26. I feel like each of these guys can all be called greatest of all time for their incredible work in popularizing tennis and maintaining such a high skill level throughout the years. Good luck to ever get on their level 🙂

  27. I am personally a Nole fan. And I am thankful for Roger and Nadal pushing him to become what he is. So, I want to add another dimension to this discussion. I listened to Tsitsipas talk about Nadal after losing to him at AU Open, (after beating Federer), and saying how Nadal has an incredible talent to throw you out of rythm and kill your game. Then I’ve listened to commentators a way back saying how Nole is the closest to Superman we’ve ever had. And nothing can be taken away from the great Roger and what he has done for the game. I completely agree that Nole is being understated. Look at what he had to do to get close to these guys and become so successful (keep Murray in mind who is also an amazing player but could not come close to match the success). Someone wrote how Nole is a counterpuncher and boring but dismisses his inteligence, athleticism, iron will (NY 2015), return game (goat), and complete game play and court coverage. In the end these are 3 very different players and all 3 giants of the sport. It has been a pleasure to watch them and I hope we continue to have these great discussions while marveling at what these guys did for the sport. I feel that we would be taking away from this golden era if we ever agreed on who the GOAT is supposed to be. I think it should forever stay undecided and talked about with excitement and pleasure with right to choose who is most dear to us.

    • Great comment and I agree. Plus it’ll all come into view when they’re gone but for now I appreciate them so much as a tennis fan!

      • Let’s not forget that it was Federer who trancend tennis into a whole new global sport, due to his success but mostly his style of play that mezmerises the audience and made regular people interested in the game . His on/off court beahaviour and the way he treats the press also helped to make tennis a more popular sport. I totally agree that it stand between Rog/Rafa and Nole , but whoever will stand with the records by numbers, Fed is the Greatest player ever , everyting around the sport taking in consedaration. To quote Patrick Mouratoglou ” I would pay for a ticket for the rest of my life just to se him play”

    • I agree with lots of you 100 %.
      Federer, Rafa and Novak are the tennis legends and the best of all time.
      Federer has the best records but he is 6 years older than Novak. Rafa is also 1 year older than Novak. 6 years is a long time and Novak can play about 90 -100 more tournaments in that period. So he will have an opportunity to win more big titles.
      Federer did not have a proper competition till Rafa, Novak and Murray arrived. Novak also earned 7 milion more than Federer, and 20 milion more than Rafa.
      Did you see Novak at AO in 2019? I have never seen anyone played tennis at that level ever. Respect to Rafa but he had no chance in the final.
      When Novak is at his best nobody can beat him.
      Everyone is comparing the records and statistics now. Well, lets wait 6 more years and then compare it.

  28. To understand tennis just by the fact that someone has defeated his opponent more number of times is questionable. In fact, the GOAT must be considered by also taking into account the longevity and the competitiveness of the individual player. In that case you must only consider Federer and Nadal and among the two, only time will tell who would be the best. And in my opinion it’s always Federer. He adds beauty to the sport when he’s on court. It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses. One can simply watch him play all day. Neither Nadal or Djokovic can play tennis as effortlessly and gracefully as Federer. Like you said, truth always hurts. To conclude that Djokovic is the GOAT is too early. Let’s see if he can grab a grand slam at 36 and prove that he is a contender

  29. To understand tennis just by the fact that someone has defeated his opponent more number of times is questionable. In fact, the GOAT must be considered by also taking into account the longevity and the competitiveness of the individual player. In that case you must only consider Federer and Nadal and among the two, only time will tell who would be the best. And in my opinion it’s always Federer. He adds beauty to the sport when he’s on court. It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses. One can simply watch him play all day. Neither Nadal or Djokovic can play tennis as effortlessly and gracefully as Federer. Like you said, truth always hurts. To conclude that Djokovic is the GOAT is too early. Let’s see if he can grab a grand slam at 36 and prove that he is a contender.

  30. I agree with Lee 100 %. I am Novak’s fan and I love tennis and have a great respect for Federer and Rafa. All 3 are real tennis kings and tennis legends, no doubt about that.
    Well, the question here is who is the GOAT?
    Federer is 6 years older than Novak and 5 years older than Rafa. Rafa is 1 year older than Novak.
    Federer did not have a proper competition till Rafa and Novak arrived. So it was much easier for Federer. Novak had much harder job, don’t forget that Murray was there too.
    From 2011 Novak won 14 Grand Slam titles and Federer, Rafa and Murray combined won 15 titles.
    Novak has 6 more years to play, he plays about 17 or 18 tournaments per year so that is about 90 more matches as he will miss few of them.
    When Novak is at his best nobody can beat him. Did you see him at the AO on 2019? I have never seen tennis at that level ever. Respect to Rafa but he looked like an amateur in that game.
    In terms of records and statistics lets wait another 6 years and then compare them.

  31. totally agree, 100%. big tennis fan here. grew up in the 70’s watching Connors, Borg and then Johnnie Mac. then Lendl took over the 80’s, Sampras and Agassi in the 90’s. But yes, the 3 best of all time playing right now. and yes, for me Djokovic gotta be rated the best for his record against Federer and Nadal. I agree with your argument precisely on every point, so much so, I could have written it ! If Djokovic picks up a few more majors, everyone will come around and agree he is the GOAT. And by the way, at their best, in their respective prime, I take Nadal over Federer as number 2 of all time, for the same reason, head to head record, including majors. My favorite and possibly the most skilled, certainly the most entertaining, Johnny Mac in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

    • In the end it’ll all even out more or less and then there will be some definitive numbers but right now I’d probably agree. Although I struggle with Nadal being ahead of Federer although I know he’s beat him up pretty good because it’s so clay heavy. But he still beat him all but twice and he never lost in 5 times at RG. Single biggest argument against Federer-never even took him to 5 in Paris. It’s fun to argue about though!

  32. Tanvir Ahmad says

    Lee,
    Thanks for wonderful analysis and you made some good points, however i dont agree that Novak is GOAT for the following reasons.
    1. Federer beat Novak who was at his ABSOLUTE peak in French Semi of 2011 and Wimb Semi of 2012. Federer could easily retire then on 17 slams with a 15-12 H2H advantage. So a Federer who peaked in 2007 was still able to beat a PEAK Novak about 4 or 5yrs after his prime and despite being 5yrs older in what became a very physical baseline game after 2008. There is no evidence and highly likely that Novak would compete like that if both were same age or Novak was 5yrs older.
    2. Federer still leads Novak by 5 slams and at current rate, Novak needs to win 2 slams a year for next 3 yrs to surpass Roger. Highly unlikely as injuries/motivation and next generation can take effect as was case in 2016-2017. Novak will not get any younger and is nearly 32.
    3. Federer is better than Nadal on Grass(2-1) and Hard Court(11-9) whilst Nadal is dominant on Clay(13-2). So clearly Federer is better overall. Its been 5yrs since Nadal last beat Federer and 5 successive losses(3 in straight sets) despite Federer being well into his 30s and 5yrs older than Nadal. Thats simply amazing. Imagine what their H2h would be if they played 15 times on Grass like they have on Clay??
    4. Federer is the only guy from this trio who has beaten multiple GS champions in GS matches across 3 eras ie
    (Agassi/Sampras), (Roddick/Safin/Hewit) (Nadal, Djoko, Murray)
    5. Federer has dominated 3GS and only man to win at least 5 majors in 3 different slams. Novak and Rafa have only dominated one slam each ie French and Aus.

    • Well thought out argument but I don’t buy into when who beat who. They’re the top 3 players basically every year for the last 12 years or so. Djokovic’s absolute peak was when he won 4 straight slams in 2015+. He also beat Federer in 2 Wimbledon finals and a US final. Federer only beat him in 1 ever-his first ever in 2007. You can frame these types of arguments however you want and we all do it depending who our favorite guy is. My favorite is Federer without a doubt. But my argument made in the article is based on facts, not emotion. Not to mention, in the end time will tell but I think Djokovic if healthy beats all Federer’s records I’d be chooses to. He lost motivation once so we shall see. If he wins French this year let’s see if he reverses what happened in 2016.

  33. Tanvir ahmad says

    Lee,
    Let me make things a bit easier for you dude. Lets put our amateur analysis aside for a minute aswell as all the stats.
    Some of the all time greats like Borg, Laver and Navratilva have regularly stated that Federer is the GOAT. Guess what, a guy called Djokovic only as recently as Cincinatti last year stated that Federer is GOAT. Not to mention many players in current era who played all 3 claim that Federer is GOAT(Kyrgios is 3-3 and 2-0 against Rafa and Novak respectively and claims Federer is GOAT. He is 1-4 against him).
    Now convince me for a minute that all these players know nothing about the game or stats like H2h when they claim Fed is GOAT???
    Should we believe analysis of amateurs like ourself or these greats who played, watched and analysed the game for last 3 decades???

    • Of course Novak and other contemporaries will say he’s the best; at this point he probably is but when taking age and making projections in addition to the statistics I’ve provided, that’s why I’ve concluded what I have. And as I said, I’m a Federer fan! Again…time will tell.

  34. Tanvir ahmad says

    Lee,
    What you also need to understand is that Greatness in any sport isnt just about records and titles or meaningless H2h stats. Sorry but H2H is inconclusive as it does matter when, where and whom you played and at what age. Novak avoided Federer at least 3 times in 2017 whereas Nadal didnt and we saw the results.
    Greatness is also a measure of Style, Longevity, Fan following, Humility, Dignity, Class and how much you are as an ambassador to the sport. Sorry but Novak doesnt even come close to Federer in this department. Mayweather has better records than Ali in boxing but nobody in the right mind calls Mayweather the GOAT ahead of Ali. Hope you get my point.

    • I understand what you’re saying but Djokovic is a pretty good ambassador in and of himself. He’s won the Laureus award several times like Federer. Rafa is as well. That argument doesn’t hold weight so much as Federer by nature of being older alone having a few years to build up before the other really arrived has always overshadowed the other 2 guys. I don’t disagree with what you’re arguing but that doesn’t conclude the greatest. Barry Bonds was an asshole, but he’s still the greatest baseball player I’ve ever seen and probably the 2nd greatest ever after babe Ruth. Jeter was a great ambassador but nobody will say he’s the greatest ever.

    • I appreciate the well thought out, excellent comments though…thanks.

  35. Tanvir ahmad says

    Hey Lee,
    Its a fun debate with a person who knows his stuff and very constructive. Despite being a Federer fan, i would not be a true Tennis fan if i didnt admit or appreciate that Novaks peak has been higher than Fedal. You see its all about scoreboard pressure as Fed has 5 more slams, one more Atp finals and is looking good for a 6th Indian Wells at the ripe age of 37. Novak has it all to do and realistically needs to match those numbers in next 2yrs due to fitness and motivational challenges. I expect Novak to win US open again this year and Fedal to mop up on Clay and Grass. Thats my projection as Federer is looking awesome since Dubai.
    Not sure if Novak is a great ambassasor though as he breaks racquets regularly, bullies ball boys, has rants with crowd and if that wasnt bad enough he just ousted Chris Kemode, ATP chief against wishes of Fedal and many other players.

    • We shall see…he’s gotta beat Nadal to win IW. I surely wouldn’t just assume he wins Wimbledon. Nobody can beat Novak if he’s hot and I expect this loss to motivate him and I expect him to give Rafa a run on clay as well. Be fun to watch!

  36. TANVIR AHMAD says

    Roger will smash Rafa in straight sets if they meet in IW semis. It will be a repeat dose of 2017 as Rafa cant hurt Roger anymore with his forehand and there is no mental block anymore. Its Rafa now who is scared to face Roger on HC.
    The balls at Wimbledon last year were bouncing high like on Clay. This was pointed out by Laver and Navratilova, hence why Nadal had a good run. Form and fitness can hit Novak anytime so lets see how fresh he is to take on Rafa on Clay. Novak has won 3 slams in a row so its very tough to maintain that level unless some Meladonium is involved ?

  37. Brajesh Nath says

    I could agree with you. Yes! Novak does have a case in terms of H2H over these two guys. Well presented piece actually. Besides, when he is on song, he is definitely mentally unbeatable. So, it is . But the debate is not just about numbers or wins. It is also about consistency, skills, adaptability and being well rounded in terms of quality of play. Here Fedex is definitely head and shoulders above the rest of the two. His all court game, volleying skills, net play, elegance of shot making and effortlessness with which he plays make him out to be a natural. He is undoubtedly the gifted one. This is not to discount the hard work, training regimen and countless hours of practice devoted by Novak and Rafa. But they are limited in their approach but definitely with bigger motivation and killer mentality than Roger. Its hard to find anyone more competitive and determined than Rafa. So, for Novak whose killer instincts and ruthless stroke play bear the signature of a champion.

  38. Michael. Johnson. says

    I would like to say if we add the Olympics and doubles Nadal has the most major titles. I think all the statistics should count. I think when all is said and done Federer will be in third place in major titles. Djokovic baring injury will pass Federer\’s weeks at number 1 in 2020. Djokovic will also be the first person to win all 4 grand slams 2 or more times. Novak is the best of this era that being said there is no G.O.A.T. In order for a player to be labeled with such a grandiose title we would all have to agree to that fact. The fact that we are debating these three great players proves it. No G.O.A.T.

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