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

Who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time? It’s been a hot topic on tour for years now and for good reason. This is and has been the golden era of men’s tennis. The three best players who ever lived have been playing for much of the last two decades. Those players are Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the recently retired Roger Federer. But who is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time?

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; the money is lucrative; top players travel with physios; nutrition is different, etc. I also know that Rod Laver won a Grand Slam or 2, Pete Sampras won 14 majors, players didn’t really start playing at the Australian Open until the 80’s, 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 Federer, Nadal and Djokovic-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 is the Greatest Men’s Tennis Player of All Time?

When you examine these hard numbers you have to put some context to them. Roger Federer, who is now retired, 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. Roger’s greatest strength was his incredible consistency going deep into tournaments.

While Nadal has battled injuries throughout his career, he has always been incredibly consistent on clay. He’s won the French Open an incomprehensible 14 times dating back to 2005. But his most dominant period was 2008-2010 where he won 6 majors and completed the career grand slam.

Novak Djokovic had his first 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 was in Paris to witness his 2016 Roland Garros win over Andy Murray!

In the end, major titles will be somewhat close no matter who ends up on top-although it appears Djokovic is in pole position as things currently stand. So what really sets these three greats apart are the head to head matchups, big titles, weeks at #1 and year end #1. Those numbers may surprise you.

Djokovic vs Federer

Djokovic leads 27-23 overall, 14-6 in all Finals, 5-3 in Masters Finals and 4-1 in Grand Slam Finals. Federer’s only slam final win came in the 2007 US Open Final which was Djokovic’s first Grand Slam Final. Djokovic leads 11-6 in all Grand Slam matches. Plus Djokovic beat Federer three times in the Wimbledon final without losing one. This is significant because Federer is widely considered the greatest grass court player ever. Yet, he only beat Djokovic once at Wimbledon-a 2012 semifinal.

Djokovic vs Federer

This rivalry has really evolved over time. Federer won the vast majority early on when Djokovic was young and not yet established as a serious threat. But Djokovic dominated in the last decade. He took the head to head lead and more importantly-won the biggest matches, the grand slam finals.

While most of their matches over the years were very competitive, none were better than the 2019 Wimbledon final. In my opinion, it’s the greatest match I’ve ever seen. In the end, Djokovic prevailed as he has so often in the biggest matches versus Federer.

Advantage Djokovic

Djokovic vs Nadal

Djokovic leads 30-29 overall, 15-13 in all Finals, they’re tied 3-3 in Masters Finals and Nadal leads 5-4 in Grand Slam Finals. Novak has beaten Nadal in all 4 Grand Slams including Roland Garros twice where Nadal has won 14 titles and only lost 3 matches since 2005. Nadal leads Djokovic 8-2 overall at the French but only 2 men have ever beaten him in Paris. Federer never beat Nadal at the French Open in 6 opportunities-4 finals along with two semifinals.

Djokovic vs Nadal

These are perhaps the most entertaining matches in the history of tennis. I’ve been fortunate to witness several in person. The most interesting thing in this rivalry is that Nadal leads on clay 20-8. 8 losses to Djokovic is more on clay than Federer, Murray, Wawrinka and basically everyone else combined.

These two guys play a similar style of baseline counter-punching. This has produced some of the greatest matches in tennis history. Their 2012, nearly 6-hour Australian Open final to me is one of the top 2-3 greatest matches ever played-surely the most physical match I’ve ever seen. Every match is a battle. We’ve been lucky to witness such greatness on court together. I hope we get one more matchup before it’s over.

Advantage Djokovic 

Nadal vs Federer

Nadal leads 24-16 overall, 14-10 in all Finals, 7-5 in Masters Finals and 6-3 in Grand Slam Finals. Rafa beat Federer in Finals in Australia, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Federer beat him in Australia and Wimbledon twice. Roger was 0-6 at the French; only 2-7 in all clay Finals; and 2-14 overall on clay.

Federer vs Nadal

This is a tough one for any Federer fan to swallow. Nadal owned Federer over the years. Yes Roger won several of the later matches to narrow the gap a bit. However, his inability to beat Rafa on clay; never beating him in Paris; never even taking him to 5 sets at Roland Garros-definitely hurts his case.

These two have played some great matches over the years; including 5 sets in the 2007 and 2008 Wimbledon final. The 2008 match is widely considered the greatest match ever. Their 2009 and 2017 Australian Open finals were also great. Plus, they’ve had some great Masters matches. The 2006 Rome final was amazing, although in the end, as usual, Nadal won on clay.

Advantage Nadal

So, who is the greatest of all time?

Based on numbers, statistics and the eye test: I can make an argument for and against each of them for being the greatest of all time. But here are the bottom line arguments.

big 3

Roger Federer has 20 grand slam titles and was unbelievably consistent for 20 years. But his inability to beat Rafael Nadal consistently or at all on clay-hurts his case massively. How can you be the best of all-time if you cannot once beat your biggest rival at Roland Garros in 6 tries or even take him to 5 sets? None of those matches were overly competitive. Especially when Nadal beat Federer at Wimbledon and took him to 5 sets in another final. He’s also 1-4 versus Djokovic in major finals and 0-3 at his beloved Wimbledon. These numbers are all real and hurt Federer’s case for being the greatest of all time.

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 92 titles, 64 are on clay. Of his 22 majors, 14 are French Opens. His amazing clay court prowess almost overshadows the rest of his game-which is also great. But he is not the best all-court player of the 3 men. Plus, he has a losing record to Djokovic. Nadal also never won a World Tour Finals title; although he does have Olympic gold.

Nadal on clay

Novak Djokovic took his lumps from Federer and Nadal early on in his career. He learned, waited patiently and then took over. His peak was and is better than any player-ever. More importantly, he wins finals against his biggest rivals. He is 30-20 in all finals against Federer and Nadal; has a winning record against them both; has beaten Federer at Wimbledon three times in the final and has beaten Rafa twice at Roland Garros. Plus, Djokovic is the only player to win the career grand slam three times.

Additionally, he is the only person ever to win all 9 Masters 1000 events-and he’s done it twice. He is the all time leader at weeks at #1 by more than 2 years-and counting. Plus, he’s the youngest of the group and he’s not done yet. Barring injury, he’ll add more titles to continue his assault on history.

It’s worth pointing out he was also robbed of a shot at Wimbledon in 2020 where he was the 2 time defending champion because of Covid. Not to mention, the humiliating Australian Open 2022 vaccine fiasco where he was detained and unable to defend his 3 consecutive titles once again. He was also the victim of a stupid (on his part) default at the US Open in 2020 and not allowed to compete in the 2022 US Open because of his vaccination status-not to mention numerous Masters events in North America. It would be hard to argue he wouldn’t have won at least 1-2 of those majors given his level at the time.


All that said, I can confidently say that Novak Djokovic is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time! I know both he and Nadal could add to their numbers. But at this point in time, I believe that the greatest of all time is Novak Djokovic and I have the numbers to prove it. The numbers don’t lie. He’s comfortably on top in just about every major statistical category that matters-and he’s not done yet.

As a Federer loyalist that hurts to say, but sometimes the truth hurts. However for me, Novak Djokovic will end with the most weeks at #1, the most majors, Masters 1000’s, and has the head to head advantage. He consistently beats his biggest rivals in the biggest matches on all surfaces. He’s the best all surface player in history. That’s the bottom line as to why Novak Djokovic is the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.

What do you think?

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  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.

      • Exactly, Federer is GOAT until somebody overtakes his major count. That is the agreed upon tennis GOAT benchmark.

        • Complete rubbish! Nadal has won his 19 Grand Slam singles titles in a 5 year shorter time frame than Roger Federer. Nadal is the greatest tennis player of all time.

          • Warren K. DeBerry says

            Novak is the greatest Nadal is next and Roger Federer is 3rd…..and I’m a Nadal fan.

          • Chris jackson says

            Andy murray would have been the greatest of all time had it not been for injury. But I still maintain borg was greatest of all time, if he had played australian and continued into his thirties he would be streets ahead. Djokovic is just lucky and probably taking some strange supplements which allow home to play huge lengths of time and recoverm

          • Haha clearly a biased Murray fan. I think if it hadn’t have been for the other three guys he would’ve been in the conversation for the best ever without question but there’s no possible rational way to say what you just said and be serious about it.

          • Nadal’s weakness is serve and backhand comparing to Top3. Shots are good, but not enough to be The Greatest. Those two shots stopped him in Top finals under the roof on a fast hard court. Please find “ace statistics” and learn about the gap in numbers. Those shots are also the reason why Rafa has 209 weeks at No 1, which is much less than RF’s310 and Nole’s330.

          • Pam Weinstein says

            It is obvious that numbers mean nothing to you. There is no doubt that Rafa is & probably always will be the greatest clay court player in history. However, tennis is not on one surface and he has won a few at Wimbledon & Australia. If you are deluded into thinking that Rafa would have won in Australia ,if Novak wasn’t deported, well that’s like thinking Rafa would lose at RG, if he was playing. I actually think that Andy Murray may have turned out to be best hard court player, ever, if not for his injuries. I give GOAT on grass to Federer. The one player that has shown he can win on any surface against any player is Novak Djokovic. Love him or hate him, he is always a threat, on any surface, & has the stats to back it up. Rafa & Roger fans can be as mean & hateful, as they want and tear Novak down, as a person, but they can’t use facts & stats against him because they prove that he is the GOAT, at the game of tennis.

        • Haha…using your own reasoning that no one can claim to be the goat until they hv overtaken RF in major count. Well, RF cant claim to be goat cos he has not overtaken in major count either !

        • Who said 250s and 500s are majors? You didnt talk like this until Novak was under 310 RFs weeks as No.1… Well, then, after he broke that record, you (FEDALs) said “Oh, thats nothing, GS titles are relevant”… Now, when he has 389 weeks (over 400 if we count that weeks in COVID-19 pause) and 23 GSs you said “Oh, thats nothing, it isnt relevant any more, now major titles are whats counting”… Major titles are GSs, Masters 1000, Olympics, Final Masters and lets say 500s. 250s are definatly not major tournaments. RF has most SINGLE TITLES, not major titles. 25 of them are 250s, Nadal have 10, Novak 12. RF have 24 500s, Nadal 23, Novak 15. Lets not forgot 2 year ban from US, or that DSQ coz of that line judge ball hit (which was overreacted), shameless AO deportation, 2 US tour bans… He would won few of those…

          • Roger Johns says

            All you guys make good cases for the greatest of all time-but you all are forgetting one thing-and that is :a tennis match is a tennis match! And Roger Federer has considerably more ATP tennis titles and considerably more ATP tennis finals, than the other two. Add that to his consistency -during his peak winning five US opens in a row and five Wimbledons in a row at the same time winning four Australian titles, then, while he’s getting older(the other two are five and six years younger.) stays at the top-and still Nadal and Djokovic are the only two that could beat him while still winning other titles. then when he gets old enough for there to be talk of retiring- He comes back and wins the rest of his 20 majors. during all that his shot making and unbelievable back-hand shots and fore-hand shots were so amazing and consistent-and while being calm.stoic and popular with the crowd(being eloquent with the crowd, and the way he played)-then-again, top that off with the most ATP titles, and the most ATP finals and before retiring initiate, forming the Rod Laver cup and all total of what he did for professional tennis, makes him the greatest of all time professional male tennis player!

      • Roger Federer and Jack Nicklaus are the Goats!
        20 Grand Slams for Roger!!
        18 Majors for Jack, plus 19 second place finishes!!!

        • 18 Majors for Jack, plus 19 second place finishes!!!. 18 Majors is impressive, finishing in the runner up position on 19 occasions not necessarily so. No other athletes second place finishes is used to bolster claims of greatness. Context is important…on the many occasions where Nicklaus finished second how competitive was he, were they close, did he choke under pressure, was it runaway victories for the eventual winners?

        • Another Realtennisbigfan says

          Roger Johns, your argument is absolutely pathetic for the GOAT. Federer is not the GOAT, plain and simple. You forget to mention that Federer is only 3rd in total Grand Slam singles titles won. You forgot to mention to mention that Nadal and Djokovic passed Federer on Grand Slam singles titles won in a 5 year shorter time frame than Federer and both Nadal and Federer had to contend with each other and Federer at their peak at the start of their careers. You forgot to mention the 2 calendar Grand Slams by Rod Laver. For your information, there is no GOAT. Refer to Realtennisbigfan’s comments later in this article.

          • Realtennisbigfan says

            I’m glad you agree with my opinion.
            However, beware!
            You have commented on a 2019 comment. At that time, the numbers showed something completely different than in 2024. But, of course, we cannot announce GOAT either then or now. This will not happen.

          • Another Realtennisbigfan says

            In reality, Realtennisbigfan, I only replied to and specifically mentioned Roger John, whose comment was made on January 25, 2024. only one and a half months ago.

      • Mark Schreibman says

        I’m 64 years of age, and I have seen many of the greats in person play tennis. The 2012 Australian Open was the highest level of tennis I have ever observed, then or now. Rafa was playing his best tennis and was bested by Novak in finals of same. Quite simply, the highest level of tennis I have ever observed has come off of the racquet of Novak Djokovic. When his career is completed, should he have the most Grand Slams, the best H2H record against his contemporaries, he will undoubtedly be the Greatest of All Time. That said, Nadal will occupy #2 spot, and Federer #3 spot. We might go 50 years, before any of the caliber of these three emerges once again, so dominant.

        • Agree, you gotta give it to Djokovic (though as a Fed fan, it stings to think of two major final losses to Djoker after being match point up). Pointless to argue Fed is greatest based on slams won – he’s unlikely to wind up on top when all three are done. Case for Nadal over Fed is a bit trickier. Based on head to head, sure. But he’s so far behind in Wimbledon and AUS titles (also behind on US Open titles), never won a year end title, and like 100 weeks behind in terms of time spent at #1. That’s a lot to ignore. The clay really skews the story in Nadal’s favor (but he does get props for now having 4 US Opens). One truth abides: Fed is the most enjoyable to watch as is Fed-Nadal (except on clay).

          • Disagree completely. The French Open is the hardest Grand Slam title to win and Nadal has won it 12 times to Federer 1. Federer was brought up on clay. Nadal has won 2 Wimbledon titles on his worst surface, grass. One of those Wimbledon titles was against Federer in the final. Nadal has still won 4 US Opens. Nadal is a better player overall than Federer on head to head Grand Slam finals. Federer had it easier for 5 years at the start of his career before Nadal and Djokovic came along.

        • Well said, logically statistically and that based on facts not ike some of the RG and Nadal Loyalist are saying here. The RG and Nadal fans will say all they want to defend their favorites but the FACTS and STATISTICS they are using are SKEWED making their arguments both IRRATIONAL and ILLOGICAL.

      • Sorry but this is not placing enough weight on Majors and all court prowess. Nadal has to be GOAT to date. Most Majors while all 3 were peak at same time. He has a winning h2h over Federer and Djokovic at the Majors, which are the ultimate test. Crucially Nadal owns Djokovic at the USO which is Djokovic’s best surface and also owns Federer h2h wise in Australia, Nadal’s worse Major. Conversely on clay neither Djokovic or Federer are in the same league as Nadal. Nadal is the only player with multiple majors on all surfaces. He is also the only one who won three majors on 3 surfaces in a calendar year (2010). Nadal is the only one with Olympic Gold, the biggest prize in sport for any athlete. Nadal is oldest ever YE1. While I do place Djokovic a close 2nd, Nadal is quite comfortably the Greatest of all Time. Federer is a distant 3rd, and arguably also below Sampras and Borg on the basis that neither of them were dominated by anyone. Federer doesnt just have a losing record against his main rivals, he is their bunny. Nadal GOAT, but Djokovic could surpass him. It is a two horse race.

        • I agree with you fully, neither Fed or Novak are clay court players. Nadal, therefore,simply has not had a substantial opposition which,undoubtedly,he has to be applauded for his achievements.
          Novak screwed so many chances and not only against Nadal but was losing vs many other players like Wawrinka, Melzer,Thiem also vs Federer in a year when Novak was at his prime and was was expected not only to defeat Federer at Garros but even Nadal in the final.One title for Novak and Fed in Paris supports the claim.Nadal has been a problem,but for Novak, not only the Spaniard.

        • Now that Wimbledon is over many of your arguments are inaccurate currently. Which bodes in favor of Novak

          • You forgot to mention that Nadal has won Wimbledon twice, on grass, his worst surface. So the arguments for Nadal as the GOAT are completely accurate.

      • Great job Lee !!! Please consider to add Olimpics Gold Medals to green line Total Big Titles i.e. Nadal 57 instead of 56. I also agree with your thesis that Nole surpassed other players after RG2021 win.

      • lol……differant time for woods . courses,clubs , balls etc were not as advanced in Nicklaus’s time . woods is also a poor face of the sport. little to no class . he couldn’t come close to the golden bear in his time .he’d trip over his tee.

      • Pam Weinstein says

        Its 2022, so some of the arguments are moot & Novak has broken some more records & blown a few chances at majors. I have watched this argument going on and the simple answer us Who is your FOAT?Says don’t work , truth doesn’t get through. Whoever is their favorite player for any reason s the GOAT. They’ll argue, belittle & swear to kill you if you gave a different GOAT. It really is not possible to pick anything but someones’ FAV OF ALL TIME or FOAT

    • Agree but in the end the titles matter. Who won the most titles and majors? Answer is simple RF!
      Plus RF majors have variety barring French open. All slams many times, longest #1 player.
      I don’t see any argument on this!

      • haha of course there’s an argument.

        Fed has 6 years on Novak who also has a nice variety of majors.

        This argument all gets settled end of career of course but it’s fun to discuss something now that has no answer!

        • jack lemmon says

          I found the article hardly biased and twisting facts. Like when a politician is showing off a graph about the socioeconomic development of a country. While I regard Federer the GOAT, it may actually feels like we are in a case of A>B>C (but with C>A!). You see tennis lacks transitive relationship …
          Going for the stats, since it seems is the only thing that matters in your article: where are gold medals? how does Nole has an advantage over Nadal (widey even H2H, neutral in finals, but less GS, less Masters1000, no gold medals). As i said, just like a politician … (you must be Nole’s cousin, Serbian or who really knows 🙂

          • Gold medals are pretty irrelevant in my book. It’s once every four years. But if you want to throw that in go for it. Still doesn’t tip the scales for Nadal.

            Numbers aren’t biased, they’re the most simplistic way to measure the accomplishments of these 3 greats. I’m a Federer fan, have been for 17 years now. But projecting with Noles age and what he’s already done, it’s hard to think he won’t eclipse it all and his numbers as I’ve shown are right there with and in many cases better than the other 2, especially head to head.

          • @jack lemmon
            So, for you if someone has 4 gold medals, and 0 Grand Slams, 0 Masters, he is the GOAT?
            If you want to rank something, you have to quantify everything, otherwise its only matter of taste.

          • Pam Weinstein says


        • jack lemmon says

          Claiming to be fact-focused, you hardly did anything to rebate my arguments. As I said, just get the same feeling as before: the twisted politician example. Back lets go back to the facts …

          – FACT1: “gold medals are pretty irrelevant in my book. it is once every four years” pretty strong argument. you probably wished your book was as half as relevant as wining an olympic bronze …
          – FACT2: once again, H2H Nadal/Nole is even in M1000 and GS finals. 28-26, is that your deciding factor? there is no domination, as you could see in the other two pairs. Plus the trophy count clearly in favour of Nadal: +GS, +Masters1000, (and yes two Gold Medals)
          – FACT3: “But projecting with Noles age and what he’s already done” Wait there, the debate is who is the GOAT today! Who knows what the future will bring … there may be injuries, wars, accidents, new players, infidelities. Clearly, you may agree that your projections are not a FACT just mere conjecture.

          all in all a disguised Djokovich supporter

          • I’ll give it a try, a few months late:
            –Nadal has barely more titles than Djokovic at the Masters and Grand Slam level, but I’ll still give him those advantages.
            –Nadal has had Olympics success.

            But beyond that, it looks pretty bad for Nadal:
            –Djokovic has a stronger head-to-head. Yes, it is close, but you can’t count the slight edge in Masters and Grand Slam titles as important factors but then discount Djokovic’s slight edge in head-to-head. Better is better.
            –World Tour Finals performance, which is above Masters in importance and is arguably more meaningful than the Olympics as a measure of tennis skill against the field (every year, only top eight players vs. every four years, country-by-country representation), is heavily in Djokovic’s favor, 5-0.
            –Nadal has much less surface variety in his titles. Djokovic has won all nine Masters titles and Nadal is still missing two. I’d also point out that Nadal’s inconsistency on grass and hard courts makes the head-to-head advantage for Djokovic even more meaningful.
            –Nadal is way behind on weeks at number one, which is a key measure of consistency.
            –Nadal never held all four titles at once. Djokovic did.
            –Djokovic’s ELO peak score, which roughly measures not just winning but quality of winning, is much higher than Nadal’s peak.

            So, you’re basically grabbing a few metrics that give Nadal an edge and ignoring all the others. You might not like the twisted politician, but you’re definitely doing that. Literally the only things Nadal has above every tennis player is the number of masters 1000 titles (an edge of just one on that) and the strongest manifestation ever of single-surface dominance.

          • Sabine Beck says

            Right now I think that the GOAT race is more open than it ever was before. Nadal with 19 wins is only one slam trophy behind Federer’s record of 20 slams, and Djokovic is breathing into the neck of both rivals with a count of 16 majors. And all GOAT candidates have now finished the season five times ranked as No 1. By winning another slam on hardcourt and ending the decade on the pole position again, just as he started the decade in 2010, Nadal has made a big statement in his favor. But the differences between the three players are really small.
            I agree with those who have complained that the author of this article is somewhat (although not heavily) biased towards Djokovic. I have seen equally valid statistics which take into account overall winning percentages and in how many major tournaments the player has even participated as well as their head-to-head in slam matches. And these stats definitely influence the outcome towards one or the other player. I also strongly disagree that the Olympics don’t count! I think that the three GOAT candidates themselves would strongly disagree with that assessment, lol, since each player did everything in his power to participate multiple times and give himself at least the chance to win a gold medal! Federer may have even postponed his retirement in order to play one more Olympic tournament. And except for Nadal, who was hurt in 2012, all three participated at all Olympic tournaments since the 2008 Olympics. Therefore the goldmedal win is very relevant for the GOAT discussion. Just because the author deems that tournament irrelevant, this doesn’t become an agreed upon fact. Personally I would say that an Olympic gold medal definitely weighs more than a very small head-to-head advantage, like Djokovic’s slight lead of two wins over Nadal, since the Olympic gold medal is the result of a whole tournament and not just one match. Btw, Nadal beat Djokovic on his way to that precious medal in 2008. And I bet that Djokovic would gladly trade his slim head-to-head advantage over Nadal for that one gold medal?
            Since the margins are so small atm, I agree that the overall slam haul still slightly favors Federer as of now. But that might change quickly. I would not be surprised at all if Nadal catches up or even overtakes Federer in the coming two seasons. And if he really manages to do that, I think the argument that Federer is still the sole GOAT is hard to maintain. And as far as Djokovic is concerned, since he is the youngest of the Big Three and less injury prone than Nadal and also is less specialized than Nadal, which gives him more chances at the majors, I think he has an excellent chance to become the overall GOAT. But he isn’t there, yet and he knows it.
            My prediction is that after all is said and done Djokovic will win the GOAT race with Nadal being a close second. However, my wish is that is will be a dead race and all three will end up with 20 slam trophies. What these guys have done is simply mindboggling and the statistics aren’t really favoring strongly one or the other. We are nitpicking in order to support our various arguments. In my mind they will go down as the Three GOATS!

          • Sam Jones says

            Wow! Wasn’t he also older when Rafa and Novak entered the ATP circuit? How about discounting the first few years of their rivalry in a way you want to discount the most recent few? It will look even worse for Roger. Novak absolutely dominated tennis since 2011, in an era considered to be the most contested at the top. It is actually much more clear that Novak is the GOAT and the most complete player to have ever played, than even the numbers Lee presented show. It also seems that Novak wants to end the argument by winning in every important statistical category. So much he doesn’t seem to hide either. It’s fine for Roger fans to adore him, and consider him best ever, in a way that one likes apples more than watermelon, but there’s no denying that am Apple is smaller than even the smallest of watermelons.

        • As a great fan of tennis you must know you guys must know Federer statistics are far more than any player right now. He has the most slams, the most titles at 104, the most weeks at #1, the most recognitions, and holds an insane record of reaching 21 out of the 24 slams from 2004 to 2010. The man is playing in 4 generations of players! From Chang, Pete, Agassi, goran to Hewitt, safin, Nalbandian, davedenko, and rodick. To Nadal, djokovic, Murray and now new generation. It’s like comparing lebron to Jordan, and Jordan still the greatest ever. If you want to go head to head- The first 17 meeting vs djocokic all the way to 2011 federe had a lopsided head to head winning record at 13-5, it wasn’t until he was 30 and mid 30’s that he started to get even. Nadal most wins on clay and roger had beat him like 7 in a row recently and been completely dominating him. So head to head is not really a strong argument.. let’s go titles the. Roger has it all, or let’s go with what the legends of the sport say? Roger takes the cake again. Just google who’s the greatest tennis player of all time? Roger! At the end of the day a 38 yr old is beating the top players like he did in 2002 to 2005, no question about it this man the greatest of all time…

      • Sachin Wandhare says

        Very well researched with statistics written article. Statistics prove Novak is GOAT. Arguments regarding other player is only love for particular player. We know love is blind. Fans are leaving in their own world without considering the logic of reality. I agree on your comments and appreciate well researched article. Thanks for showing people reality

        • Federer is the GOAT by far right now. 20 grand slam titles. Someone has to pass him.

          • Robert howes says

            Eric is right, Federer has 20 grand slam titles,nobody haspassed him.

          • No, Federer is 5th of all time. His career stalled as soon as nadal and djokovic arrive and has been the third wheel for over a decade.

            You cannot be GOAT with such an inferior h2h record against your 2 great rivals yet only be 1 and 3 Majors ahead when 5 years older.

          • Wrong. You have to remember that in Rod Lavers day the professionals did not play in the grand slams. They had their own grand slams The french pro the usa pro the aussie pro and the wembley pro. Rod laver tally if you inlude the 9 of those he won with the 11 grand slams he won comes to 20 and ken rosewalls comes to even more 24.

      • Nadal and Djokovic have won their Grand Slam titles in a 5 year quicker time frame than Federer.

    • Federer and Nadal never won four Grand Slams in a row, and Novak did.
      Federer and Nadal didn’t win every masters tournament, and Novak did.
      Nadal has Olympic gold and Novak still don’t.
      Novak has an advantage over both of them Head to Head.

      I think he clearly deserves to be best, at least by a small margin – over Federer and Nadal, which without a doubt are greatest tennis players.

    • Terri Vilardi says

      Roger is older than them. Of course he is going to get beat by them towards the end of his career. He is still hanging tough against them though, that says a lot!!! If he was the same age as them he would be killing them! Secondly, when Roger retires it clears up a whole lot of space for Novak and The joker to rack up the extra titles. I will give all three props as the 3 best of all time, but no one plays tennis as beautiful as the Maestro.

      • Truth! Roger had a 5 year Grand Slam head start over Rafa and Novak so was able to rack up Grand Slam singles titles before them. Rafa and Novak have had to contend against Roger and each other for their whole careers, yet both have still almost caught Federer on Grand Slam singles titles won.

        • Pam Weinstein says

          Which begs the question why doesn\\\’t he have more since Rafa & Novak weren\\\’t there to challenge him He was the GOAT while the other 2 were perfecting their games. I don\\\’t think he played didn\\\’t any less, so he actually had a longrr advantage, that most of todays players didn\\\’t have so he should have been way ahead of them when they started winning over him. So age is not relevant b/c tennis stats didn\\\’t start when Rafa & Novak started dominating. I don\\\’t know if Roger was out for a large portion of those 5 yrs. I wasnt watching as much tennis, b/c Roger was so dominate that you knew he was gonna win every final. I will state that he was the most beautiful looking mover that I have ever seen. Easily could have danced professional ballet. The way he floated in the air and the nature graceo f his movements may never be seen in tennis, again.

      • TRUTH should be based on facts, evidence and actual full history not on WHAT IF’s and snap shot of history you cited in your arguments.

    • On percentage Djokovic is better than both Nadal and Federer. It took Federer 20 years to accumulate his 20 slams and honestly, I think his done for. Djokovic, on the other hand, won his 1st slam – AO of course – in 2008. By 2019 he has accumulated 17 of these. A span of 11 years – 9 years faster than RF – and he looks better than ever. I predict that by end of 2022 he will have surpassed both Nadal and Federer and he might even gather Olympic gold along the way. It seems most likely. Provided everything goes well with his body and health, he might even set a new record as he surpasses Margaret Court. In my estimation he could end up with 26 slams.

      • I will not be suprised if he reach 30-31GS. In the retirement day he would be keeping almost all important records of the sport. Nadal is too old (should change the diet to wegetarian to increase the energy level) to stop him. Next gen have no player who is so technically diversified, with perfect consistency and mental strenth like Djokovic. Next gen is much taller. It is hard to develop perfect diversified technique over 192cm. Djokovic’s advantages could let him to stay at No 1 above 400weeks. People underestimate Djokovic and see him equal to RF and Nadal. He is far better. In 2021 – 2025 we will all see his quality.

      • Roger won 15 grand slams in 6 years from 2003 – 2009. 15 grand slams in 6 years. He broke the record at Wimbledon in 2009. It’s not that he took 20 years to get 20 he just stopped winning slams after he got sick/older. Then Nadal’s prime came and Djokovic eventually took over.

        • Federer had very weak opposition from 2003-2009 compared to the opposition that Nadal and Djokovic were up against for their whole careers.

      • Tennis Analyst says

        Not yet Johan. Djokovic has 21 Grand Slam singles titles while Nadal has 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

    • Djokovic dominated every single aspect of game over RF and Nadal only GS he lack 2 over both of them and 100% he will pass them in GS too. He is younger so in shorter time he took more GS then RF and Nadal plus RF didn’t have competition as Djokovic has in time of his dominance. I agreed that Novak Djokovic is best Men Tennis prayer ever !!!

    • I don’t agree that H2H is a good indicator. RF is older, and his peak was ealier. Difference in H2H is simply a matter of age. When we compare trophys we will see some interesting differencies between big 3.
      RF: 20GS 6Finals 28ATP1000 103all
      NOLE: 18GS 5Finals 36ATP1000 82all
      RAFA: 20GS 0Finals 35ATP1000 86all.
      What is the most shocking difference between them? Why RAFA has no Final trophy? There are two reasons: 1) Rafa’s serve is the weekest amoung them. RF has 11k+ aces, NOLE 6k+ and RAFA less than four thousand. 2) Rafa’s backhand on the fast surface under the roof is not as effective as his opponents’. At the moment their achivements place them: 1RF, 2NOLE, 3RAFA. Nole is close to RF’s achivements and I think it is a matter of time for him to surpass RF. Maybe late 2021 /early 2022 season. RAFA needs minimum 2 more GS than his competitors to claim that he surpassed them – no ATP Finals trophy is a great disadvantage for him.

      • With RG2021 win, Nole proved to be the best. Nadal’s race for most GS titles has stopped. RG2021 was a decesive moment:: still RF has 10% advantage over Djokovic in “weight” of titles, F, SF, and QF, but Novak leads in so called “achivements”: 2x Career GS, 2x all ATP1000, big matches wins, weeks at No 1, etc. So in “virtual GOAT points” Novak and Roger are pretty much at the same level. But Novak is 5 years younger and he acheved the same at younger age which makes him GOAT. This is the end of GOAT debate because Nole would probably add some additional big wins in the season 2021 and 2022. Maybe also in 2023. For me the second place is now much more interesting. Nadal would be fighting to beat RF in GS race, but to beat Roger in GOAT statistics he would need something more than 21st GS title.

    • Even if Djokovic or Nadal takes over Federer with wins, I would still say that during Federer’s prime (2004-2008), nobody has ever played at a higher than he did during those years. He was brilliant. Best tennis the game has ever seen. For this reason, I would say that Federer, during his prime, was the best to ever play the game.

      • I don\\\\\\\’t agree. RF\\\\\\\’s BH is less effective against Rafa\\\\\\\’s FH topspin on clay. This is the only \\\\\\\”weakness\\\\\\\” of RF game. Djokovic\\\\\\\’s BH gives him more options specially against Nadal\\\\\\\’s FH on clay.

    • How are ppl posting in 2018 when the article is from 2021?!

    • Alex Rizker says

      It’s funny how bias people can be. My brother is a big Federer fan but after Novak beat Nadal at the French even he finally admitted that the Goat debate is over. What i told my brother after Novak won Wimbledon in 2018 is that by 2022 Novak will catch Nadal and Federer, and he would have done so earlier had he listened to his doctors and not some spiritual idiot and had surgery on his wrist immediately and not play injured for over a year. I told him Novak will win 9 more slams over the next 19. My argument was that Novak missed out on several slams by postponing the surgery. He said i was speculation. My argument is solid. Novak won 5 of the last 8 slams before he hurt his wrist and 8 of the next 13 after surgery . Nadal and federer split 6 slams while Novak was postponing surgey. Common sense says Novak would have won at least 2 of them. It took him several to win Wimbledon after surgery.

      • You forgot to mention that Rafa would have had a much greater Grand Slam singles lead, if he hadn’t had so many injuries, preventing him from playing in Grand Slam singles tournaments, as well as all his surgeries. Rafa has had by far the most injuries out of the big 3 and Rafa has been battling injuries his whole tennis career. Yet the genius, Rafa, has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any other male tennis player. This is the reality.

        • Staying healthy and playing through pain is part of the game. All 3 guys have missed significant time because of injury but Nadals game and body are more suited to injury in general. But that’s natural stuff everyone has to deal with.

          • Could not disagree more. Federer and Djokovic have not missed more or equal time in missing Grand Slam tournaments than Nadal. Also, another prime example is Seles, who would have passed Graf on Grand Slam singles titles won, had Seles nit been stabbed. Graf absolutely cashed in on Grand Slam singles titles when Seles was absent and Seles was never back to her best because of the stabbing. Just look at Seles’ 8 Grand Slam singles by the age of 19 and she was beating Graf in general and in Grand Slam singles tournaments at the time.

    • Gary Greenhouse says

      I am an avid tennis fan and have watched the careers of all three. Joker and Rafa might end up with more Grand Slams but Federer is the most gifted and most fun to watch and cheer for. Fed’s flaw is a one handed backhand that was fine for the era that he dominated, but with the advent of new rackets and strings, the one hander became a weakness against the two handed backhand and the lefty forehand like Rafa. I never understood why Federer did not develop both a one handed and two handed backhand.

      • Well, if it’s pure entertainment you’re after, don’t forget Tsonga, Kyrgios and from the past McEnroe, Connors, Leconte and Nastase.

        As far as the one handed backhand is concerned, it depends which way you look at it. For players like Wawrinka and Gasquet, the one handed backhand was actually a weapon for them against many players, so you could argue Federer should have had an even better one handed backhand than he had. Don’t forget he idolised Pete Sampras growing up, who also had a one handed backhand.

        They both did very well anyway, despite having a one handed backhand.

        I think Federer was found out also by the returns of Nadal and Djokovic, which meant Federer could not come to the net as much as possible, which was his strength. Also, if Nadal and Djokovic could hit forcing shots to him, Federer could not defend as well as the other two.

        Having said that, there are still 3 equal greatest tennis players of all time. Federer on grass at Wimbledon, Nadal on clay at Roland Garros and Djokovic on hardcourt at the Australian Open.

        We have been blessed to watch the 3 of them and let’s see how good Alcaraz will become.

    • Raymond Thomas says

      Surely the best ever Tennis player is the one who has won the most tournaments, and that is believe it or not – JIMMY CONNORS = 109X. Federer has 103x Rafa = 86x and Novak 83x. Connors should have won many more had it not been for BORG, MCENROE, & LENDL.
      Today with the great three, they have been at the top solely because there have been no serious challengers around for many years. Where are the teenagers who used to win Grand Slams? The men’s game is in a very wanting state. Roger is retirement age, Rafa is always injured as is Andy Murray, can anyone list more than 3x other Grand Slam winners in the last 10 years?

      • What a pathetic argument that is. You could say that McEnroe, Borg or Lendl should have won more if not for Connors. It is what it is. Connors did not win enough Grand Slam singles titles, to be considered the greatest. I clearly remember Connors losing to an ageing John Newcombe in the Australian Open final in 1975 on grass.

    • What major wins? He’s behind, both Nadal and Djokovic with those. Total, all wins count as well but the merits are lower and, he played four years longer than other two. For me, Connors is the GOAT.

    • Djokovic of this generation. All time? Rod Laver.

    • Have any of you ever heard of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, or Pete Sampras???

    • Looks like this was also done by Novak now … He is on #1 place at this moment for 418 weeks and counting . And second one is Roger Federer with 310 weeks on place no 1 . So big difference . Novak changed the game

      • Another Realtennisbigfan' says

        Complete bias. How did he change the game? Rafa changed the game with 14 Grand Slam singles titles at the French Open. Federer changed the game with his style of play. Laver changed the game with 2 Calendar Grand Slams. There is no GOAT. Refer to Realtennisbigfan’s comments later in this article.

  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.

          • Janios Quintana says

            How many weeks in the last 10 yeas each players was out for injuries?.

          • Terri Vilardi says

            The number won’t mean anything if Roger is no longer in the mix.
            If you didn’t have to beat him to earn your titles than you are not playing with the three greatest players of all time. When Roger leaves, of course it will be easier. The same would go for all of them. If any one of them leave they would all have 3/4 more major titles. So once Fed retires. It’s game over. No comparison anymore.

          • Terri Vilardi by that logic you can’t then count Federer’s early years before Novak came to scene. He won 11 GS during that time. There’s no comparison either.

        • 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.

          • I agree and think he has credit now

          • DonGorila says

            I disagree about this generation being more competitive. Against the Big 3, only Murray, Del Potro and Wawrinka showed some level of opposition (at least they did up to 2017, but not anymore). I don’t see any of those 3 being better than Hewitt, Safin, Rios, Kuerten… or Rafa himself: let’s not forget Rafa was N°2 back in 2005; he may be way younger than Roger, but peaked way younger than the Swiss.

          • Raymond Thomas says

            Well Del Potro only won 1x Slam, and Warinka about 3x as with Murray… They were very inconsistent. how many Slams has Safin, Rios, or Kuerten won? The mens game is very wanting at the moment for young talent. There has not been a Grand Slam winning teenager for over 20x years or so. Novak must be rubbing his hands = NO SERIOUS CHALLENGERS not now or for the next 5x years or so.

  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!

    • joe v says if you ever picked up a tennis racquet you would know what Roger Federer can do on a court is absolutely mind boggling I don’t care if he never won a major he is by far a million times more talented than anyone ever to play the game! He could win a five set match in 100 degree temperatures and wear the same shirt to go out to dinner! I honestly don’t know if his sneakers ever touch the court! He is so good it’s scary and not to take away from his rivals but he is so much fun to watch can hit any shot and ones he makes up while his rivals are so one dimensional they remind me of Ivan Lendl machines that beat the hell out of themselves as was the case with Thomas Muster before his unfortunate accident!! Last note Bjorn Borg would be second on my list incredible player who also made the game look effortless which could not be farther from the truth!

    • JV, complete rubbish. Federer is not the best. Nadal and Djokovic are.

  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.

    • No real game huh? That makes sense.

    • No real game? I am fine as long as it beats beautiful games. Roger is way more accomplished than Nole, NO. More accomplished, YES. He started some five years before Nole.

    • Tennis Analyst says

      Ash, your logic is ridiculous. Look at who wins the head to head matches. That is what counts.

      • Raymond Thomas says

        I am a BIG fan of Roger Federer, but as I said above… JIMMY CONNORS is the ‘Best’ ever player cos he’s won more tournaments than any other player. Only Roger has a chance of overtaking him with just 6x behind him. 109x to 103x.

        • Mohn JcEnroe says

          You cannot be serious! I thought John McEnroe was a better player than Jimmy Connors, even if the statistics didn’t show it,

    • Pam Weinstein says

      Novak has no real game? You know nothing about tennis, only the show. Like being the best returner in the game means nothing, when a ball is coming at you at 125 miles an hour.? You must be referring to womans tennis. Only a counterpuncher? Listen to commentators who have played,more.

  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.

    • I was just saying that on Facebook except I wouldn’t say Rafa is best ever, clay yes

      • Chris Pratt says

        So I think the number that in both men and women is the grand slamI am a Sampras fan and now nasal fan but roger has 20 majors and until that changes I feel we have to go by that feat that is what history will look at not all the other numbers

        • So do you think Margaret Court is a better player than Serena? 24-23 in majors…

          • Truly unbiased says

            @Lee Abbamonte your argument is beyond a shadow of doubt very crisp, succinct, well documented and unarguably indisputable. Nole\’s sheer dominance over Fedal, especially in GS, Masters and the ATP tour finals at a time when Fedal have been in great form of their respective professional careers screams it loud as to who is the greatest of all these GOATs as of March, 2020. Blindfolded fans will continue to throw their weight behind Fedal with their utterly irrational, obnoxious and preposterous comments but that doesn\’t change the fact that Nole is the greatest as of now and considering the fact that Federer isn\’t play clay anymore and Nadal is certainly not looking very persistent on hard courts this year and grass for quite sometime, it won\’t be unfair to presume that Djokovic will at the end of all the three GOATs\’ professional careers be right on top. E.g. of obnoxious and preposterous will be someone putting Nadal ahead of Nole because of an Olympic gold medal. ROFL!! Doesn\’t take much for a fan to become a fanatic.

          • Yes Margaret Court was a better player than Serena as she not only won more Grand Slam Singles titles than Serena but more doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles than Serena. Margaret Court is the GOAT of women’s tennis!

      • Now Rafa is currently the best ever.

    • Terri vilardi says

      But he was in the semi finals with RaFa this year after not playing clay for years, but Roger still makes it
      To semifinals at that point 37 now 38. Come on!!
      Give him a break.

  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.

      • Tennis Analyst says

        Rod Laver is the GOAT because he is the only male player to win the calendar Grand Slam twice. He would also have won at least 25 Grand Slam singles titles, had he not turned professional, as he was banned from playing in Grand Slam tournaments in his peak years of 1963-68.

  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!

    • agreed 100%!

      • Hey LA everyone pretty much agrees that The Transcendent Three + Serena Williams (The True Big Four) are the best in the history of Tennis, the only arguments would be in what order should the men be listed. That being the case let us take these discussions to a whole new level; to where it ultimately needs to go. Where will we place Serena Williams + The Transcendent Three (if at all) on the list of top 50 greatest athletes of all time.

  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.

    • Terri Vilardi says

      Roger still had to conquer the greats and put them to bed before he himself became great!!no one has retired him because they could not take him all the way down. That is how the changing of the guard works the only problem is no one changed the guard. Roger plays on with his young rivals all the way to his graceful exit from tennis as the greatest player of all time, seconded by Novak and 3rd by Nadal.

  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,

  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.

        • Wilbert Grimley says

          Had to scroll this far down for someone to finally mention that merely using head to head stats is not nearly valid enough of a data pool to determine the goat. You have to take so much more into consideration.

  20. Vito abbate says

    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”

        • It would be great to compare them at different age… 32 being the last year I think Djokovic has the least attractive game of the three and until he surpasses the other two in GS it’s going to be hard to convince the mass that he is one of the GOATs much less the GOAT.

          • I love this narrative about Novak’s unattractive game style. Let’s see:

            1) The best AO match in this century: DJOKOVIC – Nadal 2012.
            Honorary mention: DJOKOVIC – Wawrinka 2013, Nadal – Federer 2009, Safin – Federer 2005.
            The most memorable: DJOKOVIC – Nadal 2012 (give them chairs!)

            2) The best RG match in this century: DJOKOVIC – Nadal 2013.
            The most memorable: DJOKOVIC – Nadal 2013 (that run into the net!) .

            3) The best W match in this century: Federer – Nadal 2008 or DJOKOVIC – Federer 2019. Honorary mention: Ivanisevic – Rafter 2001, Federer – Roddick 2009 and DJOKOVIC – Nadal 2018.
            The most memorable: DJOKOVIC – Federer 2019 (40:15 and the ghost of finger lady!)

            4) The best USO match: Del Potro – Federer 2009,
            The most memorable: DJOKOVIC – Federer 2011 (lucky shot!)

            The most memorable matches in this century on every grand slam tournament has one name in common: Novak Djokovic. As well as 2/3 out of 4 best matches. I mean, you don’t have to like him, but to say he plays unattractive tennis… No words!

            Can you list 2 (only TWO) Federer – Nadal matches, so dramatic till the last point?

    • 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

    • Sam Jones says

      With every Roger record that Novak smashes, Roger fans find another way to measure success and greatness. You will soon run out of arguments, and it will be “Roger is best because I say so”. Fair enough. Maybe the last stand will be to measure success in tennis like they judge ice skating.

  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

    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

    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

    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 think people are emotional as RF is in his last phase of his career. That’s why right now they won’t digest the fact that anyone is greater than RF. Maybe when Djoker reaches in his retirement phase then these people will realise and support what Djoker has achieved.

    • 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.

    • Sam Jones says

      I don’t think you actually ever coached or even played tennis. Novak Is consistently considered the most complete and versatile player to have ever played the game. He has continuously improved every aspect of his game since the first day he stepped on court. Right now, he possesses the most varied set of weapons of anyone who has ever played tennis. Serve, volley, drop shot, forehand, backhand, return… Virtually no weaknesses. It is truly astonishing. To beat him, one needs to literally blow him off the court with full force flat forehand, something only Wawrinka could do, and only a couple of times. Maybe even that is not enough anymore in a best of 5. Dominic Thiem tried, and it worked for a little while, but not long enough. Who’s next?

  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.

    • As much as I like Rafa out of the big 3, the Olympics are completely irrelevant.

      The best players do not play there. I don’t even think tennis should be played at the Olympics. Just be thankful that Rafa was the best on clay, with 14 GS titles, and was able to win another 8, away from clay.

  39. Tanvir ahmad says

    I just heard Wawrinka say yesterday that Roger is the GOAT. He is a guy who beat all top 3 in Grand Slams and played them a combined 71 times so in a good place to judge.
    Roger had a brilliant HC swing in Dubai and US and further stamped his authority on GOAT status. You have to admit that Nadal didnt fancy playing him at INdian Wells or Miami and was keen to ensure his H2H with Roger isnt impacted more. So funny how soon he gets fit for Clay. Novak is looking worn out after a 3 slam run(same happened in 2012 and 2016), but its funny how people are so ignorant and start thinking Novak will just turn up and win all the AtP masters and Slams. Trust me he is still very far away from beating Rogers GS tally or being classed the GOAT. I fancy Nadal/Thiem for French, Roger for Wimby and Novak has to really discover his form and motivation if he wants another 2 slam year.

  40. tanvir ahmad says

    “Roger Federer is the greatest of all time, but also he’s not as good as Nadal or Djokovic.

    How does that make sense, you ask? It doesn’t! It doesn’t, but it’s also completely true. He’s an unbelievable champion the likes of which the sport has never seen before and may never see again, but at the peak of his powers, he wasn’t as good as his two main rivals—as the record shows.”

    Interesting analysis by a writer…..

  41. Tanvir ahmad says

    You said last month that Rafa wont avoid Roger or run scared of him. Please convince us all how this wasnt the case at Indian Wells???. Didnt Isner play Roger in Miami final despite injury? Didnt Roger play Cincinatti final last year and was a shadow of himself with return game due to wrist injury.
    Anyway its still 6 losses in a row for Rafa against a Roger who is in his late 30s??. Thats how you define a GOAT as Nadal is more likely to have a fishing rod in his hands at 37 than a tennis racquet. ? Roger just wants to payback Novak once more before he retires and Wimbledon might be the place this year to show the Djoker who the true GOAT is.

    • A withdrawal isn’t a loss

      • Tanvir ahmad says

        Lee, now you are being silly my friend. A withdrawl indeed counts as a loss so please go and check the H2h records and it reads 23-16 in favour of Nadal now. Novak also had a walkover over Federer in 2012 Atp final. Its daft to think a withdrawl doesnt count as a loss, so who progressed to Indian Wells final with Thiem if withdrawl doesnt count as a loss?? ??

      • Terri Vilardi says

        Can you please post how many times each player has retired in the middle of a match.
        Roger retired 0 times in his entire career. That is Nada never once.

        RaFa and Novak have like 10 retirements or more each because when they start to lose they quit like babies.
        That is one of many reasons that Roger is the GOAT.

        We can go on and on and on about all these little nuances. Sure Novak beat Roger at Wimbledon, but only by a hair. After Roger (38) just finished beating Nadal two days prior. That is certainly not domination by Nike in any way shape or form. That is why you can not say someone is the greatest player of all time by statistics alone. The reason people mention his age because anyone who has approached 40 knows the body changes and you don’t recover as quickly. So it is admirable.

    • Adjudicator says

      Tanvir, Nadal is still playing at 37 and has won 2 more Grand Slam singles titles than Federer. I rest my case.

  42. Hello,
    I started watching Tennis since mid 90s, and to be honest it’s hard to compare based on number of GS titles, for instance when it comes to Federer in 2004, hewitt Roddick, ferero were good, but not legends, he used to finish the season winning 80 games and losing 2-3… and Then I agree with you that things has changed when Nadal And Djoko were able to rebalance things. But what I want to highlight is that there is only 3 great players, and this new generation is faaaar behind.. Zverev and thiem are good, but not good enough. If you go back to 90s, Sampras played against ( AGASSI, JIM COURRIER, EDBERG, Willander, Becker, Lendl and many others), and all these players were very good, despite that he was able to win 14 GS and retired at 32 we he won the US open and proved to everyone that he cant still win. he could have got even more. Another fact is that Tennis Become very slow, and Tennis players like Nadal and DJOKO are taking advantage from that more than Rodger since they can catch most of the Balls. Honestly I prefer late 90s Tennis where there was Volley players( SAMPRAS, Becker rafter), great defenders ( Chang Agassi) or …

  43. Gregory B Burton says

    Forget titles and all that stuff, Federer can do things with a tennis ball on the court that noone can and probably will ever be able to do. Fed is also the smartest , most clever entertaining and dynamic player ever. Lets face it, Nadal and the Joker are just players who play great defense and can chase down every shot; they’re nowhere near the class of a Federer..

    • That’s not even remotely true.

      • Gregory B Burton says

        What’s not remotely true? There’ve been complete tennis highlight reels made using Federer shots, the “no look drop shot”, the “running tweener”, the “half volleys, oh! the half volleys”, the stab volleys, the “drop shot 8 feet behind the base line”, the squash shot from the baseline on the run with your back to the net, the “hands”, an entire tennis move named after him (the “SABR”)
        Yes Rafa has made some great shots, yes Djoker has played some amazing back hand returns, but Federer makes even the best players look like amateurs.
        Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot…”are you kidding me!”, “STOP IT!!!!

    • Marcelo Rios’ game was prettier

  44. It takes more then just titles to make you the greatest player ever.I feel Rafa is the greatest player.His 11 French Open titles (soon to be 12) is a record that may never be broken.Also,he is the only one of the three who has a golden slam. he is the most exciting player to watch because he has the ability to over-come any obstacle that is put in front of him.He plays the first point of each match like it was a 5th set tiebreak.He is respectful and humble at the same time.He is a true champion!!!!!!

    • Gregory B Burton says

      Yes you are right, Rafa is true champion and a great human being full stop….but Federer is the greatest tennis player EVER! I was just looking at some of his (Fed’s) highlights of just his “half volleys” from 10 years ago. NOONE I mean NOONE has even come close to those skills, even with today’s technological advancements in racquets etc.. When Kyrios, Jim Courier, Johnny Mc (and Patrick for that matter) and LAVER , LAVER no less, says you”re the greatest, YOU’RE THE GREATEST. Come on, let’s end this debate! Fed is beyond the greatest he’s the ….Uh! NO WAY! Stop it! Now that’s ridiculous! …..you get my drift!

  45. Gregory B Burton says

    Yes you are right, Rafa is true champion and a great human being full stop….but Federer is the greatest tennis player EVER! I was just looking at some of his (Fed’s) highlights of just his “half volleys” from 10 years ago. NOONE I mean NOONE has even come close to those skills, even with today’s technological advancements in racquets etc.. When Kyrios, Jim Courier, Johnny Mc (and Patrick for that matter) and LAVER , LAVER no less, says you”re the greatest, YOU’RE THE GREATEST. Come on, let’s end this debate! Fed is beyond the greatest he’s the ….Uh! NO WAY! Stop it! Now that’s ridiculous! …..you get my drift!

    • I mean all the top guys have amazing highlight films. That’s not a good determining factor on who the best ever is. Even marginal guys will have a great highlight film. The bottom line is we’re talking about the 3 Best ever and in 5-6 years we’ll have a more definitive answer based on numbers. Although I’m sure everyone will argue based on their personal favorite. Mine is Federer but I still think Djokovic will end up at the top. Although I hope I’m wrong!

      • You could be wrong Lee because 3 years after your comment, Nadal currently has 3 more Grand Slam singles titles than Djokovic, 22 to 21.

  46. Tanvir ahmad says

    I think you are really having a laugh if you think that Novak will just keep turning up and winning Slams for next 3yrs and overtake Federers GS tally. I will tell you here and now and quote me at the end of the year that Novak is looking totally smoked at the moment and struggling to even reach finals of ATP events. Right now, he is neither favourite for French or Wimbledon and will need to really rediscover his form, motivation and aura to win US open where i still think he will be one of the favourites.
    Nextgen are not scared of him anymore and Batista Agut is beating him for fun. Basically Nadal and Djoko have more mileage in their legs than Federer despite being 5yrs younger so dangerous to assume they will keep playing for another 3 yrs let alone winning Slams. Its more likely they will be holding fishing rods in their hand at 35 rather than tennis racquets?.
    Federer will win another Wimbledon, Rafa maybe another French and a couple more for Novak before they are done by the end of 2020. Sorry but your claims that Novak is already the GOAT were very premature and not realising how physical this sport is now and that you need to be superhuman and have a fluid style to play like Federer is at the age of 37.

    • Sam Jones says

      Novak Is at 17 right now, and the 3 be has to make up for we’re all won while he was injured and away. I don’t know why you make ridiculous comments.

    • Pam Weinstein says

      It’s 2022. How does it taste to eat such stale words?

    • Apologise Tanvir to Djokovic, Nadal and the readers for being so inaccurate! You have made a complete fool and embarrassment of yourself.

  47. John T Sanders says

    Come on, neither Nadal nor Djokovic have highlight reels as long or as good or as varied as Federer. Just on the spectacle front alone, Federer is tops. No one has ever been as simultaneously dominant and beautiful a player as Federer (few athletes in any sport have been). Still, I agree on two things: 1) Djokovic at his peak was better than anyone else at their peak, and 2) Djokovic might go on to have better overall stats than Federer. Djokovic is amazing, yes. But he\’s amazing in basically the same way as Floyd Mayweather, which is to say mostly boring. Meanwhile Roger Federer IS everything about tennis, personified.

    And on the stats front, if you asked someone who knew nothing about tennis to go to Wikipedia\’s ATP Open Era Records page and just try to figure out who\’s the best ever, they\’d come back with Federer. There are just SO MANY Swiss flags at or near the top of SO many record lists:


    Nadal shouldn\’t even be a legitimate contender for the best ever. The clay thing is so lopsided—more than 70% of his titles have come on clay! Plus he has the opportunity to play at least 4 major tournaments a year on his best surface, whereas Federer only gets to play 1. That\’s a much more illuminating \”if only\” conversation than the \”if only Nadal hadn\’t been injured\” one. Durability is part of an athlete\’s legacy.

    • Complete garbage John Sanders!

      Rafa only plays in 1 major tournament a year on his favourite surface clay, not 4, as you point out. My word, Rafa should have been a legitimate contender for the best ever.

      Since your pathetic comment, Rafa has won a total of 8 majors away from clay. Eight is the total number of Grand Slam singles titles that Connors won.

  48. I agree. The weeks at Number 1 is also an important statistic, but it is clear that Novak will draw closer by the end of this year, to at least number 3. This will be an even stronger case to take Raga out of the discussion of GOAT. Meanwhile if Novak wins the French, he will become only the second player to hold all four titles at the same time twice, the other being Laver.

  49. DonGorila says

    I can see Novak dethroning Roger eventually (and I wouldn’t dislike that, he’s a fantastic player and a nice guy), but I think it’s still too soon.
    As others said, RF still holds the most GS titles and the most weeks at the top spot -consecutive or otherwise-, and his other relevant records are either greater (consecutive GS semifinals & finals, most titles overall), equal (year-end finals), or close to Novak’s (winning % vs top-10 players, masters 1000 titles, etc.). The fact that Roger is top-3 at 37 years of age, and way past his prime, also speaks in his favor.
    The Novak-Roger H2H is way too close to justify Novak’s GOAT crown on its own (it’s just a 3 title difference). Novak’s positive record against Rafa is also a valid point, but I still think it is not enough to cancel out Roger’s other advantages over Novak (+5 majors, +50 weeks at N°1, +30 titles).

  50. Why is no one mentioning the fact that Roger is only down on the h2h with Djokovic because of age and he is only down on the h2h with Rafa because of the amount of matches they played on clay in Rafa’s prime? Roger used to beat Djokovic all the time when they were younger and he was in his prime. Yes, Novak was young but would you rather be a young, hungry talent with a load of potential and all the right physical abilities to win (young Djokovic vs prime Roger), or an old, slower legend, 10 years past his prime lacking the abilities he used to have (old Roger vs prime Djokovic). Their rivalry is just based on age. Look at how Roger destroyed prime Djokovic at Cincinnati 2012 when he was Novak’s age now. I cannot see 32 year old Novak being able to have done that to Roger in his prime. They just played more matches in Novak’s prime. Easy as that. Roger = GOAT because he was the most dominant player of all time. Only picked up 12 losses over 3 seasons combined at one point. That is insane

    • I don’t necessarily buy the prime argument with these guys because they’re still 1-2-3 in the world and essentially have been for 11-12 years and Roger and Rafa longer than that. I also think if we’re talking primes that Novak’s prime was better than Rogers and nobody is a bigger Fed fan than me. Nadal even days that when Novak is on nobody can beat him. That said, in the end it’ll all even out and we can have some clarity on the question but it sure is fun to watch. Also, yes roger always lost on clay to Rafa hence the disparity but they still played the matches and he’s only won 2 of them total. That’s not a lot.

    • It’s finally time to put the debate to rest. As much as I appreciate Rogers accomplishments and mark on tennis history, the once king of the court has been vanquished and overtaken by both Rafa and Novak and now Novak has overtaken Rafa in GS so debate is over Novak #1 period!

  51. I’ve read many analysis and I think what most people miss is that each player has one surface which suits that player the most. Unfortunately for Rafa that surface has been clay which is totally different from hard and grass courts which are usually fast. But even there he has done better (2 W: 3 US: 1 AO: + multiple finals) than what Novak and Roger have done on clay.

  52. John Elkaz says

    The GOAT argument clearly establishes one thing: there are normal tennis fans and then a bunch of idol worshippers who act almost like soccer hooligans. Can we at least agree that it is very close between the three? As a Novak fan, I have no problems saying that Federer is the greatest at this point, and deservedly so. But I do believe, and belief is not a fact, that Novak has a more than good chance to overtake Roger as the GOAT.

    As for intangibles, how about this one: the affect of popularity on performance?
    Not only is Novak the least popular and has to battle the crowd almost everywhere he plays, except China, sometimes the anti Novak sentiment is so brutal, like the New York crowd in a match against Federer, that it borders on disgusting. When the crowd cheers a Novak double fault like it was a winning goal at the World Cup, but then stays absolutely silent when Novak hits a jaw-dropping winner, then you have to ask yourself how Federer and Nadal\’s careers would have evolved if they had faced the same hateful support almost everywhere they played? The emotional bias against Djokovic borders on obscenity sometimes even amongst tennis commentators, who at the Australian Open stayed silently dumbfounded as Novak absolutely destroyed Roger in the first two sets, much like the crowd did, as though someone had killed their dog or destroyed their house. Privately, I love Novak\’s ability to piss on everyone\’s parade in such moments, much like he did this year at the Australian Open.
    So, how does Novak perform in places where he has equal or slightly better support than Roger and Rafa?
    Look at Beijing and Shanghai. The point is that Novak is one gritty fighter almost always fighting multitude opponents and so must be taken seriously in the GOAT debate, even if it is still too early to proclaim the winner among the three greatest of all time. As for the fans, you could argue that Roger Fans are also the greatest of all time, but not in a category you would like to hear. Rafa fans at least applaud great shots by Novak and can appreciate a capable opponent.

    • Thanks for a well laid out, sensible opinion that I agree with. I am a Fed fan but as I wrote, I think Novak will eclipse him and there are arguments that he already has. But it’ll all be sorted out. I think Djoker uses a lot of the things you mentioned as motivation as well.

  53. An American physicist has used analytical data on computers to create a ranking system for the greatest male players of all time. And according to this system, the No. 1 player in tennis history is not Federer nor does Rod Laver or Pete Sampras, but the legendary American Jimmy Connors has won Grand Slam eight times. in career.

  54. Adrien A. says

    I’m a fan of RF (being Swiss…) but I must say you make some great points, especially given that Djoko is relatively young !

  55. 1. Federer 2. Nadal 3. Novak always was that

  56. Oliver Reif says

    What I don’t think is being discussed is Federer’s consistency. His most impressive record I think is his 23 consecutive semi final streak. The next closest semi final streak is maybe half that. if Federer keeps losing to the other two why does he have more slams? The answer is consistency. Roger is the greatest of all time because he is the most consistent. Nadal and djoker beat Federer but they don’t get to the finals enough to do it.

    Time will tell if roger remains the slam king though. Then my argument would need to change.

  57. The funny thing about backing arguments with “hard numbers” is that people forget that numbers are -ALMOST- as subjective as opinions. At least, we can make numbers speak our minds if there is no clear discrepancy between them.

    For instance, people tend to forget that the Australian Open and the US Open are played on the same surface (hard court). Djokovic has then won 10 hard court GS, his favourite surface, so he has won “”only”” 5 GS outside of this surface while Nadal has won 6 (2 Wimby, 3 US, 1 Aussie) and Federer 11 (if you consider Wimbledon his favourite, you can also say he has won 8 outside of hard courts).

    Undermining Nadal’s 12 GS as a weakness in the GOAT debate (lack of versatility argument) is also undermining Djoko’s 10GS -domination- on hard courts.

    If versatility is truly appreciated in this debate (I personally think it should, but one can also argue that dominance over a surface/tournament/period of time is more impressive) then the WTF shouldn’t even be mentionned, as it is a tournament played once a year in the less played “conditions” a.k.a indoor hard courts and within a completely different tournament format.

    Number can also mislead in that they don’t take into account intangibles (which I personally believe is not an amazingly strong argument if we want to objectively understand who is the best, and not who is the most admired, etc; but it is a reasonably valid argument): in that department, Roger and Nadal have a longer history (for some, more impactful as well, 2008 Wimby final still being considered the greatest match ever by many experts and fans) and are **in general** (hard thing to say but nowadays it seems subjectively that is the case) more admired and followed than Djokovic.

    All of this (last paragraph) is very subjective though. More importantly, numbers don’t show what you don’t want them to show (because everyone is biased). You could say we have a “weigh” problem. It’s near impossible to weigh (although many have tried, insuccessfully, in humble opinion) “ifs” and tournaments such as the Olympics. In soccer, Messi is still not considered the GOAT, by many people, because he has not won a World Cup for his country. In tennis, the Davis Cup surely isn’t as important a the Soccer World Cupm maybe the Olympics could make the cut? If that was the case, would Federer’s gold medal in doubles weigh as much (or close) as Nadal’s gold in singles? Would Djokovic’s lack of gold Medal hurt his GOAT chances as much? Very hard to tell. Even more difficult to explain with numbers: how to rank Laver’s achievements due to his history? He would have probably won way more GS, same as Borg. Shouldn’t we “weigh” these circumstances in this GOAT debate? If we were capable of doing so (ps: we aren’t), maybe Laver could be ahead of our Roger Federer. How to weigh injuries? It seems very impressive that Nadal has been able to win as much as he has despite his injury record, it is a career-long struggle that neither Djokovic nor Federer have had (in spite of some rare episodes).If we could also “weigh” titles according to past injuries, I’m pretty sure Nadal would be by far the GOAT.

    Anyway, the debate goes way deeper than you suggest. I like when people argue logically in this GOAT debate (it is very rarely the case), that’s why the only thing that disappointed me in your article was the terrible overstatement: “I don’t see how you can conclude anything else than the greatest of all time is Novak Djokovic”. It is actually VERY easy to conclude otherwise, even with the same numbers you’ve presented, and that’s also without considering intangibles, ifs, and tournaments that are difficult to assess such as the WTF and the Olympics.

    Hope I’ve been able to nuance your points! It was a pleasure to read your analysis though. I personally believe the only certainty we will ever have is that these three are very probably the best three players of all times. For all these reasons, it is very hard to escape the dumb but yet effective way of measuring “GOATness”: the number of GS titles. The more we try to complexify the analysism the more these subjective matters cloud our analysis.

    • Good comment! Although both a type of hard court, the Australian Open uses a synthetic surface called Plexicushion and the U.S. Open uses a product called DecoTurf. slightly different. That said there’s also no grass court Masters event so federers numbers can also be skewed. But that’s the fun of numbers!

      • The conditions in which Madrid Masters is played is also slightly different from the ones in Rome or Roland-Garros. At the end of the day, it’s still clay. Same with AO and USO, both hard court.

  58. Your argument that Federer cannot be the best because he can’t beat Nadal at French Open is ridiculous. How can you conclude that Djokovic is the greatest when he cannot even beat his greatest rival- Nick Kyrgios!!
    Look at the number of weeks spent at the top ranking or winning the most ATP Finals(the tournament for the best of the best) and you will see Federer is on top!

    • I want to comment on the Djokovic vs Kyrgios issue. Djokovic played Kyrgios twice in 2017 when he was in a slump suffering/recovering from his elbow injury. It\’s just like judging Djokovic by his first 12 tournaments in 2018 (6 – 6) and concluding that he\’s an average.

  59. Tim Labarda says

    Statistically novak is the best out of 3 but that is not enough to consider him as the GOAT.. For me even both rafa and novak eclipsed roger in the major title tallies, federer will always be the greatest player of all time, what he did in the sports of tennis is crazy i dont play tennis but i love watching it because of fed the way he plays is magical .. Surely if these big 3 plays in different era .. Roger,Rafa and Novak will surely have not less than 30 GS title apiece .. Rafa is untouchable in clay, Novak is good in any tournaments he played and roger is still dominating despite his age of almost 38 .. Were very lucky to witness this 3 incredible players play in our generation ..

  60. LeVron James says

    Based on the H2H, Nadal is the GOAT. Nadal leads the H2H over both Federer and Djokovic in Grand Slams. Nadal leads Federer 9-3 in Grand Slams (including 3-1 at the Australian Open). Nadal also leads Djokovic 9-6 in Grand Slams (including 2-1 at the US Open).

    Since achievements in Grand Slams are more relevant than achievements outside Grand Slams, we can conclude that H2H in Grand Slams > H2H outside Grand Slams.

    By the way, you said that “However for me, Novak Djokovic consistently beats his biggest rivals in the biggest matches on all surfaces”. Does Djokovic consistently beat Nadal at Roland-Garros? Nadal dominates Djokovic 6-1 at Roland-Garros. Djokovic only defeated Nadal at RG when Nadal had his worst year on the tour (2015). Djokovic has never defeated a well-playing Nadal at RG.

  61. Federer is the GOAT….will remain GOAT forever. It looks odd and awkward if someone says someone else other than federer is GOAT. U take one top 100 player as a reference….and let us imagine all the three guys in discussion plays against the reference player. Roger takes less time and barely Sweats to beat that guy compared to the other 2. If a work is given to 3 people and one of them does the work faster and more beautiful than other two, who is great Mr lee. How many times in their career djokovic and nadal finished their service games less than 1-2 min…u can’t compare them with federer. He is super fast, super smart and gifted. That’s why he is called greatest by many…Game is not just numbers. U can’t measure federers artistry with numbers.

    • Neil Hupping says

      You didn’t point out that Federer beat up on crappy players en route to his grand slams. I mean Roddick and Philipoussis and an aging Agassi?

      Also, the only reason Federer has a French Open title is because of a freak win by Soderling over Nadal in the third round.

      Federer is the worst of the 3 here.

      • That’s a terrible argument. You beat who you play and Roddick was a great player for many years and would’ve won 6-7 majors if it weren’t for Federer. If you’re only talking about players they played in finals how about Puerta, Anderson, Ferrer, Soderling himself, Berdych…I mean come on?

        • It’s not a terrible argument at all. It’s a great argument. It’s all about who you beat, when comparing the greatest of all time.

          Also, for example, Seles beat Graf for many of her Grand Slam singles titles, whereas once Seles was stabbed, Graf had much easier opponents to win Grand Slam singles titles.

  62. Gianluca says

    I think that it is not only about stats but also there style , the pleasure they generate in watching them play. In this respect nobody can beat Federer and coupled with his incredible stats makes him the greatest of all time . Djokovic and Nadal might end up winning more than 20 slams but will never generate the beauty that Federe does .

    • That’s just stylistic and really has no reflection of their actual game or skill. I’d rather win ugly than beautiful although I fully agree that nobody has ever played more beautifully than Roger.

    • Sam Jones says

      You should consider watching ballet, rather than following tennis. I’m serious.

  63. There are many ways to analyse data and depending on your focus you will get a different output. With that been said, I consider important the fact that Nadal had to share his shining periods with the best Federer and the best Djokovic while they had periods with no competitors.

    For me the best tennis player ever is the one that gives more to the sport. The three of them are awesome, but without Nadal we would have missed the two best rivalries ever, Federer – Nadal & Djokovic – Nadal.

    • When did Djokovic ever have no competitors?! He came after the other 2 guys. That doesn’t make any sense. Also Federer had different guys to get thru before Nadals emergence like Hewitt, Roddick, Safin and Agassi. All grand slam winners and all great players as well.

  64. John Benn says

    How on earth can you say that Roger Federer is the best ever tennis player,after the fact that Rod Laver won two Grand Slams of every tournaments,TWICE>>>>
    Rod Laver must be the best ever,by far

  65. Nadal leads 24-16 face to face with Roger, 14-10 in finals and 10-4 in Grand Slam finals.
    Nadal won 2 “big two” (Roland Garros+Wimbledon in the same year). Roger only 1 and Novak never.
    Nadal did lose only 3 matchs in the last 16 years of Roland Garros. 12 vitories in the same GS. Roger and Novak never won over Nadal in Roland Garros… but Nadal won over Roger in Wimbledon 2 times and over Novak some times in USA and AUS. Novak boosted this career during Nadal and Roger low competitive times by injuries. This is the true.
    The three are great leyends. Hard to say wicht one is better over the other two. …..

  66. Joshua Michaels says

    Well that you guys mention Andy Murray, consider this. As MANY experts have said, after Roger Federer, Murray was the second best player on grass. Why do I mention this angle of Murray? NO ONE has benefitted most with Murray’s retirement and injuries than Djokovic! How?

    First yes the big three have owned Murray. But…..But very important to note how great Murray was on grass. Wimbledon literally was his home court. Roger Federer obviously owned Murray at Wimbledon. They played 7 sets at Wimbledon and Federer won 6 of the sets and beat him in the semifinals and finals. So, its important to note when Federer was winning Wimbledons he has literally faced Murray, Nadal and Djokovic consistently. And let’s not forget Federer beat Sampras at Wimbledon when Sampras was red hot and in his prime. And Federer even beat Agassi in the Us Open Finals. And I cant wait when someone replies, “but Agassi was way past his prime at the age of 35.” And I say YES! What makes Roger’s level at the age of 38 that much more incredible. Rather than counting these losses against Federer like you did by saying Djokovic is 3-0 at Wimbledon versus Roger. Well at least mention: let’s keep in mind when he beat Federer, Federer was pushing the ages of 35, 36 and 38 when he beat him all three times and twice it took him 5 sets to beat an aging Federer! Back to Andy Murray angle.

    Federer dominated Murray on grass meanwhile Djokovic has never ever ever even won a set versus Murray on grass. They’ve played twice at the All England club and Murray is 6 sets to Djokovic’s zero!!! And Murray beat Djokovic in the Wimbledon finals in straight sets.

    So, you need to look from an angle of why Michael Jordan resonated so much. Or Muhammad Ali. When Frazier beat Ali the first time, no one was saying Frazier was the best although Ali came back and beat him twice. No one cared Ali lost five times. No one cares that Bill Russell has 11 rings to Jordan’s 6. Ask why? Because, like Federer- our eyes told us that what Ali and Jordan were doing was something beyond sports. It was a special talent. Sports genius. Why do you think Federer has loyalists in the first place? Why does the tennis world always back him. Because as human beings we are all connected and in our core when we see Federer, we KNOW that he is doing something beyond the sports level. That tennis is such a taxing sport on the body and that tennis is not supposed to be played like that, the Federer way where he makes it seem so effortless. So rather using straight math and analytics for your arguments, look at it from a 360. Look at everything. Why not mention something like this:

    Djokovic won 15 of his 16 majors when Federer turned 30. When Federer was 30 and under, Djokovic had ONE major. So, Djokovic won 15 majors when Federer turned 30. Nadal won 9 of his 18 when Federer turned 30. Or ask yourself, why the hell is a 38 year old man serving for the match against a prime 32 year older?

    Point also is Federer is a victim of his own greatness. Imagine if Federer didnt make all these finals at his old age? His resume would look better cause he wouldn’t have all these losses in the majors…….cause we all know Federer at his prime wouldnt be losing three Wimbledons to anyone. Again, this is the same talent that beat Sampras in his prime at Wimbledon. So, let’s not try all of a sudden by your argument saying Djokovic is better on grass than Federer. And your argument is but Federer lost three times to Djokovic in the finals. Guess what Larry Holmes beat Muhammad Ali when Ali was 38. Does anyone even consider Holmes in the same level as Ali? Of course not.

    Rather than using these losses against Federer at an old age. Realize that what you’re seeing will never ever happen again: to play like this at the age of 38. You think Djokovic or Nadal will be playing in the finals of majors at 38? I’ll answer that for you? They wont even be on tour at that age. So understand why theres Fed fans as you say so defensive of their guy in the first place. Why are fans as you say so emotional over Federer in the first place.

    Quick experiment: think back to Sundays finals. Now try to think of three great shots by Djokovic. Pretty difficult to remember. Now think of Federer. You immediately remember many shots. You probably remember just his amazing drop shots making someone like Djokovic who has flawless footwork; fall and drop and look clumsy so many times. Again, why? Its because Federer goes beyond the sport. He does things on the court that tells our eyes that is special. Our eyes tell us this (Federer) is different. It’s not analytics which he has also with 20 slams. But, it’s our eyes that tell us this (Federer) is special and we wont see it again. Because, it’s a unique talent. As tennis players we KNOW that we will see grinders like Djokovic and Nadal. But, we know we wont see another Federer because by playing the sport, we know what Federer is doing defies science and math time after time. Appreciate his greatness cause you wont see it again. Ask yourself why does he gravitate to the majority of the tennis world. It’s because sometimes math is not the answer we are looking for, but rather our eyes are telling us a different story.

    • Sam Jones says

      So many words boil down that Roger is an old man at 30, and Novak is at his prime at 32. Great analysis.

    • Eat your words Joshua. Both Nadal and Djokovic are not far off 38 now.

      • Federer and Djokovic at 36 we just past that. 2 more years left until 38 yet for Djokovic to reach final, semifinal at 38. Posible quaterfinal near 40 in Grand Slams.

  67. Sebastian says

    I respect Roger and Rafa as greats of the game, But I consider Novak the greatest just because in the sheer fashion he wins these finals with the world always against him he still over comes.Again in the 2019 Wimbledon final he putt the Wimbledon crowd and every one who watched that final at a loss for words.Novak will certainly over take Roger and Rafa because he is just mentally so much stronger in these great finals. It’s like when the world is against him he rises to the occasion and becomes a greater player. Some one like that is dangerous. I mean Novak came back from a elbo injury and won 3 Grandslams and in the process became no 1 again. To me thats insane. This guy will become the worlds greatest tennis player. This is what predict.

  68. Richard M Kotz says

    Just a interesting note for you: In 2008, when I visited my college coach, Eddie Moylan a former davis cup player and coach in the 40\’s and 50\’s who had the best ground strokes of the era, he told me that Djokovic was the best player he has seen since Pancho Gonzalez, a greatly overlooked potential GOAT and a self made player. Mind you that was 2008 when Fed was in his prime and Djokovic was just 21. Unfortunately my coach died a few years later at 93 and wasn\’t able to see Djokovic unfold. And unfortunately no one talks about Pancho Gonzales, a self made player who was a poor kid and thus turned pro after his first 2 US major wins in \’48 and \’49. He was considered the best of the 1950\’s winning the US Pro\’s 8 years in a row. During the golden age of tennis 1934-67, he was widely considered the best player.

  69. Matthew Speray says

    Joshua Michaels, to sum up your argument, Federer lost so many matches to Djokovic for the past 7-8 years because he lost his \\\”greatness\\\” when he turned 30 years old. No, Federer didn\\\’t lose his greatness when he turned 30. He plays just as good now as he did then. Some would argue he plays better. The fact is, he lost to Djokovic at Wimbledon three times because yes, Djokovic beat him, not because Federer is too old and shouldn\\\’t be there. The age argument is an excuse for losing. And all your comments about how special Federer is on the court while Djokovic and Nadal don\\\’t do anything special is ridiculous. Sounds like you\\\’ve spent so many years defending Federer, you simply can\\\’t do what the writer of this article, who happens to be a federer fan did, which is face the facts and acknowledge who the real GOAT is. The GOAT is not based on Federer\\\’s 20 Grand Slam wins, half of which were early in his career, or even who ends up with the most Grand Slams, but based on the big three\\\’s career head to head matches and Grand Slam matches. That\\\’s the only way to determine who should be considered the GOAT. And based on that, Lee is right, Novak has the lead at this point

  70. Valentine Ndubuisi says

    Its very difficult to settle this GOAT debate in tennis. U can make a case for any of them and you will be right. We are blessed to have seen these three players play together. The most impressive player of the three is Rafa ( my own opinion anyway). He dominated Roger in the heart of Rogers prime and has never lost a French open final or semifinal, he has lost just 2 matches at the French. He has battled many career threatening injuries and still managed to win 18 majors and 34 masters. But until anyone can surpass Rogers major tally Roger is the GOAT.

  71. Relja&Jana says

    I am university professor…econometrics…Mr Lee; great job you ve done very accurate and precise…analytics you ve done, hard to beat…someone can accept it or not, but it is what it is…
    Great job !!!

    • In my opinion Nadal is the best of all time since his head to head against Fader is 60% and against Djokovic its just shy of 50% although Nadal holds the edge over Djokovic as he has more records and titles and Nadal is the player with the highest percentage of wins in history at 83%. This last stat says it all!! He wins more games then anyone else; ever past or present.

  72. Thanks for your information
    Tennis is a popular sport around the world. Every year, there are many competitors who take part in tennis tournament. It’s very difficult to choose the greatest mens tennis players.

  73. In my opinion Nadal is the best of all time since his head to head against Fader is 60% and against Djokovic its just shy of 50% although Nadal holds the edge over Djokovic as he has more records and titles and Nadal is the player with the highest percentage of wins in history at 83%. This last stat says it all!! He wins more games then anyone else; ever past or present.

  74. Nadal is more deserving of the GOAT status. Why? Firstly he dominated Roger in the heart of Rogers prime and has a 60% win rato in his advantage over federer. Rafael Nadal also 19 Grand slams, which is just one off federer who is half a decade older and Federer had less real competition early on in his career. Rafael Nadal also holds a record 35 Masters 1000 and has the best performance of any player in history; with an 83% win rate over the 18 years he has played. This is what the definition of GOAT means! Djokovic only has 16 Grand slams compared to 19 and has only beaten Nadal 2 more games out of 54 games, which isn’t enough to give him an advantage, especially given Nadal has the all time win ratio and more big wins. Yes Djokovic is great, but arrogances doesn’t make him a better player!

  75. Lots of things said about Rafa after New York. Only few say he “inspires”,for lack of better, heavier word, mortals like lots of us. In essence, he doesn’t come forth as one saying “I am” but more like “I will be”. And that is greatness. We can not argue using ifs and buts or could be or should be…Rafa inspires more when he plays. Again inspires does not capture the very essence of the man. Many say that they will pick Rafa to play for their lives in a do or die match. That is not far from the truth. I like Rog and Nole and they are greatest for lots of people too. But when I allow somebody to play to save me, Ill pick Nadal as well. It’s not realistic yet it feels the right thing to do. Call it guts, instinct or whatever you like. The man plays with something else and you can just sense you are in good hands with him. To the extreme, if not just my life but if the world is at stake and invaders would fight us in a game of tennis for our freedom, Nadal gets my vote. In fact, somehow I believe that only Nadal will be up to the challenge and somehow he would know that. We won’t need a vote anyhow, Nadal will raise his hand simpy because the rest feel like they don’t have what it takes. They are not cut for the job. And again that to me is true greatness.

  76. Pierre Tessier says

    Fed may not end up being the most successful player of all time, but for now, he still his the GOAT. Statistics are not the only thing that should be considered. For exemple, Michael Schumacher is the most successful F1 pilot of all time, but not the best. Ayrton Senna is the GOAT in F1. Any serious F1 fan knows this.

    So here are my picks for “most talented” of all time (after 1980):
    1. Federer (by a wide margin)
    2. Borg
    3. Sampras
    4. Djocovic
    5. Nadal

    • Lol any serious F1 fan appreciates A LOT Senna’s talent but Schumacher is cleaarly the GOAT. Idk in which bubble you live in, trying to impose your subjective opinion over hundreds of pundits and fans. And this is coming from a Brazilian who would love to see Senna being considered the GOAT.

      Btw, your “talent” list is overwhelmingly subjective (you don’t claim otherwise though, so cool, it is probably meant for discussing so let’s go!).

      Putting Borg over Sampras or Nadal is ridiculous, you could make a case for Djokovic (he is unbelievable talented from the baseline but very below at the net). Nadal on the other hand can be seen as less talented than Federer (Federer is without a doubt the GOAT talent wise) and maaaybe below Sampras (very hard to tell), but it is a right handed guy who wanted to play football, then learned how to play tennis with his left hand, has great dropshots AND net skills and is arguably the best passer of all times. The difference with Djokovic (who is better at Dropshots and maybe slightly better from the baseline) is the net play (Nadal is clearly superior, and was throughout his whole career). Hard not to put Federer 1st though. Sampras was also a monster from the baseline (albeit behind Djoko and Nadal for sure) and an absolute magician at the net and serve (such as Federer).

  77. M. Y. Rhee says

    Speaking of number, it would be difficult to beat John McEnroe’s 156 titles. And, Jimmy Connors’ 109 Singles titles have not yet been beaten. And, I am not certain if Roger Federer with 103 will surpass Connors. To me, all these great players have their supuriorities, deserve to be called one of the GOATS.

  78. all those folks who claim Roger is the best of all time because he has the most grand slam wins will in the near future have lost that barometer to lean on. Roger is not winning any more majors, sorry, his days of beating Rafa and Novak are long gone. Rafa is only one major behind and will certainly pass Roger with at least two more French Open wins and perhaps anther Major in the next few years. As for Novak, he is a lock to pass Roger and distance himself from the pack in the next 5 years. he is still at the top of his game and can easily win at least 5 more majors. Then the case will be closed, Novak the best of all time.

  79. Clearly it’s between Rafa and Novak . Novak has better head to head vs Rafa but I will give Rafa little advantage because he is leading Novak 9-6 at Grand slam which matters most . Rafa beats Novak in French and Us Open . In wimblendon and australian open those matches were epic . New generation is here so for me it will be difficult for novak to beat Federer’s challenge . Rafa recently beats Tsitsipas and Medvedev in his least favourite surface after injury . If stays fit Rafa can resolve the debate in 2020. No one dare to count out Roger but djoker is beaten by all the young guns in his favorite surface this year which is a concern .

    • For me, the next generation isn’t here until they’ve won a couple of majors. Over the years some random guys have won a masters or 2 here and there and even the WT finals. Win one of the slams, actually win 2-3 then they’ll have arrived to me.

  80. Tennis Gambler says

    Very well argued. I can’t really add to the numbers and the logic – and I agree with your conclusions.

    I have an additional viewpoint from that of a gambler! Starting out as a Federer fan well over ten years ago my betting in-play began to take a turn for the worst as my bias to be “on” Federer back-fired in matches between him and both Nadal and Djokovic. It became painfully clear from a financial perspective that Djokovic was the stronger player in high stakes matches. The more high-stakes and the more tense, the more likely it was that Djokovic would prevail – just so much better in clutch situations. Your numbers back this up – but there are others e.g. Djokovic leads 4-0 where matches went to 5th set and is a dominant 14-5 in deciding sets! Decisive in my view (no pun intended)

    Trust me – perspective changes when hard-earned cash is on the line…….that cash will be invariably be on Djokovic, I learned the hard way. I also believe (but cant prove) that Federer gets more nervous – shots hit the frame, double faults etc. Its a body language thing for me. Djokovic seems to relish it more, I put this down to the inner belief he is the better player..

    I do agree unless Djokovic equals or surpasses Federer’s GS total the argument to hail him as the greatest ever will be hard to win, But if he does then it game, set and match to Djokovic.

  81. Your answer to one of the earliest posts was interesting. “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.”

    I do!

    In the majors Jack has Tiger beaten (up) fair and square. Not just the number of wins 18 – 15 now, but a vastly superior number top 10 and top 5 finishes. Jack finished 2nd 18 or 19 times as well. You need to check out Jack’s stats in the majors when he was in his prime they are quite incredible. Yes there are other events and stats where Tiger is superior, but in the majors Jack is way ahead of anyone else. And for me that makes him the greatest.

    For me Federer is the greatest of all time, simply because the age difference is so significant. All 3 are great, probably the 3 greatest ever. I’m a Nadal fan before anyone accuses me of being biased!

    A great article.

    • Jack actually has 73 top ten finishes; close to half the times he finished in the runner up position (19) he was actually tied with someone else. Fortunately for Jack, he has 18 Majors, so on the 55 occasions when he finished in the top ten but failed to win, cannot be used to diminish his greatness nor used to enhance it…no other athlete \”GOAT\” (in any sport where applicable) is judged favorably by the number of times they finished second, rather- runner up finishes are often used to hilight lack of greatness.

  82. The author might have bothered to get the age difference correct: Fed is FIVE YEARS OLDER than Nadal (not \”4.5\”) and SIX YEARS OLDER than Djoker. Get it right.

  83. Have been watching tennis since Edberg my first tennis idol and do have to agree that they are the greatest three of the open era I’ve seen with Sampras a close fourth who was unplayable on his day on fast surfaces.
    One really major point you are overlooking is the fact that Nadal and Djokovic are 5/6 years younger than Federer. Very big factor.
    You can’t fairly use head2head difference as a good measure. The younger greats will beat the older greats.
    For me a Federer that is 6 years younger than Djokovic has a significant lead in the head to head against him on all surfaces bar maybe clay. A Federer that is five years younger than Nadal definitely beats him at RG in at least his later years. Federer was fairly unplayable for stretches when he was younger (as Djoker was in ’11).
    Second 5/6 years is a long time in technology. Nadal and Djokovic grew up playing with larger head racquets with more forgiving sweet spots and more stable easy power. Federer would have also have had this advantage if he was younger and it’s pretty easy to see the difference it made once he adopted properly in ’14.
    Third, greatest of all time to me suggests the one that would most easily be able to play in any style or era and for me this is clearly Federer. One of my favourite things is to watch Nadal play who I’m a massive fan of but I don’t think in other eras he would have been as dominant as three GS were on grass and he wouldn’t have had a racquet that generated massive spin. In my mind a younger Fed would have obliterated Djokovic on the fast Wimblers grass of the 80’s. Sampras might have beat Fed though on same!

    • Keep dreaming! On the other hand, I could argue that everything points to Federer not winning as many Grand Slam singles titles, had Nadal and Djokovic started at the same time as him and were the same age as him.

      We’ll never know how Roger, Novak and Rafa would have gone 40 or 50 years ago, or even in the 1960s. We’ll never know how well Laver would have gone, if he had started his career the same time as these 3.

      I am sure each player would have adjusted very well to a different era, but it’s a pointless exercise, as it’s purely based on assumption. That’s why we can only compare 3 players, who played each other at their peaks.

      I don’t buy your argument about the 5 to 6 year age gap. It didn’t matter that Federer would consistently beat players younger than Nadal and Djokovic, did it? You just like to complain about the age difference when he comes up against Rafa and Novak.

  84. LEE ABBAMONTE – It is clearly obvious that you are a Djokivic fan and that’s ok, but the problem is when you try to have a debate about the so called GOAT it is from a subjective POV. You have tried to justify Djokivic being the greatest based on his H2H against the other two. The funny thing about stats is that you give two people the same set of numbers and they will both present different conclusions, usually to suit their opinion. What you seem to have conveniently left out is the fact that H2H is distorted since each player peaked at different times, was either carrying an injury or coming back from one, or out of form. When Djokivic won 7 in a row over Nadal during 2015/16, Nadal was carrying a wrist injury which resulted in him dropping out of the top 4 and not reaching a GS F in either year. This was the period when Djokivic won his only meeting against Nadal at the FO (QF – 2015) when Nadal was not fit and out of form. This is backed up by the fact that Nadal previously owned a perfect 6 – 0 record over the Joker. Also despite his win over Nadal that year, this still failed to yield a maiden FO title since he choked against Warwinka in the final (this was supposed to be his best year on the tour). One other point Djokivic may have a winning H2H against Nadal but not where it matters, as Nadal holds a healthy 9 – 6 lead in GS. As for his record against Federer his recent dominance is based on the fact that he has been playing an aging player past his best, who’s greatest asset was his movement. There has rarely been a player who covered the court with the same speed and grace as Federer and it was this quality above all others, that allowed him to dominate. Basically for a player to be a shot maker he has t be in position to play that shot and that can only happen if they have the requisite court speed and footwork. This is a great handicap when one’s court speed starts to diminish, which is why Federer has adopted the same approach as Agassi in his later years, namely stalking the base line and taking the ball on the rise, dispatching corner to corner to dicate the point. When Federer was at his best he could mix it with anyone from the baseline, but now he has to shorten the points with high risk tennis to compete with Nadal and Joker (anything over 5 strokes and he is in trouble, a clear tell tale that he lacks bot the speed and stamina of his youth). Federer and Joker match up well because both have games that are non specific to any surface, and up to 2014, there was nothing to separate the pair. Lets not forget that Federer rediscovered his best in 2017 when Djokivic was injured, therefore Fed was denied wins over Joker incl one of the slams.

  85. You also claim that Nadal owned Federer because of ther H2H, also rubbish. Nadal only owns Federer on clay (same way he owns Joker and everyone else) with a 14 – 2 record. On all other surfaces Federer has a winning record of 14 – 10 (3 – 1 grass and 11 – 9 on HC). In finals Nadal leads 14 – 10 (hardly 1 sided). They have 13 matches that went to the final set (7 over the best of 3 and a record 6 over the best of 5, from which they are split with 3 wins each). Both players peaked at the same time between 2005 – 07 playing 13 matches, with Nadal winning 7 matches (6 on clay, 1 on HC) and Federer the other 6 (across all surfaces), which comprehensively proves that both were evenly matched. In 2008 Nadal was fearsome on clay and dominated Federer, but also scoring that famous win at Wimbledon, which for me was the best performance of his career. Similarly Federer dominated Nadal in 2017 with 4 wins out of 4, including the AO final where Federer produced his best clutch tennis. The reason Nadal has such a clear margin in their H2H is because most of their matches took place on clay, Nadal\\\’s best surface. It is interesting to note, that Nadal hardly ever plays the indoor season (where Federer owns a 5 – 1 record) usually citing injury, otherwise Federer would have a similar winning record like Nadal has on clay, therefore their H2H would be much closer.

    • Michael. Johnson. says

      Imagine if Federer did not miss all those matches during the clay court swings. The head to head would be so bad, not just with Nadal but also with Djokovic, he would not even be considered in the GOAT debate. Just like at this point in time the only reason he is still in the running is because of the amount of grand slams. When the two tie him in grand slams the debate is over.

  86. Well, Novak has only one Masters less, three slams less and Olympic gold next year as a possibility. None of those Nadals advantages aren’t unassailable.

  87. Brian Lawrence says

    Without question Roger ,Rafa ,novac are the greatest 3 players of all time there are so many variables of the three to decide who is truly the greatest of all time i think for now it would be unfair to put one ahead of the other for now I call it a three way tie for now . I will wait until all three of these players have finished their Career to give my opinion Thanks Brian

  88. Ciro Pinto says

    Hi! Thanks for the nice article which I read with pleasure. I admit I am no big fun of any current tennis player. Perhaps I enjoy watching more Federer for his beautiful techniques but, on the other hands, adore the tight matches with the pace of Djokovic. I agree with most claims in the article. However, I am afraid the title and the overall conclusion is misleading. I would have substituted the word “Greatest” with “Toughest”, “Strongest” or “Most Winning Tennis Player” for a given number of years. Without any doubt Nowak belongs to this. I am a Scientist. We do not consider the greatest scientist with the one with biggest number of paper published, but the one who made great changes in our field, revolutionising it, eventually considered as a reference for those who want to learn. Saying that Lothar Matthaus was tougher that Diego Maradona is likely correct as the first beat the second and won the World Cup. Matthaus literally cancelled Maradona in the Final. However, Maradona remains the best (alongside Pelé) because his football was the most beautiful ever seen and in fact he was able to win a World Cup nearly alone in one of the most mediocre Argentine ever. I this respect I consider Federer the best tennis players I ever watcher. I do not have the arrogance to say of all time as I have rarely watched tennis players that played before Borg. Oh Right…Borg!

  89. The greatest player of all time is not the one who has won the most titles. It is the one who is the best player of all time, the one who at his or her best would have been the most likely to beat others at their best in the same situation. The fact that the French Open is on clay, and clay courts are quite different, means the best tennis player on clay is not necessarily the best player of all time makes this a difficult decision.
    To make this decision properly you would need to look very closely at all the players in history, not just Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, compare their record against their rivals, and examine in detail how good their rivals were. In cricket it seems this analysis shows that Bradman is the best batsman. In tennis it isn’t clear, except to say that Nadal is the best clay court tennis player of all time.

    • valentina nilda diego says

      it is true that Rafael is the best tennice player of all time,
      Rafael is an magneficent player and i agree with Greg King that Rafael is the best lay court tennic player of all time.

  90. valentina nilda diego says


    we love you

  91. valentina nilda diego says

    i love nadal

  92. The order follows as Roger >Novak > Rafael

  93. Nole>Roger>Rafa

  94. Mike Jackson says

    Most of you Fed fans here are soooo funny. Emotional like princesses, reminding me of those kindergarten time with “my dad is bigger than your dad” stuff. Lol. I am a die hard Fed fan, but I won’t cry when I say the truth – Djokovic is the GOAT. Never ever has anyone played like him, a meat grinding machine. Get over yourselves and face it in you bathroom mirror.

    • You are not a fed fan troll. He has the most slams, the most titles at 104, the most weeks at #1, the most recognitions, and holds an insane record of reaching 21 out of the 24 slams from 2004 to 2010. The man is playing in 4 generations of players! From Chang, Pete, Agassi, goran to Hewitt, safin, Nalbandian, davedenko, and rodick. To Nadal, djokovic, Murray and now new generation. It’s like comparing lebron to Jordan, and Jordan still the greatest ever. If you want to go head to head- The first 17 meeting vs djocokic all the way to 2011 federe had a lopsided head to head winning record at 13-5, it wasn’t until he was 30 and mid 30’s that he started to get even. Nadal most wins on clay and roger had beat him like 7 in a row recently and been completely dominating him. So head to head is not really a strong argument.. let’s go titles the. Roger has it all, or let’s go with what the legends of the sport say? Roger takes the cake again. Just google who’s the greatest tennis player of all time? Roger! At the end of the day a 38 yr old is beating the top players like he did in 2002 to 2005, no question about it this man the greatest of all time…

  95. Before the GOAT proclamation, there needs to be a consensus what are the criteria for the GOAT title. Without that anyone can and does claim this and that depending on their personal preference, as these comments here prove.

    • Most Grand Slam singles titles won is the criteria. It is the true test of greatness. As an absolutely massive Rafa fan, to win over 5 sets is what sets you apart from the rest over your whole career. Every other statistic is like home and away matches, compared to the Grand Final or premierships won, for Grand Slam singles titles.

    • The criteria for GOAT is who has the won the most Grand Slam singles titles on each surface, compared to their peers. It’s a 3 way tie for the GOAT as Nadal is the GOAT on clay, Federer is the GOAT on grass and Djokovic is the GOAT on hardcourt.

  96. Ryan Brewer says

    World tour finals are Always indoors on fast hard courts (definitely not “all court”).

    The year end finals should be rotated across all court types.

    Why is everyone so anti-clay court?

    There are two hard court slams every year and only 1 clay slam and 1 grass slam.

    Imagine how many slams Nadal would have in there have been 2 clay slams per year like when US Open was clay along with French.

  97. I agree before you can make a claim that djokovic is better he must have more GS, more titles, most weeks at 1, and more than 6 consecutive years with number 1. Roger has so many records and having wins vs him in his 30’s is a slim argument. He has the most slams, the most titles at 104, the most weeks at #1, the most recognitions, and holds an insane record of reaching 21 out of the 24 slams from 2004 to 2010. The man is playing in 4 generations of players! From Chang, Pete, Agassi, goran to Hewitt, safin, Nalbandian, davedenko, and rodick. To Nadal, djokovic, Murray and now new generation. It’s like comparing lebron to Jordan, and Jordan still the greatest ever. If you want to go head to head- The first 17 meeting vs djocokic all the way to 2011 federe had a lopsided head to head winning record at 13-5, it wasn’t until he was 30 and mid 30’s that he started to get even. Nadal most wins on clay and roger had beat him like 7 in a row recently and been completely dominating him. So head to head is not really a strong argument.. let’s go titles the. Roger has it all, or let’s go with what the legends of the sport say? Roger takes the cake again. Just google who’s the greatest tennis player of all time? Roger! At the end of the day a 38 yr old is beating the top players like he did in 2002 to 2005, no question about it this man the greatest of all time…

  98. Kim Martin says

    Novak is better than the other two H2H but H2H is not what we are talking about.

    We are asking who is the greatest of all time. Weeks at #1 and Major Titles are the big stats. RF is #1 but I think Djok is going to catch him.

  99. I agree, Djokovic will be the best and GOAT when its all said and done.

    People are biased because they are fans of Nadal’s 100% effort at all times, or Federer’s classy-ness when he wins and loses. When they see Djokovic, they don’t favor him as much because he made fun of players by imitating them (earlier in his career), screams on court out of frustration, breaks rackets, etc. A lot of those things were when he was younger. But this guy will be the undisputed best player in the world.

    His backhand is possibly the best the game has ever seen, forehand is consistent, serve return is the best we have ever seen, flexibility of a gymnast, and mental fortitude that rivals Nadals.

    As he gets older, he prob needs to make his net game more lethal to shorten points and also continue to improve his serve for free points.

    But the Monkey on his back is to beat Nadal at the French Open in the FINAL.

    Nadal is 12-0 in French Open finals. Djokovic will accomplish this too especially if he keeps up his mental health and practicing visualization techniques.

    There is a reason why Kobe liked Djokovic the most out of the big 3.

  100. Roger , Rafa , Novak are the greatest 3 players of all time there are so many variables of the three to decide who is truly the greatest of all time I think .

  101. It don’t matter who’s in Forest Hills, Rod Laver is still the king! I loved calling lines at matches before the players started groaning and grunting and when they behaved like ladies and gentlemen.

  102. Fernando Alonso Milagro says

    It’s three GOATS. No matter what happens after this cursed 2020.

  103. Fernando Alonso Milagro says

    Federer: The one who hold more grands. The one who plays so beautifuly that it looks like a swam in a pond. Perfect and effective movements. A real gentleman.
    Nadal: The warrior. He’s not the swam and shows lack of artistry somehow in the main parts of this show. But he is always there to return a ball and place it in the impossible spot. He’s never had a good serve, however he’s second in the grand Slam count.
    Djokovik. He is not the swam but he’s nearer than Nadal. Reaches everything coming from his opponent and reads their play better than anyone.
    The three are a luxury for us to watch. They are the three GOATS and they will be for a very, very long time. This is my personal guess.

  104. I agree 3 greats.
    But we’ve had the 2020 French now, and slightly surprisingly to me Rafa won it again. 13 French Opens is a truly staggering achievement. And then Djokovic lost again in Vienna last week. Has he gone off the boil?

    I still give Federer the lead in the all time race, but at 40 next birthday the chances of him winning another slam are small. Nadal is level now and he’s more likely to finish ahead in terms of slams at the end of their careers. Who’d bet against him in May next year if the French goes ahead, and he’s fit?

    Djokovic could beat both their totals and finally sit at the top of the tree, and until recently I was pretty convinced he was going to. But even Djokovic, the youngest of the three, is going to be 34 by the time the majors come around next year. There are some very good young players coming up and I have a feeling that we’re into the last year or so of their dominance.

    So in terms of slams I think the totals will be very close at the end.
    Nadal – 21 – He’ll win the French or perhaps even the US once more
    Federer – 20 – I think father time has caught up with the great man
    Djokovic – 19 – Certainly will win more, but not quite enough

    No doubt I’ll be proved completely wrong!

  105. Of course I forgot the Australian Open in January…..

  106. Bruce Davidson says

    If one were to simply add up the number of Slams then a 2nd grader could do this. But who won the highest % of Slams that he entered,,,Borg. Who won the French and Wimbledon back to back/same year 3 years in a row….Borg. – He was supremely dominant on more than one surface for a 6 year period, which should carry as much weight as sticking around for a long career to rack up more titles, or going Down Under every year. – Johnny Mac is my favority, for his style of play, but Borg was as good as anyone who’s every played.

  107. And btw there are 2 Simon’s posting on here. I’m not the Simon accusing you of being a Djokovic fan!
    I think all 3 are amongst the greatest ever.
    But FYI I support Nadal when British players aren’t involved.
    I don’t think you can compare different eras, and so the argument about who is the greatest ever is a bit futile.
    Certainly I can’t quantify in my mind, how say my hero growing up, Jimmy Connors, would have done with modern training and equipment.
    Or Borg, Laver, Hoad, McEnroe etc etc….

    But I can say who my 2 favourite players of all time are:
    Jimmy Connors
    Rafael Nadal

    And it’s a great debate!

  108. Well rounded article for the achievements of the big 3. I think one more valid argument that can be added in this discussion is tournament winning rate per played tournaments. In every sport when you have close race the tiebreaker is the ratio of winning. For example when both Nadal and Federer both have even number of GS the advantage is given to Nadal because of the winning rate per played tournaments. Also, the winning rate is more on Djokovic side regarding GS and Matters. This number indicates higher peak rather than numbers based on longevity.

  109. Who is now best player on the world….. every child knows that, that is a great and powerfull Nooooovvvaaaakkkk Djokkooovvviiiiicccc.

    and so on and so forth.
    End of discussion

  111. Pat Larkin says

    Oh….Just one more time..

  112. Bill McDermott says

    This is an interesting analysis. There are a couple things I’d like to point out though. 1. Nadal actually has the lead in grand slam finals 5-4 over Djokovich (you wrote that they were tied 4-4). Nadal won in Paris over Djokovich in the 2012, 2014 and 2020 finals, as well as twice at the U.S. open (2010 and 2013). Overall at grand slam events Nadal leads 10-6, with 7 of those wins in Paris.

    One thing that is usually not taken into account when this is debated is the built in advantage that Djokovich has in that a greater proportion of the tournaments are played on hard courts (his favored service) than on clay (Nadal’s best service). This is true for both Masters tournaments and of course the grand slam events. Imagine how many more grand Slams Nadal would likely have won if two of the four slams were played on clay and not on hard courts (US open and Australian open).

    That all said you make a very strong argument for Djokovich, and I do think after the three of them are retired he will likely have the most slams and the most masters.

  113. RF is 40 this year.
    RN is 35 this year.
    ND is 34 this year.

    I don’t their period of domination will last that much longer. In fact I think RF’s time is over. He might have a decent run at Wimbledon, but I can’t see him winning another major.

    There is a good chance RN will win the French again in a few weeks time, and I think that will be his last major.
    I can see ND winning 1 or 2 more slams.

    In years gone by all 3 would have been finished by now. I remember Ken Rosewall (a truly great player in his day) at Wimbledon in 1974, then aged 39, being absolutely hammered by a young and peak period Jimmy Connors. Let’s hope all 3 bow out gracefully.

    The torch will be handed over soon…..

  114. I think after today’s French Open semi’s, Novak is the greatest of all time. Of the Big 3, he has the most grand slams on hard court, 2nd on grass (after Roger) and both he and Roger have 1 on Clay, but Novak over his career is better at the French and may win his 2nd this year. When you blend it, he is the best across all surfaces of the big 3 and has the most weeks at #1 as well. Rafa is a distant 3rd on weeks at #1. You have to look at consistency when you evaluate the GOAT. Head to head he also owns the best record, but that is a tough one to look at as Roger was dominant the previous decade plus there is a age difference. They are all 3 amazing, but if money were on the line in a hypothetical multiple surface tournament in their primes, my money is on Novak.

    • Grand Slam singles titles says

      Couldn’t care less about number 1. It’s all about Winn Grand Slam singles titles. Just ask any top player what that means to them. Many players have been number 1 without winning many Grand Slam singles titles. Serena won many Grand Slam singles titles without being number 1 in the world.

  115. Ngunde Peter says

    For Djokovic to be the outright GOAT he needs to win 1more French open to make it 3,2more u.s open to make 5 and an Olympic gold medal.If he does that which I believe he then his being goat is undebatable that will settle the goat race forever Federer is finished I can’t see him winning any slam at 40yrs of age that’s just a fact.Nadal might win 2more slams before retiring.Nole can easily win additional 5or 6 slams before retirement.He is probably going to the the greatest of all time both male and female tennis legends combined.Thats a Fact baring injury

    • Don’t be so sure. There’s a teenager called Carlos Alcarez who is already a better player than Djokovic. Novak will not win in any more Grand Slam singles titles if Carlos Alcarez is playing in the same Grand Slam tournaments as Novak and Carlos is fit.

  116. Djokovic will likely end up as the GOAT in terms of raw stats. But his tennis is not that enjoyable to watch. Federer’s technique is superior and his influence on the sport is undoubtedly the greatest.

    I think Federer could have achieved more slams. But he missed the first 5 years or so of his career, seemed less focused in the big finals and is generally less ambitious than Djokovic.

    I also think younger players might have an advantage. They can still adapt their game learning from the best, while this is more difficult the other way around. There was nobody to push Federer to train hard early in his career. He basically won his first majors because of sheer talent.

    • mladeninho says

      Raw stats is just an Fed fans excuse for breaking all (but few) Federer records by Novak! And that Rolex Ad, and now numbers don’t matter and grazzioso, and ballet man beauty on court….I mean, get over it. Do you remember that 311 CAKE that was ready for Roger couple years ago? Or maybe that 20 is number no one will ever achieve? Or SABR? Or years don’t matter Roger is playing like he is 30yrs old!? Very short memory you have, guys! Very, very short. And the hate, oh, yes – the HATE is REAL from you!
      You know, now looking – Novak is the only one of Big 3 who actually won Grand Slams in 3 various decades! That is crazy, too.

      • The 3 decade thing, while impressive of course is also somewhat a matter of timing as opposed to anything else. If you take the Fed or Nadal timelines on their first major to their most recent it spans longer than Novak. A cool stat but not that important.

    • Kevin Weng says

      Federer’s technique is superior? Tell me, what is Djokovic’s weakness that his opponent can exploit over and over like Djokovic and Nadal do against Federer’s backhand? “Could’ve, would’ve.” This is sports. You win or you don’t. If Federer was less ambitious than Djokovic, he deserves to be below Djokovic. “There was nobody to push Federer to train hard early in his career.” I agree with you on that. That’s why Federer even got to 20.

  117. Completely agree with the the writer, joker is the best. Federer perhaps not the best ever but without doubt the sexiest evert. Best forehand, best serve, best slice backhand and best footwork – the guy just exudes style and class – impossible not to love him.. How does he loose loose? Problem is Fed when it comes down to it is a bit of a choker. Djokivic on the other hand when the pressure is on appears to be posessed by a demon. His nostrils flare out, he gets a distant crazy stare and his pupils dilate – “Full Serb Mode” i call it . When he goes into this mode he does not miss- he is unbeatable by mortal man.

    • It’s really quite extraordinary and yes if you think about it, Federer has lost most of his epic 5 setters with the exception of the 09 Roddick Wimbledon final and the 2017 Rafa Australia final. He’s a great front runner and I agree the easiest to watch play but he’s not rugged like Nadal or Djokovic. Style doesn’t equal greatest.

  118. Andrija Rašeta says

    Morate apdejtovati podatke.

  119. Keith A Mertz says

    I agree that Djokovic is the best. Out of the 3, he is the only person with 2 career grand slams. I just wish Roger would retire. It’s hard to watch him when he can only play at about 60 % of his top form. He had a great run. Time to let go.

  120. Simon Buck says

    With the benefit of seeing the French Open and Wimbledon this year now, there is no doubt in mind that Novak will be recognised as the greatest ever male player of the game Tennis.

    In simple statistical terms Roger and Rafa will be joint 2nd. I don’t think either will win another major title now. Rafa has lost a little of his court speed in the last couple of years, and I think age is catching him up like it has Roger. However I’d put Roger 2nd simply because of the better spread of his major titles (and I support Rafa in the absence of somebody from the UK before anybody accuses me of bias).

    As an aside the notion that Roger’s style, grace etc somehow make him the greatest ever is nonsense. There are technical aspects to his game that make the great player he is/was. Roger will look graceful and stylish when he’s 50 in 10 years time, and probably in 20 years time. But he won’t be a world ranked player then.

    I think the younger generation are finally coming. Novak may continue to be competitive into 2022, but after that father time will catch up with him as it does everyone.

    I’m sure as with some of my previous posts I’ll be proved wrong again!

    • I wouldn’t count Nadal out yet. He could’ve easily won the French and will surely be a factor in New York this year and RG til he doesn’t want to play any more.

  121. Simon Buck says

    As a fan of Rafa I hope you’re right Lee, but I can’t see it myself.

    I also meant to say in my previous post that the main reason I think Novak will become less competitive from next year, is that his motivation will drop.

    If he wins the US open this year AND achieves a grand slam this year AND surpasses Roger and Rafa’s total of 20 (all highly likely in my view) I think he’ll lose the motivation to keep going at his current level, which is only going to get harder as he approaches 35 (next year).

    The next big question is who from the younger generation will replace him as no. 1?

    • We shall see. I feel like he learned from his dip following RG 2016. I also know he’s aware he has a finite period of time to win and be number one. Won’t last forever obviously but I think he’ll be motivated to destroy the record. Abs if the next generation doesn’t step up who’s to stop him other than Nadal at least near term.

      • Kevin Weng says

        The next generation has stepped up. Just because they can’t beat Djokovic consistently doesn’t mean they haven’t stepped up. It simply means that Djokovic is a greater player. Even Federer hasn’t “stepped up” enough to beat Djokovic in a GS since almost a decade ago.

  122. Alejandro S. de la Mora says

    People loves Federer. But the numbers are the numbers. The BEST is NOLE

  123. mark hayes says

    I like to see if Rafa and Novak could still play as good as Roger when they are 39 how many semis and finals will they get to the age difference only goes against Roger but talent is all Roger would love to see him win one more Wimbledon gutted he lost to Novak

    • Kevin Weng says

      “The age difference only goes against Roger”? What a biased comment. Who enjoyed those years of success when Djokovic and Nadal were not even playing in the adult circuit? Djokovic and Nadal have each other throughout their career. Who did Federer have before they emerge? They fact that they have already evened/surpassed Federer at a younger age means Federer is simply inferior.

  124. As I write this on August 28th, 2021, the U.S. Open is just about to get underway. Novak has won all three grand slams this year and has surpassed Roger’s weeks at Number 1. However Novak has a big chance now to put this argument to rest permanently. Both Roger and Rafa are out with injuries and Novak has a chance at the real, actual Grand Slam. It is one of the rarest feats in all of sports having been accomplished only by two other men, and only one other in the open era. If Novak wins the U.S. Open and the Grand Slam, he will end this argument.

    It’s really exciting.

    • I agree, although I think the numbers already speak for themself plus 2x all 4 majors, 2x all masters, most weeks at #1, etc. But this would be the icing on the cake for sure!

  125. Yeah but Novak is still going and the other two are starting to fade though! Novak on course for a quadruple of grand slams at the US Open rn.

  126. I’m a Djokovic loyalist, and I’m here to tell you the argument you’ve made is not compelling. Djokovic prime is significantly inferior to Federer’s prime. I say this as an admirer & countryman of Novak’s. But also as a realist. Novak was able to come in & take advantage of the changes in the game that Federer & Nadal were responsible for, in an era that had a higher level of competition. I also doubt any of the three would have had the sustained success they’ve had if they played in the ’90s, which had even greater competition.

    • Kevin Weng says

      Djokovic prime is significantly inferior to Federer’s prime? How so? Djokovic in 2015 is much better than Federer in 2006. He beat Nadal at RG, which Federer never did, prime or not. He won more Masters than Federer. He beat 11 more top 10 players. How is his prime inferior? Just because you’re an alleged “admirer” and “countryman” of Djokovic doesn’t make your stupid comment against him any more legitimate.

  127. I think Djokovic has one more year to set the record and get his majors tally to 21+. Nadal has one more tournament at the French next year (I don’t know if his current injury affected him at the French this year). I don’t believe Federer has any chance to add to his total now.

    Father time has caught up with Federer, it’s catching up with Nadal, and after next year will catch up with Djokovic. I think there was some evidence at the US Open that Djokovic’s age is beginning to affect him.

    It would be fitting, in my view, if all 3 of them ended up with 20 major titles.

    We shall see!

  128. Thank you so much for such a well-written article. It’s full of insightful information. Your point of view is the best among many without fail. For certain, It is one of the best blogs in my opinion

  129. For my opinion Federer is the best of all time, because his tennis was the most beautiful and most spectacular, also in his prime he was that good as no one was until now.

  130. ion marques says

    the only thing is djokovic best at is longevity… aging better than nadal has made him face no serious opponent in the last years, coincidentally when he has won most of his majors

  131. Simon Buck says

    Well I didn’t see that Australian Open win coming! As I said back in September I thought Rafa might have one more French open win in him, but I didn’t expect an Australian win. I think it’s highly likely he’ll win the FO this year now and get to 22 (regardless of whether Djokovic plays). I’m not convinced he was 100% fit last year.

    I still think this year is the deciding year for for who ends up with the most grand slam titles, and Rafa must have an edge now.
    RF is 41 this year… it’s over at the highest level sadly. I’d love to be proved wrong.
    RN is 36 this year… it’s clearly not over.
    ND is 35 this year… no idea whether he’ll even play. If he does he always has a chance.

    The issue for ND is not about fitness, it’s whether his mind is in the right place. The Australian/Covid saga and his chances to compete at the remaining 3 grand slams must be affecting him. I’m not expressing a view on the rights and wrongs of what has happened (though I have one), and what will happen, but issues like that take their toll on you mentally.

  132. Simon Buck says

    Slightly off topic here, but on the subject of who will replace RF, RN & ND at the top of the men’s game we’ve all been watching Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Thiem, Zerev etc. Waiting for one of them to breakthrough; and to be fair Medvedev has been getting close.

    However over the last month I’ve seen a lot of the Spanish player Alcaraz. The guys (above) who are now peaking in their mid 20s had better watch out. He’s still only 18 and I think he’s going to surpass them in the next year or so.

    He already seems to have everything in his game. Although he doesn’t play like Nadal, he has some of Nadal’s attributes, power, will to win and tremendous skill. Certainly the best young player I’ve seen for a long time.

    • The Viking says

      Hi Simon- great comment, and I believe that Carlos Alcaraz has the best potential to possibly ascend given his trajectory, type of game, mental toughness, and focus. This is in combination with the physical and mental stamina to win 7 three of five set matches in a major. If he continues with the same trajectory, there is no reason why he will not be part of the future conversation. It is wonderful to see a player with this level of promise, and it is nice that tennis commentators are looking closer at him, despite their desperation to promote a US player (like they do with the bizarre worship at the altar of Jenson Brooksby). The second week of slams are much nicer to listen to so that we don’t have to have this extreme focus on mid-range US players who will have nice careers but will never be part of any serious conversation for the tip top, despite what they say (and I am an American saying this).

  133. Hey there Lee, first of all congratulations for your tremendous analysis. However, there are a couple things which I’m inclined to disagree.

    First of all, I don’t like the way you insinuated that Nadal’s 2022 is to be downplayed just because he didn’t face Djokovic (and I don’t think you can just simply state that Djokovic would’ve 100% beaten Nadal or won other slams he didn’t participate in. I do the same for everyone, no one ever wins a title until the final is finished). That final againt Medvedev is one of the greatest matches of all time and the Russian is an opponent who is as tough as it gets on hard courts (Grand Slam champion, Masters 1000 champion, WTF champion, world #1… ), the Spaniard was never the favourite to win that tournament and yet he did win it with the most epic comeback in tennis history. I don’t agree with the humiliating treatment Djokovic got in Australia but I do agree with his deportation, no vax no entry. I really think Tennis Australia shouldn’t have granted those exemption visas to anyone in the first place.

    Then, the story is far from over and if Djokovic wins another French Open he will be the first male player to hold a Triple Career Slam, for Nadal to be able to achieve that he’d have to win another Wimbledon and another Australian Open. While that’s true and it would further make a case in favour of the Serbian, I think you’re slightly underrating Nadal’s versatility across all surfaces. In majors, Nadal has 8 slams off-clay, only Federer, Djokovic and Sampras have more; Agassi has won the exact same hard court slams as Nadal and has the same number of slams overall as Nadal off-clay (same with Connors); Becker, Edberg, McEnroe, all legends on faster courts, hold less majors overall than Nadal off-clay. I think this puts into perspective how surface versatile Nadal actually is, and the only male player who I believe is as surface versatile as the Spaniard is Djokovic (may be slightly more, since the Serbian has won all M1000 twice, Nadal’s lacking a couple).

    And now, talking about clay. Like you said, Nadal’s clay dominance is second to none in terms of dominating one surface. People see his dominance on clay as something ”negative” for the GOAT debate, I strongly disagree and I think Nadal’s dominance on clay really speaks in his favour (For the record I wouldn’t say this if he hadn’t won all 4 majors at least once, or at least won a major per surface). Being as dominant as you can get on your best surface (having trumped on other surfaces) is also very important and people do underestimate that category, where Nadal is miles above Federer and Djokovic.

    About the H2H, Nadal still leads both of them in GS and his overall with Djokovic is a pretty even, not enough to use it as an argument in favour of the Serb (it will be enough if the Serb widens the gap, at least, by a 5-victory margin, just like Nadal does with Federer, with an 8-victory margin).

    So, to sum up, the GOAT race isn’t over and it’s closer than ever for Djokovic and Nadal (I love Federer, but I’m sorry to say that the Swiss is #3 right now and will probably stay there once it’s said and done. I do believe, however, that his legacy goes beyond tennis and we can be nothing but thankful for the things he has done for the sport), there are huge arguments for giving Djokovic the edge, but there are also such for Nadal. You can put the GOAT title to whoever you want, but I don’t think Djokovic is far superior to Rafa. I think their levels are more or less equal (same with Federer), and I don’t agree with Djokovic fans putting him levels above the other two overall.

    Thank you very much for your post, looking forward to reading you.


    • Good comment! I didn’t say it’s over at all but at the moment I think it’s tough to have anyone but Novak stop the list. The main reasons as I stated are weeks at #1, masters wins in all tournaments multiple times, big titles and head to head. Majors are basically a wash and I get the head to head with Nadal is very close but when splitting hairs…

      • Thank you for your kind reply 🙂 Right now I feel it’s a coin toss between Rafa and Novak. I believe weeks at #1 is a tricky record that needs contextualization (it’s not the same being #1 right now that being it in 2012, with the Big 4 at the prime. Novak was #1 during that year hehe; and if your best surface is hard court, you may get that slight advantage. Look at Daniil Medvedev, he reached #1 only because of his greatness on hard court, and that’s fair, I believe the Russian was the best player in the world from August 2021 to February/March 2022). Still, weeks at #1 is one of the most impressive records and Novak leads by a significant margin. (I wanna mention Nadal’s 17 consecutive years at the top 10, which is also proof of his consistency)
        I’d rather use Novak’s 7 YE #1 as an argument rather than the weeks at #1. To me, majors are the most important thing in tennis, and I wouldn’t underrate the Olympic Golden Medal. I’d also give important to the ATP Finals which Nadal lacks.
        If Novak manages to win one more French Open then it’ll be almost impossible not to put him at #1, since he will have at least 3 of each. Nadal would have to win one more WB and AO to equal that.

        It’s a bit tough to comment on this right now to be fair since, likewise stated, the story isn’t over and I don’t know how may the comments age hahahha

  134. There is something that everyone misses. When Federer turned 30, he was followed by Nadal and Djokovic, 5-6 years younger than him. However, when Nadal and Djokovic hit their 30s, there wasn’t and still isn’t anyone on their level behind them. What would have happened if Federer had been the same age as them? I think Federer with the best technique would have at least 25 grand slam titles and many more total titles right now.

  135. The Viking says

    Hi Lee- such great and thoughtful analysis by you, and your “side by side” chart is super!! I was so very happy to see you had made the May 2022 update, because I had wanted to see your opinions since you had last written.

    One thing I would say is the fact that someone has an easier path to a major (Nadal’s AO 2022) should not detract from the major win received, because this level of micro-within tournament “minus points” despite receiving the title not being applied across all 20+ wins. If this was the case, Nadal’s soon to be FO should receive “plus points” (which he shouldn’t- it should just be the title or final appearance) because he most certainly had the hardest draw between ND (who he beat) and the field- the lower half was largely non-existent. Nadal should dispatch Ruud on Sunday for his 22nd. Bottom lines are at this moment, Novak is still the GOAT (assuming he will get more majors and stays ahead of Nadal in the H2H). Looking at the second, it cannot be well-argued that Roger should be ahead of Nadal. Nadal’s dominance on clay does overshadow his performance on other surfaces, however, his performance on the other surfaces has not been absent. Also, it must be said that if the number of tournaments per surface is examined, only one slam being on clay UNDER-represents the total calendar. Grass would be over-represented with only a major on grass and no 1000 Masters opportunity on the calendar. Hard courts are well-approximated over the majors and Masters per number of tournaments.

    Simon and Vicente’s comments are very thoughtful and well-supported as well. They are a great addition to the discussion.

    Thank you again Lee for beautiful work you have done, and please update as time permits for you after the majors!

    • Nadal is the GOAT in 2022 ?

      22 Grand Slams tittles
      Let’s see if Djokovic can reach him. Federer has a lot of class and plays tennis like an artist, but he will not win more tittles as he is pretty much retired.

      So the debate it’s between these two.

      RAFA or DJOKOVIC?? ?

  136. The Viking says

    Since almost everyone uses majors as well as Masters 1000 titles as two of the handful of most important metrics that it is worthwhile looking at the percentage of total play on each surface and how this translates in representation in majors.

    So, I do not know how many tournaments (split between the 1000s, 500s, and 250s) are on each surface, however, the percentage of clay court tournaments is far higher than 25%. The French Open is the only tournament on clay (25%).

    Looking at the same split of tournaments on grass would yield very few results including zero 1000s, few 500s, and yet Wimbledon is 25% of the majors, despite it being over-represented by surface. I am not arguing against Wimbledon being a major obviously, however, this examination by surface should be appreciated before any argument is made that Nadal’s 13 FO clay surface wins are so disproportionate- even though at first glance they are.

    Based on my off the top of my head knowledge, it seems as if all tournaments on hard courts outside the majors approximate the 50% of majors by hard court surface (AO & USO). The US Open used to be on clay many, many decades ago- back then 50% of the grand slams were on clay and 2 were on grass (AO was on grass back then). Times have changed, but the clay surface is not represented at the slam level by one major.

  137. Danielito says

    Nadal is the GOAT in 2022

    22 Grand Slams tittles

    Let’s see if Djokovic can reach him. Federer has a lot of class and plays tennis like an artist, but he will not win more tittles as he is pretty much retired.

    So the debate it’s between these two.

  138. Simon Buck says

    Well there’s another French Open done and dusted, and Rafa has opened up a 2 slam advantage. Another update required Lee 🙂

    There’s a very interesting post FO 18 mins interview with Rafa on CNN, which is well worth a listen.
    As always he comes across as a very humble and genuinely nice guy.

    Here’s an amazing fact to consider. I always post this when Rafa’s detractors say he only wins on clay. Well if you ignore his 14 FO wins and ‘only’ count the other 8 slams have a guess how many men have won more than 8 slams?

    In the 145 year history of men’s Tennis only seven other men have won more than 8 slams. So Rafa is right up there without his FO wins. As examples his 8 non-clay slams are one more than McEnroe and level with Connors.

    But of course they do count and he certainly has a stronger case in the fun, but rather silly GOAT debate. Not that your article is silly Lee!

    • Simon Taylor says

      Completely agree with Simon Buck, the only one who has any sense. I get my money’s worth reading Simon Buck’s comments.

  139. Hi there!! I want to say thank you very much for praising my comment. I love to talk all things tennis and I really think the GOAT debate between Roger, Rafa and Nole is the biggest debate in the sport’s history. I really liked what you said because I also tend to think in a similar way, majors are majors and are not to be downplayed, they are the toughest tournaments to win, the ones that everyone wants to win and you could be KOed by anyone no matter the name or the ranking.

    With that said, I really think Nadal’s AO ’22 victory is one of his toughest-earned, I don’t care that Nole wasn’t playing (he was treated unfairly, but deported fairly, imo), Nadal had to beat very tough opponents, specially Shapovalov and, in a bigger scale, Medvedev (I also love Berrettini and he’s a Top 10 player and slam finalist for a reason, but his backhand was easily punished by Nadal’s lethal forehand, I really hope the Italian finds more success ’cause he’s a great player and overall seemingly nice guy). Shapovalov has the tennis skills of Carlos Alcaraz, the problem is his mentality which has prevented him of winning more.

    Regarding Medvedev, he became the best player in the world thanks to his hard court supremacy, and he reached the final following 13 straight victories at majors. Had the Russian won the final, he would’ve become World #1 immediately. And then the match itself, Medvedev was the favourite to win that final and he became even more of a favourite after winning the first two sets. But Nadal won, he won a hard court major final against the best hard court player in the world at that moment (together with Nole).

    Nadal has also won RG 2022 beating 4 top ten players, including World #1 Djokovic. Now he has 22 slams. We shall see what will happen in the following months/years.

  140. It is such a great post with numbers to back the arguments up. Honestly, though, the times have changed as well. The history of the sport also has many great names and in terms of their impact on the sport, I might argue they were the best.

  141. A layer not mentioned won the grand slam of tennis twice. He wasn’t allowed to compete in the grand slams for 5 years because he turned pro and only amateurs were allowed to play until 1968. The name is Rod Laver and any discussion of GOATS in tennis needs to include him.

    • Ya it’s always gonna be tough to compare a guy like Laver or from that era even though he falls onto both sides of the Open era. That’s why the big 3 are so much fun, they’ve all played each other so many times.

    • Tennis historian says

      Completely agree with your nomination for Rod Laver, although it’s too difficult to compare different eras, so he can be the best player of the pre open modern era.

      It’s also why it’s so important to recognise who you are up against when you win your Grand Slam singles titles. Laver did have very strong competition when he won the calendar Grand Slam twice.

      Whereas, Roy Emerson, when he won his 12 Grand Slam singles titles and 16 Grand Slam singles titles, cashed in when he remained playing as an amateur, when the professionals were banned from playing. I know you can’t control who you play, but he had it relatively easy for most of his Grand Slam titles. At least, he was still good enough to win all those Grand Slam singles and doubles titles.

      Many people don’t realise that from 1967 to 2000, Roy Emerson had won the most Grand Slam singles titles, before Sampras won his 13th Grand Slam singles title in the year 2000.

      Even as an Australian tennis fan, I think it would have been an injustice if it had stayed that way indefinitely, so I was happy when Sampras eventually broke Emerson’s Grand Slam singles titles record at the time.

  142. Wimble Don says

    Great research!

    I have taken it a step further and developed a *scorecard* ranking for the Excel data-table in this report… I assigned 3 points to the player in first, 2 for second, 1 for first… For example, Nadal scores 3 points for having the most grand slams… If they are equal, they get the same score… If they have not won anything, they get scored a zero… I then scorecarded 17 major rows, each with a 3-2-1 score, from your superb Excel data-table…

    The result?…

    As of July 2022…

    1. Djokovic gets 36 points…
    2. Nadal gets 32 points…
    3. Federer gets 32 points…

    Based on this objective analysis, using hard stats…
    *Djokovic* is easily the world’s no.1 greatest tennis player of all time.

    • Ok I’m intrigued but you need to give more information than that…what you told us doesn’t prove anything…what are the categories, scores. Stats can be manipulated. Thanks!

  143. Wimble Don says

    It is a simple “unweighted scorecard” exercise for your Excel data-table.

    Take every major row of your data… and assign a score of 3, 2, 1, or 0 to the three players in each category… Then, add them all up, to deliver a grand total… The player with the most grand-total points is the best.

    For example, in the Masters Titles category, Djokovic is scorecarded 3 points (for the most wins), Nadal gets 2 points, and Federer 1 point… In the Olympics category, Nadal gets 3 points (for a gold medal win), while Djokovic and Federer get 0 (for no gold medals)… In the Total Finals category, Federer gets 3 points (for the most finals), Nadal scores 2, while Djokovic gets 1 point… And so on… Repeat for all major categories… At the end, sum them up.

    The genius of a scorecard is that it quantifies objectively the raw stats… A scorecard replaces opinion with fact.

    You could also do a “weighted scorecard” and assign bigger scores to specific categories that may (or may not) be more important… For example, Nadal’s record grand-slam total might get 6 points, while his Olympics gold might only score 3 points, because grand slams see more elite competitors and are harder to win in the tennis world.

    In summary… a scorecard ranks performance and removes subjective opinion… Based on the scorecard, Djokovic is the clear no.1 today in July 2022…

    • Roland Garros says

      What a complete load of garbage that is.

      Nadal is a clear number 1. Grand Slam singles titles don’t lie.

      To win 14 Grand Slam singles titles on clay is remarkable. No one comes close. Only 1 out of the 4 Grand Slam singles tournaments are played on clay. Yet, the mighty Rafa has won 6 Grand Slam singles titles on hardcourt and 2 on grass at Wimbledon.

      He is the best all round player on every surface.

    • Federer and Djokovic are lucky there’s only 1 Grand Slam tournament played on clay, unlike hardcourt where there’s two, where Rafa has won 6 Grand Slam singles titles on hardcourt anyway.

      If there were 2 Grand Slam tournaments played on clay, then Nadal’s Grand Slam singles titles lead would be even more than one.

      Absolutely, Grand Slam singles titles are the biggest test for any top tennis player, as five sets is the true test of a player’s ability.
      All the best players compete in Grand Slam singles tournaments.

      All the other tournaments are simply practice for the very top players for these Grand Slam tournaments. Weeks at number one does not make you a Grand Slam singles title winner, as unfortunately, Caroline Wozniacki find out after spending many weeks as number one without a Grand Slam singles title. Strangely, she ended up winning her only Grand Slam singles title when she wasn’t number one in the world.

      Most people will remember in the years to come who has the won most Grand Slam singles titles above everything else!

  144. Simon Buck says

    So post Wimbledon with ND winning and seemingly still playing at a level, that I thought we might not see again, I think Lee’s assessment is back on track.

    However, at the moment ND won’t be able to play the 2022 US Open because he’s not vaccinated. RN may or may not be fit because of his abdominal injury and RF, well I don’t know. If he was to play, I can’t see him being competitive. Will Medvedev be allowed to play?

    It’s a chance for Sinner or Alcaraz to stamp their mark on a Grand Slam.

    • Medvedev and all Russians will be allowed to play at US open. Hopefully something can be reached for Djokovic to be able to play in America. Nadal should be healthy to play the US Open and lead ups and Federer is out until at least Laver Cup he has said.

  145. Well it isn’t going to be ND, RF or RN winning the US open, in fact it’ll be a first time winner. As I’ve been saying on here for a year or 2 I think their time is almost up.

    Alcaraz and Sinner and a few others all look to be playing at a very high level. That said ND’s Wimbledon form was extraordinarily high, and provided he’s fit I certainly think he’ll be competitive next year. RN may have 1 more good FO run left in him. You certainly can’t rule that out. RF may return to a few tournaments, most likely Wimbledon next year, and he may even get through a few rounds there, but he’ll be nearer 42 than 41 by then. One last hurrah for the great man.

    My prediction is that next year will see the big 3 lose the world no. 1 spot for good. So that almost guarantees ND or RN will return to the top of the rankings!

  146. Rafa is currently the GOAT says

    Right now, Rafa Nadal is the GOAT with 22 Grand Slam singles titles. Like Novak, he has won every Grand Slam singles title at least twice and has missed many Grand Slam singles tournaments due to injury, throughout his career. To win on his least preferred surface grass twice is exceptional, given that he beat Federer in one of those Wimbledon finals.

    Don’t forget that Rod Laver won 2 calendar Grand Slam. Neither Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic have won any calendar Grand Slams.

    Don’t forget that Rod Laver would have won at least 25 Grand Slam singles titles had he not been banned as playing in Grand Slam tournaments as a professional between his PEAK years of 1963-68.

  147. Statistician says

    These are the statistics that matter the most:

    1) Rafa Nadal:

    22 Grand Slam singles titles from 66 Grand Slam Tournaments played.
    Across all 4 Grand Slam tournaments, Nadal has won 313 matches and lost 42 matches, for an overall winning percentage of 88%.

    2) Novak Djokovic

    21 Grand Slam singles titles from 68 Grand Slam tournaments played.
    Across all 4 Grand Slam tournaments, Djokovic has won 334 matches and lost 47 matches, for an overall winning percentage of 87.7%.

    3) Roger Federer:

    20 Grand Slam singles titles from 81 Grand Slam tournaments played.
    Across all 4 Grand Slam tournaments, Federer has won 369 matches and lost 60 matches, for an overall winning percentage of 86%.

    I therefore declare Rafa Nadal the current GOAT of men’s tennis.

  148. Statistician says

    No, but Grand Slam tournaments are the true test of greatness! No joke!

  149. I completely agree with the Statistician.

    All the other tennis tournaments are meaningless, compared to the Grand Slam tournaments.

    All the other tennis tournaments are simply practice or tune ups for the Grand Slam tournaments, which is the real test of greatness, over the best of 5 sets.

    The Grand Slam tournaments are every top tennis player’s equivalent of the Grand Final, World Championship, Super Bowl or World Cup.

    A great tennis player’s overall performances in Grand Slam tournaments are what he or she is truly remembered by.

    An example is the great Rod Laver, who 53 years after winning his last calendar Grand Slam, is still remembered today as the only tennis player who has won the calendar Grand Slam twice.

  150. Like it or not, Novak Djokovic is the greatest tennis player of all time. FULL STOP.

    • Wrong!! Like it or not, Rafa Nadal is the GOAT. His record proves it!

    • Mohn JcEnroe says

      Mark Palmos, YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!

      You must be djoking! Come back to us when The Djoker has won more Grand Slam singles titles than the greatest male Grand Slam singles titles winner of all time, Rafael Nadal!

  151. Open Era Goats across the surfaces + weeks & seasons at no.1:
    HC&Carpet / CC / GC / YEC / [email protected] / Y.E.No.1:

    Hard: Djokovic, Federer, Sampras, Lendl
    CC: __Nadal, Borg, Lendl/Djokovic
    GC: __Federer, Djokovic/Sampras, Borg
    YEC: _Federer/Djokovic, Sampras/Lendl
    Weeks Djokovic, Federer, Sampras, Lendl
    Y.E.n1 Djokovic, Sampras, Federer/Nadal/Connors

    Djokovic and Federer are slightly ahead of Nadal, and Djokovic ahead of Federer.

    • I don’t care about your biased analysis.

      I am just happy that Rafa Nadal has won the most Grand Slam singles titles.

      For the greatest tennis players, it’s all about winning Grand Slam singles titles! That is by far the most important statistic for tennis greatness.

  152. Well well, 2022 season is over. What a way to end the year for Djokovic! With the ATP Finalss!!! Sadly Nadal hasn’t been at his best since Wimbledon… I think things are extremely tied and I’ve stood by my side. Happily, Novak will be competing back in Australia (even though I’ll always believe Nadal’s victory in AO ’22 is one of the greatest achievements, no asterisks), but it’s always good to see one of my favourite players (Yes, Djokovic is one of my favourites) back. Hopefully Nadal (No introduction here, a true hero) will be 100% ready to defend his title. 2023 seems to be a promising year, not only for still having two GOATs in action but also because of the rise of players like Alcaraz, Rune, Auger-Aliassime, Ruud et al.

    Hopefully Medvedev will be back at his best.

  153. What many non Nadal followers don’t realise is that Rafa has been crucified with injuries for the majority of his brilliant tennis career, yet still leads the Grand Slam singles titles count with 22. Vamos Rafa!

  154. Vincente, unlike others, you have a bit of a soft spot for Nadal.

    However, there can only be one GOAT at a time and his name is Rafael Nadal, who would be more than 1 Grand Slam singles title in the lead, if not for injuries which has prevented him from in Grand Slam tournaments in the past and which has also made him withdraw or not complete Grand Slam singles matches in the past.

  155. I really hope Djokovic comes back this year. Last year was a joke from so many tennis organisations.

    • Border control says

      Could not disagree more. Djokovic chose not to be vaccinated. He should not have been allowed to come to Australia in the first place. He deserved to be kicked out of the country.

      • Very proud Australian tennis fan says

        Completely agree with Border Control.

        In Serbian, Djokovic has given Alex De Minaur a real spray after the 4th round of the Australian Open in 2923, because De Minaur had a bit of a go at him a year ago when he was banned and then deported.

        A leading radio commentator said “Should deport him again, deport him for being ungracious.”

        Completely agree with what Alex De Minaur had said last year that Australians had done a lot to protect their borders. He claimed that Djokovic, as well as any other tennis player, needed to be double vaccinated to enter Australia. It was up to him, his choices, his judgment.

        Well done Alex. You may have lost the battle on the court but Australian tennis fans are extremely proud of the way you spoke up against Novax Djokovic. It happens to be Australia Day in Australia and Alex De Minaur is the winner for Australia, off the court.

      • Rex Johnson says

        Go get another booster. The whole situation was based on lies and corruption. Btw djokovic is the goat no question.

        • Very proud Australian tennis fan says

          There is every question, Rex! He is only the best on hardcourt. Nadal is the best on clay and Federer is the best on grass. I have had all my boosters by the way. I bet you haven’t! By the way Rex, have you have heard of Rod Laver, the guy from Rockhampton in Queensland, who won 2 calendar Grand Slams and would have won many more Grand Slam singles titles, had he not been banned from playing as a professional for 5 years, when his game was at its peak?

        • Very proud Australian tennis fan says

          What lies and corruption, Rex? Explain yourself. He did the wrong thing and deserved to be kicked out of Australia, plain and simple! Djokovic refused to get a vaccine for Covid, whereas his contemporaries did, It serves Djokovic, right, Rex! Djokovic is not above the law!

  156. Manuel from New York says

    What many people either don’t realise or forget to mention is that Rafa Nadal has won more US Open titles than Novak Djokovic, 4 to 3.

    That proves to me that Rafa Nadal is both an excellent hardcourt player, as well as clay court player.

    • I agree completely that Rafa is also an excellent hardcourt player, HOWEVER, he’s not the GOAT, that would be Novak lol

      • No, it wouldn’t. He is only the GOAT on hardcourt. Rafa is the GOAT on clay and Federer is the GOAT on grass.

  157. Brilliant point, Manuel. Not only has Nadal won more French Open titles than Djokovic, he was won more US Open titles than Djokovic. To me, Nadal is definitely the greatest male tennis player of all time.

    It is simply remarkable that the greatest clay court player of all time, can also have more US Open titles on one of his lesser preferred surfaces compared to Djokovic, who thrives on playing on hardcourt.

  158. Rafa is great, but Djokovic holds way more records… It is not even a debate who is the GOAT.

    • Djokovic has won most masters, been world number one for 7 seasons, been world number 1 for the longest period ever….Djokovic won all masters twice, Nadal has never won them all. Nadal has never been ATP finals champion etc… Djoker is the GOAT and it is not even close.

      • Adjudicator says

        That may be but until Djokovic wins more Wimbledon titles than Federer, he is not the GOAT. It’s a 3 way tie with Federer the GOAT on grass, Nadal the GOAT on clay and Djokovic the GOAT on hardcourt. Every surface counts and nothing you or any other biased Djokovic fan will change my mind. Every surface counts equally in the game of tennis, especially in Grand Slam tournaments.

      • William, who cares about the ATP finals? The tournament is a joke! Many plays retire during the Round Robin. Some don’t play at all, citing fatigue and I don’t blame them. It’s a very, very long season. William, it’s only best of 3 sets. Pity is not played on clay. It’s always hardcourt!

    • I completely disagree. The true test of greatness is Grand Slam singles tournaments, the best of 5. Always has been, always will be. Djokovic has only shown he is better than BOTH Federer and Nadal on hardcourt only.

    • My word, Miladin, it’s a debate! Rafa is the GOAT on clay. Federer is the GOAT on grass. Djokovic is the GOAT on grass. It’s a 3 way tie as to the overall GOAT. I could not care less about anything else, other than who is the best on each surface in Grand Slam tournaments, out of the big 3. Best of 5, Miladin, is the true test of greatness.

  159. “Not only has Nadal won more French Open titles than Djokovic, he was won more US Open titles than Djokovic. To me, Nadal is definitely the greatest male tennis player of all time.”

    Are you disregarding that Djokovic has way more Wimby titles (7) than Nadal (2)? lol

    AO surface is also different than USO surface, albeit, both are hardcourts but USO is way faster, and the ball bounces higher.

    For people that were saying Rafa is the GOAT coz of having more titles last year, what do you guys say now that they are both tied with 22???

    • What do you all say now that Novak has 23 LOL

      • No GOAT for you says

        What I say is come back to us when Djokovic has won more US Open titles than Nadal, currently 4 each and more Wimbledon titles than Federer, currently 8 to 7 in favour of Federer. He still trails Federer in US Opens, 5 to 4 in Federer’s favour. Djokovic is only the greatest player on hardcourt, in the Australian Open, nothing else. Nadal is the greatest player of all time on clay and Federer is currently the greatest player on grass.

        All surfaces are extremely important and you need to be better in at least two out of the 3 surfaces than all your rivals to be the GOAT. Djokovic is only leading in Grand Slam singles titles won because 2 out of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments are played on hardcourt. Nadal would be more than 2 Grand Slam singles titles ahead of Djokovic if for example, the US Open was played on clay, not hardcourt. Notwithstanding,, Nadal is still level with Djokovic on 4 US Open titles each.

    • Well, we stood by our comment back then because people weren’t acknowledging Rafa’s brilliant Grand Slam singles titles record, the most Grand Slam singles titles won. Yet, somehow when Djokovic catches up and passes Nadal on the number of Grand Slam singles titles won, the Djokovic fans, who have always had a greater presence anyway on this website, only acknowledge Djokovic, with that achievement. They didn’t dare acknowledge Nadal when he was in the Grand Slam singles titles lead. We thought Rafa had been given a rough deal, given his accomplishments. It was always Federer at the beginning and then Djokovic later on. Nadal fans genuinely thought that his achievements, not Novak’s were overlooked. We actually think that the majority have been far more pro Djokovic than Nadal.

      At the time, I strongly believe Rafa was the GOAT when he had the lead in Grand Slam singles titles won. He was leading Djokovic in 2 out of the 4 majors, the French Open and US Open, where hardcourt was supposedly Djokovic’s best surface. Djokovic obviously has the edge over Nadal at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. However, Nadal fans were of the opinion that the GOAT in Nadal back then, was true because hardcourt was still Djokovic’s best surface, yet Nadal had won more US Open titles than Djokovic back then, so that gave real credentials to Nadal’s claim as GOAT, plus his Grand Slam singles titles lead at the time.

      To also answer your question about what I would say now that Djokovic is on 24, just have a look at the reply from No Goat for you below.

      Overall achievements in ALL 4 Grand Slam singles tournaments needs to be taken into account between the big 3, before you can have a clear GOAT. At the moment, all 3 of them are level in the GOAT race.

    • I am not disregarding that Djokovic has won 7 Wimbledon titles. It’s a great achievement, but he’s not the GOAT on grass. Federer is the GOAT on grass with 8 Wimbledon titles. Nadal is the GOAT on clay and Djokovic is the GOAT on hardcourt, at the Australian Open. That’s currently only 1 out of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, where he has won the most Grand Slam singles titles, out of the big 3.

      Also, Djokernole, you claim that the US open is way faster than the Australian Open surface. Well if that’s the case, it’s makes Nadal’s achievement at the US Open even more commendable because Nadal generally thrives more on the slower surfaces and Djokovic thrives more on the faster surfaces.

      • Who cares who has more on which court? It’s overall. Not to mention for grass, Federer may have 8 vs 7 for Novak but Novak is 3-0 in finals vs Federer. That’s very significant. Plus 2020 was taken from him and let’s be honest, he likely wins that as he was in the middle of 4 straight. So that argument really doesn’t hold much water to me. Not to mention Covid held Novak back from at least 2 majors likely, several Masters and at least another year end #1. One US Open more also does nothing for me. Roger won 5 in a row, I was there for most of those including when he beat Novak in 2007 in his first ever slam final. I was also at the 2015 US Open final where djokovic smacked Federer and I was rooting for Roger! Roger is 1-4 vs Novak in slam finals. The GOAT takes into account all courts, all important tournaments, etc. While it’s plainly obvious Nadal is the king of clay, it’s also pretty obvious that Djokovic is the best all court player and in fact player ever. The numbers are indisputable…they really are…no matter how much you love Nadal or Roger. And I’m a Roger fan!

  160. Federer is also a fan favourite, having won the ATP Fan’s Player of the Year award 19 years in a row between 2003 and 2020 and the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award a record five times. There is no doubt that Roger Federer has earned his place in the history books as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

  161. Michael. J says

    The greatest player of all time is Novak Djokovic but the only but reason he is the best and has so many records is Clay court Tournaments are not equally represented at the top of A.T.P. tennis. One thing everyone agrees on is Rafael Nadal is the greatest clay court player ever. He gets to play at his favorite major once a year. If there were two clay court major tournaments per year he would have every record there is, just double his clay court majors 28 on clay alone. You would also double his weeks at number one, double his year end number one to 10. This of course is not 100 percent correct but people are correct in considering him the G.O.A.T. The G.O.A.T. is Novak but long after all his records are broken Rafael Nadal will still be the King of clay. Long live the KING.

  162. Marcus Lowe says

    Haha I was just starting to make this same point thinking it was an original idea. I asked my father, a huge tennis fan and great player and local club champion in his day, for his opinion about the different surfaces. I asked him if he thought that hard court was the true surface and that clay and grass were considered specialty surfaces. Obviously this is an opinion, but he said he did not think so and pointed out that the US Open has in the past been played on all three surfaces. If clay is a specialty surface than you can argue Nadal’s dominance does not put him behind Novak. But if you think that wins on each surface are equally valuable you have to admit that if it was 2 majors on clay and only 1 on hard court (more or less Novak’s specialty) that Nadal would have far and away all of the records and both Federer and Novak would have less closer to 15 majors a piece.

  163. Djokovic is the goat, period.

  164. Twilight zone says

    Tennis GOAT- THE ROCKET…Rod Laver!

    • Rocket Man says

      Agreed. 2 calendar Grand Slams. Would have won at least 25 Grand Slam singles titles, had he not be banned from playing as a professional from 1963-1968, his peak years. Then to come back in 1969 and win 4 Grand Slam singles titles in that year was truly remarkable.

  165. DJOKOGOAT !!! …..No1e !
    It’s the END .

    • Another RealTennisBigFan says

      Molian, you are wrong!!!!! No GOAT is to be announced. Refer to Realtennisbigfan’s comments.

  166. Guy Nimmo says

    I like your summary! However there are a couple of details you didn’t mention. Two of the Grand Slams and the majority of the Masters tournaments are now on hard courts which is Djokovic’s favourite surface. I believe that has helped him enormously, especially earlier on in his career, and definitely helped him to be no.1 for such a long time. BTW I think that’s a disgraceful situation that should have been stopped by the tennis authorities when tournaments dug up their grass. Tennis should be played on grass or clay, period! The game is called Lawn Tennis after all! Secondly I think we should mention injuries. My tennis coach says that Djokavic’s ability to avoid injuries is a large part of what has enabled him to pass his rivals and needs to factored in as a reason for choosing him as the best. Look at the present situation. Who has the proven ability to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam? Wawrinka, Murray, Federer, and Nadal and they are all sidelined permanently or temporarily due to injury! Nadal has missed 11 Grand Slams due to injury and withdrawn from 5! Just think about how many potential Grand Slams he could have won! My final point is if Nadal is the best on clay can anyone Djokovic really be the greatest? If you are saying that Federer can’t be the greatest because Djokavic beat him on grass shouldn’t you apply the same criteria to Djokovic. He can’t be the greatest because Nadal beats him on clay? I call it a draw personally.

  167. It was a mistake to let him into Australia in the first place. He has to go immediately.

  168. Simon Buck says

    I first mentioned Alcaraz in these comments back in April 2022, when I said I thought he was the most exciting player I’d seen for a long time. I think his Wimbledon win truly is, at least the beginning of the changing of the guard. And if Rafa was watching Wimbledon 23 he may be having 2nd thoughts about coming back next year now! With another year’s development and maturity, Alcaraz should be an even more frightening competitor next year.

    Nothing to do with the main theme of these comments of course. But in 10 years time maybe Alcaraz will be in the discussion.

    • Agreed. As a Nadal fan, I really hope that Alcaraz ends up winning the most grand slam singles titles. I just hope that Alcaraz can remain relatively injury free. He certainly has a great game, with plenty of variety. Although he is only 20, I thought he would have won more than 1 Grand Slam singles title by now. However, Djokovic only won his 2nd Grand Slam singles title aged 23 and Federer only won his 1st Grand Slam singles title, aged 21.

      Ten years time may be too soon, as Alcaraz would need to win 24 out of the next 40 Grand Slam singles titles to pass Djokovic, as it stands now. However, Djokovic is still playing and dare I say it, will probably win more Grand Slam singles titles by the time he retires. It’s a big ask for Alcaraz, even for someone as good as him. Maybe 15 years time, as long as he hasn’t retired and is fit. Alcaraz must start winning more Grand Slam singles titles now, if he is to eventually pass Djokovic. Otherwise, unfortunately, the mountain will be too high to climb.

      • Carlos Alcaraz has actually won 2 Grand Slam singles titles already on 2 different surfaces, hardcourt at the US Open and grass at Wimbledon. He was very unlucky not to win the French Open on clay in 2023, having suffered cramps while in control of his match against Djokovic. Although he couldn’t beat Medvedev in the US Open semi final in 2023, if anyone can beat Djokovic in the Australian Open in 2024, it’s Alcaraz.

        He still has a long way to go, aged 20, but if anyone can eventually become the GOAT, it’s him. Fingers crossed, he can compete in many Grand Slam tournaments, over the next 10 to 15 years. As Djokovic didn’t win his 2nd Grand Slam singles title until age 23, the more Grand Slam singles titles Alcaraz can have by age 23, can only help him.

  169. Fascinating article, despite being rather pointless. I hear a lot of \”had Djokovic done this\” and \”not done that\” yada yada yada. YAWNNNN. Djokovic is clear 3rd mate, Murray even thrashed him at Wimbledon. He was being whipped by everyone early on. Great to compare head to heads when Roger was well past his peak and Rafa was never the same player after his 2014 injury hiatus despite coming back to win multiple slams.

    Roger was the greatest to watch in his peak, Novak managed his body and career the best. But in their peaks I would prolly have the 08 Nadal play for my life on all surfaces.

    Moral of the story: There is only one thing indisputable in tennis. You\’d put your life on Nadal at Roland Garros, the rest is all open for debate and discussion.

    • Donn Layne says

      Vast..you spoke too soon..you missed the 2023 Wimbledon and the 2023 US open

      • Donn, guess what, Djokovic hasn’t won the most Wimbledon and US Open titles. Federer has won more Wimbledon and US Opens than Djokovic and I’m not a fan of Federer. There is no clear cut GOAT, plain and simple!

  170. Brian Richards says

    Until Novak makes nadal vomit at the french its nadal,review the tapes rafa got two vomits out of novak

  171. Geoffrey whitley says

    There is certainly an extremely strong case for djokovic. Nadal is definitely my favorite because he is a very nice guy and i think sjokovic has a poor attitude a lot. It would be amazing to watch these guys in their primes on their best days and see who came out on top. I will say in favor of nadal that he has two big things against him that has kept him from winning as much – injury and facing the other two best players in history when they were at their primes. Djokovic did not reach his prime until Federer was past his and never had to face him during his prime. Nadal had to face both at their respective primes.

  172. funny to read some of comments now… though there are still deluded people who can’t accept Djokovic’s achievements somehow despite him being ahead by a country mile on more or less all important indicators now

    • Another Tom says

      I think you’re being a bit harsh. They certainly weren’t funny at the time. Most of the comments were accurate at that time, too. It’s all very well for you to say that now, in hindsight. No one has a crystal ball. By the way, Djokovic wasn’t ahead by a country mile at that time you are referring to. Even now, he’s only 2 Grand Slam singles titles ahead of Nadal, who after the French Open in 2022, was 2 Grand Slam singles titles ahead of Djokovic. However, even the most one eyed Nadal fans now know that Nadal won’t catch him, due to Nadal’s unfortunate constant injuries and Nadal will be retiring in 2024, possibly after the US Open and Djokovic will probably be playing in Grand Slam singles tournaments until the age of 40.

    • If you break down his 24 Grand Slam singles titles, Djokovic has only won the most Australian Open titles, ahead of both Federer and Nadal.

      Nadal has won the most French Open titles by an even bigger margin and Federer has won more US Open titles and Wimbledon titles than Djokovic and Nadal.

      It’s still line ball in a current 3 way tie between the 3 of them, as Nadal has won 2 more Grand Slam singles titles than Federer and Djokovic 4 more Grand Slam singles titles than Federer and 2 more than Nadal, but until Djokovic wins more US Open titles and more Wimbledon titles than Federer, he will not be the GOAT, only the king of hardcourt at the Australian Open.

  173. Its normal to have a favorite among the three, but we are talking facts and numbers here, right ? So Djokovic having most GS, most Masters, most Weeks as number 1, better score vs two of them and so much more, how is he not the greatest all ? U can say i love either Federer or Nadal more, and that’s ok but to say “oh Federer is the best beacuse of the grace or some shit ? ” Give me a break. Western media just cant accept Djokovic being the best and that’s the fact. U all talk big about democracy, diversity, equal rights and so on but u stomp everything good that come’s from the ” East “. Shame on u.

    • Tennis Analyst says

      I can’t believe how many Djokovic fans are on this website. I didn’t think he had that many fans. Where are all the Nadal fans, where Nadal is far more popular with the general public than Djokovic? It makes no sense at all. There are more Federer fans on the website than Djokovic but the Nadal fans seem to be scared of typing their comments. Maybe, they are just modest, like Rafa!

  174. Well I think the US win has nailed it for Djokovic, he’s now without doubt the greatest male player in the history of the game. And it looks like he’s got another year or 2 left in him. I think 26 or 27 slams is now a realistic possibility, though I wonder if, or more likely when, he beats Margaret Court’s record and reaches 25 slams whether he will lose the motivation to continue to mix it with players 15+ years younger than himself. Short of injury Alcaraz is only going to get better in the next few years.

    • I disagree with you, Simon. Djokovic is only the greatest on hardcourt. Nadal is the greatest on clay and Federer is the greatest on grass. Also, don’t forget the great Rod Laver who won 2 calendar Grand Slams and could have won 25 Grand Slam singles titles, had he not been banned from playing as a professional for 5 years, during the absolute peak of his career!

  175. Until now, Novak is the greatest of all time, without any doubt… unless something special happens in the future

    • I disagree. He is not the overall GOAT until he is the greatest grass court player of all time, with 9 Wimbledon titles. He is only the GOAT on hardcourt at the Australian Open. Nadal is the GOAT on clay and Federer is the GOAT on grass. You could even argue that a clear GOAT needs to be the GOAT on all surfaces compared to his rivals. Yes, I know Djokovic has the most grand slam singles titles, but when Nadal had the most Grand Slam singles titles last year, most people were saying he wasn’t the GOAT.

  176. Jimmy Crackle says

    I honestly can’t believe people would debate this … with the sport of tennis, the W-L records, # of majors, weeks at #1, etc are undeniable. Novak (at least for now) is unequivocally the best.

    • Tennis Analyst says

      I can believe they debated this. It was in the balance until Djokovic passed Nadal on Grand Slam singles titles won.

  177. Donn Layne says

    There can be no debate at this time and let’s assume he may win 2 more slams before he retires..who on the horizon will ever win 26 slams? In my opinion the number of slams won should be given the greatest consideration when choosing the greatest of all time

    • Agreed. As a Rafa fan, I always said that the number of Grand Slam singles titles was the greatest component of greatness. Sadly, Rafa fans can no longer say that he’s won the most Grand Slam singles titles but second with 22 is no mean feat. We shall never know how many Grand Slam singles titles the likes of Laver and others would have ended up with, had professionals been allowed to play in every Grand Slam tournament back then. Also Grand Slam tournaments and titles also weren’t held in the same prestige as it is nowadays. I remember during the 1970s and most of the 1980s, many top tennis players wouldn’t travel to play in the Australian Open, while it was at Kooyong. That changed when the Australian Open shifted to Flinders Park, now Melbourne Park, in 1987.

    • Fair’s fair says

      Donn, you forgot to mention that Rafa would have won at least 26 Grand Slam singles titles, if not more, due to injuries. He’s missed far more Grand Slam tournaments due to injury than Djokovic, yet is only 2 Grand Slam singles titles behind, You forgot to mention that two of the four Grand Slam singles tournaments are played on hardcourt, Djokovic’s best surface, (14 out of 24) and only one Grand Slam singles tournament is played on clay. (14 out of 22)

  178. Unfortunately his luck didn’t help him reach 26 slams.

  179. Well another ATP final win and that really wraps this debate up.
    ND now has the most majors (24), most ATP final wins (7) and most Masters 1000 wins (40).

    It’s been fun Lee!

  180. Djokovic is the GOAT. He has the most number of grand slams. Grand slam is the most important achievement in tennis and it is widely regarded as the most prestigious status a professional tennis player can achieve. You can pull a poll of all professional tennis players and most will say they want to win grand slams. Not to mention Djokovic broke a lot of the other records as well. The numbers don’t lie. Again, grand slam is the single most important indicator when you are talking about GOAT. And nobody cares if someone is more popular and respected. We are talking about tennis achievement here. I really don’t know why people always make this topic so complicated.

    • Let me remind you why this topic was so complicated. This time last year, Nadal led Djokovic 22 Grand Slam singles titles to 21! It’s very strange that now Djokovic has won more Grand Slam singles titles than Nadal, the Djokovic fans are finally saying that Grand Slam singles titles won are the most important statistic, yet when Nadal was leading Djokovic 22-20 and 22-21, they wouldn’t acknowledge that very important statistic. Funny that.

  181. Why does this 2023 article has comments from 2018.Is this article keeps updating?
    It’s nice you declared Djokovic GOAT five years ago.
    It’s fun to see all older comments where people were like “until someone takes over Roger in majors count Federer is the GOAT” Well now you have that too.But im sure you will come up with some other excuse.

    • Yes I think I wrote it originally in 2018 but have kept it up to date since then as you can see by the spreadsheet numbers are totally up to date as of end of the ATP Finals.

  182. Criteria for GOAT says

    I take a different angle to the GOAT.

    It’s your Grand Slam record at all of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments.

    Currently, Nadal has won more French Open titles than Djokovic, 14 to 3.
    Currently, Nadal has won the same number of US Open titles than Djokovic, 4 each.

    Currently, Federer has won more US Open titles than Djokovic, 5 to 4.
    Currently, Federer has won more Wimbledon titles than Djokovic, 8 to 7.

    Yes, I know there are other tournaments, weeks at number 1, etc. but best of 5 sets in ALL of the Grand Slam singles tournaments should be the main criteria.

    Therefore, in order for Djokovic to be the GOAT, he needs to win one more US Open title than Nadal, to have a superior Grand Slam singles record than Nadal in 3 out of the 4 majors. As Nadal at this stage will be retiring at the end of 2024, he, Nadal, could still win the US Open in 2024, if he’s fit enough.

    Djokovic would also need to win either 9 Wimbledon or 6 US Open titles to have a superior record than Federer in 3 out of the 4 majors.

    Therefore, even if Djokovic currently has the most Grand Slam singles titles, to be the GOAT, you need to have won more Grand Slam singles titles in 3 out of the 4 major titles than Nadal and Federer, his major rivals.

    Currently, I have all 3 of them as the equal GOAT, as Federer has won more US Opens, Australian Opens and Wimbledon titles than Nadal, but Nadal leads Federer 22 to 20 overall in Grand Slam singles titles. Nadal still has a chance next year to equal Federer on 5 US Open titles each, if he’s fit.

    • I completely agree with you.

      There is no clear GOAT.

      It’s a draw at the moment. Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all time. Federer is currently the greatest grass court player of all time, by a small margin. Djokovic is the greatest hard court player of all time, only because he has won more many Australian Opens than Federer, not US Opens.

      To be the GOAT, you need to be superior in at least 2 out of the 3 surfaces in Grand Slam tournaments.

  183. “Currently, I have all 3 of them as the equal GOAT, as Federer has won more US Opens, Australian Opens and Wimbledon titles than Nadal, but Nadal leads Federer 22 to 20 overall in Grand Slam singles titles. Nadal still has a chance next year to equal Federer on 5 US Open titles each, if he’s fit.”

    Slightly flawed logic here. You have them all equal yet by your own criteria Federer is currently better than Nadal in 3 of 4 majors.

    Major titles are certainly the most important element in arriving at a conclusion, but weeks as world no. 1, year-end no.1 finishes, ATP finals wins and Masters 1000 wins have to be factored in as well. You can’t just ignore the fact that Djokovic has a better record in all these.

    And I say this as someone, who of the three, has always supported Nadal.

    • My personal opinion says

      I still STRONGLY believe you need to be the GOAT on at least 2 out of the 3 surfaces. Nadal is the GOAT on clay. Federer is the GOAT on grass, regardless of who Djokovic beat at Wimbledon. 8 is better than 7 Wimbledon titles on grass and Djokovic is the king on hardcourt. Every statistic is truly impressive by Djokovic. But to me, TRUE GREATNESS and to be the GREATEST OF ALL TIME, you need to be the greatest player on at least 2 out of 3 surfaces, if not 3, in the Grand Slam tournaments.

      • So i nadal has 14 rg federer has 14 us and 14 wimbledons and murray has 14 AO titlesnovak wouldnt be the goat by winning 39 gs titles if he wa a title behind in all majors?

        • My personal opinion says

          It’s not what I said or meant. You are twisting what I said around. To be the clear GOAT, in my opinion, you need to have won MORE Grand Slam singles titles on at least 2 out of the 3 different surfaces than both of your peers. I stand by my comment that Federer is the GOAT on grass, with 8 Wimbledon titles to Djokovic’s 7. Nadal is the GOAT on clay and Djokovic is the GOAT on hardcourt.

        • It makes no sense says

          Predrag, your logic is flawed and doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Your hypotheticals are just that. You have not used any accurate figures and the way you have expressed your point is very difficult to understand.

    • Criteria for GOAT says

      No, Simon, I personally don’t think it has to be factored in. Just ask Realbigtennisfan, who doesn’t even think a GOAT should even be announced. Weeks at number 1 doesn’t equate to Grand Slam singles titles. Just look at Wozniacki, who spent many weeks at number 1, for only 1 Grand Slam singles title. Look at Serena Williams, who won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, but wasn’t number 1 for a long period, because she was focusing on playing Grand Slam tournaments, above everything else.

      The other singles titles you mentioned were best of 3 sets. I honestly believe that the best of 5 sets is the true test of greatness. Also, I believe that any other tournament, apart from the Grand Slam tournaments, are simply practice or preparation for the biggest 4 tournaments of the year, the Grand Slam tournaments. For example, today Rod Laver is remembered by most people for winning the calendar Grand Slam twice, above anything else. This is nearly 55 years after winning his last calendar Grand Slam in 1969.

      Re the flawed logic, what I should have mentioned in hindsight, and it’s more important anyway to me, is that the big 3 are really equal more to the fact that Nadal is the GOAT on clay, Djokovic is the GOAT on hardcourt and Federer is the GOAT on grass, as all 3 have won more Grand Slam singles titles on those specific surfaces, compared their peers.

      That’s the real reason why I think it’s a tie for the GOAT, between the big 3. In other words, I strongly believe that the real criteria for the GOAT should be who performed the best out of the big 3 on all those 3 surfaces, in the Grand Slam singles tournaments, which is the true test of greatness, over 5 sets.

  184. Darren Maxwell says

    This is a joke, 200 career titles two grand slams, Rod Laver is easily the GOAT. Every single year without exception every single player sets out to win the grand slam, the current big three have failed to get there every single time, few have done it Laver has done it twice. Sure Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are very durable players they have hung around a long time and why wouldnt they, on tap logistical support, mangers, nutritionists, coaches fitness trainers, big dollars ect ect all they have to do is show up and play and yet every single year they have failed in what they planned to achieve, thats why they call it the Grand Slam, it aint easy.

    No no sport is about the averages, not about how long you hang around for, Sachin Tendulkar has the most runs in test cricket at average of 54, nobody thinks he’s the greatest batsmen of all time, he only averages 54, Bradman is the GOAT average 99, take a look at the averages of the current players compared to Laver its laughable that they are in the conversation and Federer supports the view, he understands the game of tennis and sees laver as the Goat and so would anybody that looked at the stats, not to mention no logistical support, very little financial benefit ect ect ect.

    • I have to agree with you, Darren, that Rod Laver is the GOAT. Rod Laver’s strike rate is phenomenal. His 2 Calendar Grand Slams is without peer. In my mind, Rod Laver would have won 25 Grand Slam singles titles, maybe more, had he not turned professional and been banned from competing in Grand Slam singles tournaments during his peak years. Your Bradman comparison with figures is very relevant, regarding the averages.

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      Rod Laver wasn’t even the greatest in his era. Ken Rosewall: 23 majors (8 Grand Slams, 15 Pro Slams). Rod Laver: 19 majors (11 Grand Slams, 8 Pro Slams). And Rosewall has been a professional player twice as long as Laver. This is important to note because there were only 3 Pro Slam tournaments per year among the pros. Still, Rosewall won 23 majors.

      • Mohn JcEnroe says

        YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! I completely disagree with you on this point. You are being extremely harsh to the brilliant, magnificent and talented Rod Laver. The Grand Slam statistics don’t lie. Rod Laver is the only player to win the calendar Grand Slam twice. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic haven’t even won the calendar Grand Slam even once. Rosewall never won Wimbledon, meaning he never won a calendar Grand Slam. That is a very, very important factor. Winning a calendar Grand Slam, let alone 2 calendar Grand Slams, far outweighs the statistics you have come up with.

        • Realtennisbigfan says

          I also recognize Laver’s greatness, but 23 majors is more than 19. Ken Rosewall played in the professional series from 1957 to 1968, so during his most competitive years he could not compete in Grand Slam tournaments or compete with Laver. That’s why he had much less chance to win Wimbledon trophy. Laver was only professional from 1963 to 1968, he had more chances to win Grand Slam trophies, without his best opponent (Ken). These are facts.
          Ken Rosewall was a four-time Grand Slam champion at the age of 21 before turning pro.
          Well, in 1962, Laver won the calendar Grand Slam, but in Rosewall’s absence. And here comes my big credit to Laver for the 1969 Open Era calendar GS. This was a tremendous achievement. But he’s still not a clear-cut GOAT.
          Djokovic was three times, Federer twice, one victory away from the calendar Grand Slam. And they had such a quality rival in the meantime as Nadal. Against two huge rivals, it is much more difficult to make a calendar Grand Slam, and yet it almost happened a few times. And don’t forget! Not within a year, but Djokovic held all four GS trophies at the same time in 2015-2016.

          • Tennis Analyst says

            You seemed so obsessed with numbers that Djokovic and Federer coming close to winning the calendar Grand Slam is not close enough my opinion. Yes, they are great achievements but nowhere near as great as winning the calendar Grand Slam twice.

            To make a comparison, it’s like a professional football team going undefeated for the whole season and then stumbling when it matters most, the premiership on Grand Final day. Three out of 4 Grand Slam singles titles in a year is great but it’s not great enough, when compared to Rod Laver. Yes, Nadal was in the way of Federer and Djokovic achieving the calendar Grand Slam, but don’t forget in the case of Djokovic, it was Medvedev in the US Open final and Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.

            Also, in the case of Laver, to me it doesn’t really matter how great the opposition is because there was still so pressure on him to win his first calendar Grand Slam in 1962.

            We’ll definitely agree to disagree about who was the best player of his era between Rosewall and Laver because as I have mentioned numerous times, 2 calendar Grand Slams in my opinion, puts Laver ahead of Rosewall and the fact that Rosewall never won Wimbledon. Without sounding like a broken record, to me, the actual achievements themselves are far more important than the statistics you came up with.

      • Tennis Analyst says

        Rosewall’s longevity as a professional tennis player is not the deciding factor for me. What champions like Rod Laver achieved in a far shorter time frame, with a brilliant strike rate, is far more impressive to me. That’s also why I was a massive fan of what Monica Seles achieved as a teenager to win 8 Grand Slam singles titles, when she was only 19. That’s absolutely phenomenal and she was beating Graf at the time. She could have ended up with close to 25 Grand Slam singles titles, had she not been stabbed by a crazed Graf fan. For the great Monica Seles to win another Grand Slam singles title after being stabbed, was truly impressive.

        • Realtennisbigfan says

          I totally agree with you about Seles Monica. She was a great favorite of mine, it’s terrible what happened to her. Monica’s big rival was Steffi Graf, so I’m not sure she would have gotten anywhere near 25 trophies, but she would have gotten close to 20. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

  185. Darren Maxwell says

    To that end Novak is actually pretty shit, he’s been been playing pro tennis for over 20 years with all the support that the planet can provide him, he has 98 titles, less than half of Lavers achievement in twice the time.

  186. Morgan Paris says

    It would be hard not to argue that Novak Djokovic is (by far) the greatest men’s tennis player who has ever lived and in 2024 is still going strong; but who would come in second, would it be Federer or Nadal? Although Nadal has been mostly a clay court champion and not so dominate in the other tennis court formats, I would still rank him second due to the fact that he has a sizable winning record against Federer. On Federer’s side is that fact that he has won a lot more tournaments than Nadal over the years and was the number one men’s player in the world 101 weeks longer than Nadal who arguably had to compete against Djokovic for that coveted spot who it may be said has exactly 100 more weeks at the top (and counting) than Federer. But overall I think that one still has to go with Nadal at #2 and then Rod Laver would be my choice for #4 and with Ken Rosewall, who missed ten full years competing at grand slam events and yet still won eight of them, rounding out the top five.

  187. Morgan, to me, it’s very, very easy to argue that Djokovic is not the overall GOAT. He is only the GOAT on hardcourt, Federer is still the GOAT on grass and Nadal is the GOAT on clay.

  188. Simon Buck says

    I think the case for Rod Laver is a good one. We may never have seen his best Tennis at the Grand Slam events when he wasn’t allowed to play as a professional.

    In reality though, most of the top players today, would beat Rod Laver. They are fitter, stronger, faster and more skillful. Yes, that’s because they have better equipment and support etc. However, the idea that all the top players have to do these days is turn up, or that Novak is pretty shit, is laughable. The best players in the current era train harder and longer than any previous era of professionals (or amateurs before the open era).

    Without doubt Laver was the greatest of his era, and that’s all you can really say.

    • We definitely saw Rod Laver’s best tennis when Laver was allowed to play, winning 2 calendar Grand Slams. So, you’re right implying that he may have won many more Grand Slam singles titles, had he been allowed to play in his peak years.

      However, I have to disagree with you that most of the top players today would have beaten him, simply because you can’t compare different eras. Put Rod Laver in today’s tennis with fitness coaches, coaches in general travelling with him, physios, dieticians and importantly a powerful racquet and Rod Laver may well be beating many of these top players. Laver had a great net game too, as well as very good passing shots.

      Put many of today’s top players of today and see how they go against Laver in the 1960s with a wooden racquet, no dieticians, no coaches and no physios. I would back Rod Laver to beat them every time but we’ll never know.

  189. Sinnermania says

    Congratulations Janik Sinner in beating the King of the Australian Open in 4 sets in the semi final of the 2024 Australian Open! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

  190. Realtennisbigfan says

    Hi Lee,
    I\’m not sure it\’s possible to make a valid GOAT list because the eras and conditions were so different. But anyway, this is a great discussion here in the comments, too bad I just found it now.
    It\’s great to see the evolution of numbers and opinions through the comments, but I think it would be important for you to also publish the original numbers, the September 2018 numbers, when you wrote the article.

    And then some numbers and evaluations from me on the reasons why GOAT should not be advertised. Several people have mentioned Rod Laver as a possible GOAT. He is a huge player, but his great rival in that era, Ken Rosewall, was already on the Pro tour from 1957, before that he won 4 Grand Salm tournaments, the first two at the age of 19. Laver was able to win the calendar Grand Slam in 1962 without a rivalry against Rosewall. After the GS series in the 1969 calendar, Laver did not even reach the semi-finals again, he tried 8 times in Grand Slam tournaments. Rosewall won 3 Grand Slam tournaments after 1969. Laver total 19 wins (11 classic GS and 8 Pro Slam), Rosewall total 23 wins (11 classic GS and 15 Pro Slam). So Laver is not clearly GOAT even in his era.
    Björn Borg has also been mentioned by many as a possible GOAT. Borg clearly played few GS events, retirement was his decision in 1982. He only raced once in Australia. He played at the US Open for 9 years without success, losing 4 finals. He can\’t be GOAT.
    Jimmy Connors: 109 tournament wins, but only 8 Grand Slams. This is clearly not enough.

    And the Big 3. The numbers are clearly in Djokovic\’s favor now, but he also has shortcomings. Olympic gold medal (he really wants to get it), victory in a Roland Garros final against Nadal. US open finals win loss indicator 4-6.
    So, even now, we cannot clearly state that there is a GOAT.

    • Good level-headed comment. I agree about Rosewall and Laver and honestly the whole wooden racquet era is hard to compare to modern day. Also every player has shortcomings in things they’ve won/lost etc. I don’t necessarily agree that an Olympic win is a big deal. It was honestly never a big deal until Nadal won in 2008 and the goat race was beginning. When I was a kid I remember Miloslav Mecir won and nobody thought twice about it. Also, Nadal has lost 3x at RG, twice to Novak so the final is pretty irrelevant to me. Nadal is clearly the best clay court player ever. Novak could be argued to be the 3rd best after Borg. Regardless things like this are really nitpicking. The numbers are what they are but the the head to head matchup wins, 2x golden masters when nobody else has ever done it and the 3x grand slams and both still counting. Everyone has their favorites but numbers help decide goats especially when they are unarguable. I’ll be at Indian Wells next week, looking forward to watching both Nadal and Novak live!

    • Tennis Analyst says

      That’s a very ignorant assessment, Realtennisbigfan. You have totally disrespected Rod Laver’s 2 calendar Grand Slams. As mentioned, Rosewall and the big 3 are yet to win one calendar Grand Slam. Laver also won more Grand Slam singles titles than Rosewall in a much quicker timeframe. Rosewall never won Wimbledon. I would put Laver ahead of Rosewall as a tennis player every day of the week. Laver is clearly the GOAT of his era and in all honesty, I completely agree with Darren Maxwell, who made a previous comment that Laver is the GOAT, if I were forced to name one. But, it’s hard to compare different eras, but as mentioned before, the Grand Slam statistics for Rod Laver doesn’t lie. He was an absolutely brilliant and magnificent tennis player.

    • Tennis Analyst says

      That’s a very ignorant assessment, Realtennisbigfan. You have totally disrespected Rod Laver’s 2 calendar Grand Slams. As mentioned, Rosewall and the big 3 are yet to win one calendar Grand Slam. Laver also won more Grand Slam singles titles than Rosewall in a much quicker timeframe. Rosewall never won Wimbledon. I would put Laver ahead of Rosewall as a tennis player every day of the week. Laver is clearly the GOAT of his era and in all honesty, I completely agree with Darren Maxwell, who made a previous comment that Laver is the GOAT, if I were forced to name one. But, it’s hard to compare different eras, and as mentioned before, the Grand Slam statistics for Rod Laver don’t lie. He was an absolutely brilliant and magnificent tennis player. Thank god, Realtennisbigfan, you are in the absolute minority. Most astute tennis experts believe Laver was the greatest tennis player of his era.

      • Realtennisbigfan says

        I don’t mind being in the minority at all.
        I’m glad to have drawn attention to another great player of the era. Ken Rosewall also deserves to be spoken of with great respect. I acknowledge Laver’s achievements, especially the calendar Grand Slam in 1969 in the Open Era. But nobody can be the GOAT, not even Rod Laver.

        • Adjudicator says

          Yes, Ken Rosewall is to be greatly respected for his achievements but he wasn’t as good a player as Rod Laver. You forgot to mention that Rod Laver won 200 singles titles to Ken Rosewall’s 147 singles titles.

          Laver had a winning head to head record of 90 to 75 over Ken Rosewall from the years 1963-1977. In that period, Laver had a winning record over Rosewall in 9 out of 12 years, as the other years were tied or they didn’t play each other in those years. Rosewall only had the advantage over Laver in pro singles titles won.

          Therefore, taking into account Rod Laver winning the Grand Slam twice in a calendar year, as well as Rosewall never winning Wimbledon, I hereby declare Rod Laver the greatest tennis player of his era.

          Yes, a GOAT cannot be declared as you can’t compare different eras. However, out of all the comments I have read, Darren Maxwell’s 1st comment on January 19, 2024, puts the best case out of all of them, in my opinion.

          • Realtennisbigfan says

            \”In that period, Laver had a winning record over Rosewall in 9 out of 12 years, as the other years were tied or they didn’t play each other in those years.\”
            This is not entirely true, because in 1963 Rosewall-Laver 38-13 h2h. This happened after Laver\’s 1962 calendar Grand Slam win.

            \”Rosewall only had the advantage over Laver in pro singles titles won.\”
            This is true. But the Pro Slams are also major titles. Rod Laver also chose the Pro series from 1963 to the Open Era. The best competed in the Pro series during that era. That\’s why Roy Emerson has 12 Grand Slam titles.

            In one case, 19 out of 200 singles titles are majors, in the other case, 23 out of 147 titles are majors.
            So in terms of their entire careers, it was definitely a close race.
            Don\’t get me wrong, I like Rod Laver!

            Darren Maxwell is overly critical of the Big 3.
            There are much more quality competitors than there were in the 60s. However, the three of them created something exceptional.

          • Adjudicator says

            Also, Realbigtennisfan, you have failed to address or acknowledge that Rosewall never won Wimbledon. Runner up in 4 Wimbledon finals, for Rosewall, is good, but not good enough. That is another really important statistic when comparing Laver and Rosewall’s careers. Rosewall did not win all 4 Grand Slam singles tournaments.

            Even if I never convince you that Laver was the greatest player of his era, I am still happy that most people agree with me that Laver, not Rosewall, was the greatest player of his era.

          • Stats Man says

            Realtennisbigfan, I urge you to Google the Rosewall-Laver rivalry, and you will see as PROOF, the breakdown of every year from 1963 onwards, where Laver had a winning head to head record in 9 out of 12 years, including 1963, which was only the first year of their rivalry. The total head to head record was 90 for Laver and 75 for Rosewall.

        • Realtennisbigfan says

          Stats Man, I know the numbers. It is important to know that Rosewall is 4 years older and spent his best years in the professional field from 1957. That\’s why he had fewer opportunities to collect Grand Slam titles in his younger years, so he couldn\’t even play in Wimbledon in his prime.
          He has a total of 23 major titles. Not too bad.
          I recognize Laver\’s greatness, but many people don\’t recognize Rosewall\’s greatness.

          • Stats Man says

            That’s a very poor excuse! It’s like Federer fans complaining that he was 5 years older than Nadal and 6 years older than Djokovic. I could not care less about the age difference. Also, Federer fans never complained when Federer was consistently beating players around 10 years younger than himself. Only when he was playing Nadal and Djokovic. Funny that.

            I think you are an extremely poor judge when it comes to the Laver-Rosewall rivalry. Your statistics are FAR less important than my statistics! I honestly thought you were smarter than your argument, but you are not.

            The only thing I agree with you is there’s no GOAT to be announced out of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer.

          • Hahaha, Realtennisbigfan. You forgot to mention Ken Rosewall’s age of 39 when he made the Wimbledon final and played Jimmy Connors in that 1974 Wimbledon final. You didn’t mention that Rosewall was nearing the age of 43, when he beat Vitas Gerulaitis, who was nearly TWENTY years younger than Rosewall, and the world number 3 at the time, in straight sets, in the Sydney Indoor tournament, in October 1977.

            However, when Rosewall kept consistently losing to Laver in head to head matches in 9 out of 12 years from 1963 onwards, you complain that the reason is that Rosewall was 4 years older than Laver, not that Laver was simply a better player than Rosewall. Give me a break! Come on Man!

          • Realtennisbigfan says

            Mike, As I already wrote, he spent his best years among the professionals from 1957. Therefore, he could only win 8 Grand Slams. And yes, maybe I worded it wrong that he was better than Laver, but he was definitely competitive, as evidenced by his 75 wins and 23 (8 & 15) majors.
            In 1974, at the age of 40, he hadn’t chance against Connors.

    • Realtennisbigfan, I’m glad you mentioned Djokovic’s US Open record. Someone else (Adjudicator) mentioned a few months ago in these comments as well as others, regarding Djokovic’s US Open record and was slammed, pardon the pun, for that comment. Djokovic’s shortcomings include that he has only won more Australian Open singles titles, from the 4 Grand Slam singles tournaments, out of all the big 3. Currently, Djokovic has won the most Australian Open singles titles, Nadal the most French Open singles titles and Federer has won the most Wimbledon and US Open singles titles. Who cares about which court it is at the US Open.? Both Realtennisbigfan and Colin care! Out of the 3 surfaces, Nadal is the overall best on clay, Federer is the overall best on grass, and Djokovic is the overall best on hardcourt, taking overall Grand Slam singles titles into account.

  191. Realtennisbigfan says

    You write about the Olympics: \”It was honestly never a big deal until Nadal won in 2008 and the goat race was beginning.\”
    This article and tons of comments are exactly about the GOAT competition.

    In fact, Novak has always said how important it is for him to represent his country at the Olympics and win a gold medal. We saw how disappointed he was in London, Rio and Tokyo. Roger really wanted this gold medal too. It is also important for Nadal, because he can demonstrate this against the other two.
    Bigger tennis experts than you and me might think that Olympic gold is important to all three, precisely because of the GOAT competition. There will be a huge competition in Paris in the summer (with Novak and Rafa), I am absolutely sure of that. They really want it.

    At Roland Garros, Novak-Rafa are 2-8, 0-3 in finals. Nadal could clearly point to this streak to blunt the seemingly clear GOAT debate.
    As I wrote, the numbers are very favorable to Novak, but I wouldn\’t announce GOAT yet. I\’m also really looking forward to the Sunshine Double. Let\’s just enjoy it!

    • Tennis Analyst says

      Who cares about the Olympics? It is a terrible guide. The best players don’t turn up. Many make excuses why they won’t play in the Olympics. It’s only every 4 years. To me, tennis at the Olympics is an exhibition event, regardless of the medals on offer.I would rather put more weight on the Davis Cup, especially years ago when the best players did play and more importantly, when it was best of 5 sets, the true test of greatness. This is coming from a massive Nadal fan, too.

      • Realtennisbigfan says

        Who cares about the Olympics?
        Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Alcaraz, Agassi, Steffi Graf and Monica Puig 🙂

    • Tennis Analyst says

      Also, the year that the very attractive Monica Puig (gold in the 2016 Olympics), who I also happened to be a massive fan of, was a joke too. Taking nothing away from her gold medal, I honestly don’t believe that her opponents were trying as hard as they would, had it been a Grand Slam singles tournament instead, where the winner would get a Grand Slam singles title.

    • Tennis Analyst says

      Also, the Olympic year of 2016, when the very attractive Monica Puig, who I also happened to be a massive fan of, won gold, was a joke too. Taking nothing away from her gold medal, I honestly don’t believe that her opponents were trying as hard as they would, had it been a Grand Slam singles tournament instead, where the winner would get a Grand Slam singles title.

  192. “it’s a no-brainer: the three greatest tennis players that ever lived are Federer, Nadal and Djokovic-and I don’t even think it’s debatable” , It’s absolutely debatable , if you think that Mac and Borg could not play this era, give a wooden racket to the magic trio and send them back to the 80’s ,let’s see what happens. Anyway Federer is , in my opinion, the best of the three but my fav remains , easily , Sampras, well..on the fast courts at least:)

    • I’m not sure if it’s reasonably debated. Again, when comparing eras, the numbers are tough but when they’re this significant they’re tough to ignore for the big 3 regardless of era or racquet. Connors is the one from that era I think translates the best to modern day.

      • Yes their numbers are bigger but they also have a different longevity now, Borg and McEnroe won their last slam at 25, if i\’m not wrong. Most of the players close to 30, were far from their prime. sorry for my bad english ^^

        • There’s no doubt fitness and diet have helped modern day stars. But Borg quit in his own still in his prime. McEnroe was still relevant for 5-6 more years, Connors as well. The difference as I remember it was the up and comers like Sampras and Agassi etc were better than they were. The nextgen, the last two iterations of it actually, are not better and don’t seem to have the drive that the a big 3 do and have. The most extraordinary thing about the big 3 is that in this era of huge money, they never lost focus and had relatively few major injuries and nothing catastrophic like a Thiem had that has derailed his career. Anyway it’s always fun to go back and forth on this stuff.

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      I agree. these 3 guys were so prepared physically and mentally and they were able to adapt so well to the changing court surfaces and the opponents’ game that I would easily send them back to the wood racket era as well. I’d rather bet on them.
      If we continue to play with the idea of ??time travel, in my opinion, Rosewall and Laver would be in much more trouble in the 21st century. The competition is much stronger these days, which requires much more strength and mental preparation from the beginning to the end of the career. An example from another sport: The football world champions of the old days would not be able to compete with the best of today’s football.

      Federer really played the most beautiful and easy game, so he played the most fun game. But tennis is also a competitive sport that is measured in numbers. Roger may be the best based on sympathy, but in the most important numbers, his 2 competitors of the era, his biggest rivals, surpassed him. But of course I like him a lot too.

      • Tennis Analyst says

        You may have a point in theory, but once again, it’s the old saying, you can’t compare different eras.

        Having said that, as Rod Laver was so talented, I am sure that had he been born 50 years later, he would have adjusted to the more powerful racquets and his net game would have still been great in the 21st century, even if he would need to play more ground stokes in the rallies. He would also have the advantage that the best players of today have would a travelling coach, physiotherapists, dieticians and video analysis.

        Unfortunately, it’s really a pointless exercise and we’ll never know the answer to that, just like we’ll never how Federer, Nadal and Djokovic would have coped with the wooden racquets, had all 3 been born 50 years earlier.

        • Realtennisbigfan says

          In this case, a GOAT cannot be announced in any sport. Whatever the numbers show. All such dissertation and all data analysis would be unnecessary.

          • Tennis Analyst says

            You’re right a GOAT can’t be announced because of the difference in eras and Nadal’s supremacy on clay, Federer’s supremacy on grass and Djokovic’s supremacy on hardcourt, but in all honesty, 2 calendar Grand Slams and a phenomenal strike rate by Laver in achieving this while he couldn’t play in Grand Slam singles tournaments for nearly 5 years in the years when he was at his peak while being banned as a professional, is absolutely sensational, in my opinion.

            It reminds me of Margaret Court’s phenomenal strike rate of winning her 24 Grand Slam singles titles in a 13 year period, not to mention all her Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles all with a wooden racquet and no fitness coaches or any other advantages the players of today have.

            This is compared to Serena Williams who won her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, taking 8 years longer than Margaret Court.

    • Lotengo, obviously you never saw Rod Laver play!

  193. Simon Buck says

    Realbigtennisfan makes some good points and his/her comment about Jimmy Connors ‘only’ winning 8 grand slams reminded me who my first Tennis hero was.

    I loved Connors never say die attitude, and the juvenile in me loved his naughty behaviour 🙂 Like Borg he should have won a lot more majors. But he only played the Australian open in 1974 and 1975 (winner and runner-up) then never bothered with it again. He was also banned from the French for 5 of his peak years as well.

    One of my favourite Tennis matches of all time was Connors beating McEnroe for his 2nd Wimbledon title in 1982. Though time and some of the incredible Tennis we’ve had from the big 3 under discussion here, has eroded that memory….

    But what ifs are as bad as comparing eras. We really can’

    • I normally agree with all of Simon Buck’s comments and like that he is a Nadal fan, which I am too. I like reading his analysis. However, I definitely disliked Connors with a passion, when he is playing. I hated his smirk and brashness. I actually was a big fan of John McEnroe. I enjoyed watching his serve and volley game, as well as his passing shots. His volleying skills were remarkable. Funnily enough, I didn’t mind his antics because I was so captivated by his actual game.

      My favourite match from a young age was actually John Newcombe, not John McEnroe, beating Jimmy Connors on grass in the final of the Australian Open in January 1975, against all the odds. The whole family and others were watching the television at the time and the cheer was very loud for Newcombe. Bewdy Newk! My other all time favourite match was watching Pat Cash beat Ivan Lend in the 1987 Wimbledon final. You can tell I’m Australian.

    • As good as Borg was, he was starting to decline as a tennis player. McEnroe had beaten him at Wimbledon the last time they played in 1981 andI believe McEnroe was starting to get the advantage over him. Borg did extremely well to win 11 Grand Slam singles titles by the age of 26 but I honestly don’t think he would have won many more Grand Slam singles, had he continued. Maybe, a few more French Open titles. He never won a US Open and he never came to Australia. When the Australian Open moved to Melbourne Park in January 1988, when all the top players came to Australia, Borg would have been 31. Back in those days, he would have been past his prime, However, we will never know the real answer to that.

      As for Connors, the way I see it, he had so many chances, due to his longevity to win more than 8 Grand Slam singles, but wasn’t good enough to add to his Grand Slam singles titles. I am a great believer that if you are good enough, you will win more Grand Slam singles titles, unless you keep getting serious injuries, like Nadal.

      Imagine how many more Grand Slam singles titles Nadal would have won, had he not been injured during these Grand Slam singles tournaments, not to mention the number of Grand Slam tournaments he has missed, due to injury. Don’t forget that only one Grand Slam tournament is played on clay, Nadal’s favourite surface.

      • Injuries are a part of sports, every sport. My favorite sport is baseball and there’s a laundry list of guys who could have GOAT claims over the last century but missed seasons and careers got derailed by injury or military service going back to WW2 and Korea. Nadal has had lots of injuries and to his credit he has always overcome them to win more. After his withdrawal the other day, it makes you question if he is on the way out after the clay season and Olympics in Paris if he’s healthy enough to compete.

  194. Laver was better than Rosewall says

    hahaha Realtennisbigfan, by your logic Rosewall is the greatest tennis player of his era because Laver winning the calendar Grand Slam twice and Rosewall never winning Wimbdon or even one calendar Grand Slam doesn’t count. Whatever Laver achieved in winning 2 Calendar Grand Slams is FAR more important than whatever statistics you have used for Ken Rosewall. Laver’s favourable overall head to head record against Rosewall, plus the overall number of tournaments Laver won compared to Rosewall, and the case for Laver over Rosewall as the best player of his era is overwhelming. I happen to like Rosewall but Laver was the greater player.

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      Looking at all the numbers, it\’s not so overwhelming anymore.

      • Rodney Rocket says

        Laver is the GOAT, whether you like it or not! Rocket Rod Laver, you are the GOAT and the greatest tennis player of all time!

        • Realtennisbigfan says

          There is no such thing as a GOAT. Many of us here agree with that.
          Whether you like it or not!

          • Voice of Reason says

            Realtennisbigfan, one thing I have learnt in the history of this 5 year article, as well as life in general, is that you will never change people’s opinions about anything.

            Whether you think you personally think you have the strongest and my most convincing argument about any particular subject, if those people that you are arguing against, who have a completely different view to yourself, and who are just as stubborn and who also believe that they have the strongest and most convincing argument, unfortunately it’s no use to keep your argument going, because from personal experience, both here and in life, it just becomes a stalemate, and there’s no winners.

        • Realtennisbigfan says

          I remember in the 90’s tennis experts were talking about, many said that Pete Sampras
          he would have beaten Rod Laver at Wimbledon and on hard courts.
          And now suddenly Rod is the GOAT. Very strange. Tennis is so changeable and complex that no one can be the GOAT.

          • Rodney Rocket says

            That’s a pathetic analogy. You can’t compare different eras! No, it’s not at all strange. Besides, give a Laver a powerful racquet and if we’re born at the same as Sampras, he would beat Sampras. Sampras also never won the French Open, a very big factor. If Sampras were born 1938, like Laver, he would lose to Laver with a wooden racquet. Once again, we’ll never know and and it’s a pointless exercise anyway. It’s not how you decide the GOAT.

            Laver’s achievements are far better than Sampras. Sampras, apart from never winning the French Open, never won a calendar Grand Slam, Laver won two calendar Grand Slams. To me, that’s the most important statistic in deciding the GOAT.

            Your pathetic logic regarding the Laver-Rosewall rivalry is ridiculous and laughable.

          • To me, Rod Laver has always been the GOAT, not suddenly the GOAT. Those so called tennis experts have from the 1990s have absolutely no idea because there’s no point. There’s no such thing as a time machine in real life, only in the fictional Back to the Future films from the 1980s. As mentioned by others, there’s too many advantages as to what the players of today have compared to the players of Rod Laver’s generation and generations before Rod Laver.

            What the people who make a case for Rod Laver being the GOAT, like Darren Maxwell and others in this article, are saying is that his Grand Slam record in achieving 2 calendar Grand Slams seven years apart in 1962 and 1969 is absolutely remarkable, considering he could have substantially added to his tally of 11 Grand Slam singles titles, had he not been banned from playing as a professional in those 5 years. Also, none of the big 3 have even won 1 calendar Grand Slam. Near enough is not good enough.

            I wouldn’t detract from Laver’s 1962 calendar Grand Slam at all, because he still achieved it. The hardest thing is to win a calendar Grand Slam. With Roy Emerson, there’s a big asterisk for his 12 Grand Slam singles titles, because being an amateur, he cashed in when professionals were banned for 5 years from playing in Grand Slam singles tournaments.

            There’s also a huge asterisk on the the number of Grand Slam singles titles Graf ended up winning (22), because of the stabbing to Monica Seles, when Seles was at the absolute peak of her game. I’m acknowledging Graf’s calendar Grand Slam in 1988, even if it was before Seles became really great, as Seles was an amateur in 1988, aged 14. However, Seles still ended up with 8 Grand Slam singles titles by the age of 19, was stabbed, and still one another Grand Slam singles title, the Australian Open, in 1996.

            I was at the Australian Open in the crowd in 1991,1992 and 1993 when Seles won those 3 Australian Opens and I was absolutely in awe of how she was playing. No one before had played like that and she opened up the way for more powerful female hitters after that.

          • Realtennisbigfan says

            Rodney Rocket, Who was talking about the French Open here? It was all about Wimbledon and the hard courts. How can you say that the best Laver would have beaten the best Sampras on these courts with absolute certainty? Or Rod would he have won against the best Federer? Are you sure?? Roger is an eight-time Wimbledon champion. Be careful.

            With a wooden racket, yes. And another way? We can’t know. There is no GOAT.
            Accept this!

          • Realtennisbigfan says

            Rohan, Yes, you are right about several things, I admit. Yes, today\’s players have an advantage over the players of the olden days. But they also have a downside. Nowadays, many more people play tennis, and it is easier for exceptional talents to get close to good coaches. This increases the rivalry of the best players. Many talented players at the same time create more competition. And the best do not compete in 2 separate leagues, as in the 50s and 60s. All great players play tennis in the same league. And in this increased competition, the Big3 has won 66 Grand Slams so far. Amazing!
            It\’s hard to win 4 Grand Slams in one year, that\’s true. Steffi Graf won all 4 and even the Olympic gold in 1988. In addition, he also won the next AO, so 5 in a row. She was a fantastic tennis player in the modern era. Yet we don\’t say that he is the GOAT among women.
            Don Budge won Wimbledon and the US Open in 1937. And then in 1938 all the Slams, so 6 in a row. After that, he became a professional tennis player, so he could not continue the streak. We don\’t say GOAT though.
            If Sinner won all the Grand Slams this year and next year, we still wouldn\’t call him the GOAT. The number of Grand Slams won in a year cannot be a true GOAT measure either. THERE IS NO GOAT.

            Seles Monica was my favorite too, we absolutely agree about her.

  195. I’m late to the comment section but early to the prediction. Sinner will be. I want to say Alcarez but when you see Sinner’s late start and quick adaptation at this age, his size and his cool Italian vibe. Yes. But what do I know? I’m going to see my first pro match at BNP in the Desert of SoCal tomorrow.

    • Carlosmania says

      Yes, it will be a very interesting rivalry. I still think Alcaraz will end up winning more Grand Slam singles titles than Sinner. I believe that Alcaraz is a better all surfaces player than Sinner. As long as Alcaraz doesn’t get many serious injuries, I believe he will win end up with more Grand Slam singles titles than whatever Djokovic ends up with. We shall see. I honestly hope that if Alcaraz meets Djokovic at the French Open this year and gets a decent lead, let’s hope he doesn’t get cramps this time around and loses the match. Let’s hope he can do what he did to Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final at both the French Open and Wimbledon this year. He has also won the US Open before, so let’s hope he can also do better at the US Open in 2024 and beyond. Vamos Carlos!

      • Those are unfair and unrealistic expectations to our on Alcaraz to win more slams than Djokovic. I think the Big 3 have set standards so high that people forget how hard it is to win that much. So much has to go right for so long. Fitness, motivation and other players not overtaking you. Alcaraz has a nice game and is off to a great start. I was at his match at IW last night actually. But he has a long way to go and let’s let him be him.

    • I was also there, I hope you enjoyed it. Indian Wells is a great event.

  196. Bill Spencer says

    Hey Realtennisbigfan, why don’t you have the courage to go to every person in this article who claimed Federer and Djokovic were the GOATS, instead of picking on people who claim Laver is the GOAT? It makes absolutely no sense to me, whatsoever!

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      Of course, neither Federer nor Djokovic are GOATs in my opinion. In my first post to Lee on March 2nd, I wrote:
      I’m not sure it’s possible to make a valid GOAT list because the eras and conditions were so different.

  197. Rodney Rocket says

    You are an idiot, Realtennisbigfan. I was saying that Pete Sampras was not in the conversation as the GOAT because he never won a French Open. Just like Rosewall is not in the conversation of the GOAT because he never won Wimbledon. I brought up Sampras not winning the French because you had the audacity to bring up tennis experts from the 1990s claiming Sampras would beat Rod Laver which is an absolutely ridiculous assertion, because of the difference of eras. I will NEVER accept anything other than Rod Laver is the GOAT. Why Realtennisbigfan haven’t gone to every person in this article who claimed either Federer or Djokovic are the GOAT? I could not honestly care less whether anyone from another era would or wouldn’t beat anyone from an another era. It doesn’t decide the GOAT. You can only go by the numbers and Rod Laver winning 2 calendar Grand Slams, 200 singles titles and a winning head to head record against Rod Laver makes him the GOAT. I absolutely sure that Rod Laver is the GOAT!

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      Misunderstanding, no one said Sampras or Rosewall is the GOAT.
      I wrote to Lee in my first post: I’m not sure it’s possible to make a valid GOAT list because the eras and conditions were so different.

  198. Rodney Rocket says

    I meant to type a winning head to head record against Rosewall. Once again Realtennisbigfan, have the courage to put your assertion that there is no GOAT or no such thing as a GOAT against every person’s comment in this article who has claimed that Federer and Djokovic are the GOATS, instead of selectively picking on people who claim Laver is the GOAT. If you end up doing that, then we’ll know how serious you really are in your statement that there is no such thing as a GOAT or there’s no such thing as a GOAT. Realtennisbigfan, don’t hope, don’t think, do!

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      Yes, I do it my dear friend!
      Of course, neither Federer nor Djokovic are GOATs in my opinion. In my first post to Lee on March 2nd, I wrote:
      I’m not sure it’s possible to make a valid GOAT list because the eras and conditions were so different.

      I stand by my statement!

  199. Absolutely massive fan of Rod Laver says

    Hahaha Realtennisbigfan, Rod Laver has remained the GOAT for the last 55 years! You must accept that Rod Laver is the GOAT! Nothing you or anyone else says will make me change my mind.

  200. Tennis Historian says

    Realtennisbigfan, there’s a big difference why Don Budge and Steffi Graf aren’t considered the GOAT, although they’ve both won a calendar Grand Slam, which is a great achievement. It’s because Rod Laver has won 2 calendar Grand Slams and is the only person in the history of tennis to have achieved that magnificent achievement.

    • Realtennisbigfan says

      Yes, this is a magnificent achievement. No doubt! But as I wrote, the number of Grand Slam titles won in one year cannot be the only and real measure in the history of tennis. Achieving the most majors in a career is just as important, etc..

      As I already wrote, it is not possible to compare different eras of tennis. Therefore, it would not be fair to announce GOAT. It would be disrespectful to the greatest champions of different eras.

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