Undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of all time, Novak Djokovic is the epitome of hard work and mental strength. His confidence is unaffected despite controversies and it is driven by his determination to be the greatest ever.
On Sunday, Djokovic, who won a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title at French Open, left his greatest rival Rafael Nadal behind. He now has the most number of major titles among male players in tennis history.
Also, with his third title at Roland Garros, Djokovic became the only male tennis player ever to win all the four Slams at least thrice.
The 36-year-old, who became the oldest winner in Paris since 1968 (breaking Nadal’s record by 18 days), is back on the top of the tennis rankings again, extending his record stay as No.1 player (this is his 388th week on top). Djokovic also has not lost any physical edge despite his age – 11 of his 23 majors have come after he turned 30.
The numbers are indisputable and they don’t lie.
French Open: Novak Djokovic claims record 23rd Grand Slam
If records and Slam titles are the benchmark by which the G.O.A.T debate is settled, then Djokovic is the greatest male player of all time in tennis history. 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 34 major finals, most weeks at World No.1, 38 Masters titles, 6 ATP Finals titles — and it all adds up to one thing, Djokovic is currently peerless.
So, is it safe to say – Novak Djokovic is the greatest of all time? The numbers say so as former player Andy Roddick pointed out in his tweet: “Tough to make any numbers based argument against Djokovic being the best! If you’re making an argument against, it’s likely based on feelings and not record.”
Nadal, while praising Djokovic for his extraordinary achievement, wrote: “23 is a number that just a few years back was impossible to think about, and you made it!”
Djokovic though left the question on GOAT status to others, saying it is disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of tennis.
“I mean, I don’t want to say that I am the greatest, because I feel — I’ve said it before — it’s disrespectful towards all the great champions in different eras of our sport that was played in a completely different way than it is played today,” he said after the final in Paris.
“I feel like each great champion of his own generation has left a huge mark, a legacy, and paved the way for us to be able to play this sport on such a great stage worldwide.”
So, when can we call him the GOAT, if not now? He has 23 Slam titles now, the most by a male player ever, and is tied second overall across genders with Serena Williams. The two are only one title behind yesteryear’s great Margaret Court, who had won 24 singles slam titles.
There are very few doubters that Djokovic will breach the 24-mark this year itself. And with Nadal out of the picture for the entire season, even a calendar Slam is within reach for Djokovic this year.
Going by his fitness levels, he should have another 3-4 years of top-level tennis left in him, excluding the current year. And even if we conservatively count his possible Grand Slam wins during the period, he could end up winning 10 more titles, which could take his tally to around 35. Very few people would hesitate in calling him the G.O.A.T then.