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Djokovic, Federer, Nadal: Who is the Tennis GOAT among the ‘big three’?

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The Tennis 'Big three' Novak Djokovic (left), Roger Federer (centre), Rafael Nadal (right). Photo: Medium
  • Djokovic is a controversial character who performs with an attitude that some perceive as immodest and aggressively arrogant
  • What distinguishes Federer from the two stars is his wholly unique style and grace, which has made him so beloved
  • Rafael Nadal has raced ahead of his opponents in the race to win the most majors after winning the Australian Open in January

We look at the ever-changing tennis GOAT race, with Rafael Nadal pushing away his opponents in the career majors race.

Novak Djokovic was controversially deported from Australia. Rafael Nadal exploited the situation to win one of the greatest Grand Slam finals in history and set a new career-high for major titles.

That has renewed the discussion about which of the current era’s three superstars of tennis, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer, is the greatest of all time (GOAT), therefore in this post, we are going to examine each of their claims.


Novak Djokovic lost his first match at Monte Carlo Masters.

Novak Djokovic lost his first match at Monte Carlo Masters to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Photo/Tennis Majors

Novak Djokovic represents the opposing viewpoint. While the Serbian is statistically dominant now, he has never done so in a way that has earned him the kind of universal adoration that Federer has.

It must be emphasized that this does not imply that he is unpopular. Djokovic has a passionate following of millions of fans who admire him on and off the court.

While Federer’s popularity is universal, Djokovic’s attraction is felt by a smaller group of sports enthusiasts.

It’s also worth noting that Djokovic hasn’t benefited from the press and media like Federer and Nadal have. He is frequently chastised for seemingly accomplishing nothing but hitting people.

Djokovic, on the other hand, is a controversial character. He performs with an attitude that some perceive as immodest and aggressively arrogant.

Djokovic’s statistical supremacy, on the other hand, is not subject to interpretation. Djokovic, like Federer, has fallen behind in the race for the most major titles, but he is far from out.

He has also spent the most weeks as world number one (by far) than anybody else. He was the first guy to win every major several times. His head-to-head record versus both Federer and Nadal is tremendously impressive.

If you’re only judging the GOAT on numbers, and that’s a big if, then Novak Djokovic has to be your choice.


Roger Federer

Roger Federer. Photo/Eurosport

There are two sides to this argument. One feels that it is not what you have won as it is how you have won it, while the other believes statistics are everything.

However, if we’re talking about the former, Roger Federer has a convincing argument dubbed the GOAT.

Even the most diehard Federer supporter would struggle to build a statistical case for the Swiss master being the greatest of all time.

His major-winning days appear to be a distant memory, and his record in that category has already been surpassed.

He can no longer boast of being the world’s longest-reigning number one. Novak Djokovic beat him to the record nearly a year ago.

What distinguishes Federer, though, is his wholly unique style and grace, which has made him so beloved. Nobody has ever played the game as well as Federer, and it’s improbable that anyone will ever do it again.

He appeared to be doing some dance while swinging a tennis racket with perfect precision at moments. Seeing him at his best was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity few will ever forget.

Federer also gets credit for revolutionizing tennis and leading the move away from the big servers who harmed the sport’s spectacle in the 1990s.

New rules helped, but Federer was responsible for the game’s economic success at the time.

And while his numbers aren’t quite world-record-breaking in most categories, they’re impressive. Federer has a GOAT argument that matches anyone’s when you add it all up.


Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is the king of clay court. Photo/Tennis Tonic

If Federer represents how you’ve done it and Djokovic represents what you’ve done, Rafael Nadal represents the medium ground.

Nadal is more well-known than Djokovic but not as well-known as Federer, and he has better statistics than Federer but not as good as Djokovic.

He has raced ahead of his opponents to win the most majors after winning the Australian Open in January, and that alone lends great weight to his case.

Like Djokovic, he has won every major tournament numerous times. However, more than half of those came on Roland Garros’ clays.

Depending on your point of view, this either makes it even more spectacular (since his speciality surface only has one Slam every year) or less impressive (because he is too much of a one-court specialist).

What distinguishes Nadal from Djokovic and Federer is that he has had the most impressive career.

Nadal has also had to battle through a long list of injuries his opponents have not dealt with.

Under terms of the debate, Rafael Nadal has universal appeal and a long list of remarkable statistics, and he has done so in arguably more difficult circumstances than his competitors.


Who do you think is the best of all time? That, of course, is and always will be a subjective decision. There can never be a clear winner because there are no clear standards.

Your viewpoint will be influenced by who is your favourite and what you value the most. Federer is your man if you want style and elegance. Djokovic is the underdog when it comes to numbers and spirit.

If you’re looking for fierceness and a strong desire to compete, Nadal is likely to be your first choice.


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