Who’s the greatest tennis player?

AP Photo/Trevor Collens

Who’s the greatest tennis player?

After Novak Djokovic won the Australian, reaching 15 Grand Slams, and showing no signs of slowing down, the eternal conversation of who’s the greatest has come back to the forefront. We got Federer with 20 Grand Slams and Nadal with 17 Grand Slams. Djokovic at 31, and with the way he’s is playing, is very probable he surpasses Nadal. Given the state of men’s tennis, it’s also not that unlikely that he ties Federer. Also, even if he doesn’t tie Federer, if somehow Djokovic wins all four Grand Slams in a calendar year in 2019, pundits would start to argue that Djokovic is the greatest of all time – the GOAT. Let’s play this scenario out.

If Djokovic wins the next three slams, he’d have a total of 18 Grand Slams, two less than Federer and one more than Nadal. Federer would be stuck at 20. However, the fact that Djokovic would have a calendar year Grand Slam, would put him over the edge in my opinion. As for Nadal, Djokovic has gotten the best of him in surfaces other than clay, so there’s no argument there.

Let’s break down overall numbers for each.

Rafael Nadal:

  • 17 Grand Slams
  • 33 ATP Masters 1000
  • 4X year-end number one


Roger Federer:

  • 20 Grand Slams
  • 27 ATP Masters 1000
  • 5X year-end number one

Novak Djokovic:

  • 15 Grand Slams
  • 32 ATP Masters 1000
  • 5X year-end number one


Looking at the combination of Grand Slams, ATP Masters 1000 tournaments and year-end number ones, you can argue that all three players look pretty even. Imagine Djokovic holding a calendar year Grand Slam, sitting at 18 while finishing the year number one for the sixth time, and in the process collecting his second French Open (one more than Federer). It would be very difficult to argue that he is not the GOAT at that point. The race for the GOAT is probably going to be a big story line this year. Especially given how well Djokovic is playing.


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