Today is the match we have been waiting for. Novak Djokovic against Rafael Nadal in the Quarter Finals of the French Open. We wrote an article after Nadal won the Australian Open, seeing where he would rank all time at that point. I ended up saying that Roger Federer is the best tennis player of all time, but Nadal is a “special tennis player”. I also mentioned a lot of things that have changed since then. I stated that when Djokovic wasn’t getting the vaccine, he wasn’t allowed to play in tournaments, which meant he probably wouldn’t have participated in the French Open. But I also stated that even if he did, a healthy Nadal would continue to be the “King of Clay” and win anyway as long he stayed healthy? Have things changed?
Let’s first look at who is going to win this game. Djokovic and Nadal have both had a pretty easy road here. Djokovic has not lost a set yet and Nadal had that, before going into a nail biting 5 set match against Auger-Aliassime which makes the rankings basically factual. Djokovic is ranked #1 and Nadal is ranked #5. Nadal is an amazing tennis player but will he be able to keep up with the abilities of Djokovic, who has only lost 1 eligible grand slam tournament since January of 2021! I personally believe the “king of clay” will lose to Djokovic. But, does it mean Djokovic becomes the GOAT?
Well something else to look at is not just grand slam trophies, but all time Grand Slam won matches. A big debate in our other tennis article was that Djokovic and Federer dominate Nadal in 75% of the major tournaments, while Nadal only dominates on 25% of those. But does Nadal dominate enough in the French Open to overplay the dominance in other tournaments of Federer and Djokovic? That was the question. And, that 75%-25% is also showing here. Federer (with 369 grand slam wins) is #1 with Djokovic in a comfortable 2nd place spot. So, it shows Nadal has had so much dominance in 1 area, but not as a whole. So even if Nadal wins this game instead of Djokovic, he wouldn’t become the GOAT. But what about Djokovic?
I think I have determined my opinion before this match is even played. I think, as of right now, Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time, with Djokovic at #2 and Nadal at #3. I think people like me were overreacting to Nadal’s Australian Open victory considering Djokovic didn’t play. Nadal is like an all time great NBA scorer who can’t seem to get on many all-defensive teams or get a serviceable amount of assists. But the reason why Federer ranks #1 for me is because of his dominance immediately. Federer started off better sooner and that makes a key impact. But, I do think Federer’s GOAT mantle may possibly be handed down to Djokovic by the end of his career.
I think Djokovic will tie the grand slam record this tournament, and then probably win the Wimbeldon to break it and dominate that record once his career ends. Federer isn’t going to play many more matches, so Djokovic will probably break his grand slam match record as well. I think there will always be an argument for Federer though. I think he’s like Michael Jordan and Djokovic will be like LeBron James. Djokovic will probably have more years, so more total success. But from a talent and playing perspective, Federer may always be the best. Kind of like Jordan will probably always be the best, even once LeBron breaks all of the records due to longevity. This match is fun. It’s interesting. It’s a match we’ve all been waiting for still, 2 of the best players in the world. But, the winner is not the GOAT. The current and future one isn’t even participating in this match!
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