Roger Federer will go down as tennis’ biggest icon, its most popular ever star and the most aesthetically pleasing player to ever hold a racket. But will he go down as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT as some would say)?
As of the last season, the Serb has now moved beyond his great rival. You don’t just restrict Federer to three games in the first two sets in last year’s Australian Open semi-final without being one of the best, and it is now becoming increasingly evident that Djokovic has overtaken his great rival to become the Greatest of All Time.
Here are the reasons why:
The greatest season ever
Novak Djokovic‘s 2015 is the greatest single season ever. The Serb won 11 tournaments, three grand slams, was runner up at the French Open and finished with a win-loss record of 82-6. Some will argue that Federer’s 2006 season was better, when the Swiss won three slams, 12 tournaments and finished with a win-loss record of 92-5. However, as mentioned, 2006 was part of a significantly weaker era in the sport. Furthermore, when you rank tennis’ best players according to Elo, Djokovic’s level in 2015 is rated as the highest ever (in the Open era). All the fans betting on Djokovic with free bets in the 2015 season had more success than they would have while betting on any other tennis player. They definitely picked the best season to bet on.
King of the big four
This is the important one. If we take head-to-head records as one of the main indicators of GOAT worthiness, then Novak is now the undisputed number one. To be the best, you surely have to be able to beat those around you, and Djokovic has done it many times against some of the best players in the world. It’s widely agreed that the era of the ‘big-four’ is the strongest in tennis history, and if Djokovic sits at the top of that quartet, that makes him the GOAT by default, right?
Let us remember that Djokovic is still only 29, yet is already firmly in the ‘best ever’ form. The fact that he is already being considered as one of the all-time greats midway through his career illustrates his greatness, and it’s exciting to think what he could go on to achieve. A couple more Golden Slams, perhaps? When Djokovic is in question, it’s far from impossible.
As renowned tennis coach Nick Bollettieri says, Djokovic is the most complete player of all time. He’s probably the best returner of all time, has the most amazing defense ever seen on a court, and his double-hander is the best all-round backhand on the tour at the moment. The Serb has also greatly improved his serving, and while volleying isn’t his strong point (he’s still excellent at it, mind), he just doesn’t need to given the quality of his baseline play. If he does have a weakness, it’s the overhead smash, but then again, if you had to pick a shot to be bad at, it’d definitely be that one. All this has seen him develop into the most difficult-to-beat player around, and he will continue to take his game to unprecedented levels.
There is no desire on anyone’s behalf to take anything away from Federer. He will forever be the sport’s greatest and most important ambassador, the master of reinventing yourself, and the most stylistically impressive player to watch.
Nadal is also certainly present in the debate, but his reliance on his clay court dominance and recent struggles have lowered his stock, leaving Federer and Djokovic as the standout candidates.
But it is the Serb who has now outstripped the Swiss. Back in 2006, Federer labeled Djokovic a ‘joke’ due to his apparent tendency for faking injuries in matches. Right now, it looks like Djokovic will have the last laugh.