MELBOURNE, Australia -- There's an inevitability about Novak Djokovic playing tennis at Rod Laver Arena.
It's the feeling that regardless of what year we're in, who stands on the other side of the net and just how lopsided the crowd support might be in favor of his opponent, it's still Djokovic who will prevail.
Djokovic, 35, did just that on Sunday evening for the 28th consecutive time at Melbourne Park. The Serbian dispatched third-seededStefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) to clinch a record 10th Australian Open title, one that draws him equal with rival Rafael Nadal for the most major titles (22) in men's tennis -- the pair having left longtime leader Roger Federer in their wake with 20.
As Djokovic hugged each member of his players' box, and before he was able to raise the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, a familiar discussion began to circulate. Who is tennis' GOAT? And while it's near impossible to definitively answer this until the Big Three era has officially drawn to a close, there's no doubt Djokovic's fortnight Down Under has seen him put his nose in front, once again.
Federer has now hung up his racket and Nadal faces yet another injury layoff. Meanwhile, here's Djokovic, winning Slams. Earlier in the tournament, he said, "I know I'm in the last quarter of my career," and while that may be accurate, his tennis would suggest he's not close to being finished. In fact, what he showcased over the past fortnight in Melbourne, all while battling a nagging hamstring strain, is not all that far away from peak-of-his-power Djokovic.
For the third time in his career, Djokovic dropped just one set along his journey to an Australian Open title. He humiliated local hero Alex de Minaur in the fourth round, repeated the dose against fifth-seededAndrey Rublev in the quarterfinals and cruised by American Tommy Paul in a lopsided semifinal.
Tsitsipas, the world No. 4, was to be his greatest challenge, but he passed that test with ease, repeating the result of the 2021 French Open final. He kept the unforced errors low all while battering the ball from behind the baseline and hustling after anything Tsitsipas sent over the net. As always, Djokovic found an extra gear when the situation required it. Two tiebreaks? No problem.
"I did everything possible. There's nothing I could have extracted more. Novak is a player who pushes you to your limits," said a deflated Tsitsipas after the final. "I think he's the greatest who has ever held a tennis racket. The numbers speak for themselves. He has earned it with so much dedication he's put in and professionalism."
An exceptional and unparalleled return game is what has made Djokovic such a force on the ATP tour for 15 years. At this tournament, he struck more return winners than any other player and was the only man to win over 40% of first-serve points and 60% of second-serve points when returning.
But it might have been his serving that caught the eye most. Djokovic led the field in service games won (94%), ranked in the top 10 for first serve points won and saved 79% of break points. He was broken just once from 17 games in the final.
"It was honestly some of the best tennis I've ever played on this court," Djokovic declared after the match, referring to his stunning fortnight at Melbourne Park. "I would rank it right up there. Maybe top two, three of all time of performances on Slams."
So Djokovic now sits at 22. But no matter whether your allegiances lie with Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, there's no denying the Serbian's Slam wins figure could have grown significantly higher over the past 30 months, if not for the pandemic and some polarizing personal decisions.
He missed the opportunity to defend his Wimbledon title in 2020 when the event was canceled due to COVID-19. Sure, the title was no certainty, but he hasn't lost a match at Wimbledon since 2017.
Two months later, Djokovic was sensationally defaulted from the US Open after striking a linesperson with a ball during his fourth-round match. Again, there's no guarantee he would have lifted the silverware, but with a number of his main rivals sitting out the event for various reasons -- notably Nadal and Federer -- few were brave enough to pick against him.
And in 2022, he was unable to compete in the Australian Open or US Open because his COVID-19 vaccination stance wouldn't allow him to legally enter either country.
Djokovic was or would have been the odds-on favorite in all four of those majors. Even playing it conservatively, he would have likely added at least two more to his total. Had one of them been last year's Australian Open, he could very easily be sitting on 24 after his most recent triumph, leading Nadal's 21. An insurmountable gap.
But enough of the hypotheticals. The reality is Djokovic and Nadal are locked at 22-22. Even still, it's advantage, Djokovic.
Djokovic has now won five of the past seven majors he has contested -- his two failures coming in the 2021 US Open final and the 2022 French Open quarterfinals -- and by any logical metric he's the undisputed best player in the world. Heck, we're not even 18 months removed from him falling one match short of the coveted calendar Slam.
Meanwhile, Nadal, 36, is set to miss up to two months of tennis after suffering a Grade 2 iliopsoas injury during his straight-sets loss in the second round to American Mackenzie McDonald. But even prior to the injury, the Spaniard was in the midst of perhaps the greatest form slump of his professional career. Some prominent figures in the sport are doubting he will ever return to anything close to his best.
"[Nadal's loss to McDonald] was already the first step towards his retirement," tennis great Boris Becker said on Eurosport Germany's Matchball Becker show. "An injury like that is hard, and at this age, it takes even longer to get back into shape. I think his days are numbered."
By contrast, Djokovic's coach GoranIvanišević believes his man can continue playing at an elite level for the foreseeable future.
"The way he's taking care of his body and approaching everything ... two to three years, for sure," declared Ivanišević after the final. "The guy is unbelievable. I don't know how to describe it in words."
Djokovic, too, says he isn't eyeing the finish line just yet.
"I am motivated to win as many Slams as possible," he said. "At this stage of my career, these trophies are the biggest motivational factor of why I still compete. I really don't want to stop here. I don't have intention to stop here.
"I know that when I'm feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any Slam against anybody. Of course, 35 is not 25, even though I want to believe it is, but I still feel there is time ahead of me. Let's see how far I go."
While Djokovic is the favorite to end his career with the most men's Grand Slam titles, it shouldn't be the only measure used when considering tennis' GOAT.
Djokovic also owns the men's records for the most weeks as the No. 1 player in the world (373) and the most Masters 1000 titles (38), and he has accumulated more prize money than anyone else in the sport. He has amassed the most ATP Player of the Year awards (seven) and is tied with Federer for the most ATP Finals wins (six). Think of just about any men's tennis record, and Djokovic's name more often than not is at the top of the list.
Another factor working in Djokovic's favor is his winning record against both of his great rivals. He leads the Nadal head-to-head 30-29 and Federer 27-23.
Tennis' GOAT debate will be argued for years to come. Decades, probably. Some will say Federer, some will say Nadal. Others will argue Serena Williams or Margaret Court. But if nobody ever strikes a tennis ball again, you'd be hard-pressed to not have Djokovic at the top of the pile.
Why does Djokovic win so much? ›
He Plays Well on All Surfaces. Maybe the biggest reason Djokovic is poised for more great things is his well-rounded game. He can win any tournament he enters on every surface. He may prefer some surfaces to others, but he isn't a liability on any one surface.What is so good about Djokovic? ›
What makes Djokovic so effective isn't simply his ability to consistently return shots and sustain rallies, but a knack for turning defence into offence. He's able to hit winners on the run and off-balance, effectively shrinking the court for his opponents in the process.Who is a better player Nadal or Djokovic? ›
Djokovic holds the record for the most Masters titles with 38, while Nadal is second with 36. Nadal has won 26 on clay and 10 on hard courts. Djokovic has won 27 on hard courts and 11 on clay and is the only player to have won all 9 Masters tournaments completing the Career Golden Masters, having done so twice.Who is a better tennis player Federer or Djokovic? ›
Comparison of Grand Slam titles
Djokovic has won 22 Grand Slam titles to Federer's 20. Djokovic has the all-time record of 13 hardcourt Grand Slam titles (Australian Open and US Open), two more than Federer. Federer has the all-time Wimbledon record of 8 titles, one more than Djokovic. Bold indicates outright record.
At the Grand Slam tournaments, the trio are the all-time title leaders; Nadal and Djokovic have each won a record 22 majors, and Federer 20. Nadal has won a record 14 French Open titles, Djokovic a record 10 Australian Open titles, and Federer a record eight Wimbledon titles.Who is the male tennis goat? ›
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal are synonymous with the acronym "G.O.A.T.", or "Greatest of All Time". These two players are in the elite inner circle of tennis, along with Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, and Bjorn Borg.Is Novak Djokovic fittest? ›
Novak Djokovic is the fittest player in Tennis, although He doesn't have big arms like Rafael Nadal or strong legs like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic has the strongest and most flexible muscles among them.Who is technically the best tennis player of all time? ›
1. Serena Williams. Arguably the all-time GOAT, Serena Williams currently holds 23 grand slam titles, second only to the great Margaret Court. Serena has shone both on the singles and doubles court, winning 14 grand slam doubles titles (all of which were alongside her sister Venus).Who defeated Djokovic most times? ›
The rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is one of the most remarkable in tennis history and the arguably greatest rivalry of the last decade. It is the most prolific in the Open era. The two men have faced each other 59 times, more than any other player. Djokovic leads their head-to-head 30 wins to 29.
Has Federer ever beaten Djokovic? ›
Federer has won 1242 matches in his career, while Djokovic with 911 wins. Here are the surface-wise stats. On hard courts, Federer won 83.3% of his matches, Djokovic 84.5%. On clay courts, Federer won 76.1% of his matches, Djokovic 79.6%.Why is Federer better than Novak? ›
Novak Djokovic is the only player ever to have won every Masters 1000 in his career (Miami, Indian Wells, Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Montreal / Toronto, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris). Federer did not win in Monte-Carlo and Rome, though he played several finals there. Roger Federer has spent 310 weeks at world ATP No.Does Roger Federer like Djokovic? ›
It's no secret that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic don't like each other and they don't see eye to eye. The two tennis superstars have been engaged in a well-publicized rivalry for years, and it doesn't seem like it's going to end anytime soon.Is Nadal or Djokovic the goat? ›
Here, Djokovic has the edge. In fact, not only has Djokovic won 38 ATP Masters 1000 titles -- more than any other player -- he is also the only one to have all the 9 titles.Is Novak Djokovic the best ever? ›
“Strictly speaking about results, Novak Djokovic is the best player in the history of men's professional tennis,” said journalist Ben Rothenberg. “He's tied with Federer and Nadal for the most grand slam titles, but Djokovic dominates pretty much every conceivable tiebreak category: most weeks ranked No.Is Federer still the goat? ›
Djokovic leads at 373, with Federer at 310 and Nadal at 209. McEnroe broke it down by surface, giving each man GOAT status on one. “The greatest grass court player of all time is Roger, the greatest hard court player is Novak and the greatest clay court player is Rafa,” he said.Who is the most humble tennis player? ›
Rafael Nadal is 'the classiest and most humble champion of any sport,' says John McEnroe. John McEnroe has hailed Rafael Nadal as 'the classiest, humblest champion of any sport' after his fine Australian Open run.Who is the most loved male tennis player? ›
1. Roger Federer. Arguably the best tennis player of all time, Roger Federer has done it all. In a 23 year career spanning four decades, the Swiss spent a combined 310 weeks at world no.Who is the most loved tennis player? ›
Roger Federer, Soon to Retire, Is Most Popular Player in Men's Tennis.Does Djokovic lift weights? ›
He'll then take to the court to with a training partner for an hour and a half, and does some stretching to cool down. He takes lunch, and then does a one-hour workout using weights or resistance bands, taking in a protein drink immediately afterwards to aid recovery.
How fast is Djokovic mph? ›
Djokovic's diet is based on vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils and healthy oils. He says a prayer before each meal to remind him to appreciate food, eats mindfully - without distractions - and buys organic when possible.Which tennis player has the best footwork? ›
Roger Federer is known as one of, if not the best mover on a tennis court, in the history of tennis. Federer's footwork is the glue that gels his entire game together, allowing him to defend in points when he has to, then attack when he gets the chance.Who has held number 1 in tennis the longest? ›
ATP records and distinctions
Novak Djokovic has spent the most weeks as world No. 1, a record total 374 weeks. Roger Federer has the record of 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1.
Serena Williams' final match at the US Open averaged 4.6 million viewers. It was the most-watched tennis match in ESPN history. Previously, the record stood at 3.9 million viewers for the 2012 Wimbledon final, in which Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray.How much does Rolex pay Roger Federer? ›
Rolex has offered him a substantial sponsorship agreement. Federer originally struck an endorsement arrangement with the renowned luxury watch manufacturer in 2006. The 10-year, $15 million deal earned him around $1.5 million each year and was one of the largest endorsement deals ever made for an athlete at the time.Who is the only tennis player to have defeated all of the Big 3 in a single tournament and in which year was it accomplished? ›
On This Day: David Nalbandian completes the first and only Big 3 sweep. The now-retired Argentine is still the only player to ever beat Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the same tournament, achieving the feat at Madrid in 2007.Who has won a Grand Slam without losing a set? ›
Rafael Nadal is the only male player to win 4 Grand Slams without dropping a set. Rafael Nadal is the male player with the most Grand Slams in tennis history so far.Who has the best record against Nadal? ›
Djokovic has the best head-to-head record against Nadal in terms of victories. The two have been involved in one of the fiercest rivalries in tennis history and have played 58 matches, with the Serb leading 30-28.
Djokovic is the -350 favorite (risk $350 to win $100) in the latest Djokovic vs.
Is Djokovic better than Andy Murray? ›
The Djokovic–Murray rivalry is a modern-day tennis rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. They have met 36 times (including 19 finals), and Djokovic leads 25–11 overall and 11–8 in finals.Who won more games Nadal or Djokovic? ›
Big titles won (records since 1990)
In terms of big titles – a trophy at a grand slam championship, the Nitto ATP Finals, an ATP Masters 1000 tournament or an Olympic singles gold medal – Djokovic leads the way with 65 after his triumph at the 2022 ATP Finals. Nadal has 59 while Federer has 54.
If Djokovic remains World No. 1 through the week of 20 February, he will tie Stefanie Graf's record for most weeks as World No. 1 in history (men and women) at 377. If the Serbian maintains top spot through the week of 27 February, he will break Graf's mark.Why did Djokovic ranking drop? ›
Novak Djokovic slipped four places to seventh in the world rankings on Monday despite retaining his Wimbledon title due to the men's tour governing body's controversial decision not to award ranking points for the Grand Slam event.How many weeks can Djokovic is number 1? ›
|1||Novak Djokovic (SRB)||7070|
|2||Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)||6730|
|3||Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)||6195|
|4||Casper Ruud (NOR)||5765|
1. Serena Williams. Arguably the all-time GOAT, Serena Williams currently holds 23 grand slam titles, second only to the great Margaret Court. Serena has shone both on the singles and doubles court, winning 14 grand slam doubles titles (all of which were alongside her sister Venus).Who defeated Novak the most? ›
Answer: Rafael Nadal has beaten Novak Djokovic the most including at seven Masters and five Grand Slam finals.Does Andy Murray like Novak Djokovic? ›
“Novak is someone I have known since we were 12 years old, he is someone who I respect and have competed against. I don't like that he is in this situation and I don't like that he has been in detention,” said Murray to the BBC, speaking minutes after the decision.Who is the toughest tennis player? ›
NOVAK DJOKOVIC - THE MENTALLY STRONGEST TENNIS PLAYER AND WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HIM. Novak Djokovic is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time and is known not only for his phenomenal on court game but also for the extreme mental toughness he exhibits while playing.Is Nadal now the greatest of all time? ›
22 Grand Slams. 14 French Open titles. His records are just unbelievable. Even the hardcore Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic fans would accept that Rafael Nadal is now the greatest men's tennis player of all time.