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Editorials, Sports

Novak Djokovic is keeping the GOAT Debate Alive

Men’s tennis may continue to enjoy the tail end of one of its most shining golden eras thanks to Djokovic’s tenacity.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 27th February 2023
Novak Djokovic is keeping the GOAT debate alive

Rafael Nadal and Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic are tied with 22 grand slams and it’s possible that this argument of who’s the Greatest Of All Time will never be resolved. But if it’s to be decided solely on the basis of major championship success, the French Open in the spring of Europe will be the next stop. 


The red clay courts of Roland Garros belong to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, the other open-era contender for the GOAT alongside 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer. While the blue courts of Melbourne Park are unquestionably Djokovic’s domain, they are the preserve of the Serb. Federer, who is now retired, however, sent his congratulations to Djokovic on Instagram – “Incredible effort, again!” – but Nadal was back in Spain being treated for the latest in a series of injuries that have blighted his career.


The 36-year-old, is optimistic he will be able to take his shattered body to Paris in May in an attempt to win a 15th French Open championship after suffering a hip flexor injury at the Australian Open. Djokovic made it clear that he would be there as well, attempting to win his 23rd major title, despite a hamstring problem that kept him from competing in the year’s opening Grand Slam.


I think there’s still a lot of that fire inside of me that is burning of passion for the sport and for competition and I think that’s what allows me to still push myself to the limit. In the practice sessions, day in, day out after so many years to go through the same routines, repetitively, that sometimes is not so interesting. But I know that there is always a greater goal and a guiding star, so to say, and this trophy is one of those guiding stars, it’s something that I always strive to achieve.”  the Serb said.


Men’s tennis may continue to enjoy the tail end of one of its most shining golden eras thanks to Djokovic and Nadal’s tenacity, but women’s tennis is still in the first season of trying to fill Serena Williams’ shoes.


When healthy, the American dominated the women’s game for the greater part of two decades, winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a total only surpassed by Margaret Court of Australia (24) and primarily during the amateur era.


Melbourne will put Djokovic firmly within striking distance of those totals, even if his opposition to COVID-19 vaccinations prevents him from competing in the U.S. Open for a second consecutive year. “I really don’t want to stop here,” he said after the final. “I don’t have any intention of stopping here. I feel great about my tennis. I know that when I’m feeling good physically, mentally present, I have a chance to win any slam against anybody.I like my chances going forward.


Only Djokovic defeated Nadal at the 2021 French Open, and went on to to win the French Open. Djokovic is the only male player to win more than one French Open from 2002 through 2022, aside from Nadal. After Andre Agassi (1999), he is the first male player to win the French Open and Paris Masters in the same calendar year (2021). 


18 championships, including two French Open crowns and 11 Masters trophies, have been won by Djokovic on clay courts. He initially accomplished this feat in the finals of Madrid and Rome in 2011 and in Monte Carlo in 2013, becoming the only player to defeat Nadal in all three clay court Masters events. The latter triumph also put an end to Nadal’s streak of eight consecutive Monte Carlo Masters victories. With eight victories versus Nadal on clay courts, Djokovic leads the field.

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