When Will Novak Djokovic Overthrow Roger Federer As The GOAT?

There’s little doubt that Roger Federer is the ‘Greatest of All-Time’ (G.O.A.T) when it comes to men’s singles tennis. The Swiss Maestro has a record 20 Grand Slam titles, including eight victories at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open and five at Flushing Meadows. Spaniard Rafael Nadal may sit two behind him, with 18 Grand Slam titles but undoubtedly, the one to watch is Novak Djokovic who is two behind him, on 16.

The Super Serb has already won two of the three Grand Slams in men’s singles tennis this year, with victory at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Can he make it a hat-trick and retain the US Open title? The bookies seem to think so, with Djokovic the outright favourite and online, you can find the US Open tennis best odds. At the age of 32, Djokovic has age on his side and if he stays injury-free, there’s no reason why he can’t carry on playing until he’s 38 like Federer. Former World number 4 and two-time French Open runner-up Robin Soderling seems to think so, too.

Grand Slam success

Excluding 2017, when an elbow injury plagued his season, every year since 2011, Djokovic has won at least one Grand Slam title. 2011 and 2015 saw him come agonisingly close to winning all four major titles in a calendar year – with defeat in the semi-finals of the French Open in 2011 and losing the 2015 Wimbledon final to Stan Wawrinka.

On average, Djokovic wins two Grand Slams a year; more recently, the Australian and French Opens in 2016, and Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018. With this in mind, he could make it 20 Grand Slam titles by 2021 at the very earliest.

As well as his 16 titles, Djokovic has finished runner-up on nine occasions and if you look at the opponents he’s come up against in those nine matches, five are against Federer or Nadal – meaning in other circumstances, he could be on top in terms of Grand Slam titles. Across all four major tournaments, Djokovic has a win percentage of 87%, which is surprisingly higher than Federer’s overall win percentage (86%) and on-par with Nadal’s whose is also 87%.

2019 so far

As we have already discussed, Djokovic has two Grand Slam titles to his name. He beat Nadal in the final of the Australian Open (6-3, 6-2, 6-3) and successfully defended his Wimbledon title over Roger Federer, in what proved to be a thrilling final. The Serb won the longest singles final in Wimbledon history 7–6(7–5), 1–6, 7–6(7–4), 4–6, 13–12(7–3).

Away from the four major tournaments, Djokovic has had success in other ATP World Tour events, winning the Madrid Open and losing the final of the Italian Open. In the former, he defeated up-and-coming Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4; while the King of Clay was victorious on his favoured surface in Rome. He’s currently playing at the Cincinnati Open, another ATP World Tour event and another title he aims to retain.

Last year’s US Open

Despite an early scare in the first two rounds of the US Open 2018, which saw Djokovic take both contests to four sets (vs Marton Fucsovics and Tennys Sandgren), after dropping one to two unseeded opponents, he soon found his stride and went on to record straight-sets victories over all of his competitors.

The draw was kind to Djokovic, who could have quite easily found himself up against long-standing rival Federer in the quarter-finals. However, the Swiss Maestro lost to unseeded Australian John Millman. No such issues for Djokovic, who dispatched him convincingly 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. He also managed to avoid a final showdown against Nadal who lost his semi-final to Juan Martin del Potro. It meant that the two met in a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2013 Wimbledon semi-final. The Serb was triumphant that day and was victorious over the Argentine once again winning the final in straight sets 6-3, 7-6(7–4), 6-3.


It’s definitely a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Djokovic overthrows Federer as G.O.A.T, in terms of Grand Slam titles anyway. One thing is for certain though, the ‘big three’ have done wonders for the sport and we hope that they continue for a few more years yet.

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  • Andrew Miller · August 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Harold that’s true. I forget that Nadal is pretty careful in English, makes sense. Yeah the reporting on him in Spanish runs the gamut from superficial to in depth, a lot of Uncle Toni op eds. They have an enormous profile in Spain, where he’s talked about with reverence, a super celebrity on top of a soccer crazed nation. I think Federer is pretty similar no matter what language because of the Swiss multilingual nature of things.

  • Hartt · August 16, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    I think Wertheim did his usual 50 things to take away after the FO, but am not 100% sure.

  • Hartt · August 16, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Andrew, I was curious, so looked it up. Yes, Wertheim did do 50 parting thoughts on the FO.

    I read “Mailbag” every week, so will look for your questions.

  • Andrew Miller · August 16, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    50 parting shots is great. I’m convinced Wertheim puts it together the whole tournament! He gets it out so quickly, probably because he’s responsible for the online pieces too (or many of them).

    SI used to have a write up in the print edition as well, usually a few pages (two pages total to cover the men and women’s tournaments). As much as very focused media coverage for tennis has increased (eg tennis channel), and for a time he had recovered in SI (eg more cover stories after so many years without one), tennis has retreated from the print edition.

    Thankfully Wertheim provides weekly coverage online. To me a shame tennis doesn’t have the general appeal it should. It’s hard to find on normal broadcast channels. I’m lucky if I catch it somewhere where they have cable.

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