Novak Djokovic Now the Tennis GOAT

Novak Djokovic celebrating his French Open semifinal win.
Novak Djokovic celebrating his French Open semifinal win. / John Berry/Getty Images

It doesn't matter that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have one more career major than Novak Djokovic. Quite frankly, that record seems destined to fall anyway. But even if Djokovic doesn't catch either of his biggest rivals in that category, he's already passed them in the debate about who the best tennis player of all time is.

Game, set, match Djokovic.

Djokovic won the 2021 French Open by rallying from two sets down to beat rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday (6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4). It is Djoker's 19th career major, one behind the record shared by Federer and Nadal, and his second French Open title, giving him a second career grand slam, a title no one besides Djokovic can claim.

But again, this isn't about the numbers. It's about Djokovic's performance against his two biggest rivals.

Djokovic now has legendary wins over Federer and Nadal on his rival's favorite surfaces when both were at the top of their game. He beat Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final, coming back from three match points down to win 7–6, 1–6, 7–6, 4–6, 13–12 (7–3). On Friday, he beat Nadal in the French Open semifinals, coming back from a one-set deficit and winning one of the greatest sets of tennis ever played in the third before taking the match (3–6, 6–3, 7–6 (7–4), 6–2.)

Those wins coupled with his career majors give Djokovic an edge in the conversation about who is the greatest men's tennis player of all time, but this is about his performance against the two other greatest players of all time.

Djokovic is now 3-1 against Federer on the grass at Wimbledon, Federer's most effective surface, with all three wins coming in the finals. He's also 7-4 against Federer on hard courts in majors, 11-6 in majors overall and has a 27-23 edge in their all-time head-to-head matchups.

Against Nadal, Djoker is 30-28 overall with two wins over him at the French Open, where he's the only player to beat Nadal twice. Nadal does have a 10-7 edge on Djokovic in majors, but seven of those wins came at Roland Garros, where Nadal is basically impossible to beat. At Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, Djokovic has a 5-3 edge. He's also won four of their last five matches in majors.

This has been the golden era of tennis, with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic dominating at different times and putting themselves at the lead of who would be the best when all was said and done. But with Federer dealing with knee issues and likely at the end of his playing career and Nadal being primarily a clay-court specialist, Djokovic has taken the lead in the tennis GOAT conversation. His ability to win on every surface is stronger than that of his rivals and his record against Nadal and Federer gives him the edge too. But it's been his ability to beat them on their home turf that separates Djokovic and gives him the title of greatest tennis player of all time.