Novak Djokovic is a twenty-time Grand Slam winner and a six-time year-end top spot holder. Alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, he forms the ‘Big Three’. Through sheer grit and aided by his defensive style, consistency, and ability to wear opponents down, Djokovic’s momentous battle for recognition and accolade over the years has led to profound success.
Ultimately, Djokovic has a rightful claim to be named the best male tennis player of all time, and we’re going to examine why.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Djokovic is undoubtedly a dominant force. Capturing all his achievements is incredibly difficult to do in one article as his accomplishments are so many, they could occupy a whole book.
In the upcoming US Open in August, tennis betting platforms have Djokovic as a clear favourite with odds of 10/11, whilst Nadal is 6/1 and Federer 12/1. What’s remarkable about that is that, at 34 years old, Djokovic doesn’t seem to be remotely close to being done. He’s ahead of levels in the numbers game with his two closest rivals, who are both approaching the twilight periods of their respective careers.
Djokovic’s Wimbledon 2021 win was not his first – it was his sixth. He overcame an old friend and practice partner in Matteo Berrettini in front of a crowd clamouring to see someone lift the trophy so that they could find a screen to watch the Euro 2020 final in time. It’s a shame the two events fell on the same day since what Djokovic achieved didn’t have the opportunity to be fully commended for what it was.
He’s one of only eight male players to win a Career Grand Slam and the only player to hold all four major titles over three different surface types at the same time. He is also the only tennis player to claim victory in all ATP tour Elite tournaments, too. In fact, like Nadal on clay courts, Djokovic is effectively the Open era’s greatest hardcourt player, with the most hardcourt tournament Majors and Masters titles. No male player has been ranked number one for longer in world tennis.
Djokovic is the only player to defeat Federer and Nadal in all four Grand Slam competitions and he’s the only one to beat both in multiple Grand Slam finals, multiple Master finals, and in the final of the Year-End Championship.
2011 has to be mentioned, also. It was a decade ago, whilst Nadal and Federer were still absolute powerhouses of the sport. And yet, Djokovic in 2011 is widely viewed as the best season of any professional tennis player in the Open Era.
Winning ten titles across three surfaces, Novak defeated both Nadal and Federer a collective ten times, finishing the year 10–1 up against the two of them. He completed a 43-match winning run and set a final record of five Masters titles in a single season. To be this dominant, in an era when two of the sports’ very best were still fully capable of challenging him. Make no mistake, we might not see a season like that again for a very, very long time.
As far as playstyles go, finding one great strength for Djokovic is difficult because he has so many. His serve and backhand used to let him down, but not anymore.
Check the numbers, watch the matches, observe the fittest player on every tour he goes on slowly and methodically deconstruct his opponents like an Eton mess, and lift as many titles as any man has in the sport. Expect many, many more from Novak, the greatest to do it, and he’s not remotely finished.