There is much debate amongst tennis fans about who is the best to ever play the game. There’s plenty of names in contention for the top spot including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras and, a blast from the past, Rod Laver. But probably one of the most prominent figures of tennis in the last ten years and certainly a man who has more than earned his right to be in this conversation, Serbian great Novak Djokovic.
There is no doubt that all of these players have treated us to some spectacular tennis over the years, often battling it out against one another for the chance to win a Grand Slam. With only Nadal and Djokovic still playing, are they able to cement their position as greats in the sport, maybe even the greatest?
It’s only right to begin the conversation with Rod Laver, a man whose career started before many of the others were born. The Australian legend was ranked number one in the world for seven straight years between 1964 and 1970 as his career was one full of success. Nicknamed ‘Rocket’ he won a whopping 200 career titles with 11 Grand Slam Singles Titles and 9 Pro Slam Singles Titles, making him easily a contender for the greatest to have ever played tennis.
Next up, another man who retired over 20 years ago, Pete Sampras. The American picked up an incredible $43 million dollars in prize money throughout his career as well as a respectable 14 Grand Slam Singles Titles. Retiring in 2002, he is widely regarded as one of the tennis greats.
His career finished on a high after the US open when he defeated rival Andre Agassi. However, his place in the argument for one of the greats is disputed due to his preference for hard courts and grass. Should he have dominated across all surfaces to be eligible for the conversation?
A rival of Djokovic, Roger Federer’s reign in tennis was a magnificent one to say the least. In a career spanning over 24 years, the Swiss is one of the most well renowned to play the game with 103 career titles and 20 Grand Slam Singles Titles.
Even at the age of 40, he was still playing at the highest level and challenging for titles. His last appearance in a Grand Slam final was in 2019 when he was beaten by Djokovic at Wimbledon. A remarkable career that was played at such a high level for so long.
Rafael Nadal is another man from Djokovic’s era and like Federer he has been around for quite some time. The Spaniard continues into the later stages of his career at the age of 37, however, with 22 Grand Slam Singles Titles it has been an impressive one. Known as the ‘King of the Clay’ in 2022 he won a record 14th French Open title.
During a time that may mark the beginning of a new era for tennis as Nadal, Djokovic and others bring their careers to a close, we can certainly be grateful that Rafael Nadal treated us to some of the best tennis the world has seen.
But can anyone surpass Novak Djokovic? As the Serbian reaches his late thirties, he is still winning Grand Slams for fun. In the final Grand Slam of the 2023 season at the US open, Djokovic secured a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam Singles Title. He also won 3 out of the four Grand Slams in 2023 at the age of 36, only losing out at Wimbledon to Spaniard and possible successor Carlos Alcaraz.
The most Grand Slams ever by a male tennis player and the possibility for even more, it’s very difficult to argue that Djokovic is anything other than the greatest tennis player ever.
So what do you think? Is Novak Djokovic the best to play the game or is there someone else who has proven himself over the Serbian? No matter what your opinion is, Djokovic’s legacy and impact on the sport will live on for years to come even after his career ends.
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