The debate in tennis over who is the greatest player of all time — the GOAT — has raged on for years.
But with the way Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have dominated in grand slams over the last 20 years, people are now suggesting that the current ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis are the best ever.
Players such as Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver have all had their fair share of success during their separate eras but were unable to achieve the same level of domination as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
The trio have won a combined 46 grand slams and Andy Murray, who is one of the few players to have beaten a member of the ‘Big Three’ in a grand slam final, believes we are currently witnessing the pinnacle of tennis.
“In my opinion, all three of the best players are playing in this generation. You don’t have to compare the generations,” the 32-year-old said on an Instagram Live with Djokovic on Friday.
“We don’t know what everyone will finish on Slam-wise. For me, it depends on the surface. Rafa’s record on clay, nobody competes with. Your (Djokovic) record on hard courts is the best. Federer is the best grass court player.
The best on clay, grass and hard court
“When people ask me what my toughest match is, who are the hardest guys to play against, I feel like I’m competing against the best hard-court player ever, the best clay court player and the best grass court player.”
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Federer currently holds the record of most grand slams in men’s singles with 20; Nadal is second with 19; and Djokovic two behind the Spaniard, with 17.
Djokovic admitted that although the number of titles is something he thinks about, the ‘Big Three’ can’t really focus on it because they are “still in the storm.”
“I speak with my team and my friends about it. People close to me are biased and obviously leaning towards me. People support Roger and Rafa, which is normal,” the Serbian explained.
“But I think it’s good for tennis we have this kind of conversation and that we all are competing at the same time,” he added.
Life after tennis
Murray has had time to think about the GOAT and legacies since injuries have marred his career over the past few years.
A hip injury forced him to miss almost a year, and in January 2019, the Scottish player wept in a press conference when he said he intended to retire because of the injury, only to play doubles at Wimbledon later that year.
But Murray says time with his family has helped him come to terms with the fact that there will be a life after tennis.
“I have realized when tennis is done for me, I will be just fine because I have enjoyed being at home,” the three-time grand slam winner said.
“You are learning a new way of living. You are at home all of the time. It’s a big change but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.”
Djokovic admitted he was full of admiration for Murray because he returned from such a major injury.
“I have great respect for you doing all you can to come back after your injury. I have only had one major injury. I took six months off and skipped a slam for the first time,” the 32-year-old said.
Djokovic, nonetheless, is not ready yet for life after tennis. He is still “in the storm.”
“It’s really amazing,” he said, “and I think we’re all not really conscious of all these results, achievements and the proportions and depth of the conversation in the world of sport.”