The Debating (Part 1): Novak and the Greats

Hi everyone.  Over the next couple of days I and fellow tennis blogger, Dan Martin, will be debating over a few general and pertinent topics in tennis.  They are picked at random and will offer short back and forth positions on the chosen topic.  

Dan Martin is the author of the blog, tennis abides.  He’s also a proud author, father and teacher.  Oh and he loves tennis.  


I think Novak Djokovic has carved out a unique place among the all-time greats.  Having completed his quest for a career Grand Slam, having won 5 year end championships, and having 12 major titles place Djokovic among the top tier of players in history.  Djokovic has two unique accomplishments that give him a distinctive position within the all-time greats.  Novak has the most Masters 1000/Masters Series/Super 9 shields in tennis history.  Finally and most importantly, Novak Djokovic is the first man to hold all 4 Grand Slam titles since the shift to majors being held on three different surfaces.  This may not make Djokovic the greatest of all time yet, but it certainly gives Novak an accomplishment no one else has matched.

Hi Dan,

True Novak is the first man to simultaneously hold all four grand slams on different surfaces, which is a remarkable feat. However, he does have a few distinct holes in his resume. The biggest one is topping the all time slam list. He’s still gotta catch Rafa/Sampras, before making the push towards Federer. Next on the list is an Olympic medal. Forget gold. Djokovic is yet to win a medal at the games. He obviously has a chance to fix that, this summer but that’s gotta be top priority for him and takes him up a notch in the all time great discussion, if he achieves it.


Hi Kel,

Novak did pick up a bronze medal in 2008.  I think Novak holding 5 season ending titles compared to Rafa’s zero as well as having won a Roland Garros title give him some leverage versus both Nadal and Sampras.  He does have two fewer majors, but Sampras never completed a career Grand Slam and Rafa has not won a season ending title.  This doesn’t place Novak clearly ahead of Sampras or Nadal, but he has grounds for an argument.

Hi Dan,

Oh did he?  I must have overlooked that.  It still lags behind Nadal’s gold or Federer’s silver (in singles) and gold (in doubles).  I think there are little nuances in terms of the stats.  He hasn’t matched Sampras’s consecutive year end #1’s or Federer’s total weeks at number #1.  It’s interesting when you look at all these guys and discover they each have unique records that haven’t been touched.  Each of those, presents grounds for the argument.  However, each generation also raises the ground/bar a little higher than the last.  Is Sampras still a GOAT contender, like he was when he retired in 2003?  That’s a thought a lot of people are going to process differently. If I were to be asked, I’d place him (Novak) as my fifth favorite in that discussion right now behind Federer, Rafa, Laver and Sampras
Thanks for the debate Dan,

What do Novak fans have to say?  Here’s a fan’s contribution from a Facebook group I manage, ESPNTENNISCLUB.
Shara V Plaza M: “To me Novak is the best player ever, he’s complete , the way he plays, he controls his emotion and a good human be.”
Follow our blogs for more debates leading up to and through Wimbledon and see you next time!

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