Novak Djokovic’s French Open triumph, which made him only the third man to win all four majors twice and took him halfway to a rare calendar Grand Slam, has reignited the debate over who is the greatest male player of all time.
The 34-year-old Serb wrapped up his second Roland Garros title and 19th Slam trophy with victory from two sets down over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, 12 years his junior.
It was a triumph built on the foundations of his epic semi-final win against 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, only the Spaniard’s third loss in Paris in 16 years.
Now Djokovic is just one Slam away from the record of 20 jointly held by Nadal and Roger Federer.
Djokovic added the 2021 French Open to his 2016 triumph in Paris and is the first man in 52 years to claim all four majors twice and third overall after Rod Laver and Roy Emerson.
He also has a record nine Australian Opens, five at Wimbledon and three US Opens and has won six of the last seven Slams he has contested.
Seven of his 19 Slam wins have come since he turned 30 and he has time on his side.
Djokovic is a year younger than Nadal and has the best part of six years on Federer.
Should Djokovic defend his Wimbledon title and triumph again in New York, he would become only the third man after Don Budge in 1937 and Laver, in 1962 and 1969, to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
It is not just at the Slams where Djokovic is tightening his grip on the race to be crowned the sport’s greatest.
Djokovic has 36 Masters titles, the same as Nadal.
However, he is the only man to have captured all nine of the series and the only one to have won all of them twice.
He has spent more time as world number one than his two main rivals with his 325th week at the top which started yesterday.
Djokovic was also the first of the ‘Big Three’ to break the $100 million prize money barrier.
Sunday’s win took him to the brink of $150 million.
In head-to-heads, he has the advantage. His epic win over Nadal on Friday took him to 30-28 over the Spanish star while he is 27-23 against Federer.
However, there are still areas where Djokovic lags behind.
His career total of 84 titles is behind Nadal’s 88 and Federer’s 103. He still has some way to go to beat Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 109.
Djokovic’s status as the best of all time also has to be judged in the context of the sport’s history.
Many regard Australia’s Laver as tennis’s supreme power, arguing he would have collected many more than his 11 Slams had he not been banished between 1963 and 1967 for turning professional.
Should Djokovic win Wimbledon next month and go to 20 majors, he will still have some distance to make up on the best women players of all time.
Margaret Court tops the all-time list with 24 Slam titles, Serena Williams has 23 while Steffi Graf retired on 22.
Djokovic may beat all these records, but the GOAT debate still won’t go away.
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