Grand Slams are Monumental, but are They the Only Measurement for Determining the Best Men’s Tennis Player Ever?
Grand Slams are one of the toughest, if not the toughest tournament, to accomplish in an athlete’s career in any sport. Having 1 GS is an achievement that would be mentioned for long time especially when it is won in the ‘big 3’ Tennis era. After Dominic Thiem captured his 1st ever Grand Slam title in the 2020 U.S open, a wild statistic appeared which indicated that Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have won the last 13 Grand Slam titles, which makes Thiem the 1st player to win his 1st GS since 2014 when Marin Cilic won the U.S Open, this obviously comes after Federer and Nadal not participating, and Djokovic’s crazy disqualification after hitting the line judge. In addition to this, 56 of the 67 Grand Slams were won by the big 3, the 2020 U.S open was the first tournament without either of them in the semifinals. Unbelievable.
Well that did not last long, the Roland Garros Grand Slam was postponed from the original start date to October, and as everyone now knows that Rafael Nadal is the undisputed French Open champion/GOAT who has entered every single French Open as the favorite, and rightfully so. Enter the big 3, Nadal faced Djokovic in the final and routed him by winning 3 straight sets to win his 20th Grand Slam, tying Roger Federer for most Grand Slams in Tennis history. Let us just admire Nadal’s unrivaled dominance at Roland Garros first, he has won 100 out of 102 matches played with only 2 losses at the French Open, 13 of his 20 Grand Slams have come from the French Open. The most unrivaled, unbelievable achievement for an athlete in any tournament in any sport. Nadal has now reached 1000 career ATP wins.
When it comes to Grand Slams, many casuals believe it is the main trophy that determines the GOAT player because of its difficulty and prestige which shows why winning 1 is very special, even with 4 Grand Slam tournaments per year. Looking at Roger Federer for example, he has 20 Grand Slams and most fans consider him as the GOAT because of it, but there is much more than that, Federer has won 1,242 ATP matches and has won 109 career titles that consist of all the ATP ranked titles, which further boosts his claim for being the greatest. Here are the statistics for players who are considered to be in the discussion for greatest ever.
Rafael Nadal: 20 Grand Slams, 86 titles, and now 1000 career wins.
Novak Djokovic: 17 Grand Slams, 81 titles, 932 wins
Pete Sampras: 14 Grand Slams, 64 titles, 762 wins
Bjorn Borg: 11 Grand Slams, 66 titles, 654 wins
Jimmy Connors: 8 Grand Slams, 109 titles, 1274 wins
Ivan Lendl: 8 Grand Slams, 94 titles, 1068 wins
Andre Agassi: 8 Grand Slams, 59 titles, 870 wins
There are further statistics that can be used to assess who is the greatest such as the Win-Loss % in finals, age of player when the titles were achieved, career span of player and record compared to longer or shorter careers, and head-to-head matches between top players. A player like Pete Sampras has had a 14 year career and won 14 Grand Slams, that’s 1 GS each year. Nadal has the best win percentage in Tennis history (minimum 500 wins) with 83.3% (1000–201) and Djokovic being 2nd highest with 83.1% (932–190). Borg has 82.2% (654–140), while Roger Federer has the 4th best winning percentage with 82.1% (1242–271).
It’s fitting to highlight the big 3 when talking about the all around titles and Grand Slams, what is very interesting in this discussion is that head-to-head, lets look at the numbers: Nadal has the better Grand Slam record against both Federer and Djokovic in any round played:
vs Federer: 14 GS matches, 10 wins
vs Djokovic: 16 GS matches, 10 wins
Overall H2H Record:
56 matches: Djokovic 29–27 Nadal
40 matches: Federer 16–24 Nadal
50 matches: Djokovic 27–23 Federer
This may not indicate who should be on top of the sport as fans may even argue that Sampras could be the best with his short playing career compared to the big 3, but it will always be a topic of discussion as nothing is definitive especially after Nadal won his 20th Grand Slam. The Grand Slam argument is not that fair also when it comes to knowing the tournaments each of the big 3 won most. Federer has won Wimbledon 8 times, Djokovic won the Australian Open 8 times, and Nadal won the French Open 13 times, which indicates that each player has a specific court they are most comfortable on and they could potentially play in 1 GS the whole year and try to win that instead, and given the top quality each player has had for a long time, they have the ability to really focus on 1 GS as it is not a crazy thought.
Federer has been proclaimed the GOAT by many even when retirement does not seem close for Nadal and Djokovic yet, they might pass Federer on the all time Grand Slam list, but again, the overall ATP titles and career wins should be taken into consideration much more than just winning the big ones as sometimes injuries allow players to train harder for that 1 tournament while other players are playing the ATP tournaments in the process. Whoever the greatest is, everything should be taken into consideration not just Grand Slams.