By Devlin Moniz
Although this is probably the most controversial topic in tennis, the answer is more straightforward than you might think. Firstly, all members of the big 3 are remarkable and great for the sport. You have Roger Federer, the fan favourite, oldest and first to taste success. Rafael Nadal, king of clay, Federer’s greatest rival and Olympic champion. Finally Novak Djokovic, the underdog, all-rounder and latest to enter the debate with a chance to make history this week. They each are legends for different reasons and in different ways, yet unlike the Olympic high jump champions, tennis commentators and fans strive to seek a clear winnter. Although this was not as apparent in years prior, to many “Fedal” fans demise, the answer is Novak Djokovic.
Despite the fact that it is a tradition in tennis to evaluate tennis players solely on the most prestigious tournaments – the four grand slams, we have to instead look at other categories. These include weeks at the ranking of number one, major tournaments, win percentages and head to head records against each other.
Djokovic has been at the top of the sport for the longest time. With a total of 337 weeks at number one, he passes all other male tennis players. Federer is close in second at 310 and Nadal is far behind at 209. Although the twenty-six-week difference does not seem like a lot because the total weeks are so high, it is still longer by half a year and counting. It is also important to mention that when the tour paused due to the global pandemic so did the weeks at number one. Djokovic was really dominant at the time and would most likely have held them which would have added an additional half year.
Djokovic is also ahead in most big titles won (total grand slams, masters 1000 titles and ATP finals) despite being the youngest. He has a whopping 61 with Nadal trailing at 56 and Federer last at 54. Considering how big these tournaments are, being at least five ahead of the others is crucial to this debate.
Novak also leads the record against Federer and Nadal. With Federer he leads taking 54% of the victories in a record of 27-23. With Nadal he takes the edge 30-28. However, although he does lead this category it is only by a few percentage points so it is not too crucial.
Djokovic also leads the win percentage race but by less than a percentage point.
Finally, Djokovic leads all of these stat categories although he played in a harder era than the two others. It sounds strange, since the three greatest players of all time played in the same era, yet he emerged far after the two others. In 2010 Djokovic had a sole slam yet Nadal had ten and Federer earned sixteen. This means for a big percentage of Federer and Nadal’s slams they only had to worry about one other person out of the three stars. Djokovic in all twenty of his slams (except for the recent ones where Federer was injured) had to play against the two other greatest players of all time.
Overall, these players have changed the sport of tennis and will be remembered for many years to come. They are all progressing at different speeds and although Djokovic leads the race now, it is far from over.