20-time singles Slam champion Novak Djokovic is widely regarded by pundits and followers as the greatest player of all time (GOAT).
The GOAT debate in men's tennis is a raging topic among tennis fans. As part of the debate, comparisons are constantly drawn between Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and their career achievements.
There are some substantial statistics on Novak Djokovic's side that make a strong case for him to be called the greatest. The Serb has the unique distinction of being the winner of two Career Golden Masters, and has spent 373 weeks at the summit of the rankings.
Djokovic is tied with Federer for second spot in most singles Slam titles (20). Ranked as the year-end No. 1 a record seven times, the Serb is a five-time ATP Finals winner. He is also the only man to have completed the non-calendar year Grand Slam and just the second man in the Open Era to hold all four Majors at a single point in time.
Novak Djokovic has won 87 singles titles in his career and leads the list of total prize money earned. The 35-year-old leads his rivals Nadal and Federer by 30-29 and 27-23 in the head-to-head count respectively. Djokovic came close to winning Olympic gold in 2008, but ended up with bronze.
A member of the winning side at the 2010 Davis Cup and the 2020 ATP Cup, Djokovic is the oldest player to reach the No. 1 ranking (at the age of 34).
Over the years, several former Slam champions and former No. 1 players have weighed in on the GOAT debate. While some believe that the number of Major victories decides the final verdict, others believe there is more to tennis than simply the Slam count.
On that note, here's a look at five players who have picked Novak Djokovic as the GOAT:
#1 Goran Ivanisevic
Former World No. 2 Goran Ivanisevic has been a part of Novak Djokovic's support staff since 2019. The 2001 Wimbledon champion has thus far guided Djokovic to two Wimbledon titles, two Australian Open titles and one French Open title.
Ivanisevic has dubbed Djokovic the greatest player ever, saying he doesn't even have to debate the matter.
"It's unreal. For me, not because I'm here, before I was a member of the team, for me he was the best," Ivanisevic said after Djokovic won Wimbledon 2021. "I say he's the only guy who can win four in a row in the same year. If he wins US Open, I think it's over. He wants to win more. But for me Novak is the biggest ever. I don't even have to debate about that."
After Djokovic's shock defeat versus Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters, Ivanisevic reiterated his views about Djokovic as the greatest of all time.
"You never know," the Croat said. "This guy for me is the best player in the history of tennis. He always finds a way to win, he always finds a way to get out of trouble."
#2 John Newcombe
John Newcombe won seven singles Slams, to go with 17 doubles and two mixed doubles titles over the course of his illustrious career. The Australian was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles.
In an interview with The Herald ahead of Wimbledon 2021, Newcombe claimed that Djokovic was heading in the direction of becoming the GOAT and that the facts couldn't be disputed.
"If he wins Wimbledon again, he has to go down as the best of all time," Newcombe said. "Novak is certainly heading in that direction. You can’t dispute the facts. He is winning those big matches. Certainly on hardcourt and grass, he’s extremely hard to beat. And there’s only one guy that’s better than him on clay."
Novak Djokovic did win the 2021 Wimbledon title, defeating Matteo Berrettini in the final.
#3 Chris Evert
Chris Evert, a 18-time singles Slam winner and three-time doubles Major winner, has labeled Novak Djokovic the player who would go down in history as the greatest.
In a podcast interview with FanSided before the 2021 US Open, Evert picked Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic as the greatest players on the men's and women's tours respectively.
"I think Novak (Djokovic) if he has another three or four years especially I think he is going to have to be considered the greatest of all time," Evert said. "Mentally, physically oh my gosh, and emotionally he’s above them all I think. Shot making, artistry Roger Federer. Fitness and warrior, fighter Rafa Nadal but Djokovic will win more tournaments and will win more Grand Slam tournaments and will have a better record."
#4 Pete Sampras
Before the era of the Big 3, it was Pete Sampras who led the Slam count with 14 to his name. Djokovic, in fact, has repeatedly called Sampras one of his childhood idols. And in November 2021, Djokovic broke Sampras' record for the most year-end No. 1 finishes.
Speaking to ATP's Greg Garber in November 2021, Sampras said that Djokovic has "dominated" two of his greatest rivals, Nadal and Federer.
"Seven years, for him, I'm sure he sees it as a bonus to all the Majors that he's won. But I think he'll appreciate it more as he gets older," Sampras said. "He did it at a time where he dominated two of the greats, in Roger and Rafa, and he handled the next generation of players very well all at the same time."
When asked about the GOAT debate, Sampras had no doubt that Djokovic was the winner.
"I do think what Novak's done over the past 10 years, winning the Majors, being consistent, finishing No. 1 for seven years, to me it's a clear sign that he is the greatest of all time," he said.
#5 Daniil Medvedev
Current World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev spoiled Novak Djokovic's party at the 2021 US Open. Medvedev beat the Serb in the final, putting an end to his dream of winning a calendar Grand Slam.
During the presentation ceremony after his maiden Slam victory, Medvedev said that Djokovic was the "greatest tennis player in history."
"First of all, I want to say sorry for the fans and Novak because we all know what he was going for today. I just want to say that you have been brilliant this year and throughout your career. I have never said this to anybody. But I will say it, right now. For me, you are the greatest tennis player in history," Medvedev said.
After Novak Djokovic won his 20th Slam at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, he said it was very difficult to compare players across generations, but that he was "extremely honored" to be a part of the GOAT debate.
" I consider myself best, and I believe that I am the best," Djokovic said. "Otherwise, I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history. But whether I am the greatest of all time or not, I leave that debate to other people. I said before that It’s very difficult to compare the eras of tennis. We have different rackets, technology, the balls, courts. It’s just completely different conditions that we’re playing in, so it’s very hard to compare tennis – say from 50 years ago to today. But I am extremely honored to definitely be part of the conversation."