17-time Major winner Novak Djokovic, who is virtually assured of ending the year as the World No. 1 for a record-trying 6th time, has also been an essential part of the GOAT debate along with Federer & Nadal.
Popularly known as the 'Big 3', the trio have defined the modern game with their achievements. However, that also means the rest of the players on the tour have been greatly overshadowed; the exploits of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic have reduced everyone else to an afterthought.
"The Four Musketeers" of French tennis - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet & Gilles Simon - have had to rough it out with the 'Big 3' at the peak of their powers. In that context, Tsonga spoke in detail about the trio during a video program by Monfils on live streaming platform Twitch.
"We have the three best players of all time who have played the 15 years that we have played. It was not easy to be compared to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. We were 5-6-7th. We all pushed our tennis to the maximum of what we could at one point. We don't have to be ashamed of what we did," Tsonga said.
Earlier this month, Rafael Nadal won a record-extending 13th Roland Garros trophy, and in the process tied Roger Federer's record of 20 Major singles titles. While Tsonga was candid in pointing out the stark difference between the French players and the usual suspects like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, he also asserted that the level of play shown by the 'Big 3' far outshone other top players' games.
"When I was going to play Hewitt, I was told 'It's going to be hard'. I said, 'But no it's my pigeon, I'm used to it, he never beat me'. The guy was World No. 1, he won Majors, he was a huge player, but he has nothing on Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic," Tsonga said.
Richard Gasquet still gets congratulated for beating Rafael Nadal when he was 13 years old
During the session, the Frenchmen discussed several anecdotes about their careers besides talking about the 'Big 3'. Former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet, who was once called the most promising young French payer, revealed that he still gets congratulated for having defeated Rafael Nadal in the final of the 'Les Petits As' more than two decades ago.
"In the streets and in clubs, I have heard the 'You beat Rafael Nadal at Les Petits As' a thousand times," Gasquet revealed.
Aside from that one elusive victory over Nadal in the 1999 edition of the premier junior tennis tournament, Gasquet trails the Spaniard by a huge margin of 16-0 in their head-to-head meetings.
The French public has often lamented their star players' inability to challenge Rafael Nadal, and the fact that a Frenchman hasn't won Roland Garros in the last 37 years. But Gael Monfils was quick to defend his countrymen, pointing out that Roger Federer, for all his greatness, has only won the French Open once in his career.
"Why didn't the French win Roland? Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, tennis legends, they won it only once. This is completely crazy. We are far from being Roger and he won it once," Monfils remarked.