Ivan Ljubicic, the coach of Roger Federer, believes there is no definitive answer to the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate. Emphasizing more on the legacy that players leave behind than the number of Grand Slam titles they win, Ljubicic claimed that both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have carved out a special place for themselves in tennis history.
The 39-year-old Federer and the 34-year-old Nadal are tied for the most Majors in men's tennis with 20 titles each, followed closely by the 33-year-old Novak Djokovic. The GOAT debate has been raging furiously ever since the three hit their stride, and Ljubicic implied that the debate would likely continue for a while without any resolution.
"In my opinion, there is no clear answer," Ljubicic said in comments made to the Tennis Italia magazine. "Do you know how many people tell me that they think Roger Federer 'is the greatest, whatever happens'? Here, I am not convinced that the most successful is automatically the greatest. Or that only one name must be mentioned."
Ljubicic then cited the example of 14-time Slam champion Pete Sampras, who was widely considered to be focused solely on winning. The Croat compared that with the legacy of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who he feels have done a lot more for the sport.
"I have all the respect in the world for an absolute champion like Pete Sampras," Ljubicic continued. "He is a champion who has won 14 Grand Slams, a huge amount. And how he played tennis, it was fantastic. But he always said very clearly that he was only interested in winning. And that the more others left him alone, the happier he was. And it went like this: he won, he stopped, he disappeared."
"Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have left an important mark in the history of tennis," the Croat added. "Roger is not just his victories but how he plays, how he lives tennis, how he behaved, what it represents for people. This endless rivalry of theirs, and their victories, are unique things. They changed the sport. What we see now in tennis is the result of what the two of them have done since 2005. They "created", in a sense, as did Djokovic."
Replacing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be difficult: Ivan Ljubicic
Ivan Ljubicic then went on to talk about the future of the sport without Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He believes the void left by their departure will be tough to fill, but at the same time he is confident that the sport will survive in the long run.
"Replacing Federer and Nadal will be difficult," Ljubicic said. "But I don't think tennis is in danger as a sport: the same was also thought after Borg and McEnroe, or after Agassi and Sampras. Perhaps, in the short term, those who win after them will not have the same appeal, the same charisma. But maybe they will get it over time."
Ljubicic also believes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will remain involved in the sport in some capacity even after they have hung up their rackets.
"They are both in love with tennis," the Croat went on. "When they stop playing, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will not disappear. They will stay (involved in tennis). Nadal already has his own academy. Roger his agency, and then he created the Laver Cup… After that I don't know, I can't know how things will go. In my opinion, they won't be doing one thing full time."Published 16 Dec 2020, 17:05 IST