Rafael Nadal produced a masterclass to defeat Novak Djokovic in the final of the French Open on Sunday to win his 20th Grand Slam title - tying Roger Federer's record for most Slams won in men's tennis history. Nadal's win also means that Novak Djokovic will remain at 17 Grand Slams for now, three behind his rivals in the race for most Majors.
In the aftermath of Nadal's historic feat, Mats Wilander gave his thoughts on the GOAT race, and what position the Spaniard is likely to occupy by the end of it.
Rafael Nadal winning Roland Garros will probably give him a couple of years to keep going: Mats Wilander
Mats Wilander, a former World No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion, believes that when Rafael Nadal is done with this career he will likely have more Majors than any other male player.
“I think today tells us that Rafael Nadal most probably has the best chance to go down as the greatest male tennis player of all time,” Wilander told Eurosport. "We have our doubts about Roger Federer of course, (but) he can still win another one because he’s a genius. With Novak Djokovic being three behind now, he still has a good chance. With Rafa winning here now, it is probably giving him a couple of years to keep on going."
The Swede opined that Novak Djokovic still has a chance to win more Majors but that the Australian Open would be extra important for the Serb given that he has failed to win the last two Slams.
“Of course, it will hurt his (Novak's) confidence not having won at the US Open and then this defeat," Wilander said. "But now he goes into training for the Australian Open where he becomes clear favorite – and he knows if he wins three Majors next year, which we predict every year he will do, then he is up at 20 as well."
"Novak’s body and his game is more modern and I think he can stay longer. The question is emotionally; whether he is as emotionally involved as he has been over the last two years. That’s the question I’d love to have answered in Australia,” he added.
However, Wilander's counterpart at Eurosport, Tim Henman, still picked Novak Djokovic as the best candidate to end up with the most Slams.
“If I had to pick one player who will win the most Grand Slams it would still be Novak Djokovic," Henman said. "I look at his game, his physicality, he seems like he is in good shape. I think Rafael Nadal's body has been a bit more beaten up with the problems with the knees he’s had."
Henman also expressed his admiration for the Big 3 and the way they have managed to dominate the game for so many years.
"It’s amazing for Rafael Nadal to have matched Roger and got to 20 Grand Slam titles," the Brit said. "To draw level on 20 is beyond even his own wildest dreams."
"When you look at the records of the three players, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, it’s so difficult to comprehend it," Henman added. "Rafael Nadal talks about this court in Paris being a home away from home, he’s just had such incredible results. I think the overall consistency, but not missing tennis through injuries sometimes gets overlooked. The way they prepare, the way they train, their injury prevention so that they can continue to play at a high level is so impressive. They are not going to be around forever so it’s important for us to enjoy them while they are.”
The next chance to see any of the Big 3 play against each other on the court may might only come around in 2021. Roger Federer has already confirmed that he will not play again this season, and after winning the title in Paris, Rafael Nadal said he would decide whether he would play again in 2020 or skip the indoor season to prepare for the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has said that he plans to play in the ATP Vienna event as he hopes to extend the lead over his rivals and secure two records - the year-end No. 1 ranking for the sixth time, and the most weeks at No. 1.Published 12 Oct 2020, 14:18 IST