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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic? The 'GOAT' debate rages on

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Timeless

ATP Heritage Celebration - Inside
Novak Djokovic (L), Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (R)

Novak Djokovic is back, and he means business. Overcoming several mental and physical obstacles since his slump following the 2016 US Open final loss to Stan Wawrinka, the Serb returned to a Major semifinal for the first time in two years on the hallowed grass of Wimbledon, got the better of a red-hot Rafael Nadal ,and went on to win the trophy a day later. 

Following the footsteps of his two great contemporaries in men’s tennis, Djokovic has finally come back strong from injury layoffs, and now looks set to start dominating again.

He stands at 13 Majors, with Nadal - a year older than him - at 17, and Roger Federer at 20. If Djokovic is to go on yet another near-flawless run like he had in his record-breaking 2011, 2015 and 2016 seasons, he will come seriously close to his two senior competitors - in terms of Majors in his cabinet and many other performance parameters.

So the GOAT debate in Open Era is well and truly back on track. Let us have a comprehensive look at the numbers and analyze the three as they stand now.

AGE

1. Novak Djokovic: 31 years 2 months

2. Rafael Nadal: 32 years 1 month

3. Roger Federer: 36 years 11 months

TOTAL CAREER TITLES

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1. Roger Federer: 98 wins, 51 runners-up

2. Rafael Nadal: 79 wins, 36 runners-up

3. Novak Djokovic: 69 wins, 31 runners up

GRAND SLAMS

1. Roger Federer: 20 wins (all-time record), 10 runners-up

2. Rafael Nadal: 17 wins, 7 runners-up

3. Novak Djokovic: 13 wins, 9 runners-up

MASTERS 1000 TITLES

1. Rafael Nadal: 32 wins (all-time record), 16 runners-up

2. Novak Djokovic: 30 wins, 14 runners-up

3. Roger Federer: 27 wins, 20 runners-up

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS

1. Roger Federer: 6 wins, 4 runners-up

2. Novak Djokovic: 5 wins, 1 runner-up

3. Rafael Nadal: 0 win, 2 runners-up

DAVIS CUP TITLES

1. Rafael Nadal: Won four times in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011

2. Roger Federer: Won once in 2014

3. Novak Djokovic: Won once in 2010

NO. 1 RANKING

1. Roger Federer: 310 weeks, 237 max consecutive (both all-time records)

2. Novak Djokovic: 223 weeks, 122 max consecutive (twice held highest ever ranking points in a year)

3. Rafael Nadal: 182 weeks, 56 max consecutive

HEAD-TO-HEAD AMONG THESE THREE

Novak Djokovic - 23 wins VS Roger Federer - 22 wins

Novak Djokovic - 27 wins VS Rafael Nadal - 25 wins

Rafael Nadal - 23 wins VS Roger Federer - 15 wins

OLYMPICS SINGLES MEDALS

1. Rafael Nadal: 1 Gold

2. Roger Federer: 1 Silver

3. Novak Djokovic: 1 Bronze

BREAK-UP OF CAREER STATS

Career break points converted

1. Rafael Nadal: 44.9%

2. Novak Djokovic: 44.3%

3. Roger Federer: 41.2%

Career break points saved

1. Roger Federer: 67.1%

2. Rafael Nadal: 66.6%

3. Novak Djokovic: 65.4%

DECIDING SET VICTORIES

1. Novak Djokovic: 74.4%

2. Rafael Nadal: 68.3%

3. Roger Federer: 65.3.%

TIE-BREAKERS WON

1. Roger Federer: 65.2%

2. Novak Djokovic: 62.7%

3. Rafael Nadal: 60.9%

SERVE RATINGS AS PER ATP

1. Roger Federer: 290.7

2. Rafael Nadal: 284.7

3. Novak Djokovic: 282.2

RETURN RATINGS AS PER ATP

1. Rafael Nadal: 167.9

2. Novak Djokovic: 165.3

3. Roger Federer: 151.7

UNDER-PRESSURE PERFORMANCE RATINGS AS PER ATP

1. Novak Djokovic: 246.8

2. Rafael Nadal: 240.7

3. Roger Federer: 238.8

WHO IS AHEAD IN THE RACE THEN?

Federer leads the rest as far as Major titles go but he trails his primary two challengers in the head-to-head. Both he and Djokovic have multiple victories at the year-end ATP championships but are yet to clinch the Olympics singles gold. And although Nadal has that yellow medal, he is yet to win the year-end tournament featuring the top 8 ranked players, making it to the final just twice. 

All three have won the Davis Cup for their respective countries, with Nadal doing it four times. Djokovic still has quite a gap to make up with the other two in terms of Slam wins but is the youngest of the three and is marginally ahead of both Nadal and Federer in the head-to-head.

Federer is easily the best server of the three while Djokovic and Nadal are ahead of him in terms of their return.

Federer in the initial phase of his career is said to have dominated lesser opponents, until the arrival of Nadal on the scene, and the Spaniard too needed some time to adjust to different surfaces before seriously challenging Federer on all of them. In this aspect, Djokovic is a little ahead; he had to fight these two great players playing in their prime from the very start, which speaks volumes of his own achievements.

Federer leads the Slam board and has registered the highest number of weeks as World No. 1 including the consecutive figure, while Nadal won a single Slam (French Open) an unprecedented 11 times. Djokovic is the only one of these three to hold all four Slams at once, and he twice held the all-time ranking point record - in 2015 and 2016.

While stats don’t lie, they don’t show the whole picture either.

Federer is an artist on the court with his groundstrokes no lesser than strokes of a paintbrush and his movement so fluid and silent that nobody notices him covering the court; there's a reason why he is the ultimate fans favorite. 

Nadal is a warrior on any surface; his steely grit, determination and never-say-die attitude are no less than that of a boxer who keeps coming at you and is hard to pin down. 

Djokovic is a complete player, operating efficiently like a robot almost all the time, and doing everything in exactly the right measure.

The greatest of all time debate among these three, I feel, can only be settled when all of them hang up their boots and we have the final mammoth numbers they have brought to the table. Until that time, all we can do is enjoy these magnificent three men go at it.

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