Is Novak Djokovic the GOAT After Winning His 23rd Grand Slam?

With a record-breaking 23 Grand Slam titles to his name at the 2023 Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic surpassed Rafael Nadal’s tally after already overtaking Roger Federer’s all-time high of 20 some time ago. But does this make him the greatest? A deep dive into Djokovic’s career highlights, comparisons with his rivals, and exploring his impact both on and off the court – makes the case for him to be called the GOAT.

Djokovic’s record-breaking 23 Grand Slam titles

When it was revealed that Nadal will forego participation in the 2023 French Open, the odds of Djokovic claiming his 23rd Grand Slam title did not change that drastically. The King of Clay’s place as favourite at Roland Garros was taken by compatriot Carlos Alcaraz. It came on the back of Djokovic sliding to third place after less-than-spectacular results on the European clay court swing.

However, discounting the Serbian ace has been the peril of many of his rivals and Alcaraz learnt it in the semi-finals. The showdown affair in the last four was billed as the final given the pedigree of the individuals involved. Young Alcaraz started to cramp in the third set with the scoreboard reading 1-1. Djokovic smelled blood and went for the kill, finishing off the proceeding two games 6-1 and 6-1 to book a final date against Casper Ruud.

Novak Djokovic
Photo by Hugo Pfeiffer/Icon Sport)

Ruud had not defeated Djokovic in their prior four meetings and started brightly. He lost the first set on a tie-break and then had no answer to stop the 36-year-old. After coming close so many times, Djokovic claimed his third Frend Open title and cemented his place in tennis folklore.

The composition of his 23 Grand Slam titles is a testament to this. He has won the Australian Open nine times, Wimbledon five times, the French Open twice, and the US Open seven times. If Nadal is the King of Clay, the dogged Djokovic is the God of Happy Slam.

It has taken him 15 years to reach this feat after earning his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open when he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets. Such has been Djokovic’s dominance that he won three of the four majors in 2011, 2015, and 2016.

Djokovic’s ATP Masters Dominance

Novak is a year younger than Rafael and four years junior than Roger. In their accomplishments, they are close to each other, with a handful of Grand Slams separating them. It is the same case on the accumulated ATP Masters titles.

Both the Spaniard and the Swiss legends have 36 to their name. Djokovic, who started in their shadows took their numbers some time ago with 39 to his name. This period of success has seen him complete two Career Golden Masters. No other player in the game’s history has won all nine ATP Masters 1000 events and he has managed it twice.

One only wonders what his trophy cabinet looks like with all these winners’ medals and accumulated silverware. It also begs the question would it be overflowing had the Serbian been willing to take a softer approach to his Covid vaccination stance, this number would have been greater.

Djokovic missed the Australian Open and US Open because of this. The Serbian was deported from Australia as he was not vaccinated and not allowed to travel to the States because of the same reason. He missed the last two editions of the Indian Wells and Miami Open and also withdrew from the 2022 Cincinnati Open.

Given his pedigree to make himself accountable on such occasions, his total Grand Slam and ATP Masters event haul would have surely been higher. His disqualification in the US Open 2020 for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball in his match against Pablo Carreño Busta also raises similar questions. Djokovic was the favourite at Flushing Meadows and would have surely been favoured to triumph against eventual winner Dominic Thiem.

Standing in the GOAT Debate: Comparisons with Nadal and Federer

When it comes to comparing the Serbian legend with his greatest rivals, Federer and Nadal, the debate is poised to get heated. Each player brings their own unique style and strengths to the game.

Federer is known for his elegance on the court, while Nadal is known for his athleticism and tenacity. Djokovic, on the other hand, is known for his mental toughness and adaptability.

Leaving preference for playing style aside, there is no one who is as prolific as Djokovic as evidenced by his 23 career Grand Slams and 39 ATP Masters events. Moreover, he holds a clear edge against his two formidable rivals in head-to-head meetings. Against Nadal, Djokovic has managed to secure the lead with 30 victories to Nadal’s 29, while against Federer, he has 27 wins to the Swiss ace’s 23.

It is not just here that Djokovic trumps his rivals. He has six ATP year-end-No. 1s, joint-best with Pete Sampras and one more than both Nadal and Federer. While Federer holds the record of wire-to-wire No. 1 for three consecutive calendar years, it is Djokovic who has spent 388 weeks as the world number 1, 78 more than the second-best Federer.

Djokovic’s Impact Off the Court

Overall, his list of achievements is certainly impressive and goes beyond just his Grand Slam titles. Away from the court, Djokovic has used his platform as a top athlete to give back to the community.

His foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, focuses on improving education and early childhood development for children in Serbia. He has also been involved in various humanitarian efforts, including providing aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to his philanthropic endeavours, Djokovic is also an advocate for mental health awareness in sports. He has spoken openly about his struggles with anxiety and depression and how he manages it while competing at the highest level.

He has also taken a leading role in transforming professional tennis through the creation of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA). With the aim of ensuring fair treatment for top singles and doubles players, the PTPA seeks to represent the interests of the 500 best singles players and 200 top doubles players.

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