Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the three greatest male tennis betting players of all-time.
The fact their careers have so directly overlapped is extraordinary, providing some of the most memorable matches in the history of the sport, duelling for Grand Slams and jostling atop the rankings.
All three have passed Pete Sampras on the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard. No one in history has won as many Slams as Djokovic, apart from his rivals Federer and Nadal.
Greats like Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Bjorn Borg, Fred Perry and John McEnroe do not come close to Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. The triumvirate have dominated the sport throughout this century.
Pitting them against each other is not only an entertaining exercise, it’s all we can do as we assess who the greatest ever is.
A constant feature of Wimbledon 2019 news, Djokovic cruised through to the final. Defeating Federer in an epic five-setter, Djokovic claimed his fifth Wimbledon title and his 16th overall, putting him two clear of Pete Sampras.
His 75 career titles are sixth in the Open Era, and Djokovic has reasserted himself as world number one after the injury troubles and drop in form of a couple of years ago.
For years, Djokovic was on his way to joining Federer and Nadal at the top of the mountain. His return to the form we have seen over the last 12 months confirms his place alongside the aforementioned duo.
He has won four of the last five Grand Slams, and it would be a brave decision to bet against him making it five out of six at the US Open later this year.
Djokovic deserves greater recognition. That much is abundantly clear. The Wimbledon crowd were negative towards him in the final, and his support is not as vocal, loyal or numerous as Nadal or Federer’s.
The fact he’s elbowed his way into this conversation is testament to not just his ability on the court, but his character, his perseverance to see two of the greatest ever and force his way onto, at the very least, the same level.
Duelling with Djokovic in a five-set match is an unenviable task. There are no easy points. His game, for whatever reason, doesn’t attract fans in the same way, but there’s an argument that he has been the most dominant of the three when at his best.
Like facing a wall, Djokovic is relentless, though often in a defensive manner. At just 32 years old, Djokovic has plenty more left in the tank. He’ll be a headline of 888sport’s live betting for years to come.
The current world number two, Rafael Nadal has a trophy cabinet featuring 18 Grand Slams.
He’s won all four of the Slams at separate points in his career, but the King of Clay has been by far the most successful at Roland Garros, lifting the famous trophy on no less than 12 separate occasions.
While he’s made Paris his own since winning it for the first time in 2005, Nadal hasn’t experienced dominance on hard and grass courts like Federer and Djokovic.
The Spaniard has made it to five Australian Open finals, but was only victorious once, as he beat Federer in a five-set stunner in 2009.
Nadal has two Wimbledon titles to his name. The first was in 2008, as he defeated Federer in what is widely considered the greatest tennis match of all-time.
At their respective peaks, the two faced off in a five-set match that was, until 2019, the longest ever Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon. He followed that up with his second and most recent Wimbledon title in 2010.
He capped a brilliant 2010 with his first ever US Open crown, a title he also won in 2013 and 2017.
There isn’t any doubt that Nadal is the greatest clay-court player in the history of the sport. He’s far and away the most successful player on the surface, boasting the most clay-court titles and the longest ever winning streak on clay with a jaw-dropping 81-match run.
Developing that skillset to become not just a contender, but a multiple champion on grass and hard courts is what elevates Nadal from an icon in Paris, Barcelona and Monte Carlo to a different level.
The Wimbledon crowd favourite and the holder of the most Grand Slam titles ever, Roger Federer has spent much of the last 10 years with the ‘greatest ever’ tag firmly in his possession.
Djokovic and Nadal have battled their way to make it a three-horse race, however, with an ageing Federer no longer the force he was in the latter part of the 2000s.
The stats can be reeled off about Federer. Only Djokovic has won more Australian Open titles, he’s won the most US Open titles in the Open Era. His eight Wimbledon titles are unmatched.
He won Wimbledon five times in a row in the 2000s, and he did the same at the US Open. Between 2005 and 2010, Federer reached 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals.
Records are obviously a huge part of Federer’s claim as the best player ever. His elegance on the court, how astonishingly easy he makes the sport look, and his logic-defying longevity all play a major role too, however.
While he’s still a supreme athlete, Federer’s game doesn’t feel like it is led by physicality in the same way as Djokovic’s is on agility or Nadal’s on acceleration and endurance.
Federer has lost out as he’s aged – he can be grinded down in a five-setter – but his raw talent, sweet-striking of the ball, has helped him stay at the very top for the best part of 20 years.
Even a month before his 38th birthday, Federer was just a tie-break away from beating Djokovic in a five-setter.
Who Comes Out On Top?
Answering the GOAT question is a matter of preference. The weight of success gives Federer the advantage, but both Nadal and Djokovic will fancy their chances of passing that mark.
Matching Federer’s period of time at the pinnacle of the game has to be a target for the other two. At this point, the eight-time Wimbledon champion has the edge with most of the tennis-watching world, and that’s fair enough.
Some will want to look at head-to-head records, and that might be our own 12-all tiebreaker.
Nadal has a 24-16 record against Federer, but Federer dominates his Spanish rival on non-clay courts. Nadal and Djokovic are too close to call, with Djokovic winning 28 to Nadal’s 26.
Djokovic has a 26-22 record against Federer. Does any of that make the verdict any clearer? (No, not really).
It’s a debate to be revisited once all three have retired. For now, Federer is in possession, but that could all change within a couple of seasons.