Novak Djokovic has 23 Slams. Who is the best of all time?

The consultation was quick and direct. Novak Djokovic’s response was slow, thoughtful and revealing, delivered in paragraphs.

“What does it feel like,” a reporter wanted to know, “to be the greatest male player in history?”

First, a quick recap: Djokovic’s championship at the 2023 French Open, won via a 7-6(1), 6-3, 7-5 win over Casper Ruud on Sunday that included a regular start and then a waterfall. of brilliance, he provided the title for him 23 Grand Slam.

No man has won so many. After spending his entire career trying to amass as much hardware as rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic now stands alone at the top of the list. He had been tied at 22 with Nadal; Federer, who announced his retirement last year, is 20.

So now, back to that question. For years, as the so-called Big Three dominated men’s tennis, the debate raged over who should be considered the “GOAT,” “the greatest of all time.”

Federer has his sponsors. Christmas too. Djokovic too.

There are those who want it to be purely numbers, and Djokovic wins that crown: In addition to the major tally, he has spent a record number of weeks at No. 1 in the rankings and has won each of the Masters 1000 events twice. , while the other boys have not each won once.

There are those who want to do it for style. There are those who want to look at other intangibles.

Then there are those who believe that all three men deserve equal praise and appreciation. There is no need to take a side.

So, let’s hear Djokovic’s answer.

“I mean, I don’t want to say I’m the best, because I feel, I’ve said it before, it’s disrespectful to all the great champions in different eras of our sport that it was played in a completely different way than it is played today.” Djokovic said Sunday night, wearing a red jacket with “23” stitched on the front.

“I feel like every great champion of their own generation has left a big mark, a legacy and paved the way for us to play this sport on such a big stage around the world.”

He was just getting started.

“So,” the 36-year-old Serb continued, “I leave those kinds of discussions about who is the best for someone else. I have, of course, great faith, confidence, and belief in myself and all that I am, who I am, and what I am capable of.

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So this trophy is obviously another confirmation of the quality of tennis that I can still produce, I think.”

He went on to say what he said before about the importance of the four major tournaments – the Australian Open (which he won 10 times), the French Open (three), Wimbledon (seven) and the US Open (three) – and called them “THE highest priorities on the checklist for not just this season, but any season, especially at this stage in my career.”

There was more.

About how he didn’t do particularly well during the clay court part of the season leading up to Roland Garros. On how a different player is when it comes to the best-of-five-set format in the majors (“He has this software in his head that he can turn on when a Grand Slam comes along,” was the explanation offered by his coach, Goran Ivanisevic). About the internal and external pressure and expectations that he feels before the tournament. About the satisfaction, the relief, the pride and the fulfillment that he feels when he finishes and wins it.

And then Djokovic tacked again.

Although he wasn’t asked about what the future might hold, he did spin things around a bit, which certainly implies that he intends to continue increasing his trophy total.

“Of course, the journey is not over yet.

I feel like if I’m winning Slams, why even think about finishing a career that’s already been 20 years in the making? Djokovic said. “So I still feel motivated. I still feel inspired to play the best tennis (in) these tournaments, the… Grand Slams. Those are the ones that count, I suppose, more in the history of our sport”.

In the end, 450 words in an answer to a question out of 12, gave insight into his way of thinking. Remember: you’re halfway through a calendar-year Grand Slam, something a man last did in 1969, and the game kicks off at the All England Club on July 3.

Djokovic concluded by adding six more words to form a sentence that should make every other player wary: “I’m already looking forward to Wimbledon.”

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