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Modest Djokovic plays down GOAT claims

He’s back on top of the world after winning a record-equalling 22nd grand slam men’s singles crown but Novak Djokovic humbly says he’s not the tennis GOAT yet.

January 30, 2023
By Darren Walton
30 January 2023

Saying it’s impossible to compare eras, Novak Djokovic has humbly declined to declare himself the tennis GOAT.

His numbers may show otherwise, but the super Serb is happy enough just to be recognised among the legends of the game, not necessarily THE greatest of all time following his record-equalling 22nd grand slam singles triumph on Sunday night.

“No, no, look, first I have to say that, I am so honoured and privileged to be in this discussion, first,” Djokovic said after snaring his 10th Australian Open crown at Melbourne Park.

“Second, I truly honour and admire the history and all the greats that paved the way for all of us to be here where we are. I feel like it’s difficult to have a conversation about this because every generation is different.

“You know, 30, 40 years ago you played three out of four slams on the grass with wooden racquets. Technology has advanced so much. Things have changed. Hard to compare generations.

“But I feel like I gave my best really and I’m still doing that. So if the people see me as one of the greatest players to ever play the game, I’m very grateful.”

While Djokovic only drew level with Rafael Nadal on 22 career majors with his 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas on Rod Laver Arena, the 35-year-old’s fans would say he has the mighty Spaniard covered.

Already the longest-serving world No.1 in history, Djokovic will return to the summit on Monday for a record-extending 374th week after knocking injured Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz from his perch.

The father of two is also the only man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam singles titles simultaneously – and the only man to achieve the non-calendar-year grand slam on three different surfaces.

Djokovic also enjoys a winning head-to-head record over Nadal (30-29) and the other GOAT contender Roger Federer (27-23) and owns the most Masters 1000 titles.

And he’s not finished yet.

“I feel game-wise physically I still can sustain and maintain the top level,” he said before Sunday night’s final.

“So as long as that’s the case, why not keep going?

“I don’t know when the end is going to happen in terms of professional career.

“Right now I have the motivation, I have support of the close ones, which is also something that is probably underestimated and not maybe talked about a lot, but it’s a key, especially as a father.

“Being absent from the children is not something that makes me very happy. It’s a balancing act between me and my wife and the close people in my life.

“So her being there for our children and everything, it allows me to be able to do what I love and still make some strides, significant strides, in this sport.

“Of course, I have professional goals and ambitions. Those are grand slams and being No.1 in the world.

“Those two probably pinnacles of the professional tennis world have always been there as goals for me. 

“So I do want to make more history of this sport, no doubt.”

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