ILast week Novak Djokovic trained in Belgrade. The Serb in the late stage of his career has long since stopped doing the constant tinkling from tournament to tournament, which characterizes life as a tennis pro for most of his colleagues. Djokovic focuses on selected highlights. So far this year he has only taken part in the preparatory event in Adelaide and the Australian Open in Melbourne. He won both tournaments. And so even these relatively sparse appearances were enough to return to the top of the world rankings in January.
Djokovic makes no secret of it
This week Novak Djokovic is now playing at the tournament in Dubai. And even before the first ball is hit, he has set another record. Since Monday, the 35-year-old has been at the top of the ranking for 378 weeks. That’s more than any other tennis player in history. And now more than any tennis player. Djokovic surpasses Steffi Graf. It feels “surreal,” he said.
Unlike most professional athletes of his magnitude, Djokovic has never hidden the fact that he is interested in his records. In fact, he says they’re his main fuel in the quest for more and more wins. Djokovic wants to set records for eternity. And for that he must above all trump his longtime rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He has already succeeded in many of the most relevant categories, and he is well on the way in many others.
As always when such records are discussed in tennis, a goat is now also being discussed. We are looking for the GOAT (in German: goat), the “Greatest of All Time”, i.e. the supposedly best tennis player of all time. The beauty of the question is that it can never be answered. If only because nobody knows what or who the future will bring. So fans, journalists, TV experts and everyone else can discuss to their heart’s content.
If, despite this impossibility, you want to at least approach an answer, you quickly come to the conclusion that there cannot be a single answer. Rather, it depends on how you want to understand size in the first place. No player has ever been as popular as Roger Federer, who in turn owes this popularity in large part to his eternal duel with Rafael Nadal. And even if no other player were to be as successful as Djokovic, the comparison to old heroes like Rod Laver, the all-time winner of the 1960s, would be skewed because tennis was organized and professionalized in a completely different way back then.
“Of course it’s a privilege to be part of the discussion about the best player of all time,” says Djokovic. The fact that this discussion will never end is therefore ultimately irrelevant.