US Open: Well, Novak Djokovic settles the GOAT debate for good

The Serb is the last man standing as the game sees a phasing away from the golden generation — yet he still looks good for more

With this US Open win, Novak Djokovic now has the highest number of man's slam titles: 24 (photo: Getty Images)
With this US Open win, Novak Djokovic now has the highest number of man's slam titles: 24 (photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The Wimbledon final on 16 July seems more of an aberration now. Novak Djokovic,  the man with the highest number of men’s slam titles now — 24 — ensured 'normal service' had resumed at the top, as he wore down Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the US Open final on Sunday, 10 September. 

And yes, in the process, he has settled the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate in men’s tennis. Granted it’s a subjective choice and a debate joined largely on social media these days, but even the most diehard of Federer and Nadal fans will now have to admit that the Serb is the man for all seasons. 

Turn the clock back by about five years, and the tennis fraternity considered themselves fortunate to be living in the era of the golden generation — even though Federer’s prowess was clearly on the wane by then, thanks to the dodgy knees.

It’s a much different scenario now with the Swiss master retired, Nadal on his last legs — but Djokovic, 36, shows no signs of slowing down. 

A breakdown of Nole’s 24 slams reflects a rather even distribution of his all-court dominance — there are 14 hardcourt titles in all (10 at the Australian Open, 4 at the US Open), 7 on Wimbledon grass and 3 on the Roland Garros clay. 

Federer, whose preference and style was tailormade for grass (a record 8 Wimbledon titles; 6 Australian Opens; 5 US Opens and 1 French), left Nadal the undisputed king on clay (a whopping 14 French Open titles; 4 US Opens; 2 each of Wimbledon and Australian). 

In what’s a testimony to the greatness of the trio, tennis lovers around the globe have been split into three camps (with due apologies to Andy Murray). The Federer loyalists (yours’ truly included) will argue that at his peak, there was very little to choose between him and Djokovic on the hardcourts — where the former had raked up 11 titles as against the Serb’s 14, including a phenomenal sequence of five back-to-back titles between 2004 and 2008. 

They may be men with different backgrounds and playing styles, but what united them at the stratosphere of men’s tennis was the supreme champions’ ego, that hunger to succeed and the never-say-die attitude. The fact that Djokovic is the last man standing — and looking good enough to give it back to someone like challenger Carlos Alcaraz, who is nearly half his age — makes one doff his hat to the man. 

Yet there was a time not too long ago when the fiery Serb — known for his implosive nature and a dubious record of racket abuse on the court — still looked like an outsider trying to spoil the two-member hegemony at the top.

In fact, one of his famous quotes after winning the epic 2019 Wimbledon final was on how he absorbed the cries of ‘Roger, Roger’ ringing in his ears and imagined them to be chants of his own name in order to motivate himself through that energy-sapping encounter.  

Well, times have certainly changed, and the cheering fans in the stands yesterday surely want him to continue as along as long as he can.

Keep them coming, Nole! 

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