Majestic Djokovic re-opens GOAT debate following Australian Open triumph

A few decades in the distant future, BBC will be broadcasting the Wimbledon finals but due to an injury leading to retirement, they have half an hour of air time to fill. These are the moments us at home love – nothing is happening, but we cannot turn off the television, we want to see how the pundits can fill their time. Usually, the punditry team turn to some sort of debate or highlights reel of a past tournament. That debate may be: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic – who was the greatest?

A youthful child, enjoying his first experiences of watching tennis, will turn to his parents and ask who this trio were. At this moment, the eyes light up and the parent will begin to explain the joyful talents of each of the trio. A bit similar to now when you may ask about a Diego Maradona or Pelé of yesteryear.

Like debates in other sports, this one was ruled down to two with Nadal and Federer seemingly fight it out for the tagline ‘GOAT’ – greatest of all time.

Despite this, Novak Djokovic’s most recent triumph has reopened the argument to a three-way triple threat contest.

The Serbian’s 15th Grand Slam triumph in Australia saw him move to within two major titles of Nadal. Djokovic ruthlessly dispatched of the Spaniard 6-3 6-2 6-2 on Sunday morning.

He now heads to Roland Garros targeting a fourth straight Grand Slam title, which would give Djokovic a second Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam, having last held all titles in 2015/2016.

There is no doubt that right now, Djokovic is the best player in the world, and he is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon. He hinted on Sunday night that thoughts of retirement can be put on hold for a few years yet.

What should have been the match of the tournament, or even of the year – despite young – failed to live up to expectations. It looked like the battle of two mighty heavyweights, both fit and fresh in form, but turned into the equivalent of a fight between a heavyweight and an injured featherweight.

Their contests have spread over a 13-year-period, but this match at the Rod Laver Arena was the most dominant and one-sided of them all.

Former champion Mats Wilander described the performance as “absolute perfection”, with Pat Cash using the phrase “absolutely mind-blowing tennis”.

They were right.

Just one year ago, Djokovic’s career was in doubt, with elbow surgery leading to problems on and off the court.

Now, the question turns to whether Djokovic (15-time champion) can finish his career with more Grand Slam titles than Rafael Nadal (17-time champion) and Roger Federer (20-time champion).

Exactly 50 years ago, Rod Laver became the first and only man in the Open Era to sweep all four Opens, and now Djokovic, has his eyes on that feat, although it is a huge ask.

Whatever happens this year, the debate over who is better will remain. My take is similar to a popular spin on Messi-Ronaldo: stop debating who is better, just sit back and enjoy all three while we still can. This is a golden era of tennis.

Author: Lewis Steele

Writes about anything from the niche world of football in Tehran to the classic piece on Pep Guardiola's tactics. Follow me on Twitter @LewisSteele_

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