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Why Nadal’s Roland-Garros triumph will push Federer and Djokovic to new heights – Match Points excerpt

In Episode 18 of Match Points, Josh Cohen guides Marion Bartoli, Simon Cambers and Ben Rothenberg through a discussion the GOAT debate. Now that Rafael Nadal has tied Federer on the Grand Slam singles list, will it cause Federer and Djokovic to reach deeper to win more majors?

October 28, 2020
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Rafael Nadal’s 13th Roland-Garros – and 2oth major singles – title has caused tennis to actively begin to debate the merits of each member of the Big Three’s legacy. Today on Match Points the panel is wondering if Nadal’s latest title might push Djokovic and Federer to raise their games in order not to be left behind by the great Spaniard.

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli believes that Nadal’s success will make Djokovic even hungrier to ramp up his game in 2021.

“I think the 13th Roland-Garros title of Rafa will push Novak and Roger to even greater heights because they want to catch up, absolutely, and we have to wait until that is happening. Once that is happening, once those three players will – unfortunately for tennis – be retired, then you have to really take everything in debate, with Masters 1000, year-end championships, Grand Slams, etc… put that into perspective and see which one is actually the greatest of all-time.”

“You can make an argument for all three of them, absolutely”

Simon Cambers agrees with Bartoli, and he could imagine a future that sees the three giants of tennis all finishing with the same amount of Grand Slam titles – be it 21 or 22.

“It’s too difficult to make an absolute judgement until they are all finished,” he said. “You can make an argument for all three of them, absolutely. I would love for them all to end on 21 or 22 and then we can start talking about everything else that goes into being the greatest player of all-time.”

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2018

New York Times writer Ben Rothenberg says that no matter how it plays out, it will always be difficult to say which player is the true GOAT of tennis. He says that while it might be possible to know which of the big three had the best career, it’s virtually impossible to compare today’s greats with a player like Rod Laver.

“At least the mean they are all against each other they are all in the same era,” he said. “Maybe still it’s too difficult to compare any of these three guys to Rod Laver and what he was dealing with during the pre-Open Era and maybe it should still just be greatest of the three rather than the greatest of all-time.”

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