Match Points #29: Djokovic, Federer, Serena and other GOAT questions before Wimbledon 2021

In the latest edition of Match Points, host Josh Cohen guides Tennis Majors’ esteemed panel through five big picture questions facing the grandest stars of our sport. Watch as Marion Bartoli, Simon Cambers and Ben Rothenberg weigh in…

June 26, 2021

The Match Points panel – comprised of Marion Bartoli, Simon Cambers and Ben Rothenberg – are tackling all the big questions this week ahead of Wimbledon. Join us as we play a game of five questions…

1. Will Djokovic complete the calendar slam?

55 percent of Tennis Majors readers (on Twitter) believe that Novak Djokovic is destined to become the first ATP player to win the calendar slam since Rod Laver in 1969, but the panel has other ideas.

“There are so many things that can happen during a Grand Slam,” Bartoli says. “Of course he can do it but the chance is really tiny.”

Bartoli says she believes Djokovic has a ten percent chance of running the table at the Slams in 2021.

“But he has what it takes inside him to do it,” she says. “It’s more about him controlling everything he can control, which is his temper, the calendar, how to get ready, maybe playing not so many matches during the hard court swing in the US, to try to save some energy for the US Open at the end of it, because I think the amount of pressure he is going to face if he is winning Wimbledon is going to be absolutely enormous.”

It’s statistically more likely that Djokovic won’t do it.

Simon Cambers

Cambers also believes the odds are low for Djokovic, but not impossible.

“It’s statistically more likely that he won’t do it,” says Cambers, who nevertheless sees the 19-times Grand Slam champion as a prohibitive Wimbledon favourite. “He has to win 14 matches to do it – anything could go wrong, he could slip on the grass at Wimbledon and get injured, somebody could have a blinder and take him out.”

Novak Djokovic (Ser) defeated Roger Federer (Sui) in the Wimbledon men’s final in 2019.

2. Is Djokovic already the GOAT?

Is now the right time to call Novak Djokovic the official GOAT of men’s tennis, or do we need to wait until he wins more majors?

“When we are purely talking about results, I think his are the best,” says Rothenberg. “He’s won all the Grand Slams twice, nobody has ever done that, he’s won every Masters series event at least twice, no one else has won them at least once, even.”

But it’s not quite yet time to call this debate finished.

I think if Novak goes to 21 after winning every single Grand Slam twice, you can absolutely crown him as the GOAT.

Marion Bartoli

“It’s too early to crown him,” says Cambers.

Bartoli believes that Grand Slams count the most, which means that Djokovic has to get to 21 major singles titles in her mind.

“I think if Novak goes to 21 after winning every single Grand Slam twice, you can absolutely crown him as the GOAT,” she says.

3. If Djokovic doesn’t win Wimbledon, who will?

Djokovic is the odds-on favourite to win a sixth Wimbledon title, but who is next in line if he falters at SW19?

“Roger,” says Bartoli. “I just don’t see any other name. I just don’t see any other players right now, especially in the Next Gen, having enough game, enough wins on grass to be able to go out there and win seven matches at Wimbledon. I think they have weaknesses in their game that grass accentuates, and I think if there is one player that can put it together during fourteen days, and knows how to do it and is so confident when he stays on Centre Court, it’s Roger.”

Federer was the unanimous choice to win – if for some reason Djokovic is upended at Wimbledon.

“When you look at him in a one-on-one, head-to-head matchup with most players in the draw, it is hard to see if he’s fully fit, many of them even having a chance,” says Cambers, adding: “I think Tsitsipas is the one who has the potential to win Wimbledon one day – I’m not sure his game on grass is ready for it yet.”

4. Is unpredictability bad for women’s tennis?

Barbora Krejcikova, Roland-Garros 2021
Barbora Krejcikova, Roland-Garros 2021

The talk turns to women’s tour and the wide open draw at Wimbledon. Is all the turbulence, uncertainty and steady stream of first-time champions bad for women’s tennis?

Cambers thinks the women just need time to transition into its next generation.

“It’s just transition,” says Cambers. “It’s the way it is.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty on the women’s tour, but I really don’t like the argument that it’s bad for the women’s tour to have new champions – we have to wait and see how it settles over the next few years.”

“The women have unpredictability and new stars being born all the time and the men have narratives and consistent superstars to orbit around – both would do well to have even just ten percent of what the other one has.”

Ben Rothenberg

Rothenberg says it is a case of the tours being polar opposites at the moment.

“I think both tours have to be envious a bit of what the other one has,” he says. “The women have unpredictability and new stars being born all the time and the men have narratives and consistent superstars to orbit around – both would do well to have even just ten percent of what the other one has.”

5. Who is more likely to win at Wimbledon, Roger or Serena?

With Roger Federer and Serena Williams both pushing 40, the panel was asked which player was more likely to capture another Wimbledon title this summer. Would it be Serena Williams winning her 24th major and eighth at Wimbledon, or would it be Federer capturing his ninth Wimbledon and 21st major singles title?

The panel unanimously agreed, with one word: We let you see who’s that person…

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