Match Points excerpt: “Slam titles will decide goat debate”

In the latest edition of Match Points, host Josh Cohen guides the panel through an in-depth discussion of the elements that make up the GOAT debate in men’s tennis.

June 26, 2021

In our latest episode of Match Points, Marion Bartoli, Simon Cambers and Ben Rothenberg discussed the complications that often come into play when we try to quantify the GOAT debate. Is it strictly Grand Slams that matter or should analysts be digging deeper and turning over every rock to assure that the argument is fair, nuanced and worthy of the players whose greatness we are considering?

No matter how we shape our argument, it is hard to deny the fact that Novak Djokovic is making a strong case for himself.

Bartoli: If Novak gets to 21 Slams, He’s the GOAT

Marion Bartoli believes that Grand Slam titles should be the most important element of the GOAT debate, and she’s seen enough of Novak Djokovic‘s heroics to declare him the best of all-time if he can pass Federer and Nadal in the all-time Grand Slam titles count.

“I think if Novak goes to 21 after winning every single Grand Slam twice, he’s the only one who has been able to do that, yeah, you can absolutely crown him the GOAT.”

— Marion Bartoli

Rothenberg: It’s not finished, but Novak leads the pack

There is still room to run for each member of the Big 3, and that’s why it’s too early to make any hasty decisions about all-time greats.

“It’s not finished right now because obviously they are all still playing and they can all still increase their numbers, so it’s tough to say what [will happen] but at the moment I think Djokovic is leading the pack,” Rothenberg said. “I think he’s currently ahead of the conversation, even with 19, being one behind.”

“At the moment I think Djokovic is leading the pack.”

— Ben Rothenberg

Cambers: We need to focus on the professional era

Simon Cambers says that no matter what happens, tennis pundits and historians need to differentiate between the Open Era and the amateur era. And many who do focus on the distinction come to the conclusion that Serena Williams is already the GOAT of tennis, despite the fact that she trails Margaret Court by one Grand Slam title.

“A lot of people do think Serena is the greatest of all-time because Margaret Court played half of her Slams and won them in the era before everything went professional, in the amateur era,” he says.

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