In Depth

Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer: ‘GOAT’ debate, grand slam wins and career titles

World No.1 Djokovic will go to Melbourne aiming to win his ninth Australian Open

The Australian Open - the first grand slam of the 2021 tennis season - is scheduled to take place in Melbourne from 8-21 February. 

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic will head down under aiming to win a ninth title. The Serb is currently on 17 majors - three behind his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. 

World No.1 Djokovic remains out in front of Nadal and Federer in terms of “Big Titles”. Djokovic has won 58 Big Titles - a trophy at a grand slam, the ATP finals, a Masters 1000 tournament or an Olympic singles gold medal - while Nadal is second on 55 and Federer is third with 54.

With his 13th French Open victory in October 2020, Spaniard Nadal moved to 20 career grand slams with Federer.

After his victory in 2009 Nadal will look to win a second Australian Open title. However, six-time winner Federer has been ruled out of the Melbourne slam as he is recovering from a knee injury.

In a statement Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “In the end, Roger ran out of time to get himself ready for the rigours of a grand slam and he’s very disappointed he won’t be coming to Melbourne in 2021.

“The Australian Open has always held a special place in his heart - remember it was Roger who first called the AO the ‘Happy Slam’. 

“We wish him all the best as he prepares for his comeback later in the year and look forward to seeing him in Melbourne in 2022.”

Who is the GOAT?

Tennis fans will argue for hours debating the following question: which male player is the greatest of all time? 

Icons such as Björn Borg, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors get a special mention in the “GOAT” discussion, but for many people it’s a choice of one of the “big three”. 

Federer and Nadal lead the way with 20 career slams while Djokovic has 17.

Djokovic has dominated on Melbourne’s hard courts with eight of his 17 slams coming in Australia. Nadal is the all-time “king of clay” with 13 French Open victories out of his 20. And Federer has eight wins on grass at Wimbledon from his collection of 20 slams. 

Here we look at the career records of the big three GOAT contenders...

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: how they compare

Novak Djokovic
  • Nationality: Serbian 
  • Age: 33
  • World ranking: 1
  • Career titles: 81
  • Grand slam titles: 17 (8 x Australian Open: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020; 1 x French Open: 2016; 5 x Wimbledon: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019; 3 x US Open: 2011, 2015, 2018)
  • Big titles: 58 (17 grand slams; 5 ATP finals; 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles)
Rafael Nadal
  • Nationality: Spanish 
  • Age: 34
  • World ranking: 2
  • Career titles: 86
  • Grand slam titles: 20 (1 x Australian Open: 2009; 13 x French Open: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020; 2 x Wimbledon: 2008, 2010; 4 x US Open: 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)
  • Big titles: 55 (20 grand slams; 35 ATP Masters 1000 titles)
Roger Federer
  • Nationality: Swiss 
  • Age: 39
  • World ranking: 5
  • Career titles: 103
  • Grand slam titles: 20 (6 x Australian Open: 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018; 1 x French Open: 2009; 8 x Wimbledon: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017; 5 x US Open: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
  • Big titles: 54 (20 grand slams; 6 ATP Finals; 28 ATP Masters 1000 titles)

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