Dominic Thiem explains ‘defining criteria’ that leaves only Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in GOAT race

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal shaking on it

Dominic Thiem believes the greatest tennis player of all time (GOAT) “will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams”, meaning Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the only two players left in the debate.

The Big Three of Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer dominated men’s tennis for more than two decades with Federer initially leading the way as he made his breakthrough before his two great rivals.

Federer was also first to 20 Grand Slams as he became the major record-holder when he won the 2018 Australian Open before Nadal joined him on that magical number after winning the 2020 French Open. Djokovic made it a three-way tie at the top when he won Wimbledon in 2021.

Nadal then set a new mark of 22 in 2022 after winning the Australian Open and French Open, but Djokovic has kept pace by winning Wimbledon last year and following it up with this year’s Australian Open.

With Federer retiring in September last year, he won’t be able to move from his 20 Grand Slams.

While some believe records like weeks spent at No 1 in the ATP Rankings, Masters 1000 titles and Olympic titles should also be included, Thiem says the equation is pretty simple for him and that means Federer is out of the race.

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” the 2020 US Open winner said.

“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Djokovic is currently the form player in men’s tennis as he finished the 2022 season on a high by winning the ATP Finals undefeated and he has started this campaign in blistering fashion as he won the Adelaide International 1 and followed it up with a 10th Australian Open title.

Despite turning 36 in just over three months, Djokovic is still playing like someone in his mid-20s, according to Thiem with the former world No 3 saying the Serbian’s latest success is not surprising.

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” the Austrian said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.

“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

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