Ivan Lendl says it would be ‘unfair’ if Novak Djokovic misses out on GOAT crown due to ‘politics’

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Ivan Lendl doesn’t have a favourite when it comes to Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in terms of tennis’ greatest player of all time (GOAT), but he feels politics could distort the eventual outcome.

The Big Three of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have been hard to separate over the past decade as they have dominated the Grand Slams, ATP events and the world No 1 ranking, but Nadal and Djokovic have edged ahead of the Swiss over the past two years.

Nadal now leads the way in terms of most majors as his success at the Australian Open and Roland Garros pushed him to 22, but Djokovic moved within one after successfully defending his Wimbledon title.

Federer, meanwhile, sits on 20 has not played any tennis since Wimbledon last year with his last Slam success at the 2018 Australian Open.

Added to the debate is the sticky issue of vaccination against COVID-19 as Djokovic missed the defence of his Australian Open title at the start of this year as he is not vaccinated while he also looks set to miss this month’s US Open for the same reason.

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Former world No 1 and eight-time Grand Slam winner Lendl believes politics could affect the outcome of the GOAT debate.

“That story is not over yet. It will be finished when all three wave goodbye,” he said during an interview with Croatia’s Dnevnik Nova TV.

“It is fascinating to watch and follow, not only for people from the tennis world, but for everyone else, spectators, fans.

“The only thing I regret a little bit is that the fight is somehow affected by politics at the moment because of the vaccination issue. I only hope that in 20 years we won’t look at it through that prism, that we won’t be sure who is the greatest because of politics.”

He added: “At the moment, Roger seems to be out of it, because he hasn’t played for a long time and he is the oldest.

“If Novak wins the most Grand Slams despite that, I think we will have an answer. If Rafa wins one more title, I think he will have to answer the question about the vaccination and the fact that Novak could not play. And I don’t think that’s fair.

“I’d actually like to see someone have a two-, three-, four- title advantage at the top, and I don’t care who it is, I don’t have a favourite. Just for the sake of answering that question, to be clear. And, not to say ‘if this man could play, maybe it would be different, your record is not that good’. That is not fair.”

As things stand, Djokovic looks set to miss next year’s Australian Open as well as his deportation from the country at the start of the year resulted in an automatic three-year ban. However, both the Serbian and Australian authorities have admitted the ban could be lifted.