Former world No 10 claims Federer-Nadal rivalry makes it ‘difficult’ to name Novak Djokovic the GOAT

Ewan West
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the Laver Cup

Former Argentine player Martin Jaite has asserted that it is “very difficult” to take sides with any of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the tennis GOAT debate. 

The former world No 10 recognised that Djokovic’s major title record is a key factor, but argued the “duels” between Federer and Nadal were “stronger” than the Serbian’s clashes with his great rivals.

Djokovic has won a men’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, while Nadal and Federer sit second and third on the all-time list with 22 and 20 respectively.

The rivalries between the legendary trio of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are among the greatest in tennis history and made the years shared by the three icons a golden period in the sport.

Djokovic and Nadal have faced off a men’s Open Era record of 59 times — between 2006 to 2022 — with the former holding a 30-29 edge, while the Serbian won 27 of the 50 matches he contested against Federer from 2006 and 2020. Federer and Nadal, meanwhile, met 40 times between 2004 and 2019, with the Spaniard holding a 24-16 advantage.

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In an interview with Clay Tenis, Jaite was asked if he considers Djokovic to be the greatest tennis player of all time and explained why he does not have a definitive answer.

“It’s very difficult for me to put a ranking of the best players of all time, because there are a lot of important players that I didn’t see play,” the Argentine said.

“For example, many people talk about Laver, and I didn’t see Rod Laver play. I started watching tennis with Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas and all that bunch.

“Then, you have to go by the number of titles won and the number of Grand Slams. In that sense, one might think it’s Djokovic, but for me, the duels of Federer and Nadal were stronger than the duels of Nadal and Federer with Djokovic. It’s very difficult to take sides with any of the three.”

The 12-time ATP titlist, who played from 1983 to 1993, also addressed what Nadal is capable of achieving in his comeback this year.

“Nadal has nine lives. He’s been injured many times and he’s come back. Everything will depend on what the body tells him, because he wants to. But if the body does not respond, it will be impossible,” Jaite added.

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