Roger, Rafa and Novak

Question: How many Grand Slam singles trophies have Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won from 2003 to 2021?

Answer: 58 of 70! Yes, no misprint there. Only three individuals out of the tens of millions of tennis players have collared 82.85 percent of all the major titles in the past 18 years. No trio in any sport at any time in our universe has this dominance transpired. 

Question # 2: Who is the greatest tennis player ever?

Answer: All of the above.

Yes, in deference to Don Budge, Rod Laver and Pete Sampras, the current Big 3 are history’s greatest ever to wield that Wilson, Babolat or Head stick.

Question # 3: Who among the triumvirate is the best; and thus, to be crowned the GOAT?

Answer: It’s complicated.

Is it the Swiss maestro whose 20 majors include eight Wimbledon titles? Federer has also amassed six ATP Tour Finals wins (Djokovic has five and, inexplicably, Nadal has none). The Swiss won an Olympic gold medal in doubles and the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year crown a record five times. 

Trophies aside, he has picked up the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award a whopping 13 times. This award is voted upon by the ATP players in recognition for one’s professionalism, integrity and utmost spirit of fairness. Nadal has won this four times and Djokovic has, ouch, none. Is the 6-foot-1, Rolex endorser the best-ever?

Vamos! How about Spain’s Raging Bull? Five years Federer’s junior, he has the same number of Grand Slam singles trophies (20). What’s remarkable with Nadal is his achievement in Roland Garros. He is 13 of 13 in finals in Paris and his win-loss record there is an incomprehensible 100-2.

Rafa is the King of Clay. At one point, he won 81 straight victories on that dusty surface. Another feat that only he has (among the Big 3): the career Golden Slam — a singles gold medal (in Beijing, which my wife Jasmin and I were lucky to have witnessed) plus the four major trophies.

This 2021, the next Grand Slam event is — tadang — the French Open. It’s a sure bet that Nadal win will his 21st major title there. Anticipating his lead in the Big 3, is the Spaniard the greatest?

Not so fast, says Novak. With his win in Melbourne three weeks ago — his ninth Australian Open crown — Djokovic has 18 majors. Only two major titles shy of matching R & R, he has a record that will be difficult for any man to beat: 312 weeks at the No. 1 spot. This is the all-time record as he just overtook Federer last week.

He has finished as the year-ending No. 1 a record six times (sharing Sampras’ record) and has won the Masters 1000 events a record 36 times.

At 33 years of age, Djokovic is the youngest among the trio (Nadal is a year older and Federer turns 40 this August). This means that he has more chances to win more majors.

What’s impressive with Djokovic is his head-to-head record against Federer and Nadal. He has a 29-27 win-loss record against Nadal and a 27-23 score against Federer. Because he has defeated the other two more times, does this mean he’s better and to be crowned the best?

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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