A week ago, I wrote about how lucky we are to be witnesses to the continuing greatness of the Three Kings: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Since their 18-year dominance started in 2003, we saw them winning 58 of the 70 Grand Slam singles trophies. Their triumvirate ranks as the best not only in tennis folklore but of any sports trio in history.
But who’s better? The Spaniard, the Serb or the Swiss?
My easy answer: The real-life tennis movie is not finished yet. Their careers are not over and I foresee Roger lifting that Wimbledon crown once more and Rafa collecting 27 more French Open trophies, and the Aussies changing their “Australian Open” to “Novak Djokovic Open.”
Roger and Rafa have amassed 20 majors apiece and Novak owns 18. My prediction: At their career’s end, I see the Serbian stockpiling the most major trophies. Djokovic is at his peak today and he’s a year younger than the often-injured Nadal and six years Federer’s junior.
If Djokovic overtakes R & R, can he sit atop the throne of tennis’ Mt. Everest? Maybe. He holds win-loss records of 29-27 vs. Nadal and 27-23 vs. Federer. But we know that the unofficial “The Greatest” title is not purely about numbers. If we speak of being revered and admired, sadly, Novak ranks way, way below the universally-loved Roger and Rafa.
So, the GOAT debate lingers. But here’s an award that I’m ready to bestow to these recipients. Since tennis has three main surfaces, it’s obvious that each owns a different type of real estate.
Grass, best ever: Federer.
Hard-court, best: Djokovic.
Clay, greatest: Nadal.
The above conclusions are unquestionable.
On top of this, allow me to construct the perfect tennis player. Instead of three gentlemen, allow me to combine forces so that they form one creature. An individual whom, if we had an interplanetary contest, I’d ask to represent Planet Earth. He would possess…
Nadal’s left-handed forehand, especially that inside-out strike and hooking topspin that curls to an opponent’s weak backhand. I’d also include Nadal’s indefatigable fighting spirit. His overhead smash is another that I’d embrace in his arsenal.
Federer? I’ll inject his first and second serves. That 120-mph slice serve or second serve twist with pinpoint accuracies. This is why RF has eight Wimbledons. And, when he glides towards the net, I’d also incorporate RF’s volleys and half-volleys. They are compact, deadly, exact. That slice backhand (“ha-it,” we Bisaya players call it) is a Federer signature.
For the backhand, nothing compares to that two-fisted cannon of Djokovic. He can smack it cross-court or score a down-the-line bomb. Return of serve? Agassi’s was good but Djokovic’s is at a different cosmos. Finally, on defensive skills, when one is pushed to the limit on either side, with outstretched arms and legs splitting, no one plays defense better than Novak.
FeDjoDal. In today’s virtual world, a three-in-one cyborg that’s molded from three tennis beings.