Djoker, Rafa, & Roger: An Appreciation Of Greatness
It isn't very often that I write about tennis. But what we have been witnessing in men's tennis in the last 20 years is nothing short of amazing.
A little backstory: I have been a tennis fan since I was a kid. I am old enough to have seen John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, & Pete Sampras all play in their primes (among other greats). And yes, I was a member of Grand Ledge HS's JV tennis team as a junior. I wasn't very good but I loved the sport.
All of the players I just mentioned are all-time greats, all Hall of Famers. But Novak Djokovic (pictured, right above), Rafael Nadal (pictured, middle above), and Roger Federer (pictured, left above) have left them all in the dust.
Djoker (19), Rafa (20), and Roger (20) have won 59 majors between them since Federer won Wimbledon in 2003 for his first major title (71 majors played since '03 Wimbledon). They have dominated this sport like nobody else has for as long.
Novak won his second French Open title on Sunday in Paris. He rallied from two sets down to beat Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets. He now has a shot to win the calendar Grand Slam (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open) this year, having won in Australia earlier this year. That hasn't been done since 1969 when the great Rod Laver did it. He's won 9 Australian Opens, 5 Wimbledons, and 3 U.S. Opens to go with his pair of wins in Paris.
Nadal is the greatest clay-court player of all time. He's won a mind-boggling 13 French Open titles among his 20 Majors (1 Australian, 2 Wimbledon, and 4 U.S. Opens). Nobody plays harder than he does, maybe nobody ever. And the 35-year-old Spaniard is one of the classiest players ever.
As for Federer, he is probably the most naturally talented player ever, IMO. Even at almost 40 years old (he turns 40 just before this year's U.S Open in August), the Switzerland native is still a Top 10 player (which is amazing). His 20 Majors (6 Australian, 1 French, 8 Wimbledons, and 5 U.S. Opens) speak for themselves.
But Djokovic, from Serbia, could turn out to be better than all of them. His incredibly high level of consistent play (not to mention a higher gear that is off the charts) is something to behold. At age 34, he's rated number 1 and could win 25-30 majors before he is done. If he wins the calendar Slam in 2021, he will be the greatest ever, IMO.
It's too bad they aren't household names in America. But because they aren't American is maybe why they aren't. What a shame, because these guys (along with the great Serena Williams) exemplify long-time excellence in tennis better than anybody else I can think of.
It sounds like a cop-out answer, but I'm a fan of all three of them. They have personality, grit, talent, and charisma. And the trophies to back it up. All hail the great Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer!