Roger Federer after losing to Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open
Nicolas Mahut recently weighed in on the GOAT debate, making a case for both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for different reasons.
Mahut believes Djokovic is undoubtedly the greatest player of all time from a statistical standpoint. But the Frenchman insisted that Federer’s “impact” on the sport is second to none.
Until a few years ago, Djokovic was well behind Federer and Nadal in the Grand Slam and GOAT race. But a massive upturn in form has seen the Serb claim eight of the last 12 Majors to equal his rivals on 20 Grand Slams. Considering his form in 2021, Djokovic will probably make the record his own by winning the US Open next month.
Djokovic broke Federer’s record for most weeks at No. 1 in March this year, while he shares the record for most Masters 1000 titles with Rafael Nadal. The fact that the World No. 1 also boasts a positive head-to-head record against Federer and Nadal further boosts his claim to the GOAT moniker.
As such, Mahut, a five-time doubles Grand Slam champion, believes that Novak Djokovic’s impressive numbers confirm his GOAT status.
“We are entering a very sensitive subject because we must first see the definition of GOAT: what it represents, from the record, it’s obvious that Djokovic would be (the GOAT) if he wasn’t already,” Mahut said. “If we just look at pure statistics, he has more weeks as number 1, he will have the most Slams or at least be tied. The head to head with Federer and Nadal, it is positive against both. If we look at the numbers and statistics, obviously in terms of records, Djokovic would be the biggest.”
But the Frenchman reckons there is more to the GOAT debate than mere numbers. Mahut believes that emotions and the overall impact on the sport must also be taken into account.
The 39-year-old feels Djokovic can never dethrone Federer in this particular aspect.
“Now is it just that? I think there is also an element of emotion, of subjectivity on this subject,” Mahut added. “When it comes to tennis – the greatest – there is emotion that comes into play and inevitably the impact that a Roger has had on tennis will be greater than that of Novak whatever happens.”Mahut believes Federer has had a greater impact on tennis than Djokovic
Nicolas Mahut cited the example of legendary golfers Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus to explain how the greatest is not always the player with the better numbers.
“Like in golf, for example, Tiger Woods had more of an impact than a Nicklaus,” Mahut explained. “Yet Jack Nicklaus has a better track record than him.”
Having said that, Mahut once again threw his weight behind Djokovic, lauding the Serb for achieving all he has despite Federer and Nadal having a headstart on him.
“Maybe Djokovic is the stronger because he came at a time when Federer and Nadal were already there,” Mahut said. “That’s what he managed to do very well because he was so far behind. Quite frankly I don’t think we’ll ever be able to decide. Obviously if we look at the pure figures, the record will speak in favor of Novak.”
What is incredible is that Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal played during the same period: Nicolas Mahut
Nicolas Mahut believes the GOAT debate involving Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal will carry on for several years. The Frenchman heaped praise on all three greats but refused to pick one as the GOAT. However, he did admit to having a “soft spot” for Rafael Nadal.
“In 10-15 years, we will still have this same debate,” Mahut said. “There will be pro Federer, pro Nadal and pro Djokovic. What they did on the 3 was absolutely amazing. Personally, I have a soft spot for Nadal, but I’m not saying he’s the greatest. What is incredible is that they played during the same period.”