In my first article on this topic, I argued that slams won and performance in slams are the key criteria for being the modern-era tennis GOAT.
Rod ‘the Rocket’ Laver was the last man to win the grand slam in 1969, the incredible achievement of winning all four slams in a calendar year.
He did it twice, having accomplished it seven years earlier in 1962. According to Federer, he is the greatest of all time – though Laver will tell you it’s Federer.
Novak Djokovic is just one French Open away from holding all four slams at once. The Djokovic Slam. Just seven months ago he had slumped to a world ranking of 21 and was losing to nobodies like Taro Daniels, Benoit Paire and Martin Klizan. It’s been a truly remarkable turnaround. He already has one Djokovic Slam to his name, in 2016 after winning his first French Open.
When Laver won his grand slams three slams were played on grass and the French slam was played on clay. They’re now played on three different surfaces: two on hardcourt, one on clay and one on grass. When Novak completed the Djokovic Slam he became the first player to hold all four slams on three different surfaces.
Not since Seabiscuit vs War Admiral has there been more of a two horse race than this year’s French Open. Nadal is the rightful king of clay and favourite once again, but he isn’t getting any younger, and judging by the number of hardcourt tournaments he withdrew from last year, his body seems to be finally catching up with him.
There’s no question that Nadal at full fitness is unbeatable in over five sets on the Parisian dirt, but I don’t think we’ll see that Nadal at the French Open this year, which gives Djokovic an amazing opportunity to win the tournament – even Federer’s thrown his hat into the ring this year – of achieving his second Djokovic Slam in four years.
If Djokovic comes away with the French Open, the only thing stopping him from winning the grand slam is what’s between his ears. If he can produce the same belief as the 2015 season – then he scored 82 wins, six losses, three slam victories and was runner-up at the French Open – then anything is possible.
It’s early days, but if this 50-year-old record gets broken, then Djokovic could be the next GOAT.