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It will be a “major surprise” if Novak Djokovic does not win 25 Grand Slam tournaments, said tennis legend John McEnroe.
Djokovic, 34, won a record-breaking 20th men’s title in beat Italian Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, tying the record held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Only Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf have more, but McEnroe expects Djokovic to outdo them too.
“Djokovic is playing better than he has ever played,” he told BBC Sport.
“I think he’ll probably win at least four or five more, obviously depending on how healthy he is. “
After having triumphed in the open d’Australie and French internationals also, Serbian Djokovic has now won all three Grand Slam titles this year.
As the Olympics and the US Open approach, he could emulate Graf’s ‘Golden Slam’ in 1988, although he says he is. “50/50” on playing in Tokyo.
“Djokovic has put himself so far ahead of everyone in terms of being able to embrace what he does – in terms of creating a story – and being able to perform under a lot of stress,” McEnroe said, who won seven Grand Slams. singles titles.
“You’re trying to break all-time records – there’s a lot of pressure. He is able to play his best tennis at this point.
“You’d expect this to go on for a few more years, unless someone steps in and realizes how great they are. “
What defines the “GOAT”?
For some, the discussion of the ‘greatest of all time’ (GOAT) is frivolous and does a disservice to the accomplishments of every full player.
Looking only at the numbers – where records, rankings and other titles also need to be considered – doesn’t give the complete picture.
It is not possible to quantify their different styles of play, how they adapted their games, their physical and mental strength, or how they overcame the difficult times that have marked their entire career.
But it provides the framework for the debate.
“It’s amazing because in all other sports you have debates. Lionel Messi or Maradona? Michael Jordan or LeBron James? McEnroe said.
“It’s rare when you have three guys playing at the same time and it would be hard to pretend they’re not the best three players of all time.
“It’s not just based on the number of majors, which is obviously an important thing, but on all of their work. It is simply amazing.
“Finishing the year as world number one is important, but people love to talk about records – in all sports, not just tennis. There is a lot to be said with these guys.
“If someone had told me when I was playing that there wouldn’t be just one guy to win 20 majors but that there would be three, I would have said the same as what I said. said to the referee in 1981 – you can’t be serious! “
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Djokovic was coached by Boris Becker between 2013 and 2016, with the German helping him win six of his 20 majors.
The Serb does not hide that he is motivated by the desire to break records, claiming that it is a “privilege” and his “primary objective”.
“Novak is a great student of tennis history. He knows a lot about Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and McEnroe – and a bit about my story, of course, ”Becker told BBC Sport. “He knows who did what
“It’s important to him.
“Where does he get the motivation from? It is only by facing the history of the record books.
“It’s similar to Roger and Rafa. It is a sign of greatness. “
Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion, is now part of Djokovic’s coaching staff and believes the debate will be over if the Serbian wins the US Open in September.
“For me, Novak is the best ever. He writes history. He’s going to do it at the US Open, ”said the Croatian.
“I firmly believe he’s going to do it. He will win all four in a year. “
Winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon “the most difficult task”
Djokovic’s success means he became the first man to achieve the French Open-Wimbledon double since Nadal did so for the second time in 2010.
Since Laver achieved the feat in 1969, only three men – Borg, Nadal and Federer – had managed to replicate it in the Open era until Djokovic.
Six-time Grand Slam champion Becker says that successfully transitioning from the clay courts at Roland Garros to the grass courts at Wimbledon is “the most difficult task in tennis”.
“Coming back from a two-month season on clay, where you won the final in Paris and then the Wimbledon title, it’s incredible,” said the German, who was three times a semi-finalist at Roland Garros. .
“Especially this year, when Novak had a few days to recover and come to his senses, then to play on a completely different surface.
“It’s almost impossible. Borg has done it three times, Nadal twice, Federer once and now Djokovic – again that says a lot about the quality of these players. “
So what is it that makes the transition so difficult?
“You always have a certain mindset when playing a tennis match – how you want to win,” Becker said.
“On clay, you usually win a game if you push your opponent into direct error – that’s the state of mind. Or if you survive or overtake your opponent.
“On the grass, it’s completely the opposite. You usually win a match when you hit more winners than your opponent. You aim for the ace, you aim for the winner, you aim for the riskiest shot.
“It’s a whole different mindset. Plus, it’s a completely different movement and a completely different game.
“The matches are shorter on the grass, they change faster. It’s like a western shootout on the grass – whoever shoots faster tends to win.
“Most find the movement very difficult on the grass, we saw it earlier in the week when a lot of players slipped. It wasn’t the grass that was slippery, it was because there was a totally different movement on the grass.
“Then there’s the positioning on the court – on clay you want to be four or five feet behind the baseline, on the grass you’re going to slide, so you have to be further forward.
“It’s almost a completely different game. This is what makes Novak’s success this year so impressive. ”