You can't compare in GOAT debate: Federer

·3-min read

Roger Federer has compared the debate over tennis' greatest player of all time to a parent choosing a favourite child, insisting it is not a conversation that needs to happen.

The Swiss superstar's recent retirement announcement has sparked a frenzy of comparisons.

Observers love to ask: who is the greatest of all time in men's tennis - Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic?

"People always like to compare. I see it every day with my twins," Federer, a father of four, said on Wednesday at the arena that will host the 20-time grand slam champion's final competition, the Laver Cup.

"Without wanting, you compare them. You shouldn't - ever.

"Naturally, we do the same in tennis. I am my own career, my own player, that needed those challenges. They needed a challenger like myself.

"We made each other better. So at the end of the day, we'll all shake hands and be like, 'That was awesome'."

He called the topic "a fun debate" that "you can endlessly talk about".

But he also used the word "silly", given all that he, 22-time major winner Nadal and 21-time champion Djokovic have accomplished.

"It's wonderful to be part of that selective group," he told The Associated Press about the so-called big three.

"(But) how can you compare? What's better? To win when you're old or when you're young?

"Is it better to win on clay or grass? Don't know. Is it better to have super dominant years or come back from injury? I don't know.

"It really is impossible to grasp."

Referring to Nadal - who is 36 and is expected to be Federer's doubles partner for his final match on Friday - and Djokovic, who is 35, Federer said: "What I know is they are truly amazing and greats of the game and forever and will go down as one of the - maybe the - greatest."

Federer grew up a basketball fan, and brought up the Michael Jordan vs LeBron James back-and-forth.

"Who is the greatest? Probably MJ. But is it LeBron? Some stats say he is.

"It's a phenomenon of (social) media. Everybody calling each other 'GOAT'. 'GOAT'. 'GOAT'. 'GOAT'. 'GOAT'. 'GOAT'.

"I'm like, Come on, OK? There cannot be possibly that many 'GOATs,'" Federer said, then cracked himself up with a Dad joke: "In Switzerland, we have a lot of them, but they're in the fields."

Federer promises there will not be a comeback; at 41 his surgically repaired right knee will not allow it.

He is adamant, though, that he will remain connected to tennis.

That will include showing up at certain tournaments, he said, "to say farewell or goodbye, because I've been a part of those tournaments for 20 years".

When it comes to the pursuit of more grand slam titles by Nadal and Djokovic, he said: "I hope they go and do everything they want. I really hope so. Because it would be great for the game and nice for their fans, for their family.

"As long as it makes them happy."