Rafa Nadal cuts down Novak Djokovic in startling comments on eve of Australian Open

The Spanish tennis great believes his and Roger Federer's achievements are clear of Novak Djokovic's.

Pictured (L-R) Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer
Rafa Nadal says the greatest tennis player of all time cannot be decided merely off numbers, stating he and Roger Federer have made greater adjustments to their respective games than Novak Djokovic. Image: Getty

Rafa Nadal has dismissed talks of Novak Djokovic being considered the greatest of all time (GOAT), insisting that Roger Federer deserves top billing. Djokovic holds all the numerical records over Federer and Nadal, including most majors and most weeks spent at No.1 but the Spaniard argues that the greater tennis player comes down to how that player makes you feel and that is why he believes the Swiss maestro is the best to ever do it.

"Since I have a memory of tennis, (Federer) is the player who has impressed me the most, the one who has entertained me the most, the one who has moved me the most," Nadal said in an interview with El Pais.

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"Watching Federer play has moved me more than Djokovic, and in the end, tennis is about emotion. It's the emotion that draws you to it."

Nadal said there are "several factors" that need to be weighed up in the GOAT debate, and statistics play just a minor factor. "Some I won't tell you because it's difficult for me, it's not my place to comment on them, but in terms of tennis, it's clear," Nadal said.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic greets Spain's Rafael Nadal R after their men's singles quarterfinal at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, June 1, 2022. (Photo by Meng Dingbo/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic says he feels left out by Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Image: Getty

"It's a combination of very radical styles. Federer was perfection in terms of aesthetics, elegance and technique. I have very good technique, but technique is not the same as aesthetics. They are two different things. He had incredible technique, doing things beautifully with impressive elegance.

"We have all reinvented ourselves (and) that's why there has been this intense rivalry. We always surprised each other. Djokovic, as well, but with a difference compared to the two of us. He hasn't needed to evolve (his style) as much as we have. He hasn't suffered as many injuries. The only thing that has demanded him to improve his game has been his rivals, not physical issues. That's a difference." Djokovic has won a record 24 singles grand slam titles ahead of Nadal (22) and Federer (20).

Novak Djokovic welcomes the GOAT debate

The debate over who is the GOAT is one that tennis fans continue to disagree on but it is one the Serb thinks is good for the sport. Djokovic ultimately believes it is near impossible to accurately compare players across eras and that everyone is entitled to have a different opinion on who is the best to ever do it. "There's obviously different definitions and opinions and comparing the eras," Djokovic said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated.

"Whether you take only numbers or stats, it's very difficult to compare obviously an era where you play with a wooden racquet and nowadays. And where they couldn’t travel by plane before so much and we can travel anywhere today and play more tournaments. So it’s all very relative.

"I know fans love it (the GOAT debate). And I think it’s great that there is a big discussion on that because, ultimately, all of us in tennis want more attention. We want more people, more younger generations to come in and get interested in watching tennis, debating about who is the greatest, who has the most titles, or comparing eras and stuff like that."

Novak Djokovic 'not friends' with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal

Djokovic revealed that he feels left out by Federer and Nadal and wishes that it would change. The Serb said he is desperate to build a relationship with his fellow tennis greats and hopes someday they can form a 'big three'.

"I would really like to," Djokovic said. "I mean, obviously, we didn't get along so well throughout our careers, off the court. And we are not friends because, you know, we're rivals, and it's difficult as competitors to be very close and kind of share and give insights to your life or to how you feel because it could be used against you.

"But we have shared the stage for so many years. And I think the greatest respect is always there, at least from my side, towards them. There's always a huge amount of respect off the court because they have really defined me as the player that I am today. And all my success is also greatly owed to them and to the rivalries that we had."

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