Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2024

Andy Roddick slams ‘willfully ignorant’ people who ‘argue against’ Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are often argued over as to who is the ‘GOAT’, but former No.1 Andy Roddick believes you are an ‘insane human’ for choosing anyone but the Serbian.

Djokovic is gearing up to make his return to the match court next week at Indian Wells, in his first tournament since losing in the Australian Open semi-finals, where he will also be joined by the aforementioned Nadal.

And speaking on his podcast, Roddick spoke about this debate and suggested that numbers make the argument a lot easier, “What’s making this GOAT thing so weird is that we never really get anything that’s like final. The [Michael] Jordan/LeBron [James] debate is like, ‘Ok LeBron has less, but he played this, there are other factors involved’ where it’s like, this conversation is largely like math doesn’t care about your feelings and math doesn’t care about your vaccination status.”

Roddick continued, “I saw prime Federer and it was the hardest matchup that I’d ever seen. He was the best player that stacked up against my game type so therefore, he’s the last person I would want to play.

“But you line up the three resumes, if you choose any of them except for this one [Djokovic], you are an insane human. Very simply, that’s the way it is. Everything else is about preference of what you like to watch.”

Roddick has the most experience of playing Federer, having won only three of his 24 meetings against the Swiss, and lost all four of his Grand Slam finals against the now-retired 20-time major winner.

Out of ‘the big three’, Roddick ironically only has a winning record against Djokovic, with five wins to the Serb’s four.

Despite this, the American has described Djokovic as ‘a surgeon’ and believes that the current world No.1 doesn’t get the same praise as Nadal and Federer due to his game style.

“Most of us, large scale debates, aren’t great at nuance. We like the simple headline. And Novak’s game frankly doesn’t provide that simple headline often enough,” Roddick continued on the ‘Served with Andy Roddick Podcast’. “But if you can make an argument against his numbers, you’re being willfully ignorant at this point.

“You like the ballet, the artistry, or the blunt force trauma of Rafa. I’ve always said what Novak does so well doesn’t immediately jump off the screen to an untrained tennis eye. What Roger does very well is very obvious. It’s amazing if you know tennis as well as I do and it’s amazing if it’s the first tennis match you’ve ever watched. Rafa, the physicality with which he can play, the RPMs [Revolutions per minute], his speed, the drama of when he’s running something down, even the drama of his grunts, it all makes sense where you know he’s this gladiatorial figure.”

Roddick concluded, “Whereas Novak, he’s a surgeon. He’s literally picking you apart. You have to make these huge risk trade offs to make an impact on him. He knows it, it might work for a little while, but he knows it and you know it that you probably won’t be able to do it over the course of three or four hours.”

Inside the baseline…

It is a very interesting debate made my Andy Roddick, who has experience of competing against all of ‘the big three’. In terms of numbers it is undeniable that Novak Djokovic has the best record, which is something that even Rafael Nadal has recently admitted. With Nadal winding down, this gap is only likely to get bigger and maybe after all three retire Djokovic will get more appreciation for just how impressive some of his achievements are.

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Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer

The ‘big three’ have dominated men’s tennis in the 21st century, winning 66 of the last 82 major singles tournaments.

However, the age old debate is always about who is really the greatest of all time, so we at Tennishead wanted to delve into the numbers:

Novak Djokovic 

Career-high: No.1 (412 weeks*)

ATP titles: 98

Grand Slam titles: 24

ATP Masters 1000 titles: 40

Olympic medals: 1 (Singles Bronze – 2008)

ATP Finals titles: 7 (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2022 & 2023)

Davis Cup titles: 1 (2010)

*Currently the ATP No.1

Rafael Nadal 

Career-high: No.1 (209 weeks)

ATP titles: 92

Grand Slam titles: 22

ATP Masters 1000 titles: 36

Olympic medals: 2 (Singles Gold – 2008, Doubles Gold – 2016)

ATP Finals titles: 0 (Best result: Final – 2010 & 2013)

Davis Cup titles: 5 (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2019)

Roger Federer

Career-high: No.1 (310 weeks)

ATP titles: 103

Grand Slam titles: 20

ATP Masters 1000 titles: 28

Olympic medals: 2 (Doubles Gold – 2008, Singles Silver – 2012)

ATP Finals titles: 6 (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 & 2011)

Davis Cup titles: 1 (2014)


Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal: 30-29

Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer: 27-23

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: 16-24

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.