Roger federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic

Toni Nadal: Federer and Nadal have transcended the sport more than Djokovic

Rafael Nadal has been backed alongside Roger Federer by his uncle and former coach Toni, who claims that they have had more of an impact on tennis than 23-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have dominated the sport for the past 20 years, with the Spaniard’s coach of 27 years comparing the three tennis greats.

“I think Federer and Nadal have transcended their sport more than Djokovic. And Federer has transcended his sport more than anyone else,” claims Toni.

He continued, “When it comes to categorising who is the best, we would have to establish clear standards that are always a bit open to opinion, because who is the best, the one who holds the (Grand Slam) world record or the one who wins the Olympics? I don’t know.

“I think the one who has managed to play at a better level and do more difficult things is Federer, the one who has won more is Djokovic and if we were to count all the things Rafael hasn’t played because of injury, he would probably have won more than the others.”

Djokovic became the first man in history to win 23 major titles, ironically at Roland Garros where Rafael Nadal has been so dominant over the years.

Toni Nadal believes that the way the tour is formatted favours Djokovic compared to his nephew, “Well, Djokovic is better because he has won more titles than Rafael. If Djokovic is 23? But let’s establish a number of things, we live in a tour that is always played on fast courts.

“My nephew always plays three Grand Slams on the surface he doesn’t do well and one on the surface he does well.”

The 62-year-old added, “He has always played all the Masters (ATP Finals) on the surface he doesn’t do well on. In the world of sport, the officials can tip the balance one way or the other. Who wins the Tour de France? If the sports officials put it in the mountains, one type of rider will win it, and if he puts in a time trial, another type of rider will win it.”

Rafael Nadal is currently on the injury sidelines having played his last match at the Australian Open, and has announced that 2024 is likely to be his last on tour.

His uncle Toni revealed that he is currently doing ‘physical training’ at his academy in Majorca, but admitted that it will be ‘more difficult’ for the 37-year-old to return to the form that he is used to playing in.

“It’s a bit more difficult now, the ball goes faster. I remember a phrase of Gaston Gaudio who said: ‘I do not know what happens, if the ball goes faster and faster or my legs slower and slower.’ And that always happens a little bit,” said Toni.

“He still cannot train for tennis, as the doctor advised him not to do so and to wait for a full recovery. In a month’s time he will be able to start training on the tennis court. Right now, he’s here at the academy, training. He’s been here every day doing physical training.”

Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal

The ‘big three’ have dominated men’s tennis in the 21st century, winning 65 of the last 79 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:

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 

Career-high: No.1 (389 weeks)

ATP titles: 94

Grand Slam titles: 23

ATP Masters 1000 titles: 38

Olympic medals: 1 (Singles Bronze – 2008)

ATP Finals titles: 6 (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2022)

Davis Cup titles: 1 (2010)


Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer: 24-16

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic: 29-30

Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic: 23-27

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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.