Andy Murray is certain that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are already the greatest players of all time on their favoured surfaces but believes the GOAT debate is firmly in the balance as the trio head into the latter stages of their careers.
Murray, 32, hosted an Instagram live with ‘Big Three’ member Djokovic on Friday night, looking back on their respective careers and giving an insight into the men behind the racquets.
The two-time Wimbledon champion is an avid tennis fan and he, like many observers of the sport, is fascinated by the golden era of men’s tennis – which has thrown together the three most dominant players the sport has ever seen.
Murray provided the most consistent challenge to their relentless dominance, winning three Grand Slam titles and reaching world No. 1, and he believes he has competed against the strongest hard-court, clay-court and grass-court player of all time.
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But he suggested there is still plenty to play for in the race to be crowned the GOAT.
‘It’s something that I hear about all the time in the media, I would talk about it with my friends and other tennis players and stuff. It’s something that people are really interested in,’ said Murray.
‘In reality all three of the best players are playing in the same generation. I’m sure Borg would have been amazing in this era and Rafa would have been amazing in Connors, McEnroe time, for sure, but the thing that is special about just now is you have three guys who are playing at the same time so you can compare them.
‘When people ask me what’s your toughest match you play, who is the hardest guy to play against, I’m like I feel like I’m competing against the best hard-court player ever, I’ve competed against the best clay-court player ever and the best grass-court player ever. So for me it depends on the surface.’
Federer holds the most Grand Slam titles (20), with Nadal (19) and Djokovic (17) not far behind – and likely with several years in hand on the 38-year-old Swiss – and Djokovic admitted that figure still remains the most important in the sport.
‘I think it’s a combination of Slams, weeks at No. 1 and obviously the Masters, and the head-to-head,’ said Djokovic.
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‘I think Grand Slams would probably stand out. But it’s hard to say. I’m very fortunate I’m in the conversation but at the same time it’s hard to really say greatest of all time taking the amount of Slams you won or tournaments you’ve won because it’s hard to compare generations.
‘I speak with my team and my friends about it. People close to me are biased and obviously leaning towards me. People support Roger and Rafa, which is normal.
‘But I think it’s good for tennis we have this kind of conversation and that we all are competing at the same time.
‘It’s really amazing and I think we’re all not really conscious of all these results, achievements and the proportions and depth of the conversation in the world of sport. I don’t think we’re conscious because we’re still in the storm.
‘Only when I’m finished in my career I can step back and observe things from a more neutral stand point and say, “Okay, this is my opinion about this and that” but for now what you have said that you have three guys dominating on three different surfaces, I’d agree 100%. That’s all there is right now.’
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