I've always been a tennis fan. My first racket was a wooden Dunlop, painted black with John McEnroe's signature on it. I thought it was the coolest. Back then, "Johnny Mac" had some epic battles with the likes of Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. I was young but still remember pretty well. Björn Borg was a little before my time.
Later, came the likes of Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Jim Courier. Andre Agassi was great but he arguably didn't have the career that Pete Sampras did. I remember thinking that "Pistol Pete" was indeed "The Goat." After all, when he retired, he had won 14 major titles, the most of anyone at the time.
While he wasn't as dominant on clay, on any other surface, Sampras was an absolute beast. Lendl said this of Sampras' serve: “the ball just crumbled on your racquet.”
One might have assumed that Sampras' record would stand for a long time. Yet, less than 20 years since he retired, three different players have broken it. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are tied at 20 titles each. At 19, Novak Djokovic is right on their heels.
The recently finished French Open may ultimately play a role in determining the best ever. If Nadal, long the undisputed King Of Clay, could have won, it would have given him 21 Grand Slam titles. That would have been one ahead of Federer and three ahead of Djokovic.
That didn't happen though, as Novak knocked off Rafael in the semis.
In the final, Djokovic found himself down two sets. The world's #1 knew the historic significance of the match. Calmly, he dug deep, bounced back and won the next three sets.
Instead of Nadal having a "commanding" lead, in terms of slam titles, he and Federer are only one ahead of Djokovic. Federer may not get any more. Nadal will have to wait a year for another crack at Roland-Garros. Yet, the way Djokovic looked Sunday, he may well add another by next month; Wimbledon starts in two weeks.
So, when it's all said and done, Djokovic has an excellent chance of holding the most titles in the history of men's tennis. He's already held the World's #1 ranking for 325 weeks, more than any other player in history.
Federer may always receive more love from the fans and the bigger endorsements. However, it's looking more and more likely that Djokovic will go down as: "The Goat."