The Greatest of all Time (GOAT) debate began just moments after Novak Djokovic fell to the floor after winning the 2021 Wimbledon championship to join Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 men's singles Grand Slam titles.
The Serbian has been in inspired form this season, especially at the majors. Djokovic has now won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, putting him on course to complete a calendar Grand Slam at the US Open later in the year.
The world number one accepted that at the moment, he is the "best," but was unwilling to enter the Greatest of all Time debate. Djokovic paid tribute to Federer and Nadal and admitted that he would not be where he is, without the challenge posed by his two long time rivals.
"I consider myself [the] best and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn't be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history," Djokovic said, as quoted on ATP Tour. "But whether I'm the greatest of all-time or not, I leave that debate to other people. I said before that it's very difficult to compare the eras of tennis. But I am extremely honoured to definitely be part of the conversation."
Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title in 2008 but had to wait until 2011 to double his tally owing to Federer and Nadal's dominance during that period. However, in the last decade, the Serb has won 19 of his 20 major titles with his two long-time rivals playing second fiddle despite the trio dominating the men's game.
"I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends of our sport and the two most important players I faced in my career. They're the reason I am where I am today," Djokovic said, as quoted on India Today.
"They have helped me realise what I need to do to grow stronger mentally and physically and tactically. When I broke into the top 10 for the first time, I lost for the 3-4 years most of the big matches I played against these two guys and then something changed in 2010 and 2011."
Djokovic's next target is the calendar Grand Slam. If the 34-year-old claims the US Open title in September, he will become only the second men's player in the history of the game to win all four majors in the same year after Rod Laver accomplished the feat in 1969.
"I could definitely envisage that happening and I hope I will give it a shot. I'm in great form and played well and having my best form at Grand Slams is my number one priority," he added.
Another feat Djokovic can accomplish in 2021 is a Golden Slam. He can become only the second player in tennis history after Steffi Graf to win all four Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. However, the Serb is yet to decide if he will travel to Tokyo for the summer Olympics owing to the strict coronavirus restrictions imposed by the country.