Novak Djokovic crouching on the Wimbledon Centre Court with an approval expression on his face

Photo : Photo : Tennis Photo Network/ATP Tour

It took me a solid week just to type the question.

First, I’ll start by laying my cards on the table. With all due respect to the diehard Nole and Rafa fans, and while I fully recognize both players’ greatness, I’m Team Fed for keeps. Secretly, I’ll always want Roger to win one more Slam, even when he’s 85.

Case in point, I’ve had the cap since his peRFect logo was launched.

Paul RIvard wearing his ild Roger Federer hat

Now that I’ve made that clear, let’s consider the facts.

Novak Djokovic could be crowned the greatest of all time at Wimbledon, in just a few weeks.

From the time Roger Federer—with his classic style, exemplary sportsmanship and warm personality—bettered the record of 20 Grand Slam titles, he seemed destined to be the GOAT.

But there were two fierce rivals coming up behind him. Slowly, mercilessly, they began closing the gap. First, 35-year-old Rafael Nadal with his 20 Coupe des Mousquetaires and then 34-year-old Novak Djokovic who had fun poking holes in the FEDAL dyad.

Some will say Rafa could claim GOAT status, but I disagree.

Why? Nadal won 13 of his 20 titles on the same French clay. The more versatile Djokovic is 9–2–5–3 in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York City, respectively. What about the King of Clay? 1–13–2–4.

And there’s more. In late 2020, Nole tied Pete Sampras for the most year-end men’s World No.1 (6). In March 2021, he secured the record for most weeks at No.1 and has kept the meter running ever since. Monday, June 21 marked 326 weeks as the gap between him and his closest rival (Federer, 310 weeks) gets wider and wider.

How about the Djoker’s win-loss record versus FEDAL? 30-28 versus Nadal and 27-23 versus Federer.

The only thing he doesn’t have is the practically impossible calendar Grand Slam that only Rod Laver (1968) and Steffi Graf (1988) have achieved. And if Novak somehow added an Olympic title to make it a Golden Slam—an incomparable triumph by Graf—he would most certainly ascend to GOAT.

But he’ll have to master the super quick, often patchy courts of the All England Club first.

Serena’s big chase

Now that we’ve covered the GOAT in men’s tennis, let’s take a look at the WTA.

Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf each have mindboggling records in terms of titles and weeks as World No.1, but neither legend has won as many Grand Slam crowns as Serena Williams.

With 23 championship titles, she’s just one short of Margaret Court, whose record, IMHO, barely stands for reasons I pointed out in the May 12 edition of this blog:

“When Margaret Court won her 24 Grand Slam titles, the number of players in the draw was in no way comparable to what it is today. The Australian won her home Slam 11 times, including 7 straight championships between 1960 and 1966, when Australians made up 83% of competitors! In 1960, 1961 and 1964, there were two non-Australians in the women’s draw. In 1962 and 1963, there were three.”

Paul Rivard

Even so, it only makes sense that Serena would want to break the record. In 2017, we were pretty sure she would when she emerged victorious (AND PREGNANT!) on Margaret’s own turf.

But since then, nothing.

And it’s not all because of COVID-19.

Regardless of the many possible explanations, the bottom line is that Serena Williams doesn’t play a lot of tournaments. In such a demanding sport that’s constantly overrun by up-and-comers, too little training and too few matches won’t fill up the trophy case.

On average, members of the Top 10 play 55 to 75 matches a year. Just like Serena did before 2017.

Serena WIlliams hold the Wimbledon trophy
Photo : Wimbledon

What’s her tennis schedule been like over the past four years? Given the fact that 2020 and 2021 are exceptional for everyone, take a look at the percentage of matches at majors compared to lead-in events. Between 2018 and 2021, Serena has played 35, 5, 50, 29 and 29% non-Slam matches a year, respectively.

That shortfall proves fatal every time she sets out to acquire that elusive 24th Grand Slam.

Stats table with Serena Williams' tournaments played by year since 2018
Source :

I hear what you’re saying: four finals and two semis at 12 majors isn’t bad. You’re absolutely right. It’s pretty great for any player who isn’t Serena.

After losing her semifinal in Melbourne, she spent almost three months away from competition. She exited Paris in the fourth round and has chosen to skip the grass events, likely counting on her experience and seven Wimbledon titles.

If she wins in England with only minimal prep on grass, she will also gain her very own GOAT title.

Tennis mom

In the meantime, Serena also happens to be focused on another title—mom—which, of course, explains why she skips a few events here and there.

As it turns out, the adage about the apple and the tree holds true in the Williams-Ohanian family.

Besides the fact that Olympia practically took her first steps in stadiums and on the tennis courts, she’ll also have access to top-notch coaching should she choose to go down the tennis path.

And what better place than the academy run by her mom’s own coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, with some advice from grandpa Richard Williams?

Shapo says no to Tokyo

Canada will be short one key asset at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Denis Shapovalov’s name was added to the list of players who won’t be heading to Japan this summer. The announcement comes on the heels of similar decisions by Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem.

Here’s what the Ontarian had to say to after his quarterfinal victory at the Queen’s Club Championships: “It was definitely a difficult choice. Obviously, I’ve always dreamt of representing Canada, representing my country at the Olympics. It’s something I think every athlete dreams about growing up and especially me. I’ve always wanted to go. With the COVID restrictions and everything going on right now, we just decided with the team that it’s just best for us to skip this one. But for sure, it’s definitely a big pity.”

Even without its top player, Team Canada will be going into the Games with some heavy hitters, including Félix Auger-Aliassime, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic (if he’s recovered from the calf injury that’s keeping him out of Wimbledon).

Let’s hope we see them on the podium!


Ons Jabeur’s wild decade got rolling in 2011, when she became the first Arab woman to win a junior Slam.

More recently, she put together a string of great performances to win the Viking Classic Birmingham over Daria Kasatkina and was even dubbed ONStoppable by the WTA.

To raise the winner’s trophy, she breezed through five relatively easy two-set wins. Only one player—none other than Leylah Annie Fernandez—managed to take her to the brink in a third set tiebreak.

What’s next on Jabeur’s list? The World No.24 is now out to become the first Arab woman to dominate Wimbledon.

Ave Matteo?

While we’re on the topic of firsts, stats genius Andras Ruszanov over at made an interesting observation about Matteo Berrettini’s big win at the cinch Championships in London.

To claim victory, the mighty Roman had to oust three local favourites: Murray, Evans and Norrie.

In doing so, Berrettini became the first Italian, man or woman, to win at the Queen’s Club (which, incidentally, is as picturesque as it is prestigious) since the tournament was launched in 1881!

Matteo’s run is a lot like another march on Britain some 2 076 years ago by another brave Roman: Julius Caesar.

The young ace actually did one better than the general, who attempted to conquer the island (twice, unsuccessfully) but had to settle for becoming a trade partner.

If Berrettini wins Wimbledon, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few British trade partners came knocking on his door to negotiate.

Keep calm and play on

It takes about a second to find all sorts of videos of all sorts of tennis players smashing their racquet, but it’s a lot harder to find clips of frustrated competitors who manage to keep their cool—and their work tool—intact.

Bu that’s exactly what came out of the Noventi Open in Halle, Germany thanks to Andrey Rublev, who managed to keep things on the chill instead of sacrificing his racquet to the gods of the grass courts.

That or he has magnets on both his wristbands and the racquet handle!

Get in touch with me!


Twitter: @paul6rivard

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