Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail to someone

Before the current crop of top-ranked men’s tennis players came to prominence, the most frequently cited candidates for greatest of all time were Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. When Pete Sampras broke Emerson’s career record for Grand Slams, his name entered the discussion, as did Roger Federer‘s when The Swiss Maestro later surpassed Sampras’ total.

A post shared by Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) on

With Federer claiming his record eighth Wimbledon crown in the summer of 2017, and sixth Australian Open title to kick off 2018, the consensus that he is the best ever to play the game has lingered. Still, there’s not one, but two other current players that may have already eclipsed Federer’s mantle as G.O.A.T.

UPDATED March 7, 2021

GRAND SLAM GREATS

Rafael Nadal won his second Australian Open and record 21st Grand Slam, while Novak Djokovic pulled even with Federer’s 20 Grand Slams after tallying his sixth Wimbledon title in 2021.

Tennis' Grand Slam Greats: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras, Novak Djokovic

Below we present some of the numbers behind the Grand Slam title leaders. In head-to-head meetings between the three active leaders, Nadal leads Federer 24-16, while Djokovic leads Nadal 30-28, and Federer 27-23. In 2001, Federer won his only meeting with Sampras in a five-set thriller at Wimbledon.

ROGER FEDERER

Federer has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles (six Australian Open, one French Open, eight Wimbledon, five US Open), which is tied for second most in history for a male tennis player. He held the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record 237 consecutive weeks and a total of 310 weeks.

Career Statistics

0
Weeks at No. 1
0
Singles titles
0
Grand Slam titles

% Wins in All Finals

66.0

% Wins in Slam Finals

64.5

RAFAEL NADAL

Nadal has won 21 Grand Slam singles titles (two Australian Open, thirteen French Open, two Wimbledon, four US Open), the 2008 Olympic gold medal, a record 22 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments, and 36 ATP World Tour Masters 1000.

Career Statistics

0
Weeks at No. 1
0
Singles titles
0
Grand Slam titles

% Wins in All Finals

72.4

% Wins in Slam Finals

71.4

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

In majors, Djokovic has won nine Australian Open titles, six Wimbledon titles, three US Open titles and two French Open titles. In 2016, he became the eighth player in history to achieve the Career Grand Slam when he defeated Andy Murray in the French Open final. He has spent a record 357 weeks (and counting) ranked No. 1 in the world.

Career Statistics

0
Weeks at No. 1
0
Singles titles
0
Grand Slam titles

% Wins in All Finals

69.9

% Wins in Slam Finals

64.5

PETE SAMPRAS

Sampras was the first man to win 14 Grand Slam singles titles (seven Wimbledon, five US Open, two Australian Open). He also won seven year-end championships and finished six consecutive seasons (1993–98) atop the rankings.

Career Statistics

0
Weeks at No. 1
0
Singles titles
0
Grand Slam titles

% Wins in All Finals

72.7

% Wins in Slam Finals

77.8

MEN’S SINGLES GRAND SLAM LEADERS

Rafael Nada, 21 100%
Roger Federer, 20 95.2%
Novak Djokovic, 20 95.2%
Pete Sampras, 14 — 66.7%
Roy Emerson, 12 — 57.1%
Rod Laver, 11 — 52.4%
Bjorn Borg, 11 — 52.4%
Bill Tilden, 10 — 47.6%
Jimmy Connors, 8 — 38.1%
Ivan Lendl, 8 — 38.1%
Andre Agassi, 8 — 38.1%

Fair, or not, one of the most frequent benchmarks used to gauge a player’s greatness is his Grand Slam title total. One can only speculate how many more Slams Borg would have won had he not retired at 26 years of age, or how many Laver would have accrued had he not been banned from playing Grand Slam tournaments for the five years prior to the Open Era.