Novak Djokovic snubbed for Rafael Nadal in GOAT debate after French Open loss

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Novak Djokovic has been told that Rafael Nadal will be number one “forever”, with the Serb and Roger Federer snubbed for the 22-time Grand Slam champion in the GOAT debate by former pro Ion Tiriac. The Romanian cited Nadal’s French Open quarter-final win over Djokovic as one of the reasons he had surpassed the world No 3 in the GOAT debate.

Nadal beat Djokovic en route to a record-extending 14th French Open and 22nd overall Grand Slam title in Paris earlier this month, less than three weeks after limping off court in Rome and casting doubts over his participation at Roland Garros. The Spaniard has now been told he would “forever” be the top player over his long-time rivals Djokovic and Federer.

“Rafael Nadal is the best of all. Neither Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are up to him,” former pro Tiriac told claytenis. “In the match against Djokovic, Nadal played very, very well. Beating Djokovic, No 1 in the world [at the time], in that way. No, Nadal is going to be number one in the world forever. You can’t compare him. Neither with Federer, for me.”

The 36-year-old had lost to Djokovic in the semi-final stage of the French Open a year earlier and, ahead of this year’s quarter-final, admitted that it was one of just two times he was not the favourite against the two-time champion at the tournament after arriving in Paris undercooked as a result of his chronic foot injury.

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But he managed to dispatch the defending champion 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6(4), coming from 2-5 down in the fourth set, to get revenge over his rival before going on to win the title. It meant he extended his lead as the all-time men’s Grand Slam record holder, winning his 22nd title to pull ahead of Djokovic and Federer who remain tied on 20. 

Tiriac, who owns the Madrid Masters tournament, admitted that even aside from the Grand Slam record, Nadal was still the GOAT for him. He continued: “For me he is a guy, as a person, I can’t just consider the Grand Slams. How he hits this blow, how he hits the other.

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“The human being that Nadal is. And, besides, you will never see, not even in your life nor in the life of your children to someone winning a Grand Slam tournament 14 times. Or 15. Because I’m sure he’s going to try next year.”

Nadal himself admitted he didn’t care about the Grand Slam race after beating Djokovic in the quarter-final. “From my perspective, of course there is always a conversation about the player who finish with more Slams or who is the best of the history, but from my perspective doesn’t matter that much,” he claimed after his four-set victory.

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