Which way will the ‘GOAT race’ go after Djokovic narrows the gap?

Not only was Novak Djokovic playing for the Australian Open title on Sunday, he was playing catch-up in the race to be crowned the ‘GOAT’ in men’s tennis.

The number of Grand Slam titles is the most obvious and easiest metric for those who wish to determine – and not everyone does – which man is the Greatest Of All Time.

Serbia’s Djokovic won in Melbourne to land an 18th major title, moving him two behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s all-time leading tally of 20 Grand Slam singles victories.

Beating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev for a ninth Australian Open title may prove to be pivotal in the race.

The 33-year-old is a year younger than Nadal and seems to have plenty of time on his side over 39-year-old Federer, who did not play in Melbourne because of a knee injury.

For some, the ‘GOAT’ discussion is frivolous and does a disservice to the achievements of each player in their own right.

Looking purely at the numbers does not tell the full picture. It is not possible to quantify their different playing styles, how they have adapted their games, their physical and mental strength, nor how they have overcome the tough moments that have peppered all of their careers.

But it does provide the framework for the debate. Here, BBC Sport crunches the statistics for you to consider and then have your say in the comments section at the bottom.

From a clear frontrunner to a three-horse race

The race to be crowned the ‘GOAT’ – in terms of major titles, at least – is tighter between the top three men than it ever has been before.

When Federer overtook Pete Sampras’ previous best mark – winning his 15th Grand Slam title, aged 27, at Wimbledon in 2009 – few thought he would ever be caught.

At that stage, 23-year-old Nadal had won six majors and 22-year-old Djokovic had not added to his maiden title at the Australian Open in 2008.

After winning at least one major in every year between 2003 and 2010, Federer’s trajectory began to plateau during 2011, the year Djokovic took his game to new heights.

Another Wimbledon title followed in 2012 but then, thanks to a combination of his rivals’ brilliance and his injuries, the Swiss did not win another major in the next four years.

Most had written him off as Nadal and Djokovic closed in on his tally, before Federer’s renaissance in 2017 – on the back of his rivals stumbling in the race because of injury and loss of form – kept him at least three titles ahead.

That was until 2019 when Nadal and Djokovic shared the four majors equally between them, leaving the trio closer together than ever.

Now Federer has company – for the first time since he was briefly level with Sampras in 2009 – after Nadal’s win at Roland Garros last year.

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