For a long time now I have sat back and read all the various discussions about GOATs, of which there seems to be hundreds floating around. I have read all the arguments for and against and all the counter arguments, and I’m here to tell you that a tennis GOAT does not exist to this point. So what defines a GOAT? A summary of all the arguments which have been written on this site follows: Most slams won, ie beating the field most times. Dominating your era as well as all your main rivals during your time. Dominating a particular slam like no one else has done before you. Dominating Wimbledon like no-one else has done before you. Longest time spent at number 1. Most titles won. Dominating the player most perceive to be the GOAT. Winning the grand slam. Winning a career slam. The above are all examples I have seen used to explain why any one player should be the GOAT. Alot of these points have merit, but can’t be used in isolation to determine the GOAT. To me, there are 4 main things which come into consideration when choosing a GOAT. Most slams won Career slams Head to head A combination of everything else, eg time spent at number 1, eras, mental toughness, serve, return of serve, fitness, x factor, basically anything you can think of. These 4 points have to be taken together, as a combination, not taken in isolation from 1 through to 4. Before I continue, I want to quickly qualify point 3 because I know a lot of people will reject that as a factor. At the end of the day, tennis, in its purest form, is two players on the opposite sides of a court, separated by a net, trying to win a match of tennis. If you had to choose one human being who ever lived, be it a professional tennis player, an amateur tennis player or a hack, to play for YOUR LIFE, against any other human being in the history of the world, to win 2 of 3 BO5 set matches, one on grass, one on clay and one hard court, who would it be? Let me quickly explain these 3 surfaces. Grass: traditional fast surface, low skidding bounce which favours a serve volleyer. On this surface, a good serve volleyer will have the advantage over a good baseliner. Clay: slow, high bounce, favours the baseliner. On this surface, a good baseliner will have the advantage over a good serve volleyer. Hardcourt: medium true pace, not too fast, not too slow, with medium true bounce. Favours no style of play. All things being equal, a serve volleyer who is superior to a baseliner should win this match, and vice versa. This is the neutral surface. The above surfaces are the traditional grand slam surfaces and hence I have limited it to these 3. These surfaces ensure that ever player to have ever played the game is not disadvantaged by homeginastion, which in the scheme of things, has been around for 5 minutes. So ask yourself this question. Which human being would you choose to play for your life in 3 x 5 setters (grass/clay/hardcourt) against any other random human being in the history of the world? Remember, your player loses 2 of 3 matches, your life comes to an end. Take Federer vs Nadal for example. Who here is willing to put their life in the hands of Federer against Nadal? I know I wouldn’t. I value my life too much. I’ve seen Federer lose to Nadal on clay and hardcourt too many times for me to want to risk everything there is about me. I even saw Federer lose a grasscourt match to Nadal and saw Nadal nearly beat him in a grasscourt match the year before. So this is why head to head has to be a factor when assessing the GOAT. Remember, GOAT is the acronym for “greatest of all time”. The greatest of all time should be good enough to beat all comers, in 2 of the 3 traditional grand slam surfaces. To use a boxing term, the GOAT should be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. And as you will see, there is plenty of dispute, about every candidate. So let’s have a look at some of the GOAT candidates. Federer Has the most slams, has the career slam, but is owned by Nadal. Sorry Federer fans, I have taken on board everything you have said about this H2H issue and nothing I have seen convinces me otherwise. For years, we as tennis fans have salivated at the prospect of seeing a great from one era up against a great from another era. The first time I ever encountered such a match-up was in 1984. I was reading this Australian tennis magazine and it was about Laver vs McEnroe. At that stage, McEnroe was the top player in the world and seemed invincible at the time. This was before the FO of that year. The aurthor set the scene. The Laver/McEnroe match would have to be played on Wimbledon Centre Court, the day would have to be sunny, packed crowd, everything to play for, bla bla bla. Until Nadal started owning Federer, I always wondered about who would have won such a match. But not anymore, which I will explain why below. Put Federer in the 90s (assume Sampras did not exist and also assume Federer and Nadal never crossed paths). Federer with his 17 Slams from the 90s versus Nadal in today’s era with his slams to date. Could you imagine the GOAT discussions then? They would be epic. Seriously, their would not be enough bandwith in the world to support all the discussions written about a Federer versus Nadal matchup. The arguments about why Federer would whip Nadal and vice versa would be endless. But the reality is, Nadal has had the better of Federer in their matchups. And for this reason, the fantasy of seeing two tennis greats from different eras has been ruined for me. Because the player with 17 slams, the most in history, continues to be pawned by Nadal when it matters the most. Why would I get excited about Federer versus Laver when I know Federer could not beat Nadal? If anything, put Nadal up against Laver. Even if we were to limit the Federer/Nadal H2H to one match on each of the 3 surfaces, Nadal still wins 2-1. (I’m aware that the AO surface is as slow as the FO clay, but unfortunately I can only go with what we’ve got, and their matches to date in the slams is what we’ve got.) Now I know what the response will be to this. Like I’ve said, I’ve read it all before. Inbalance due to too many clay matches, mental issues, mismatch issues, 5 years age difference, and the list goes on. But this ladies and gentlemen is the precise reason why Federer can not be the GOAT. Surely the GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME should be able to figure out a way to beat any other player in 2 of 3 x 5 set matches. Isn’t that what the GOAT is all about, winning against the field, beating your direct rival and beating anyone else on a tennis court? Like I said before, in its purest form, tennis is about two players trying to figure out a way to beat their opponent. If you can’t beeat your greatest rival who is standing on the other side of the net, then quite simply, you can’t be the greatest of all time? Now if someone was to ask who has the most slams in history, then of course it is Federer. But this does equate to GOAT. Tennis was not always about winning slams. Believe it or not, DC was once considered as important. Really, the slam count only came to prominence from the 80s. So using slam count alone and applying it across different eras is comparing apples to oranges. Like I said, you need to take in all the 4 factors I mentioned above to pull one man out and place him above everyone else. Federer is not GOAT because he can’t get past Nadal. Sampras Has the second most slams. Pretty much won his H2H rivalries. No career slam (no FO). For this reason, Sampras is not the GOAT. Borg I’ll make an exception re the career slam for Borg given that he did not give two hoots about the AO. But even so. No USO, lost in the final there 4 times. Got owned by McEnroe in 3 of their 4 grand slam finals. So how can Borg be the GOAT? Quite simply, he can’t. He couldn’t get the better of McEnroe in 4 grand slam finals, how can he possibly be GOAT? Agassi If there is one player who ticks all the boxes as far as winning everything worth winning is concerned, it is Agassi. Won all the slams, won the YEC/WTF and won an Olympic singles gold medal. I stand corrected, but no other man has done this. He even helped win the DC for his country. As the WTF and the Olympics have not always been around, I will stick to the slams. Agassi is well behind Federer and Nadal as far as slam count is concerned. Plus, he also got owned by Sampras in their biggest matches. So Agassi can’t be the GOAT. Connors Never won the FO and was owned by Borg in their big matches. So Connors is not the GOAT. Lendl Never won Wimbledon and was owned by Becker in their biggest matches. Not the GOAT. McEnroe His slam count never made it to double digits and he never won the FO. He must still have nightmares about that 1984 final against Lendl. Nadal Nadal is an interesting one. Has won the career slam but still trails Federer in total slams won, even though he owns their H2H. Another thing which rules Nadal out is that so far he has been owned by Djok in their big matches. So again, knowing that Djok beat Nadal in 3 of 4 consecutive slam finals means that I would not have Nadal as GOAT because there is another player in the history of the world who has had the better of him. Laver I’m not going to comment about Laver. I never saw him play. Everyone knows him as the man that has won the GRAND SLAM OF TENNIS twice. But his era is too much bygone to even be relevant to today’s tennis environment. And this just goes to show even moreso that you cannot have a GOAT because the 50s and 60s, and every era before that, is so different to today.