On Sunday, Novak Djokovic picked up his 37th Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters 2021. With this victory, he has inched ahead of Rafael Nadal who has 36 such titles. He has also started his 346th week as the world no. 1, having overtaken Roger Federer’s record of 310 weeks earlier this year. He also left Pete Sampras behind with 7 year-end world no. 1 finishes. With so many records cemented in one week, the old favorite topic has resurfaced, and the debate rekindled: Who is the greatest male tennis player of all times?
Numerous people, ranging from tennis fans, critics, experts, and veteran players, have all placed their opinions. The most recent of these came from American legend Billie Jean King.
77-year-old King is a 39-time grand slam champion. The former world no. 1 was also a part of the American Fed Cup team, later becoming their captain. She came out as homosexual in 1981, and, has been an activist and advocate for women’s rights, etc. She won the Battle of the Sexes tennis match against Bobby Riggs. She Billie Jean King is also the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association or the WTA. The Fed Cup was renamed Billie Jean King Cup in her honor.
“I adore Nadal” Billie Jean King on which Big 3 player she would choose
Billie Jean King was in a conversation with Spanish publication AS. After discussing a range of social issues plaguing tennis, the interviewer returned to the hot topic of the week: the Big 3. “They are all three different. I adore Nadal. Ilana (Kloss, her wife, former South African tennis player) and I met him when he must have been 14 or 15 years old, in South Africa. I don’t think he remembers, but we do, because they said he was the child with the greatest potential.
So we went and we looked at him and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is so good.’ So I love watching him play. What I like the most about him is how much he respects tennis and how he gets angry when other players don’t respect him. That is why children want to be like him more than others when asked and they say that Nadal is their favorite. In that it is number one. Older adults stay more with Federer, for his elegance, because the way he hits the ball and dances on the court is beautiful.
But Nadal has those values and is more earthy. I think Djokovic is going to be the best in titles, because when Nadal and Federer competed they hurt each other in that sense. Martina(Navratilova) and Chris Evert would have won 40 Grand Slams if one of them hadn’t been on the board” King explained.
Billie Jean King: “Djokovic unique and different”
When asked about the influence that the Big 3 yield on matters regarding tennis, King said “Djokovic is unique and different. He’s very smart and more forthright about change than the other two. I wish they weren’t so sure, that they talked more off the track, because it has to be done. Federer once demonstrated for the players association to stick together, and he was great, but there is still a lot of work ahead”.
Billie Jean King on the advantages of having a Big 3 on WTA Tour:
Finally, King was asked whether having a Big 3 set on the WTA Tour would be beneficial for women’s tennis, she replied “Before, when there was a rivalry, like Chris and Martina’s, it was generally said that there was no depth in the women’s circuit. There is always this discussion in the media. Now there is much more depth, many more good players, and it is said that a rivalry is missing.
It’s like always wanting what you don’t have. The ideal would be to have it all, some rivalries, not just one, more than one. But in women’s sports and in tennis in particular we have much more depth now because there are more people who have paid attention to us. The other is always great, but do we need it? Probably. In any case, I think it would be nice to have both”.