Novak Djokovic Wins, Says Rafael Nadal is Best Ever. Here are More Awards from Indian Wells


I’m not sure what on earth Novak Djokovic was thinking. He beat Roger Federer in the semifinals at Indian Wells, and then beat Rafael Nadal for the title. Afterward, Djokovic publicly proclaimed that Nadal was the greatest of all time, known in tennis as the GOAT debate.

But why?

“I think he’s the best ever because, even though he’s 24 years old, he has done so much already,’’ Djokovic said. “Many years in front of him to, I think even to overtake Roger in the Grand Slam trophies.’’

Why would Djokovic bother choosing sides between Federer and Nadal (I’m still not sure Pete Sampras should be eliminated from GOAT talk).

Apparently, Djokovic doesn’t mind ticking off Federer, who he thinks, I can only assume, is in the rear-view mirror for good. Maybe so, but Federer is just one small change away from being back in major contention.

Anyway, a lot happened during nearly two weeks at Indian Wells, and in the spirit of Djokovic giving Nadal the Goat award, here are a few more awards. (I reserve the right to write full columns about these things later).

MOUSE: (Most Outstanding U.S. Emergence): Donald Young beat No. 4 Andy Murray. At 21, Young is finally learning that hard work might equal better results. It was huge for Young, and the first time anyone had talked about him for actually winning a match. But the MOUSE in Indian Wells was Ryan Harrison, who beat Milos Raonic. No, Raonic is not at Murray’s level yet. But Murray tends to fade away, and Raonic is the future arriving. Maybe the U.S. can be part of that future, too? Harrison has a long way to go, but it seems possible now.

FIREMAN: This goes to the person whose fire has been put out in the most surprising way. I’ll go with Maria Sharapova, usually the tour’s best fighter, looking completely dejected while losing 6-1, 6-2 to Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals.

Sam Querrey

WTF? (Worst Tennis Focus): Sam Querrey. This is just how it’s going to be with him. Coming into the tournament, he seemed to be have completely lost interest. Then, he beat No. 9 Fernando Verdasco in straight sets. OK, he was back. Then, he dozed off against Tommy Robredo, getting crushed and saying he didn’t know why his head wasn’t in it. Let us know when you find out.

BS (BEST SERVE): Federer said he would like to have John Isner’s serve. Better choice: Ivo Karlovic’s serve. He is absolutely making the most of himself.

???? (FALL AFTER REACHING the TOP): This could be renamed the Ana Ivanovic Award, which would be a little more delicate, for sure. But Ivanovic was great against Jelena Jankovic, and doesn’t deserve the award anymore. Jankovic? Nope. People were encouraged by Dinara Safina’s victory over Sam Stosur. Watch again: It was two players choking as much as possible. Safina still gets the award.

The problem

BEST RACQUET: I have said for months that Federer must stop being so stubborn about his ancient flexible Wilson racquet and move to something modern. To me, just that one little switch would put him back over Djokovic again. Someone wrote me that Fed’s racquet is the best one ever made. If so, it rates right up there with the old steel T-2000 and the wood Kramer Pro Staff. They all belong on the same shelf.

TIE (Timing is Everything). Also could be called the HURRY UP, SERENA WILL BE BACK SOON award. Goes to Caroline Wozniacki, who won her biggest title this weekend after Kim Clijsters pulled out with a shoulder injury. Wozniacki is ready to defend her way to a major as long as no one with strong will, nerve and aggression is out to take it from her.

ASKING FOR HER COAT AWARD: Cover your ears all you want. Kim Clijsters is dropping strong hints she’ll retired again soon, like after next summer’s Olympics.

GPM (Greatest Player of this Moment): Djokovic, for sure. He won the Australian Open, beating Federer. Now, he beat Federer and Nadal. He is ranked No. 2.

Don't forget: del Potro

GPNM (Greatest Player of the next Moment): Juan Martin del Potro. He’s still not back to form yet. Wait till mid-summer. Remember, he had passed Federer and Nadal before, beating both at the U.S. Open. That’s even more impressive than what Djokovic has done.

GP: (Greatest Player): Nadal still has won three of the past four majors and is ranked No. 1. A loss to Djokovic on a hard court doesn’t drop him down. At this point, Djokovic’ run has been short.

GOAT: Federer has won the most majors, including each one. Sampras dominated a tougher era, but never won a French. Nadal is still young, and still will have years to add majors, or not, and to show that he can stay ahead of Djokovic and del Potro, as well as Raonic (and Harrison?). So put his down in pencil, but Nadal’s dominance over Federer head-to-head is impossible to overlook. Nadal is GOAT. For now.

BEST NICKNAME I CAN THINK OF: People have tried to come up with a nickname for the Federer-Nadal rivalry, along the lines of Bennifer, etc. So far, Fedal seems to be most accepted. Now, we’ll go with this: Fedalkovic. Heaven forbid when del Potro gets back up there.


About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

5 responses to “Novak Djokovic Wins, Says Rafael Nadal is Best Ever. Here are More Awards from Indian Wells

  • Kyle Hoegh

    “he had passed Federer and Nadal before, beating both at the U.S. Open.”

    I have to slightly disagree with this statement. True, he had passed them at that moment, but I also think it was clear that Nadal wasn’t back to form yet, just as Delpo isn’t back to form yet now. I am not sure if they have played each other when they are both at their best. I do know it will be really interesting to watch when the match-up does happen, assuming Djoker doesn’t foil their meeting.

    Is it possible that Fed ranks behind both Djoker and Delpo in this years French in terms of players most likely to knock off Nadal? I won’t put Soderling ahead of Fed, but shouldn’t Nadal be more worried about the two aforementioned players if anybody?

    • David

      Greg could be right about Delpo, but I don’t know. I think he really needs to improve his serve even more to compensate for his movement. Not that it’s bad, but compared to Fed, Rafa, Djoker it’s clearly a big step down.

    • gregcouch

      Good points. My feeling was that Delpo was better, but you’re right that Nadal wasn’t healthy. I remember in Cincy that year, Nadal said he was fine. But I watched him play, and when he would run for a backhand, he couldn’t bring himself to stomp on his foot on that last step to crush a shot. So he sliced everything. I asked him about that specifically and he said something like “Nothing is ever perfect.” I’m standing by what I said about Delpo passing Rafa and Roger, but it was only for a short time, and they surely weren’t as far apart as it looked. Plus, it was only on hard courts, Nadal’s worst surface. As for the French, I’m not sure yet. Kind of have a feeling that Federer could challenge. I hate his old, flexible racquet, and think it allows him to be pushed around. But on clay, it’s not as easy to pummel him. See how the clay season goes first.

  • David

    Also I think Djoker weighing in on GOAT has less to do with objective analysis and more to do with the history between him and Federer. Remember, Federer has accused him of faking injuries and also got into it one time with Djoker’s family. There’s bad blood even if it’s a bit below the surface now. I see the Djoker as most likely to slam Federer in a book after his career is over. Somebody’s got to do it.

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