Rafael Nadal may have unintentionally opened up a debate about what has truly motivated Novak Djokovic to win his 24 Grand Slams. Nadal may have implied that Djokovic was obsessed with passing the number of majors won by Nadal and Roger Federer because Djokovic wasn’t going to be as beloved as the Swiss or the Spaniard. A former coach of Serena Williams, Rennae Stubbs, picked up the debate and said Djokovic had an “obsession,” and this led tennis great Chris Evert to talk down Stubbs.
Sounds like kind of a mess, doesn’t it? I don’t think Nadal was trying to slight Djokovic – Nadal also said Djokovic was the greatest player ever – when he said of Djokovic, “You can’t be frustrated with 22 Slam titles. Can you live frustrated with 22 Slams? For example, Novak lives it more intensely. It would have been a greater frustration for him not to have succeeded. Maybe that’s why he made it.”
Possibly Nadal simply meant that Djokovic was more driven to succeed than Nadal or Federer over a greater amount of time. That kind of will to succeed is to be admired, not mocked. But Rennae Stubbs must have thought Nadal was criticizing Djokovic.
Chris Evert felt she needed to praise Novak Djokovic and she is right (of course!)
Stubbs said on her podcast, The Rennae Stubbs Tennis Podcast, “I think Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal definitely personified wanting to win a lot but it’s obsessive to Novak and you can see it. He wants to put the numbers up because he knows he’s not gonna be as popular worldwide as Roger and Rafa.” Stubbs also said that she admired Djokovic’s drive as well, though.
The problem is the narrative of Djokovic not being as beloved as Federer and Nadal never goes away. Can we not just appreciate Djokovic for what he has accomplished? After winning 24 Grand Slams, he deserves that, right?
But Chris Evert wanted to respond to Stubbs’ comments. In a tweet, former WTA number 1 Chris Evert said the following:
Of course, Chris Evert is correct. Shouldn’t we stop all the debate about who was liked more between the Big Three? Ultimately, who cares? That can’t truly be measured, but Novak Djokovic’s 24 Grand Slams can.