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Pat Cash: ‘Novak Djokovic is the best of the lot, Roger Federer is not even second greatest in his own era’

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Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash believes Novak Djokovic is already ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in terms of who is the greatest player of their generation.

Novak in action

Many believe Djokovic, Federer and Nadal will go down as the greatest tennis players of all time, however there is a lot of debate over who will be the overall GOAT.

Some say it is Federer due to his Grand Slam record as he has 20 majors to his name, others believe it is 19-time Slam winner Nadal because of his relentlessness on clay while some feel Djokovic, who has 17 majors, is already ahead of the other two.

Australian great Cash was asked for his views on the Big Three and he admits he prefers watching Federer.

“I think Federer is the one who could have transcended any generation with any rackets, with any courts, with any equipment. He would have been the No 1 player whenever he picked up a tennis racket, whether it was in the 1920s or now,” Cash told UBITennis.net.

“Rafa and Novak have specialised and created something new, particularly Rafa with the rackets and the strings. The way he can play on the clay is just phenomenal.

“Novak is up there and taken it to a level where he can do that on any surface.

“The way Rafa plays on grass, I don’t think he will ever beat Roger other than on clay.

“Players I’d like to watch the most? I think Federer and Nadal would probably be equal. I think Federer probably edge it for just pure enjoyment because he can come to the net and volley and he is so elegant in the way he moves.”

However, when it comes to who is the best of the Big Three, Cash believes it is Djokovic due to his head-to-head record against the other two as the Serb leads Federer 27-23 while he is 29-26 against Nadal.

He added: “Who is the best player of the lot? It’s Djokovic. It’s clear. This guy is a freak. They had a big head start and he has caught up with them. It’s just hard to go past the reality of head-to-head wins.

“I know everybody says Federer is the greatest player of all time, but he’s not even the second greatest in his own era.

“That’s hard to believe. If you are the best of all time, you should at least have a head-to-head record against your number one rival or number two rival.

“Surely, that would be the very first factor, I would say.

“As a shotmaker I would say [Federer is] the greatest player I have even seen. In shotmaking and movement and everything else. But in court surface and in many ways, he has been little old school.

“He has developed a more attacking game on surfaces and balls that really don’t suit him.

“It’s phenomenal that record he has, but Djokovic has the best record of them all and is closing in [on the majors], other than clay of course.”

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Djokovic Earns Tricky Opening Win In Vienna

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In his first appearance at the Erste Bank Open since his 2007 title run, Novak Djokovic passed an early test to defeat countryman Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-3 on Tuesday.

Djokovic dropped serve twice in the first set and was forced to save set point at 5/6, before coming back to earn his place in the second round. The World No. 1, who struck 39 winners against Krajinovic, has now won 38 of his 40 matches this year.

“I was lucky in the first set… We are good friends, we train a lot [together] and it is never easy to play someone that you are very close to,” said Djokovic in an on-court interview. “He is a very nice guy and I have known him since he was very young. I followed him, I tried to be there as a friend, as a mentor. We go back a long way.

”We practised a few times [together] before coming to Vienna. The draw was tough for us to face each other, but there is always extra pressure and importance to a match when you play someone that you know very well.”

Djokovic added 45 FedEx ATP Rankings points to his tally with his second ATP Head2Head victory in three matches against Krajinovic. The Serbian is attempting to tie Pete Sampras’ record of six year-end World No. 1 finishes this year.

Djokovic was competing for the first time since his runner-up finish at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). The 33-year-old will next face Borna Coric for a place in the quarter-finals.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion owns a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against Coric. The pair most recently met in the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters final, which Djokovic won 6-3, 6-4. Coric earned his place in the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Taylor Fritz on Monday.

In a first set that featured four service breaks, Djokovic and Krajinovic entertained the crowd in Vienna with their all-court skills and attacking tennis. Krajinovic took the initiative and hit his targets to earn set point at 6/5 in the tie-break, but Djokovic held firm with consistency from the baseline to extract crucial errors and earn a one-set lead.

Djokovic raised his game in the second set and earned an early break to take control of the match. The 2007 champion returned with depth and attacked with his forehand to close the match in just under two hours.

“[In the] first set, I think he was the better player. He was serving for the first set and I was lucky. He missed a smash at 6/6 in the tie-break,” said Djokovic. “A few points here and there can change the momentum of the match. In the second set, I stepped it up, I played better and I am just pleased with the way I finished the match.”

Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the second round in Vienna for the second straight year with a 7-6(6), 6-3 victory against Karen Khachanov. The Bulgarian converted three of four break points against the two-time Vienna quarter-finalist to improve to 17-10 in 2020.

“Karen is such an excellent player, such a heavy hitter,” said Dimitrov in an on-court interview. “In conditions like that, the court favours him quite a bit but I was able to just play a very solid game and take the right decisions at the right time.”

Hubert Hurkacz broke serve on four occasions to beat Attila Balazs of Hungary 6-3, 7-5. The 23-year-old will face Dusan Lajovic or Lorenzo Sonego for a place in the quarter-finals.

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