Why Wimbledon final could decide GOAT debate
Rod Laver says debate over the identity of the grand slam GOAT - greatest of all time - is a furphy.
"You simply can't compare generations," the only player to twice win all four majors in the same year said.
"The best you can hope for is to be the best of your generation."
As Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic prepare to square off in the Wimbledon final, the GOAT debate is officially in overdrive.
Conflicting views go well beyond bald numbers, spreading to style and finesse (Federer) and supreme athleticism and adaptability (Djokovic).
Not to mention Rafael Nadal's unparalleled feat to win 12 French Opens as well as two Wimbledons, along with three US and an Australian title.
The final will filter more evidence into the debate since it features the man most often referred to as the GOAT (Federer) and his opponent, who might ultimately strip him of the mantle.
In the end, numbers are truly the only sound metric.
At 37, Federer is five years older than Djokovic.
The Swiss owns five more majors than the Serb, but time - and opportunity - is clearly more in Djokovic's corner.
There is a multitude of salient comparison points.
Djokovic was younger - 20 - when he won his first major at the 2008 Australian Open.
Federer was 21 when he beat Mark Philippoussis to lift his first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2003.
Roy Emerson's grand slam record of 12 majors once was considered the tennis equivalent of travelling to outer space.
The Queenslander's mark stood for 33 years until Pete Sampras bettered it with 2000 Wimbledon victory over Pat Rafter.
Djokovic took eight years to muster 12 titles; Federer took four.
Both men have endured "droughts" for various reasons.
Since breaking through in '03, Federer went four years - from 2012-16 - without a major.
Djokovic missed out in three separate seasons.
Both are now back at the peak of their powers.
With so little separating them, their head-to-head is instructive.
Djokovic leads it 25-22 and has pretty much owned Federer since 2015, winning eight of 10 matches.
With victory in three of the past four majors, the Serb is heavily favoured to close the gap to Nadal's 18 titles with a 16th here.
Should he do so, he is perfectly placed to keep on amassing majors.
Chances are he will eventually catch and overtake Federer.
If so, he will become the GOAT, as many of his followers insist he already is.
Whatever happens, Federer will be always be regarded as the most graceful competitor of his time.
And, should Djokovic or Nadal fail to catch him, he will remain the GOAT.