Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal Showcase Greatness in a Sea of Good Players

Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2013

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal Two Greats
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal Two GreatsClive Brunskill/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic’s win over Rafael Nadal at Monte Carlo sent a message to the rest of the ATP: This is what greatness looks like.

The quality of play between Djokovic and Nadal showcased what separates great players from good ones. 

With all the rumblings about emerging talent on the ATP, there appears to be no seismic shift on the horizon. The gap between the good players and the great players like Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer may even be widening.

No Andy Murray? Murray has an Olympic Gold medal and one Grand Slam. He’s earned his way into the Big Four. He's knocking at the door of the elite. But Murray is not great.

His embarrassing 6-1, 6-2 loss to Stanislas Wawrinka, demonstrates why Murray, one of the better good players, has not achieved greatness. 

To be considered great, a player must distinguish him or herself above the masses with extraordinary feats. One Grand Slam does not cut it.

Great players routinely create great moments. With Nadal up a couple of break points in the third game of the second set and with momentum shifting, Djokovic came up with a killer serve. He then rallied to take a 2-1 lead.  

Another example of the margin between good and great was Nadal’s 6-3, 7-6(3) win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga, who last year finished in the Top 10 for the fourth time in five years, is a good player. But after nearly 10 years on tour, Tsonga is without a Grand Slam title. Nadal is going for his 12th.


Tsonga came out playing well, firing his forehand. However, after he blew three break points early in the first set, he appeared deflated. He started talking to himself. His facial expressions ranged from silly smiles to disgusted grimaces. 

The play of great ones sometimes reduces the good ones to lunacy. 

Perhaps that thin line between goodness and greatness lies somewhere between the head and the heart. The great ones possess a mental and emotional edge over good ones. 

Matches between Djokovic and Nadal or Nadal and Federer, rarely result from the collapse of one. Instead, one of the greats amps it up a notch. 

Once asked about what separates great players from good players, former Top-five player and Fed Cup coach Mary Joe Fernandez told ESPN it was confidence.

"Some people are confident and win. Others win and get confidence…Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are in the first category. I was in the second," said Fernandez, runner up in three Grand Slam finals. 

Djokovic and Nadal belong to the first category. Tsonga and Murray, the second.