Federer has reason to be worried.
Federer has reason to be worried.

The Greatest: Federer’s dark night as Djoker smiles

Take grand slam numbers out of the equation just for a second.

Take out the numbers, take out the stats - and let Rafael Nadal explain why Novak Djokovic is the greatest tennis player the world will ever see.

A few years ago Djokovic's dad was widely dismissed, even laughed at, when he declared that his son was "sent from God" to become the greatest that tennis has ever seen. They're not laughing now.

Those same commentators must feel as foolish and helpless as Nadal and Lucas Pouille were when Djokovic's absurd, flawless tennis reduced them to broken wrecks holding a racquet.

He simply does things that frustrate, infuriate and ultimately break his opposition - whether they are lowly-ranked or the likes of Roger Federer and Nadal.

Is Djokovic the true GOAT?
Is Djokovic the true GOAT?

When Djokovic is like this - that relentless machine that powered to a 6-3 6-2 6-3 thrashing of fellow all-time legend Nadal in Sunday night's Australian Open final at Melbourne Park - he is untouchable.

At his best, he is the greatest. A player capable of making his two greatest rivals quiver - reducing them to whipped students out of their depth.

It is why his claim to be the highly-debated Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) can no longer be denied.

Djokovic's best tennis is the best the world has ever been graced with.

Just as Nadal unwittingly suggested years ago when asked to explain his rivalries with his two colleagues at the top of the ATP tree at the time.

"Well, it's complicated," Nadal said at the time. "What with titles and what he's accomplished that says he (Federer) is the best in the history of our sport.

"Is he the best I've played against? Well, maybe, yes, (but) I've also played the great Djokovic, we've run into other really good players.

"It'd be unfair to say that Federer isn't the best I've ever played against because the titles and his track record prove that to be the case.

"But at a technical level, when Djokovic has been at the top of his game, I have to say that I've been up against an invincible player."

That invincible player is back.

The Serb's epic first set against Nadal is the stuff of tennis fiction. He peeled off 13 of the first 14 points to break Nadal like it was nothing after the raging bull had held his serve for 67 consecutive games going back to his first round win over Aussie James Duckworth.

When the dust settled on Djokovic's two hour-crushing of Nadal, the stat sheet showed 34 winners and nine unforced errors.

Tennis legend Jim Courier said Djokovic's display in the final was "one of the greatest performances you will ever see".

The win gives Djokovic a seventh Australian Open crown - the first man to ever do that. It gives him three consecutive grand slams for the third time in his career and leaves him needing to win the French Open this year to hold all four slams at the same time for the second time.

The win undisputedly lifts him right alongside Federer in the debate for tennis's GOAT.

He now has 15 slams, taking him above American legend Pete Sampras into outright third on that prestigious leaderboard behind Nadal (17) and Federer (20).

That climb above Sampras will terrify the Swiss champion.

As Aussie great Pat Cash said earlier this week, the grand slam leaderboard secretly means everything to Federer because it is his to lose.

With a losing head-to-head record against both Nadal and Djokovic, it is Federer's only concrete claim to retaining the status as GOAT.

"I'm not sure these guys are that bothered about it, but for Roger it is really important to him to finish on top," Cash said.

"If Novak continues to win two grand slams over the next few years he'll go ahead. Anything can happen. I think it means more for Roger."

Even Aussie legend Rod Laver said this week Djokovic will surpass Federer's record of 20 slams.

In doing so, he will become the greatest we've ever seen.

Amid Federer and Nadal's phenomenal dominance of tennis for almost 15 years, Djokovic's achievements have always been one step behind - never given the respect or admiration he truly deserves.

The cold, hard situation remains this, however - when the tennis world looks back in 50 years at this golden age of tennis we've been blessed with, they will call it the Djokovic generation. He will stand above both of his immortal opponents.

Djokovic's irresistible form demands that the dominant narrative of the 2019 season will remain the three-legged race between him, Nadal and Federer for the title of GOAT. It is a salivating showdown - but you would simply be mad to even consider betting against the Djoker after his level of tennis produced at Melbourne Park this month.

Courier made one startling mistake in his commentary on Sunday night when he too addressed the topic of the three-legged run to the finish line.

He said Federer would have been pleased to see his three slam buffer over Nadal is still intact.

"This one is a significant win for so many reasons for Novak. The historical implication we laid out early in the broadcast. This puts him one step closer not just to Rafa but to Roger," Courier told Channel 9.

"The way he has taken care of his body seems like he is much younger than 31 years of age. It looks like he will keep piling on majors in the near future."

In truth, 37-year-old Federer would have been left terrified on Sunday night that his buffer over Djokovic is now down to five slams. It is the Serb that Federer should have had his eye on all these years. At the age of 31, Djokovic is too comfortably placed to not be a red-hot favourite to swallow Federer's slam record before he hangs up his boots.

In doing so, he will fulfil the prophecy his father announced to the world all those years ago.

"He will be the best tennis player in history," Srdan Djokovic said.

"I have been saying it since he entered tennis. Surely, he will be one of the best sportsmen ever. All of it is because he was sent from God.

"As a family, we tried to make God's wish come true. He can win another 10 grand slams."

You would be silly to bet against it.