Former Grand Slam finalist admits GOAT debate in tennis may never be won

Alex Corretja believes Novak Djokovic is invincible at Wimbledon.
Novak Djokovic with Alex Corretja at an ASCIS event in Wimbeldon

Alex Corretja believes Novak Djokovic is invincible at Wimbledon and remains sceptical about current world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz’s ability to secure the most prestigious title in tennis at this formative stage in his career. 

Corretja climbed to No.2 in the ATP rankings and reached the French Open final in 1998 and 2001 before going on to coach Andy Murray and establish a reputation as one the most respected television pundits in tennis.

Here, he sits down with the All Court Tennis Club at the ASICS House of Tennis in Wimbledon to give us his views on the highly anticipated grass Grand Slam.

Is Novak Djokovic unbeatable at Wimbledon this summer?

If he plays at his best, he wins Wimbledon. There is no doubt if he is in a good shape, he is the man to beat, but you must prove it on the court, even if you are Novak. Seven matches, best of five sets is never easy.

Did Djokovic’s 23rd Grand Slam title at the French Open end the debate over who is the greatest player of all time?

The debate will be decided when they are all finished, and even then, it will continue for many. If you go by results, there is no debate. Djokovic has his sights set on winning more Slams. I don’t think it’s necessary to say who is the GOAT, who is the God of tennis. We have all enjoyed years of entertainment from Roger (Federer), Rafa (Nadal) and Novak, so you don’t have to pick the favourite or the greatest. 

Is Carlos Alcaraz the man to stop Djokovic at Wimbledon?

It’s a big step to say he could win Wimbledon, but this is a special player. He has just won a big grass court event at Queen’s, he is No.1 in the world, he has won a lot of matches this year and so the expectations will always be big around him.

Do you think Alcaraz and Djokovic will meet in the Wimbledon final?

Alcaraz will not be the favourite if he meets Djokovic in the final. Every experience is important for Carlitos at this point in his career, but I think he has got a very tough draw. He has some big obstacles to overcome before he gets to think about Novak, that’s for sure.  Can he win? For sure, but I will be surprised if he does it.

How good is Carlos Alcaraz?

He is special. He is not good, he is special. When you are special, you are capable of doing things that others can’t. The way he moves is unbelievable. The way he hits the ball is unbelievable. His forehand is just huge, it’s out of this world. The power he brings to the game is very unique and difficult for the opponent. When you play, sometimes conditions are a little bit chilly, or it is too hot or too windy, but it seems with Carlos, he accepts the situation. You need to accept what you have, what you get and what you feel on a given day.

Can Andy Murray be a surprise package at Wimbledon this year?

He plays another Brit in the opening round (Ryan Peniston), then Stefanos Tsitsipas or Dominic Thiem in the second round. I’m sure Andy will feel his chances of beating players like Tsitsipas or Thiem here are much higher than his chances of beating Djokovic or Alcaraz at this stage. So, it is not the worst draw he could have had. 

With the Challengers he has won (in Surbiton and Nottingham last month), Andy is one of the guys in good shape heading into Wimbledon. Let’s see what he can do. I believe there may be one last dance for Andy somewhere and it would be amazing to think it could happen at Wimbledon.

Why do some tennis fans struggle to support Novak Djokovic? 

People get confused by his way of thinking. It’s a shame because I think he is an unbelievable human being, honestly. He is deep, he is someone who is very interesting and you learn so much when he speaks. When you listen to him, he goes into everything to become better both as a tennis player and a human being, as a father and a son. I have so much respect for him and I am a big fan. 

Can the negative opinions of Djokovic be shifted? 

People don’t know Novak and that is why they have an opinion of him that isn’t always positive. What they see from a player is the reactions he shows on court. They have a chance to hear maybe two questions from him on court and that is nothing as they are pretty much based on the match.  

He is an interesting person and he has so much to add to the world. He is a humble guy and I think it would be good for him to give some interviews from time to time for people to get to know him better. When people see the reactions he shows towards his team, as he has said, it’s difficult for you to justify those reactions and that’s what people get from him.  

What makes Djokovic special? 

What I find amazing about him is the lengths he goes to be the best. Every detail is there. From what he eats, to how he prepares and also to his shoes. You see how much work he has put in with ASICS to make his tennis shoes and you understand why he is a winner. He speaks about the tongue of his shoe and how it was not perfect, and he went to ASICS to change it. Every small detail is in the difference between winning and losing. 

Did you enjoy playing at Wimbledon? 

For me it was difficult. When I finished the clay court season, I was always very tired and needed time to recover. We only had two weeks between the French Open and Wimbledon and when you finish the second week of Roland Garros, you need time off. We played Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Hamburg, then we played Rome and Roland Garros. Also, the summertime was very important for me as we had other clay court events in Stuttgart and Kitzbuhel, which were important to me as I play well on that surface.  

Wimbledon officials now follow the ATP rankings for the Wimbledon seedings, but that was not the case in your day. Did it frustrate you when you were pushed down the seedings list as you were not seen as a grass court player? 

I didn’t like it. I was top ten, and they kicked me out of the seeding because I was not seen as a grass court player. For me, this was absurd. For many reasons, they didn’t make me enjoy it and also the grass was very low and difficult to adapt to. 

Has your opinion of Wimbledon changed? 

Now, I love it. This tournament goes beyond our sport. When you go on the street and ask people about Wimbledon, they all know what it is. The all-white clothing, everything about it. They now also understand how important it is to be connected to the players. A couple of decades ago, they said we are Wimbledon and we are on top of everything.