A Conversation With the Big Three

By Owen Lewis, Scott Barclay, and Claire Stanley

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic recently got together to discuss the GOAT debate and life in general. Popcorn Tennis has obtained a valuable copy of the transcript.

Djokovic: Magic water, anyone?

Nadal: I never encountered water that is magic, no? Except in bottles perfectly lined up next to my chair on court.

Federer: *mimes one-handed backhand* Sorry, what? I get lost in my own artistry sometimes.

Nadal: Come off it Roger, your backhand was the reason you lost to me 23 out of the first 33 times.

Djokovic: Guys, guys, let’s all have respect. Respect for ourselves. Respect for each other. Respect for gluten-free food and all its virtues.

Federer: You know, I actually beat Rafa six of the last seven times we played. I started taking my gorgeous backhand earlier and harder, and he couldn’t handle the pace. I really don’t think this is talked about enou-

Nadal: I will keep fighting to find a solution, no? I lost some speed from my prime years. But at least I’m still an active player.

Djokovic: Was that a dig at me or Roger? Anyway, deportation needs to stop.

Federer: You guys should ski more. It’s very calming.

Djokovic: *frantically engages in wrist-strengthening exercises under the table*

Nadal: So, Roger, Novak, what did you think of how I played at the Australian Open? I’d say that makes me the GOAT, right?

Djokovic: Do you seriously think I wouldn’t have beaten you if the corrupt establishment had let me into the tournament? I’ve won the last 19 sets against you on hard courts!

Federer: Burn!

Djokovic: Easy, Roger. You’re clearly third-best at this point.

Nadal: Have either of you been fishing recently?

Federer: Don’t change the subject, Rafa. I think Novak would have beaten you as well. Remember the 2019 final? You only won eight games.

Nadal: You on Djokovic’s payroll or something? Unbelievable. You want people to think you wanna be his boyfriend, no?

*Federer side-eyes Nadal, clears his throat*

Federer: Not enough is said about how grass court tennis is the essence of the sport. Also, aesthetics are underrated.

Djokovic: I totally agree. You could argue that winning a Wimbledon final after saving two championship points against the so-called GOAT is the crown jewel of this era.

Nadal: Clay is clearly more important. Surface of truth, no? Groundstrokes more important. I have 13 Roland-Garros titles, 10 Rome titles, and 4538470493570349-

Djokovic and Federer: No one likes playing on mud, Rafa!

*awkward silence*

Nadal: We agree to disagree. I’ve been getting bored during my recovery from this stress fracture. What have you two been up to?

Djokovic: Do you think Medvedev enjoyed his one week at #1?

Federer: Three weeks. You’re so touchy about stats, Novak.

Djokovic: You only say that because I have more weeks at #1 than you.

Federer: *looks to Nadal and does the cuckoo motion* There he goes again.

Nadal: You know, Roger, I miss the days when it was just me and you in the final. Two nice guys, #1 and #2 in the rankings, the crowd cheering, contrast of styles, me holding the trophy.

Federer: Hold on, what was that last bit?

Nadal: Contrast of styles, no? Smoothness vs. grit, lefty vs. righty, amazing forehand vs. terrible backhand that everyone said was pretty for some reason.

Federer: *mimes backhand motion again, muttering to himself*

Djokovic: What do you guys think was the best season ever on tour, and why is it my 2015 season?

Nadal: Wait a second, I wasn’t at my best that year.

Federer: But you were in 2011.

Djokovic: Right! Wasn’t that when I beat you six times in a row, Rafa? I straight-setted you on clay TWICE! Roger can only dream of that.

Nadal: Is a fluke of the life, no?

Djokovic: No.

The Big Three convening in 2019 as a practice session for this conversation. Screenshot: ATP Finals/Tennis TV

Federer: Anyway, Rafa — when are you and Xisca going to have kids?

Nadal: Is a truth that the world is in a very bad place right now, no? And my career is not yet over. So is a decision that will take place later on.

Djokovic: Rafa, you know you’re not talking to the press, right? You can give actual answers.

Nadal: Right, sorry. I forget sometimes. We’re having kids in two years, whether I retire or not. But have you seen Andy recently? I told Xisca we draw the line at one. Imagine being mad enough to have four ki-

Federer: *glares at Rafa and mimes another perfect backhand*

Djokovic: Anyway. I’ll give them a jumbo bag of gluten-free cookies as a gift. Also, magic water.

Federer: Novak, do you believe that the earth is flat? That aliens are up there trying to spy on us through cell towers? That Nadal is better than me?

Djokovic: Yes, why do you ask?

Federer: *snickers*

Nadal: What was that last one again, Roger?

*awkward pause*

Nadal: I’m the only one of us with an Olympic gold medal in singles.

Federer: Ha, not as many as And- SHIT. That burn backfired.

Djokovic: Does it look nice beside your ATP Finals trophy- oh, wait.

Nadal: Remember the Djokosmash in the 2008 Olympic semifinal?

Djokovic: Djokosmash?

Nadal: Oh, shit, Roger. He doesn’t know. You explain it to him.

Federer: Novak, you see here, this is all in good fun-

Djokovic: EXPLAIN IT TO ME.

Federer: Well, since you kind of suck at overheads, people created a term for it when you hit a bad one.

Djokovic: At least my weakness is something small, rather than my backhand or picking my underwear out of my butt.

Nadal: *head snaps back to the conversation after staring longingly at the ocean* Oh, yeah. I saw someone doing that a while back. I won’t mention their name out of respect for their privacy, but it was gross, gross, gross.

*Federer and Djokovic exchange knowing glances*

Federer: What do you guys think about the NextGen? These are the people who will soon hold the keys to men’s tennis, you know.

Djokovic: Easy there, Roger. Rafa and I aren’t retired yet.

Federer: You will be soon. Have you seen this Alcaraz kid?

Nadal: Great champion. Hard worker. There’s a reason everyone calls him the next Rafa Nadal.

Federer and Djokovic: He plays more like me, don’t you think?

*Puzzled glances are exchanged. Nadal tries to count on his fingers. Federer points at himself, miming a one-handed backhand, then points at Djokovic, miming a two-handed backhand. Djokovic sips a drink whose color can be described only as disturbingly green.*

Nadal: Um.

Djokovic: What do you think of my luscious head of hair?

Nadal: I’m jealous. So jealous. *smacks leg and whispers* You were supposed to say that only in your head, Rafa. You will do extra pushups later.

Federer: Your hair looks great, Novak. Was it worth it to sell your soul to Satan?

Nadal: *pats Djokovic on the shoulder* He’s not over the 2019 Wimbledon final yet, Novak. And why should he be? He had match point, twice!

*Djokovic tries and fails to not look deeply pleased with himself.*

Federer: Hey, Rafa, didn’t I beat you that tournament?

*silence*

Federer: Poetry in motion. *mimes backhand*

Djokovic: Roger, you do know your forehand is better, right? It’s not even close.

Federer: *in deep thought*

Nadal: The ATP Finals aren’t even a real tournament. They’re like an exhibition with brighter lights.

*silence*

*Federer sips Lindt hot chocolate*

*Federer mimes a backhand, this time knocking off Nadal’s toupee on the follow-through.*

Nadal: Goddammit.

Federer: *snickers* I thought your hair had been looking thicker, Rafa.

*Djokovic pulls an exact copy of his own hair from a bag.*

Djokovic: Here you go, Rafa. It screws on.

Nadal: Screws on?

Djokovic: Don’t ask.

Nadal: I really want to ask.

Djokovic: You can ask, but if you do I’m taking my hair back.

Nadal: I won’t ask.

*Nadal puts on Djokovic’s hair. Federer looks around uncomfortably as if feeling left out.*

Djokovic: What will you guys miss the most about tennis after you retire?

Federer: You’re thinking about that already, Novak? Maybe you’re not as tough as I thought you were.

Djokovic: No, man. With the new edition of cryogenic chamber, I’ll be playing until 65 years old, kicking ass and taking names and making more players cry over missed match points. Just trying to kill time here until I’ve digested my breakfast of gluten-free bread topped with bird food.

Nadal: I’ll miss the fight. The competition. The passion. The will. The suffering.

Djokovic: Not at a press conference, Rafa.

Nadal: Right. Sorry. I’ll miss clay. It’s fun to win every single match. I’ll also miss my tiny shorts and sleeveless tops. I look really good in them.

Federer: I’ll miss my first few years on tour, when neither of you were relevant yet. And my long hair. But not the bleached blond era.

Djokovic: Ah, yes. The boring years.

Nadal: The weak era. You did have strong hair game though, Roger. I admire that about you.

Federer: *angrily mimes backhand* *whispers* People didn’t used to be able to punish this shot. And I know I had strong hair game.

Djokovic: I’ll miss winning everything. All the time. #NoleSlam

Federer: Did you just say “hashtag” out loud, Novak?

Djokovic: I have more Instagram followers than you.

Nadal: I have more than you both.

Federer: It’s only because you post so many pictures of your biceps.

Nadal: What can I say? Just flaunting what God gave me. And you like them all, Roger.

Djokovic: You should be ashamed that God gave you those two lumps on your arms but not two working knees.

*Nadal reaches across the table and Federer holds him back. Djokovic runs a hand through his hair*

Federer: Did you guys know that there’s a community of people on Twitter who argue about our achievements every day?

Djokovic: Yeah, I follow a good few of ’em. This guy Pavvy G really has my back. More than anyone should, honestly. I know I’m perfect, but I’m not THAT perfect.

Federer: Of course you follow your fans. Also, peRFect is my thing.

Djokovic: Don’t act like you’re so clever for that, Roger. It’s not that hard to think of complimentary words with initials in them.

Federer: Fine, you guys try.

Djokovic: UneNDing.

Nadal: SupeRNatural.

Federer: Hmph.

Nadal: I gave up on Twitter when Ana Ivanovic and I didn’t exchange as many tweets as I thought we would. It’s a weird means of communication. Oh, and people said I faked injuries.

Djokovic: Don’t you, though?

*Federer holds Nadal back again*

Federer: Swiss neutrality.

Nadal: Don’t look so pleased with yourself, Roger. You never mastered the Surface of Truth.

Djokovic: *looks sympathetically at Federer* Sorry I can’t say the same, buddy.

Federer: *snaps back from a daydream* You’re right, Novak. My forehand is better than my backhand.

*awkward silence*

Djokovic: Well, this has been fun.

Nadal: Has it?

Federer: No.

Djokovic: Rafa, I’ll see you on the clay. Roger, I’ll see you at Laver Cup. *snickers*

Federer: *mimes backhand, whispering to himself* Take that oil painting of a backhand!

Nadal: You guys, I’m really scared to lose the last few hairs on my head. I wish I could wear Novak’s hair without people asking questions.

Federer and Djokovic: I have to go. It’s a kid thing.

*Nadal is left sitting alone at the table. He Googles hair products.*

Nadal: Should I text Andy?

*Federer and Djokovic walk away from the table together.*

Federer: Novak, I have a confession. I didn’t really have a kid thing. I just didn’t want to listen to Rafa talk about how he’s balding for the millionth time. It’s so awkward, you know?

Djokovic: You don’t say. *thinks to himself, my god, he’s not kidding.*

*They walk in silence for a while.*

Djokovic: Well, Roger, this is where I leave you. I’ve got a date with a doctor who swears he can turn me into a werewolf.

Federer: See ya, Novak. *thinks to himself, my god, he’s not kidding.*

Nadal: *thumbs text* “Hey Andy, wanna hang out?”

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