The Most Successful Member of the Big Four Across All Surfaces Is…

A while ago I made a post to Facebook concerning a very useful table a Nole fan on Twitter made about the competition faced by the big four at Masters and slam level over their careers. Here it is:

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As you can see Djokovic had by far the toughest competition while Federer had the easiest competition. Now the same Nole fan has come up with an even more telling table:

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As you can see, Djokovic is the most successful player across all surfaces. Djokovic is the most successful player on hard court, Nadal on clay, and Federer on grass. Although Federer has now won two more hard court slams than Djokovic, he is also six years older and has played many more hard court slams than Djokovic.

So the important thing to look at is success rate(slams won/slams played) where Djokovic leads Federer 32%-29.41%. He also leads Federer by more than 5% in win-loss percentage at hard court slams as well as in all categories across every type of event bar one(win-loss vs top 10 at slams).

So I think it is safe to say Djokovic is the more successful player on hard courts at this point.

On clay, Nadal is even more dominant as he leads in all the categories but that is to be expected. Nadal’s record is less balanced than both Djokovic and Federer because although he dominates clay completely he comes third and third/fourth on hard court and grass respectively.

The numbers on hard court and clay are clear. The results on grass are more ambiguous but the most important stats to look at overall win-loss percentage and success rate. If you look at those stats Nadal and Murray has the worst stats while Djokovic comes second.

Djokovic does not fare so well on the smaller grass court events but he hardly plays those and since there are no Masters on grass we have to go by slam results mostly. And if a tiebreaker is needed than Djokovic has won more Wimbledon titles than Murray or Nadal.

I think it is pretty close between Djokovic and Federer in the end but if you take into account the age difference, the overall win-loss records, and the success rate then Djokovic comes out on top.

If you take into account the first two tables about the competition then it also becomes clear who the better player is. Another indication is the fact that Djokovic has winning head-to-head records against all the big four members.

I don’t think there is any doubt that Djokovic is the greatest player across all surfaces. Not only does the numbers indicate it but it makes sense because he has the most complete game of the big four.

  • Djokovic Is Not Done

Djokovic is currently struggling not only with his form but with a recurring injury. It has not been a good stretch for him since Wimbledon last year but I think he will be back. He is too good and ambitious not to be back.

Federer is currently ahead in terms of slams and overall titles won but Djokovic is ahead in Masters titles while Federer has already passed 35 years of age and Djokovic has not even hit 30 yet. Federer is still winning slams at 35 and that should inspire Djokovic.

He has time to add to his resume and achieve more records like the double career slam to set himself even further apart from Federer. He has a better success rate than Federer and fares better against the field which should translate to some more great achievements.

The number of slam titles has traditionally been a very important measure of greatness and although I agree with that you’d have to be very ignorant to think it is the only measure of greatness.

Something that is even more important is balance in the resume and mastery of all surfaces and opponents. Or else a player can specialize in one surface like clay for instance and win let’s say 20 French Opens.

Would that player be the GOAT, despite spending no time at number one, winning no World Tour Finals titles, and winning only Masters on clay? Not a chance. That is almost what Nadal has done which is why he is not in my tier one of GOAT contenders.

Clearly, mastering all surfaces and being a complete player is extremely important. Djokovic is lethal both on serve and returns which make him probably the most difficult opponent in history to face.

Looking forward to seeing what the future holds in this golden era of tennis!

Federer Withdraws From Madrid and Rome

Apparently, this means Federer is not eligible for a wild card at these events since he withdrew from the entry list. Federer said he probably won’t play any clay events before the French Open and I guess this makes it official.

This is somewhat surprising. I thought Federer might take a wild card at Rome and make a serious run at a second French Open title now that he finally seems to have the better of Nadal while Djokovic has been struggling.

I understand that a record 8th Wimbledon title is important to him and would no doubt be another very impressive achievement but it would also make his grand slam resume 5:1:8:5 which is a bit unbalanced. I think 5:2:7:5 looks better.

None of the big three have done the double career slam. Nadal came awfully close in Australia this year and Federer came pretty close at the French Open in 2011 himself. Federer has also never defeated Nadal at the French Open in five meetings.

Isn’t he making a mistake by not playing at least one warm up event to the French Open? He is playing two warm-up events on grass. Why doesn’t he rather skip one of them and play Rome? He will still be a factor at the French but it’s going to be difficult to win without proper preparation.

The French Open has always been Federer’s Achilles heel and clay has been his most challenging surface because he can’t depend as much on his serve to win cheap points or engage in ‘servebotting’ as some like to call it.

If there is a weakness in Federer’s game it has always been his lack of consistency from the baseline and ability to fight his way through long matches against the likes of Djokovic and prime Nadal. Some say that even the one French Open he won is not legitimate because he depended on someone else to remove Nadal.

A second French Open title would certainly put such talk to bed especially if he defeats Nadal. Sure, a record 8th Wimbledon title has a nice ring to it but I think a second French Open title would be more valuable.

Grass suits Federer’s game to a T. As far as I’m concerned he is already the greatest grass courter of all time. It is on clay where he has something to prove. Not to mention that the calendar slam is still on. And now he is almost skipping the entire clay court season?

Maybe he figures he won’t have any pressure this way which gives him his best chance. But I think his chances are slim with Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, and Wawrinka around if he doesn’t prepare properly.

Djokovic for one will be looking to start over during the clay court season and he has already gotten a much-needed Davis Cup win under his belt. Federer is just going to watch him find his form and win the double career slam?

I’m not saying it is a given but it could very well happen. That would be another significant achievement after the personal slam to set him apart from Federer. His slam resume would be 6:2:3:2.

That double career slam just gives the resume a big boost, regardless of whose resume it is. I think Djokovic is the most complete player ever and a second career slam would certainly prove it. Only Laver and Emerson have won the double career slam and they did it when majors were played only on clay and grass.

Djokovic is already the only man to win four consecutive slams on three different surfaces. I think Federer and his fans are too obsessed with Wimbledon. Sure it is the most important tournament in tennis but in the end, all the majors count for the same and Federer clearly has a lack of balance in his resume concerning clay.

If I was him I’d play at least Rome and put everything into winning another French Open. Federer will have his chances at Wimbledon even if he plays no warmup events!

What do you think?

Federer’s Remarkable 2017 Run

Federer’s resurrection since the beginning of 2017 has been nothing short of remarkable. After suffering three grand slam final losses to Djokovic since 2014, another semi-final loss at the Australian Open last year, and finally a Wimbledon semi-final to Raonic, he pulled out of the rest of 2016 with an injury.

At that point, I think most people thought he had missed his chance to win the elusive 18th slam. I for one did. I knew he would always be a threat as long as he played but the last thing I expected was for him to win the first slam he competed in after a six-month break.

Granted, the change is court speed in Melbourne played a key role in him winning the title but it was still a remarkable turn of events. It seemed too good to be true almost, especially with him defeating his nemesis from a break down in the fifth set.

You couldn’t make it up. But it happened and now Federer continued in the same remarkable fashion by winning the Indian Wells/Miami double. All of this at the age of 35, an age at which most tennis players are either heavily declined or retired.

What gives? Some have attributed his run to doping. Unfortunately, with the poor doping controls and the capitalist culture where corruption is rampant one can’t just dismiss these allegations off the bat if one is objective and honest.

It sure is tempting to believe that given such a remarkable and peRFect script. When Federer was losing to Djokovic and others in slams in the last few years Fedfans always used the excuse of his lack of stamina due to age.

What happened to that narrative after Federer won three five-set matches to win the Australian Open or to complete the Indian Wells/Miami double spanning three weeks which included two brutal three-set matches in Miami’s oppressive heat?

Certainly, a case for doping can be made in this situation and the behavior of Fedfans provide even more incentive for it. But since I am unbiased and objective(unlike them) I believe in innocent until proven guilty.

As far as I’m concerned if one is doping then it is very likely that all of them are doping in which case it evens out. I just don’t appreciate hypocrisy where Nadal or Djokovic is singled out but the possibility that Saint Federer is doping is entirely out of the question.

I used to accuse Nadal myself as a Federer fan when I still believed Federer represented good and Nadal evil, but I overcame my fanaticism. The world is not that black and white.  I think it’s immature to worship one player like a god and vilify the other like he is the devil.

  • Federer is a Rare Talent

The fact that Federer is a rare talent should be obvious. I say it to help explain why Federer could possibly achieve this remarkable transformation without doping. The truth is he’s been a different player since the beginning of 2014.

That is when he made changes to his equipment and coaching staff. Federer was immediately an improved player but it wasn’t until the second half of 2015 that he really peaked with his new racquet and attacking game style taught by Edberg.

He destroyed everyone in his path at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open in 2016 but kept running into Djokovic who disposed of him with relative ease. Then at Wimbledon last year where Djokovic lost early, Federer could not take advantage due to a lack of proper preparation after pulling out of the French Open and also due to some terrific tennis from Raonic.

Given the lack of preparation for Wimbledon, I thought he already did an amazing job by reaching the semis and coming close to winning the title. So I suppose it is not all that surprising that he could come back to win the Australian Open.

One could argue that his preparation was even worse after a six-month layoff but he did play the Hopman Cup and maybe the break was a good thing in that it rested his body and recharged his batteries. We have seen Nadal doing the same thing in 2013.

Many people, especially Fedfans, argued that Nadal was doping to explain his remarkable return in 2013 and the same people are now defending Federer from doping accusations. Be that as it may, maybe that long a break can really recharge players after being on tour for many years without a significant break.

I happen to think Djokovic may have benefited significantly from such a break by taking the year off after Wimbledon like Federer did. Hindsight is always 20/20 but judging from all the injuries and mental burnout he struggled with after that it was exactly what he needed.

For Federer, the break also provided the opportunity to work on some things like his backhand which helped him to defeat Nadal. Federer is such a unique talent that you can’t dismiss the possibility that he achieved all of this naturally either.

It’s the best start of a season he’s had since 11 years ago in 2006 which seems ridiculous but then there was also early losses of Djokovic in Melbourne and Indian Wells and his withdrawal from Miami.

Murray has also been a poor number one so far but I have my doubts as to whether he can ever defeat Federer in his current form. So other than Federer’s seemingly unlimited talent there are several other factors which could also help explain this seemingly unrealistic dominance like Nadal’s decline, Djokovic’s struggles, and the changed court speed in Melbourne.

The scheduling has also been good to Federer. In Melbourne, he had a much needed two-day break before the final and in Miami, he had another much needed day off before the final. Things sure seem to be going his way of late.

And I am happy for the non-fanatical Federer fans who had to wait a long time for Federer to win his 18th slam and probably stopped believing it would ever happen after Federer got injured again last year.

I also think it is good for tennis. I don’t like the fanaticism that goes with it but that is hardly Federer’s fault. My problem has never really been with him anyway. It’s just the cult-like following that gets on my nerves.

Djokovic is my favorite player but I don’t hate Federer or anything and I still enjoy his tennis. I also don’t have a problem giving credit and I am not biased in this regard. But the Kyrgios incident genuinely bothered me and it doesn’t make me biased to call it out.

I know Federer fanatics would love to believe I am biased and it is all just sour grapes because that would mean they don’t have to face up to their fanaticism, but they won’t get off that easily. Besides, expressing my displeasure with the Kyrgios incident doesn’t change the outcome.

Federer won the 2017 Miami title and that’s the way it will stay.

  • What Can We Expect for the Near Future?

Federer has said his body needs a break and that he won’t play any clay court events in the lead-up to the French Open. His focus is on Wimbledon and the second half of the year which makes sense given his age but he must be tempted to go for a second French Open title now that he seems to have Nadal under control.

So I’m not convinced he won’t take a wild card in Rome and make a serious run at Roland Garros. If Djokovic gets the double career slam it’s gonna be another big achievement that sets him apart from Federer.

But Federer knows he can’t push himself too hard or he could risk another injury so it is probably the wise thing to save himself after all the success he’s had of late. In his current form, he is practically a lock for the Wimbledon title and he doesn’t want to risk that.

With Federer looking to take it easy during the clay court season this is Djokovic’s chance to get back in the game, but unlike Federer he doesn’t seem to understand how to schedule. After making the mistake to play Acapulco he is at it again by playing Davis Cup this coming weekend.

The elbow injury after Indian Wells signaled that he still hasn’t recovered from a very demanding run from 2015-16 after all this time but he doesn’t seem to get the message. With a critical clay and grass court season coming up it seems like insanity not to get all the rest he possibly can.

But at least Davis Cup is a maximum of three matches per player so hopefully, it won’t cost him big time later on.

If Djokovic wins the French Open the grass court season becomes interesting. Or else Federer pretty much collects his Wimbledon title. If he fails at the French he could go slamless this year which would allow Federer to clean up and settle the GOAT debate with ease.

Nadal will also make a serious run at his 10th French Open after his recent form while Murray will look to reassert himself too. Stan is also a big threat on clay. I’m very much looking forward to the clay court season.

The Masters events will tell us a lot about what is to come at the French Open!