Djokovic Calls It a Season in 2017

Djokovic’s announcement was today and I was happy to hear that he decided to pack it in for the season. Obviously, as a fan, I will miss his tennis but this break is so long overdue that it needs to be this long.

Enough is enough. It is better to do a Federer now and come back in 2018 fresh and 100% healthy. No more unnecessary risks with his all-important health. Health always comes first especially for an athlete because without it, you are on the sidelines.

That is the hard lesson Djokovic had to learn because by not taking a break after he won the personal slam he has pretty much wasted a year on tour and now he has to take an added five months off. His ranking will fall but that is of least importance now.

Djokovic has been in the top 4 for more than 10 years and is the only big 4 member who hasn’t taken an extended break. That in itself is an achievement to stay healthy for that long and play at such a high level for such a long time.

He has earned this break. Apparently, Djokovic had this injury problem since the beginning of 2016 so he was already playing with it for 6 months before he won the French Open. One would have thought after the French Open would have been a good time to call it a day or at the latest after the grass court season but it was the kind of injury he could play with so it was easy to get tempted to play on.

As good as Federer is with scheduling he also played with a bad back in 2013 and as a result, his results suffered.

Health should always come first and Djokovic has learned a tough lesson. The positive thing that came out of this last year on tour was the Agassi partnership which is why I’m pleased to hear Agassi spent more time with Djokovic in Toronto recently and that he will stay Djokovic’s head coach.

I still think that partnership has a lot of potential and I want to at least see what happens with it when Djokovic is healthy and winning titles again.

I think the long break will do Djokovic good and he is capable of doing something similar to what Federer is doing this year. Djokovic is after all 5 years younger than Federer so if Federer can do what he is currently doing then Djokovic has at least the potential to win the calendar slam.

This break will also give Djokovic a chance to work on some things in his tennis that he wasn’t able to work on with the demanding schedule.

Let me know what you think.

The GOAT Debate Is a Fairytale Used to Promote Tennis

First of all, before some people get their knickers in a twist because I often talk about the GOAT, let me make it clear that I always said I don’t really believe in a GOAT but that I liked the debate and speculation.

Now I’m not even sure about that part anymore. Why? Because it has become clearer than ever to me that the GOAT argument is used as a phony marketing tool and that there are far too many variables to determine a GOAT, some of which I will look at in this post. Other variables have also become apparent to me at this Wimbledon like the biased scheduling and the influence of the media which is considerable.

But let’s start with the following:

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge(source)

I’ve posted tables before which showed that Djokovic gets the toughest draws and face the stiffest competition and the above confirms this fact. It also shows that Federer had the weakest competition of the big four throughout his career.

So not surprisingly, Federer has won the most slams. Some of the most striking facts are that Djokovic won only one of his slams without facing a big 4 member in the final while Federer won 12 slams without facing a big 4 member in the final. Federer has also won 11 slams without facing any big 4 member at all while Djokovic had to beat at least one big 4 member in all the slams he won.

Again, before Fedfans get their knickers in a twist, I am not posting these facts to prove that Djokovic is better than Federer. You can only beat who is in front of you. The reason I am posting this is to show some of the many reasons why a GOAT can never be determined.

As you can see, the number of grand slams won is almost directly proportional to the stiffness of competition faced. How can you possibly say Federer is the GOAT when his slam titles almost dried up when Nadal and Djokovic came of age? Clearly, Nadal and Djokovic had far tougher competition than Federer had.

As the clay court GOAT, Nadal always had clay to rely on as his safe haven on tour where he could make his head-to-heads look impressive and improve his stats like the average ranking of opponent beaten in slam finals. Djokovic didn’t have that luxury which makes his achievements even more impressive.

Again, the idea is not to make it seem like one player’s achievements are greater than the other. The point is that if you take everything into account there is nothing to choose between the big three and you cannot with any certainty claim that one is the GOAT. Each player has their strengths and weaknesses.

Federer is the talented one who currently has the most slam titles. Nadal is the great fighter and clay court GOAT. Djokovic is the most complete if you include the mental aspect and has the highest peak level. They are all incredible players and it is unlikely that any of them will ever be officially crowned the GOAT.

How do you make such a determination with all the variables involved and who has the authority to make it? I hear even some of the all-time greats often call someone a GOAT, mostly Federer. These people work as commentators and calling someone the GOAT sounds sensational and promotes the sport.

But they have no real evidence to back up their claims. There are many more variables than what I touched on in this post. For instance the biased scheduling we saw at Wimbledon but far more importantly the influence of the mainstream media. By always promoting Federer as the embodiment of all that is good and noble and victimizing Djokovic as the villain they influence the way Federer and Djokovic are perceived and treated as a result.

The media has enormous power and in politics, the powerful use it for instance to win elections and to make people vote against their own interests. It is the ultimate brainwashing tool and very easy to fall for if you are not inclined to think for yourself and hold a certain skepticism for everything you hear in the mainstream media.

Anyway, the media is just one other factor that I wanted to include because it is part of a rigged system whether in sport, politics, or whatever the case may be. I never talked about it before but I saw how enormously influential it is in American politics and thought it is an underrated and overlooked influence in tennis.

But I will leave it at that. There are many more reasons that a GOAT can’t be determined but I think these should suffice. The opposition these guys faced to win their slams are enough to prove that a GOAT can’t be determined.

Let me know what you think.

How Does Nadal’s 10th French Open Title Affect the GOAT Debate?

Now that a big three member won a grand slam title again we can once again look at how it affected the GOAT debate. Just to be clear, I don’t believe a GOAT can be determined. There are too many variables and intricacies. But just because it can’t be determined it doesn’t mean there isn’t one, so it is worth discussing. And besides, it’s interesting and fun.

First of all, a 10th French Open title is an unbelievable achievement and will be the most difficult record to beat of all the records. That said, 10 is not very different from 9, and it didn’t tell us much about Nadal that we didn’t already know.

In fact, it made Nadal’s already unbalanced resume even more skewed toward clay. Nadal is not merely a clay court specialist. He is actually the only player in history that has won more than one slam on each surface, a fact that only very recently occurred to me.

But as far as a 10th French open title goes it only raises the ratio of clay court slams to other slams and clay court titles to other titles. With a 10th French Open title, Nadal has now won exactly two-thirds of his slams on clay(10/15). That is 67%.

Some other stats:

1- More than 72% of career titles won on clay.
2- More than 73% of Masters 1000 titles won on clay
3- Failure at retaining any title outside of clay

4- Unimpressive head-to-head records outside of clay :

– Djokovic: 9-19
– Davydenko: 1-6
– Federer: 10-12
– Hewitt: 2-4
– Brown: 0-2
– Coric: 1-2
– Ferrer: 5-5
– Ljubicic: 2-2
– Gonzalez: 3-3
– Monaco: 1-1
– Del Potro: 6-5
– Blake: 4-3
– Soderling: 2-1

Other than that Nadal spent 141 weeks at #1(7th all-time) and won 0 World Tour Finals titles because he invests so much energy into the clay court season that he is always a spent force post-US Open. He is also a lousy indoor player compared to other all-time greats with only one indoor title.

The reason he spent so many fewer weeks at number one than Federer(302) and Djokovic(223) is that he is only an all-time great on clay and therefore can’t dominate outside of clay which is needed to hold the number one position for extended periods of time.

Nadal is clearly one of the all-time greats but as I always insist, balance is of supreme importance when it comes to the resume of a GOAT candidate. Surely, a GOAT candidate must be able to master all conditions and surfaces. That is clearly not the case with Nadal.

Big three surface rankings

Surface/Conditions Federer Djokovic Nadal
Hardcourt(Australian Open + US Open) 10 (1st) (2nd) (3rd)
Grass(Wimbledon) (1st) (2nd) (3rd)
Clay(French Open) (2nd) (2nd) 10 (1st)
Indoor(World Tour Finals) (1st) (2nd) (3rd)
Overall  (1st)  (2nd)  (3rd)

You wouldn’t say he mastered indoor tennis or even grass or hard courts. Indoor tennis is not an actual surface but it doesn’t make it any less significant and it as historically been a very important part of tennis. There used to be a much longer indoor season.

As opposed to Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are the better hard court, grass court, and indoor players. Federer is a better grass court player than Djokovic but Djokovic is a better clay court player than Federer. Indoors and on hard courts they are quite even.

It should be obvious that Federer and Djokovic have far more balanced resumes than Nadal and that their games are also far more complete.

  • Nadal’s Personality

In many ways, Nadal has benefited from modern tennis. The homogenization of surfaces, racquet and string technology, and the lack of indoor events have all tremendously benefited Nadal.

And yet, he complains far more than Federer or Djokovic. If it’s not the fact that there are not enough clay court tournaments(even though there are far more clay court events than grass court events) then it’s the fact that the World Tour Finals are not played on clay(thereby confirming how dependent he is on clay) or the fact that umpires are too tough on him for taking endless times between point, or the fact that the tennis calendar is too crowded, or the fact that he has to play with different balls, or the scheduling.

The list is endless to the point that articles such as Is Rafael Nadal in Danger of Being Labeled a Whiner? has been written. At the French Open this year he threatened umpire Ramos and told him he won’t chair his matches again. He also demanded a ban on umpire Bernardes after getting into a dispute with him.

Nadal portrays a humble persona but his actions often reveal someone who is self-centered and selfish. Federer and Djokovic seem far more altruistic. This is another reason Nadal is not in my top tier of GOAT candidates. You would think he would be grateful for all the changes to tennis that has benefited him but instead, he selfishly whines about conditions.

This is not the characteristic of a GOAT candidate in my view. And neither is his one-dimensional playing style. It amazes me how Nadal can still win a slam at age 31 given that the basis of his game is endless defense and grinding. But I suppose all the time he has taken off due to injury hasn’t hurt.

If Nadal becomes the first player in the open era to win the double career slam I will be forced to reconsider him for my top tier of GOAT candidates but for now, I simply can’t have him in my top tier due to shortcomings in his resume, playing style, and personality as outlined in this post.

What do you think?

Should Nadal be in the top tier of GOAT candidates?

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