Djokovic, the Best or Worst Thing That Ever Happened to Federer?

There is about a week left now until the ATP 500 events in Beijing and Tokyo begin with two more ATP 250 events coming this week in Kuala Lumpur and Shenzhen. For me personally there is not much that interests me there. So I will continue my recent posting which have produced some great discussions and helped pass the time until Beijing and Tokyo when some of the top four will be back.

I see Stan will be in Tokyo while Djokovic and Nadal will be in Beijing. It’s gonna be interesting to see what happens with Nadal toward the end of the season. He will no doubt want to end the year strongly and get some confidence going for 2016. I’m sure he will make the World Tour Finals which will be his main goal. But it will be interesting to see who claims his scalp in Beijing as well. Hopefully, he goes deep enough to play Djokovic.

  • Why Djokovic is the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Federer

Ok so let’s get to today’s post. The reason that Djokovic is the best thing that ever happened to Federer is because he defeated Nadal in three straight slams finals from 2011-12 at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. Had he not done so Nadal would currently be on 17 slams and the GOAT. So not only does Federer owe Djokovic a huge thank you  but so does the tennis world. What kind of a GOAT would a one-dimensional baseline retriever be?

An absolute disgrace to tennis, that’s what. I make no secret of the fact that I hate Nadal with a passion. In fact, despise would be a more accurate word. Not as a person in private of course. I don’t know him personally. But as a tennis player and what he brings to the tennis court I can’t stand. So one of the big reasons I like Djokovic is simply because he did something Federer could never do, which was to defeat Nadal in three consecutive slam finals across three different surfaces.

That was one of the most beautiful sights I ever saw in tennis and I have a deep appreciation for Djokovic because of that. But not only that, he also defeated Nadal in four Masters finals including two on clay for a run of seven consecutive beatings in big finals. Incredible. Just flat out abuse. Not even Nadal could do that to Federer. The one that was particularly pleasing was the Australian Open final in 2012 where Djokovic won after being a break down in the fifth set.

By that time Djokovic was so deep in Nadal’s head that Nadal missed an absolute sitter after he broke Djokovic in the fifth set which allowed Djokovic to break right back. By the time Wimbledon came around in 2012 Nadal was such a mess that he lost to Rosol in the second round and took seven months off from tennis. He did defeat Djokovic in the French Open final that year, but only after he lost the momentum and madly started complaining to the umpire to stop the match for rain.

Then of course in 2013 Nadal made a ‘miraculous’ comeback where he turned the head-to-head around with Djokovic and gave him some very tough losses. But in the end Djokovic would have the last laugh when he buried Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in the 2015 French Open quarterfinals. The monster had at long last been slain to the point where he may never recover. Djokovic had single-handedly defeated the monster and saved Federer and tennis.

Some delusional fanboys like Mcenroe and Agassi had already proclaimed Nadal the GOAT. Imagine how many people would have joined them had Djokovic not defeated Nadal in those three straight slam finals. Even I would have had to admit they had a point because the head-to-head with Federer would have given Nadal an edge. But then Federer also had other things like World Tour Finals titles, weeks at #1, and dominance which Nadal did not have.

  • Why Djokovic is the Worst Thing That Ever Happened to Federer

So I think I’ve made it pretty clear why Djokovic is the best thing that ever happened to Federer. If he did not defeat Nadal in those three straight slams finals Nadal would currently be on 17 slams and the GOAT in the mind of most experts. Federer, therefore, has his GOAT claim thanks to a great extent to Djokovic. So why would Djokovic be the worst thing to ever happen to Federer? Simply because he may surpass Federer himself.

After winning his tenth slam at the US Open this year I don’t think there are many people who doubt that possibility anymore. After Djokovic hit his prime in 2011 it looked like he would dominate utterly for the next few years, but Fedal was still a strong force back then and especially Nadal stopped Djokovic from completely dominating. The loss he gave Djokovic in the 2013 French Open semi-finals had a big impact on Djokovic.

I believe that loss possibly cost Djokovic the next four slam titles. For a long time, he struggled to get over that loss but once he did he resumed almost complete domination. Asked about the fact that he didn’t win more slams during the 2012-14 period he simply said that everything happens for a reason. And although that might sound fantastical to pessimists he hired Becker due to those struggles which turned out to be a hugely successful partnership.

Becker was exactly what Djokovic needed in the long term to improve his offense and help with longevity, so all of a sudden Djokovic’s claim that everything happens for a reason doesn’t sound so fantastical. I personally believe that everything happens for a reason and that whatever happens ultimately works toward our own good. But we need to learn the lessons that need to be learned so we can make progress.

And that’s what Djokovic did. Now he is in a great position to overtake Federer even. A lot of people think Djokovic needed to win more slams from 2012-14 to have a chance of catching Federer, failing to see the good that came out of that ‘failed’ period. Djokovic is now as dominant as he was in 2011, but he is now a smarter and more mature player. He is now in a better position to keep that domination up.

And the field is more exploitable at the same time. A big part of greatness is just endurance. Djokovic endured the era where Fedal was still in their prime without allowing it to break him. The disappointments only served to strengthen his resolve and make him better. His peak had to be delayed because of those two titans of tennis, but now that he has arrived he looks primed to become the greatest tennis player of all time.

  • In Closing

So yesterday I got one of those weird/funny comments from a Fedfan claiming I am not marriage material and that I am not successful because I don’t support Federer anymore and that I must delete them from my subscriber list. And while I understand their disappointment that I don’t praise their hero 24/7 anymore to some extent I find such comments unnecessary. And I’ll tell you why.

I have always said that my blog is first and foremost a tennis blog and not a blog about any specific player. Since Federer could not protect his own legacy and Djokovic did it for him, does he really deserve to be the GOAT? We all know there is no way in hell he could do to Nadal what Djokovic did to Nadal in 2011-12. So the only reason he is still considered the GOAT is thanks to Djokovic. Of course, the hardcore Fedfanatics have no problem at all with that.

As long as their man is the GOAT they don’t care about the means. So when I as an objective tennis analyst point out things like I just did they have to get personal. To me, that sounds like someone who is not marriage material and unsuccessful. I am simply being honest and realistic, the way I always have, but fanatics don’t care about that. They just want me to put their hero in the best possible light at all times.

Sep 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Novak Djokovic (SRB) at the trophy presentation with Roger Federer (SUI) after the men's singles final on day fourteen of the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports - RTSXRF

I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. You may want to try PeRFect Tennis Blog for that. I have to point out the fact that if you have to depend on someone else who, by the way, you haven’t exactly always treated in a very friendly manner over the years, to protect your GOAT claim then your GOAT claim is not that convincing to begin with. The point is that if Djokovic catches Federer from here on he would deserve to be the GOAT.

He is the one who did what Federer couldn’t do. But he is also collecting the numbers that Federer has. The dominance, the weeks at #1, the World Tour Finals titles, the Masters Series titles, all without the damaging flaw of his main rival owning him. He may well end with a positive head-to-head against both Federer and Nadal. Yes, he still needs to win the French Open and several other slams, but it is very likely that he will.

There is no one who poses a serious threat to his dominance in the foreseeable future. He is still very much in his peak. In fact, he may just have hit his peak after his prime started in 2011. For those people who claim I am a glory hunter, I would point out that I was already supporting Djokovic before the 2015 Wimbledon final. I wanted him to win but thought he would lose. The same thing goes for the US Open final.

Nole-Nadal

And even at this point it is still far from a certainty that Djokovic will catch or surpass Federer. Personally, I think the glory hunters are the ones who are supporting Federer and hoping he wins that elusive 18th slam title so they can move on with their lives. They are hoping that in doing so Federer will be the undisputed GOAT but, unfortunately for them the head-to-head flaw against Nadal will never go away.

If Djokovic does not catch up with Federer and Nadal does not win any more slams then a lot of people will consider Federer to be the GOAT. And although GOAT is something subjective, I would have to concede then that Federer has a very strong case in that case. But if Djokovic wins the French and ends up with 15 slams I already said that he would be right up there with Federer if not ahead of him, simply because Federer was owned by his main rival.

So yes, Djokovic is the best thing that ever happened to Federer in the sense that Federer is currently considered the GOAT by many because of what Djokovic did to Nadal, but he could also be the worst thing that happened to Federer in the sense that he could surpass Federer in the GOAT debate himself. So what will it be?

Is Djokovic the best or worst thing that ever happened to Federer?

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The is in your court.

Posted in Uncategorized.

42 Comments

  1. The point you addressed in your post was good again Ru-an. Me and you don’t always see eye to eye as often as we used to, but neither of us have ever resorted to personal insults. I have said this many times but I will say it again, you have done a great job of allowing people to criticise and disagree with you and what you say without banning them for it, and at the same time you have done a good job of getting rid of those who are actually disruptive.

    I also put this in my last pcomment (posted about 5 minutes ago on your previous post), but the notification service is not working, even if the option is left unticked e-mail notifications are being sent.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks, Charlie. The reason we get along is because we both admit to being biased, and yet neither of us is fanatical. You don’t have to see eye-to-eye to get along. But there are always a few individuals who are extremists and take it too far. They are the ones who get banned and deservedly so.

    Anyway, it’s not always an easy job running a blog so I appreciate it when someone says complimentary things about the way I run my blog. There are many people who would rather criticize like this latest guy who felt the need to resort to personal insults because his hero didn’t get enough praise on my blog anymore.

    So that says a lot about you as a person too. Debates get heated and we don’t always agree, but you can still appreciate what I do and I in turn appreciate that. About the comment notifier, I just told you on my last post as well that I deactivated it because I noticed the same problem as you. I appreciate that you said something, though.

    People just don’t communicate with me enough about these things so if it bothers them they must not complain. I try to make the blog as user-friendly as possible, but I can’t do it alone. People have to give me feedback. I even created a page for feedback, but people don’t use it. This is fine, though. You can tell me in comments too. Maybe that is better so that everyone can take note.

    So from now on people won’t get notified about follow-up comments until I find a plugin that works. They will just have to come check in every now and then to see if there are new comments or replies. That is the best I can do until I find a notifier that works.

    [Reply]

  2. I like Nadal. Like his bravery to play technically such complex forehand that you have to ask yourself how it is possible to put everything together and not to miss. I like Federer as a tennis player, but didn’t like his attitude towards pre-2011 Djokovic. I like Djokovic the best. For me, GOAT is less about numbers, more about crucial moments and big matches. In these regards, I see Federer as Messi. As someone who plays beautifully and would score many goals against weaker opposition, but sometimes when against the best falters. On the other hand, I see Djokovic and Nadal as Pele, Maradona or Zidane, those players who can deliver under most difficult circumstances and against the best. For my taste, no numbers can be substitute for epic matches like Djokovic vs Nadal AOF2012 or Nadal vs Djokovic FOSF2013. In my opinion, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal (Murray as well) benefited from each others existence. Rarely you will hear that Rocky Marciano is the best ever although he has the best numbers (49-0). Usually, people say Mohammed Ali and this due to great opponents/battles he had. Without Nadal and Djokovic, Federer would be the best player of his generation with the best numbers ever (like Rocky). However, now he is much more than that, he is a player that played some epic duels that transcend time.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Good post, George.

    [Reply]

  3. “Personally, I think the glory hunters are the ones who are supporting Federer and hoping he wins that elusive 18th slam title so they can move on with their lives.”

    So, you, a former Fedfan, accuse us, (who’ve always been Fedfans) of being glory hunters. And you seem to really believe that this is a valid, well-grounded statement. In my opinion, you are obsessed with the whole GOAT debate that you cannot see that nothing has changed. We keep supporting Roger because he still possesses the most beautiful, attractive (not the most effective) and unique game in men’s tennis. Of course we want him to win one more major but we all recognize how difficult that is, especially at this age. We’re certainly not glory hunters. On the contrary, you are now supporting Djokovic, who – I agree – looks destined to become the greatest tennis player of all time. So, if there is a glory hunter, who is it?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    What you don’t get is that my response is to those who accuse me of being a glory hunter. Do you just expect me to say yes it’s true when it’s not? If people are going to say something that’s not true, they will get a response from me. Yes, it’s nice when the player you support is winning and when you can appreciate different styles and personalities.

    Fedfans choose to stick with Federer and I have no problem with that. If they would rather keep tasting defeat because they believe Federer will eventually prove them right or because they are just so in love with the man himself, or like you say they just love his tennis then that is fine with me.

    But don’t come here telling me that I am a glory hunter or that I don’t have the right to be a fan of any player I want to be. I have been in this sport longer and have dedicated more of my life to it than 99% of people who read this blog. No one comes here and tells me what I can and cannot do.

    And no one comes here and tells me I can’t support someone else than Federer when I have supported him since his prime began and have blogged about him since the end of 2008. I couldn’t care less about what people think I should or should not do with my blog. Especially if they are Fedfans.

    So, to sum up I am not saying all Fedfans are glory hunters. But there definitely are many of them and if you don’t want me to call them out then go complain to your fellow Fedfans who call me a glory hunter. As long as they come here accusing me they will get a response.

    [Reply]

  4. Provocative post Ru-an. For me the answer is very clear. Djokovic has been great for Federer and that is returning the favor for how great Federer has been for Djokovic. I personally find the focus on GOAT and attempts at precise comparisons of who is better to be somewhat silly and in the least impossible to determine with any certainty. Unquestionably Djokovic is currently the best player in the world and since I believe that the game and players are always getting better, that makes him the greatest of all time. But big deal. There have been many greatest of all times and like all sports much of that has to do with timing and competition of the moment. Djokovic is a product of his time and competition, learning defense and toughness from Nadal and attacking and all around professionalism from Federer, becoming the best possible blend of both in order to beat them both and make a name for himself. And while Nole’s game is magnificent, the more I think about this US open the less impressed I am with his performance. He really did have a very easy draw and honestly should have beaten roger much more easily. Let’s face it, roger played like crap. The entire first set he never got going. The second set he failed to close quickly and burnt up tremendous mental and physical energy, the rest of the match he blew soooooooo many opportunities. And not just break points but actual game ending easy sitter shots. Why was Roger even allowed to get that many break opportunities? Given that Roger played so poorly and that he is 34 years old, and that Djokovic had a relative cake walk to the final, I think it’s pretty weak that he could have lost that match. And I believe he really could have if roger didn’t blow it so many times. Look at the pathetic current field, delpo is injured, Stan is a head case, Nadal has only been playing half of the time at half his capability, nishikori is constantly injured, dimitrov shits the bed, byrdych chokes, and none of the young guys can string together 4 wins in a row. In a world where a 34 year old guy who buckles under pressure is a clear and dominant number 2 in the world, is it really so impressive that in prime Djoker is winning slams and maintaining number one. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king! He may have to deal with weak era criticism looking back. He didn’t do much when Fedal were truly prime after all. So in the end I think all three of these guys have been great for each other and for the game but I truly hope some of the others can get their acts together because the old Roger, Rafa, Djoker goat conversation is not nearly as exciting as would be a conversation about the great depth of the field in men’s tennis if it only existed.

    [Reply]

    Bharata Reply:

    I like the question in this post. Overall Djokovic has been a good thing for FEderer and vice versa.

    I also agree with this comment. I don’t think Federer played well particularly in the finals. Yet he still got so many break point chances on Djokovic. To me Djokovic beat Federer is like Federer beating Agassi in 2005 or 2004 (forget the year). Very impressive of course, but it’s not the same as beating him in 2008 or 2009 ( I would say the 2011 win was impressive). Similarly beat Nadal at RG this year is mentally amazing, but Fognini beat him in a best of 3 on clay earlier and he is not anywhere close to Djokovic in fitness or talent.

    It seems Djokovic is benefiting from the fact that, unlike Federer, there are no young stars rising to challenge him. If it continues I think he will get to 17. Wawrinka is the only guy to deal with him on a slow surface, and there is no fast court guy outside of Federer .

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    See I totally disagree with this. I think Djokovic was the one who played badly. Federer, on the other hand, just flat out choked like we have seen so many times from him. He couldn’t take advantage of a rabid crowd that was on his side and the fact that Djokovic was playing poorly.

    That just tells me Federer can’t be the GOAT. He is still destroying everyone else like he did in his prime(even more so as I showed in a recent post) but when he comes up against a player with real substance he chokes. And the worst thing is that his fans can’t accept that reality.

    Djokovic, on the other hand, can become the GOAT because he has true champion qualities like fighting against a rabid crowd, a poor finals history in NY, and a controversial new tactic from Federer to get the win. So yeah, if Federer can’t even win from that situation it is pretty damn useless. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with his age.

    If he was in his prime the same thing would have happened.

    [Reply]

  5. Who else is there in the top 15 or so. Milos is injured. Murray has the talent but not the testosterone. He borrowed some from Ivan to win his 2 slams. Ferrer has no weapons and is probably headed for retirement soon. Tsonga hadn’t been a factor for years. Monfils is a talented but unprofessional clown. Hell, the competition is so weak right now that Richard freaking gasquet is pushing top 10. Djokovic could win 3 a year for the next 2 years and still only be 30.

    [Reply]

  6. And all of this also answers the question of your previous post, should Federer keep playing? Of course he should. He’s traveling the world with his friends and family, showing his children what a stud he is, playing the sport he adores, making it to finals and being clear number 2 player on the planet, making 70 million per year, and maybe becoming the oldest grand slam winner in the open era. And if you buy in to all the GOAT bs, he HAS to keep playing because the rest of the field is so pathetic that no one else will challenge Nole for slams.

    [Reply]

  7. hi Ruan,

    Agree Djoker is the best thing happened to Federer to keep his record intact(at least for now) by stopping Nadal. . I tend to agree if there is someone who is qualified to overtake Federer it would be Djoker as he has a more complete game; and not dependent on any particular surface to be great.

    I don’t necessary agree he is the GOAT though, as I mentioned earlier he is now playing in a field where either 2 of the best players is ageing or underperformed.

    Winning another 7 slams is not an easy task by all accounts. Djoker needs to win the FO next year as time is not on his side to win that elusive title that has always been out of reach for him. he did beat Nadal in this year’s FO ( but this Nadal is not the same quality who has won the title 9 times!). Only then he got beaten by Stan who simply overpowered him. It’s a shame he can’t win the FO as he got close many times and finally he beat the beast, yet he ran out of gas in the final. Nadal would surely work his way back next year to win back the bread and butter title he used to own. Stan has always been dangerous on clay, and I am sure Murray wants to breakthrough in FO as well.

    I think by beating Nadal regularly in 11/12, it lifted Djoker’s confidence to be the best player in the world as he didn’t have the trouble Federer had with his backhand and mental block. I am sure he and Becker have setup goals and strategy to win as many slams the next 2 years to get to Federee’s 17 numbers. That itself should motivate Federer to work harder and continue to compete at a high level to retain his crown. Alter losing the USO, Federer cannot afford to not look at Djoker with highest level of respect, and see him as a threat to his GS record.

    In conclusion, Djoker is good for Federer. It’s a reminder he is the current best player in the world, and Fed’s best days are over, like it or not. The competiton has caught up and he can’t compete with time. If only he can have a bit of luck and not having to face Djoker in the final, he might just win his 18 GS title and protect his legacy for a little while,

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, IWC. Djokovic is definitely not the GOAT. Not yet, anyway. As far as the current field goes I already explained in my posts that part of being great is playing at a high level for a long time. Djokovic came up in the toughest possible era, and that cost him several slams already.

    So if he had it easier now and wins enough slams he would without a shadow of a doubt have a very strong GOAT case. I have also said GOAT is subjective many times, but it is nonetheless good for debate. The bottom line is Djokovic dominated Nadal in a way Federer could never dream of.

    Now he just needs to add up the numbers and he would be ahead of Federer. If Federer had the weak era from 2004-07 to rack up slams there is no reason Djokovic can’t have it now. All else is sheer bias. People are already looking for excuses for why Djokovic wouldn’t be the GOAT if he catches Federer and I find it quite comical. ;))

    [Reply]

    IWC2015 Reply:

    Good reply Ruan,
    No doubt Djoker does have a good case to catch up with Nadal then Federer’s GS record. Once he reach 14 then the goal of getting to 17 GS is not far behind, but it’s probably easier say than done.

    He probably would win a couple more AOs which is his best GS by far. If Nadal can’t get back to where he was and Stan not playing as well then he could win at least one FO title. He has become confidence and a solid Grass court player so I can see him a few more Wimbledon titles. Then USO he could also win 1-2 titles more.
    Therefore, potentially, he could win:-
    AO – 3
    FO – 1
    Wimbledon – 2
    USO – 2

    Total: 8 titles more could potentially be added to his total GS titles which is currently set as 10.

    This is in the assumption there are no new players that could challenge him, and he stay healthy in the next 2-3 years. His only threat is the potential rebound of Nadal which he already has a solution; Murray which he always owns, Wawrinka which occasionally could challenge him, and Federer on Wimbledon and USO which he still can get the job done,

    Yes, he is close, yet far to reach his goal. If he can another 3 titles next year to his total then I believe he is very well on his way to the GOAT.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes, it’s far from a done deal IWC. What I funny is the people who don’t seem to think so because they are already making up reasons why Djokovic can’t be the GOAT. They must be really worried. They are using the weak era excuse, but that makes their man Federer look awfully bad.

    Not only did Federer win the bulk of his slams in which was considered a weak era by many, but he is currently playing some of the best tennis of his life, and with a rabid NY crowd behind him he still couldn’t do better than 4/23 break points and get the job done against Djokovic who was clearly very affected by the crowd.

    That alone is a good enough reason why Federer can’t be the GOAT. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen it of course. It’s just that his mental weakness was once again brutally exposed by someone who has true mental strength. Djokovic already proved he is the better player. Now he just has to keep adding the numbers.

    So the USO final told us two things: 1) Federer is flawed because he couldn’t take advantage of a rabid pro Federer crowd, a below-par Djokovic, and 19 break points and 2) Djokovic is an incredible player who fought the entire stadium, a poor finals history in NY, the controversial SABR and still found a way to win.

    [Reply]

    IWC2015 Reply:

    I’m disappointed with Fed’s loss in USO. He could have won it in 2014 (not having to face off Djoker in the final) yet he let his chance slipped. This year, he played extremely well leading to the final, not losing any sets yet he couldn’t get the job done with the full crowd support and multiple break points opportunity.

    Djoker’s mental toughness, superior fitness and his all round game should put him a position to be amongst the greatest. Fed has a beautiful game and is well liked by the media and fans, and he has the results to show as a GOAT.

    Unfortunately, Fed is irreplaceable regardless what the ultimate result is. We’ll have to see what happens 5 years from now, which Fed and Nadal would have retired,;perhaps Djoker still hanging around continue to chase the GOAT record ?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah, Federer had plenty of chances to win slams since 2014 at Wimby and the USO. But he is still playing very well at his age and it looks like he hasn’t declined at all. The problem is the mental strength because he had everything in his favor at the USO but couldn’t take advantage of a clearly very nervous Djokovic and a ridiculous number of break points.

    I’m looking forward to the next 5 years in tennis or so. Once Djokovic retires there should be new players to enjoy but I don’t look that far ahead.

    [Reply]

    IWC2015 Reply:

    Yes, Fed is still playing very well at his age which is incredible, he did show some crutch moments in Wimbledon during the 2nd set tie break. However, once he lose the 3rd set mentally he sort of giving up. To be able to win against Djoker, he would have to win the first 2 sets , as the match goes on, his mental level would drop,; but Djoker just keep fighting for every points hence make him so hard to beat.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    His fans think he loses because he is not the player he used to be. It’s not true. He may be playing better than ever recently, but he is losing to a superior player in the mental and physical department. Only in talent does he outrank Djokovic, but it’s not enough.

    Djokovic kind of owns him at this point. Fed knows he must win the first set to stand a chance, but Djokovic just steps it up and takes it. Then in the second set his level drops slightly which allows Federer to snatch a set. Then Djokovic just raises his level again and by the time he leads by two sets to one Federer has zero chance.

    [Reply]

    Eric Manes Reply:

    So Federer and Nadal are battling for GOAT and neither of them can beat Djokovic. How is he not the GOAT? Who that has ever played has played better than Djokovic is playing right now? If you cannot name a greater player ever, he is the greatest of all time. Does it matter that in a totally different era with totally different competitors that Rod Laver was more dominant? Not to me. Barefoot, Djokovic could beat Rod Laver on his best day.

    [Reply]

    Eric Manes Reply:

    And I think Rod won 20 grand slams btw, including doubles. I’m sure Ru-an could beat Rod on his best day. Impossible to compare different eras to determine GOAT.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    GOAT is subjective as I have said many times. That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun subject and that we can’t debate and speculate. It’s not an off limits term that someone patented.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    For sure. Totally agree. Nothing should be out of bounds to discuss. I don’t remember the concept of GOAT when I was growing up in the age of Connery, Borg, macenroe, edberg, etc. they were all great and people had their favorites, but I don’t remember hearing “of all time”. Has it always been discussed? Seems to me like a relatively new conversation. In fact the first I recall hearing the conversation in tennis was with Pete Sampras. Which is interesting because for a short while he was still playing while Federer was coming up. In fact I think fed beat him at Wimbledon when roger was like 20 and Pete was only a year older than Djokovic is now. Seems like all in a row as Pete gets older Roger becomes the GOAT and as Roger gets older Djoko becomes the goat. Thus you can see how it now feels like everyone wants to make a goat out of the current best and their favorite.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Right, it seems with every generation there is a new GOAT. It may take a while after Fedalovic is gone to have a GOAT claim, though. They were a very strong generation and set the bar very high. It was like a golden age of tennis. We can already see how the generation after Fedalovic as in Raonic, Dimitrov, and Nishikori is desperately falling short of them.

    Maybe with the Kyrgios, Rublev, Zverev, Coric, Thiem generation you can have someone that makes a GOAT claim again but it is not a given.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, Eric. No, I don’t think the fact that Djokovic can beat anyone means he is the GOAT. You still need the numbers. Just because players get better with every generation doesn’t mean they are automatically the GOAT. Or that would mean any top 100 pro would be better than Laver because they are playing better than Laver ever did. There are many things that have to be taken into account.

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    Charlie Reply:

    Yeah there’s a different between better and greater. If we coin a new term BOAT (best of all time) it is definitely Djokovic with his current level of play and that in 2011. That for me is where H2H and such comes in. Then there is GOAT, which is more (for me at least) about numbers, particularly in terms of important title wins of Masters 1000 and above, along with weeks at no.1, year end no.1’s, having a career slam and such. Djokovic is almost certainly the BOAT already, and if he keeps playing like this for a few more years, he has a chance to rack up the numbers for GOAT as you said. But it’s a big if, as most players see a dramatic decline in their rate of winning slams towards their late twenties and early thirties, due to a combination of a slight physical decline, mental burnout and the next wave of competition arriving on the scene. Most of the declines of former world no.1’s including Nadal, Federer, Sampras, McEnroe, Agassi etc can be attributed to those three factors. But I am not the sort of person who would invent random reasons why Djokovic could not be GOAT if he surpassed or equaled most of Federer’s numbers in the major areas. If he can get close to, match or exceed 17 slams and 302 weeks at no.1 (perhaps Federer’s two greatest and most famous achievements) I would be the first to congratulate him. But there’s a lot of tennis to be played over the next five years or so before we can say for certain what happens, there is always the risk of an injury or a new player exploding onto the scene like Nadal in 2005. Nadal came onto the scene so suddenly, one minute it seemed like Federer’s main rivals were Roddick, Hewitt and Safin and then suddenly this Spanish teenager came out of nowhere. There’s no reason it can’t happen again. To be honest part of me hopes Djokovic wins just enough slams to make the debate interesting, but not enough to make it a done deal. If Federer had won 20+ slams and was indisputably the GOAT these discussions would be boring, and merely a discussion of who is second best. The same thing would have happened if Nadal achieved the same. I would like to see Djokovic get to perhaps 14-15 slams and around 250 weeks at no.1. That would be close enough to Federer’s numbers that provided he had a career slam you could make a very interesting case for both Federer and Djokovic.

    TL;DR: IMO Federer is GOAT at the moment, Djokovic is BOAT and has a chance of becoming GOAT if he can keep up this level of play over the next few years.

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    George Reply:

    I support the main sentiment of your post with some differences. I entirely agree with your BOAT definition while GOAT is something else for me. I would call Federer the most successful player of all time (MSP if abbreviation is required; the one with most titles, No1 etc.), while GOAT would be someone who has either revolutionised the game of tennis (Borg would be a good example as he introduced spin as a major factor) or used tennis to go beyond tennis (Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe or similar).

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well, I think everything is pretty much subjective including BOAT and GOAT. Federer’s best level like he showed in the 2011 FO SF and Djoker’s best level like he showed in the Wimby F this year are very close. As for GOAT even if Djokovic reaches 17 slams with Federer adding no more you will have some people finding a reason why Federer is still the GOAT.

    For me though if Djokovic and Federer are on the same number of slams and Djokovic won a FO then Djokovic would be the GOAT given Federer’s h2h vs Nadal. And that is assuming no one comes along that owns Djokovic.

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    Charlie Reply:

    As I say that’s why I hope no one comes along who just smashes all the records in history and means you can’t have a debate anymore. If someone had 25 slams, no negative H2H’s against anyone significant, 400+ weeks at no.1, a double career slam and say 40 masters titles, 2-3 davis cups and two olympic singles medals, there is no way you could ever have an argument. So I do hope that someone comes along to challenge Novak at some point once Federer begins to fade properly. At the moment the matches are still fairly interesting, but if Novak began to win slam after slam in straight sets, it would get a little boring. Just like it was good for Federer to have a rival, because it allows you to test yourself against someone who is close to your equal and reallly makes you seem greater because people tend not to remember individual players as much as the rivalries they had.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    No one would put up the numbers you mentioned, though. Not anytime soon anyway. If it happens it would be a gradual increase in the numbers being put up like is currently happening. If Djokovic wins 20 slams that would settle the GOAT debate for the time being though let’s face it.

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    Charlie Reply:

    Yeah I agree completely. I hope we get at least another 2 years or so of Djokovic-Federer (assuming Murray and Nadal don’t become Novak’s main rivals again). The matches are still entertaining even if they have a certain inevitability about them. If I am watching I am hoping Federer wins, but I don’t get crushed by the losses as I used to. I was absolutely devastated after the Wimbledon 2013 match against Stakhovsky. Now even if Federer loses a slam final it only bothers me for an hour or two afterwards, then I get over it pretty quickly. Federer’s legend is already burned into the history books and Djokovic is quickly taking his place as well. So there is no reason for me to be too disappointed with losses. After all I am supporting one of the GOAT candidates. As you said in an earlier post on your blog for Federer fans to think they deserve an 18th slam is self-centred and obnoxious. No matter what anyone else achieves he is almost certainly going to remain a top 5 player of the open era for decades. What more could I possibly want from him? I just enjoy watching Federer play tennis at a high level, as his game is one of the most varied in history. Of course if he wins an 18th slam I would be really happy, but I’ve decided to stop letting it become an obsession every time I watch an important match.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Exactly, Charlie. Very well said. If only all Fedfans could have this outlook.

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    Eric Reply:

    I like BOAT. very clear and Djokovic is it right now.

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  8. Hello Ruan, I am an avid follower of your blog. This are my first comments on the discussion regarding Djokovic versus Federer.

    In my mind, it is beyond impressive to see how a 34 year old Federer is able to hang in there with a 28 year old World no 1. I have no doubts whatsoever that a 28 year old Federer would have had much higher explosiveness in his shots and quicker movement/anticipation. You can see the same in his matches against Djokovic in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 US Open matches.

    You keep mentioning Federer’s remarks that he is playing as good as in his younger years as a counter-point to the claim that age has not taken its toll on Federer’s game. As Becker has rightfully said, tennis players measure their age in dog-years. Federer’s comment is merely a view of his generally optimistic view of things and should not be taken to mean literally that his game is as good as 10 years ago.

    To summarize, in my view, Federer is still undoubtedly the GOAT. The fact that he is losing to Djokovic more often now is partly due to his age and Djokovic’s improved confidence (from being World no 1) and game. I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that Djokovic has been the best player of this decade but I do not agree with any statements that put Djokovic as a better player than Federer.

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    IWC2015 Reply:

    At age 34, Federer cannot sustain long matches he used to when he was in his 20s. It’s a tell tale sign in the 14 USO, he went into 5 sets QF against Monfis, saved a few match points, but fell flat in his next match. It also attributed to the fact he played many matches before USO.

    This year, he conversed his energy by just playing Cinninati. He was in full steam in all the 6 matches in USO wining in straight sets till he ran into Djoker, who is physically and mentally stronger. Djoker plays quicker than anyone else hence Fed’s speed was exposed,and he could not substain after losing the 3rd set. If Fed is of the same age as Djoker,I am sure he could push this to 5th set.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Well let’s face it, he should have pushed it to a 5th set at least with all his opportunities but he chokes. He didn’t lose because of a physical issue and his movement is still fine. It was mental.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey VC. Welcome! Yes, I have said plenty of times it is beyond impressive what Federer is doing. Which makes it even more impressive what Djokovic is doing. I think I’ve said what I wanted to say about Federer’s current level as opposed to his prime level in the post I made about it.

    I have no doubt current Djokovic would defeat prime level Federer too. He came very close in his first slam final when he was still very inexperienced and nervous. Current Djokovic would have ripped that Federer to shreds imo. He even defeated Federer in the Montreal final that year.

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  9. Interesting article, Ru-an.

    In fact, as a Novak fan, I enjoyed it very much. I honestly do believe that Novak is the best player I have ever watched. He’s the legitimate heir of Mats Wilander: the guy that is the complete outsider (let’s just remember that the Serbian tennis federation didn’t help Novak’s career because they believed he had no future), that has no obvious talents, but simply his work ethics and intelligence, and an acute sense of what one has to do on the court to make the life of his opponent miserable. He just make his opponent play bad.

    Because that’s what’s Novak most often does: he’s the guy that developed the anti-Fed pattern of play — attack Fed on his FH and finished him on the BH, or the anti-Rafa pattern — play the open court, but ultimately attack Rafa’s FH (and both strategies are against intuition). While Rafa used spin to play safe, and use height instead of depth, Novak changed the game by using spin to create angles (especially in a period when he worked more on his DTL shots, and we saw a few years ago Tomic rely only on this Novak strategy, using it with great effects). The way he’s able to open the court playing CC rallies is daunting.

    He’s also the player that learned the most and the fastest from others: recently, he started combining serve placement and lethal third shots the way Federer did for most of his career, showing that it is also something that can be learned.

    The way he uses is backhand playing CC, DTL and IO shots with it is something Mecir did before, but Novak makes of it a school thing, something good coaches will have to teach their students. He just make look normal things we were persuaded where a matter of talent, played by geniuses, and in this aspect, too, he is the most influential player of modern tennis. In the next fifteen years, tennis will be defined by the was Novak played it, just like modern tennis was defined by the way Lendl played it.

    Was he a bad or good thing for Federer? In my opinion, the best thing that could happen to Fed. He saved his legacy, not only by stopping Rafa (the guy that almost destroyed tennis, and changed it the way Armstrong changed cycling) in 2011, but by destroying Rafa in the long term. But he also adds to Fed legacy in a different way: noone will ever be able to say that Fed played in a weak era. Greatness are not only GS wins — when I was young, nobody cared about the number of slams, and for me, the 11 slams Borg won are much more that the 14 won by Sampras. Borg has won both on clay and grass, by altering his game completely from Paris to London, beating the Latino-American at RG and the Americans at WB. But playing on equal term with Novak at 34, Fed shows another side of his greatness, and his aptitude to change with the changing of the game.

    The difference between them was in Novak aptitude to adapt on a micro-level — Fed adapted to new techs, slower surfaces, greater defence, but Novak adapted to Berdych when he had to play Berdych, to Rafa when he faced him, and to Fed when he faced Fed. And he did it in different manners on different surfaces. He didn’t do it from the first go, of course, he searched, he learned, but he found the way. Fed introduced new shots, news weapons, but Novak incorporated them in a system.

    Is Fed a choker? Jeff Sackmann thinks he is against Novak. But I saw so many clutch players choke against Novak that I believe that it has more to do with him then with them. Novak just finds the way to make you play what you hate most. And, in fact, Novak became the no1e we know when he started to do it in a regular way — that’s why he has difficulties playing an opponent for the first time.

    Part of this philosophy was always well known — tennis didn’t wait for Novak to evolve: but Novak added and extra touch, consistently searching for the most effective shot alternation (high spin + depth to the BH followed by a low, flat shot to the FH against Stan, or low, angled BH to the BH followed by a shot down the middle against DelPo, to reopen the court and use DelPo’s slower direction changes, etc.), and he made the patterns obvious — while Fed and Rafa won’t have successors, Novak will (Coric, e.g.).

    Who is the GOAT, finally? Nobody can predict the future. I was at a funeral, today — one of my friend just died in a car accident. Nobody expected it. But if everything goes as it seems now it could, both will finish among the best ever: their stats look more and more similar on the wiki ATP records page, and if Novak manages to tower two, three seasons the way Fed did, they will be close.

    Just another word about the “weak era” — I really don’t agree. The weak era were the nineties, but Fed was just too good at his peak, and now I have numbers to back up this point of view. It’s the same thing now: it is a very strong “era”, but Novak is just too good.

    I’ll try to post something original about Rafa later. Where he fits in this story. Oh, yes, he’s the villain for me too, and he almost destroyed tennis, but the way Djokovic and Federer overcame his influence is worthy of a debate.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Sorry about your friend, Mat. As long as there is consistency with the eras I’m fine with that. I’m still not sure why you think the Sampras era was weak but as long as Fedfans don’t say his era was strong and the current era is weak I’m fine with that.

    It’s interesting how Djokovic became both the anti-Nadal and the anti-Federer. Two vastly different playing styles and Djokovic mastered them both. I guess there is nothing he can’t do…

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    David Reply:

    Hi Ru-an. This is my favorite article that you have written. I agree with you about not being able to compare different era’s of the past with today. But one opinion that I have always felt strongly about is to do with Rod Laver. No disrespect to Laver and what he accomplished. I just don’t see how a guy at 5 foot 8 inches tall would have ever been better than Djokovic, Federer or Nadal. 6 foot 2, 6 foot 1 and 6 foot 1. Sampras was also 6 foot 1. The only guy under 6 feet tall in the last 20 years that has accomplished a lot is Agassi with 8 grand slams and I believe he is 5 foot 11. A whole 3 inches taller than Laver. David Ferrer and Michael Chang maximized their potential as tennis players with what bodies they were given and only have 1 grand slam to show for it between them. Nishikori has been to 1 slam final so far and that’s it. He is 5 foot 10 and a great player. I know Rod Laver had powerful groundstrokes and was a great player for his time. But if you just don’t have the reach in the modern era, there is nothing you can do about that. Please let me know what your thoughts are on this.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank you, David! Agree with you about Laver. He was talented, but you need more height than that. 6’1-6’2 is about ideal for tennis. He was only able to dominate because in that time they were playing with wooden racquets. I think he is overrated. Good observation.

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