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!