Will Federer Win Another Slam?

I’m sorry to the folks who supported Federer and that he came up short yet again after chasing that elusive #18. It kind of sunk in today what a tough loss it was. You could also see it in that Twitter clip I posted on my last entry.

Federer looked like a broken and devastated man. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look that confused and humbled. This was his big chance after Djokovic lost but this time, he couldn’t make the final.

You would think if he gets to the final then the adrenaline will carry him over the finish line knowing how close he is. He made three slam finals in the last couple of years where he ran into a wall in the final and as soon as the wall was taken care of he couldn’t make it to the final.

If Federer made it to the final he would have had at least a 50/50 shot at winning the title. Being that close, I’m not sure Murray would have been able to stop him. It was once again a question of so close but yet so far.

With every loss like this one feels the chances of him winning #18 becomes less and less. You can never quite write him off but it is like there is a block now. Even that 2014 US Open was an opportunity where Djokovic lost to Nishikori and Federer lost to Cilic.

Something always seems to go wrong. It doesn’t feel like destiny anymore. And I think the main reason for that is Djokovic. The Wimbledon and US Open final losses last year were particularly telling.

That was where Federer was playing his best tennis and where the conditions suited him the most. The psychological damage Djokovic inflicted on Federer in those matches and in the Australian Open semis seems too much to recover from.

Even in Djokovic’s absence, this time, he couldn’t get the job done. Djokovic was too burned out to prevent Federer this time but it seems the psychological damage he inflicted on Federer over the last twelve months did the job for him in his absence.

I won’t count out Federer from winning a slam until the day he retires probably but this loss does seem like a telling one. It is as if it confirmed what we already knew deep down; that he had missed his shot.

  • How Does Federer’s Loss Affect the GOAT Debate?

I think this loss was another reminder why Federer is not the undisputed GOAT. Federer is at this point the most successful tennis player in history and no one denies his vast talent and skill.

But as anyone with some tennis knowledge will tell you talent is below mental strength and physical fitness on the list of important tennis qualities. Which is why Lendl won eight slams and Nalbandian zero.

Not that there is anything wrong with Federer’s mental or physical abilities. Compared to the average pro tennis player he is still very clutch and athletic. But compared to Djokovic and Nadal he comes up short in those areas.

Some people argue that Federer is the GOAT based on his playing style and talent alone which is blind fanaticism at its best. Federer comes up short time and time again in the mental department and probably has one of the worst break points conversion rates in history.

The match against Raonic was just another example. Before that, it happened a million times. Some matches that come to mind are the Wimbledon 2008 final vs Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open final vs Nadal, the 2009 US Open final vs Del Potro, the 2010 US Open semi-final vs Djokovic, the 2011 French Open final vs Nadal,  the 2011 US Open semi-final vs Djokovic, the 2014 Wimbledon final vs Djokovic, the 2015 Wimbledon final vs Djokovic, the 2015 US Open final vs Djokovic, and now the 2016 Wimbledon final vs Raonic.

There are many other of course but those are just some off the top of my head. Maybe the fact that he hasn’t won #18 is the biggest evidence yet of his mental shortcomings. Federer has had three chances in slam finals at his best slams and another just now in the semis of his best slam.

Why can he not put that final slam to bed? And it is not like he is no getting any help. The crowds are always biased toward him. Against Raonic, someone was shouting again between a first and second serve of Raonic on a big point.

They did the same kind of thing with Djokovic at the US Open last year just worse. Even with the odds stacked in his favor, Federer can’t get it done. There seems to be something missing from Federer’s game.

But then we have known that since Nadal started owning Federer in the head-to-head. These days it’s Djokovic who owns him in the head-to-head. Federer never beats Djokovic in a big match anymore. It’s like it’s over before the match even started.

  • Can Djokovic Overtake Federer?

In some ways, Djokovic has already overtaken Federer. For instance by winning the Djoker slam, having a completer game, not being owned by a main rival, more Masters titles, or most titles at a specific slam(Australian Open).

I didn’t even know it was possible to have a completer game than Federer before the Djokovic of 2015/2016 came along. Federer’s weaknesses, if you could call it that, were his backhand, his returns, his movement, and his mental strength.

Those weren’t weaknesses per se. It is just that Djokovic is better in all those departments than Federer. And by a fair amount too. Federer in turn, has a better forehand, better serve, better volleys, better slice, better touch and better overhead.

You can essentially divide tennis into three areas namely physical, mental, and talent/technique/skill. In order of importance, they are mental, physical, and talent. Djokovic is better than Federer in the mental and physical departments whereas Federer is probably the most naturally gifted tennis player ever.

What makes Djokovic more complete than Federer in my view is not only the better mental strength and athleticism but also the fact that he has such a world class backhand and returns of serve.

It is exceedingly difficult to defeat Djokovic because there is nothing to exploit. You can’t serve him off the court and you can’t exploit him from the baseline. With Federer, you could still exploit his backhand to a certain extent or grind him down mentally and physically.

You can’t do those things to Djokovic. Djokovic essentially cancels out the opponents advantage which for most players is their serve. Against Djokovic, it is hardly an advantage. Think about what difference that makes as opposed to Federer’s returns for instance.

Federer doesn’t have bad returns. He has a good record against big servers. And yet if he had Djokovic’s returns he would never lose a match. Same if he had Djokovic backhand or mental strength.

No one can predict the future but I don’t think anyone is even close to finding a solution to the current Djokovic. Will he slow down now that he finally lost a match in a slam? There is no reason to believe that he will.

He is only five slams back of Federer’s record and at the current rate, Djokovic will easily reach it. He is also not far from surpassing Federer’s weeks at #1 record, World Tour Finals record, and he will probably win another French Open and do the double career slam.

  • Federer is Currently the Modern Era GOAT

I am not talking about Laver here. I am talking about players who played with something different than wooden racquets. That is my definition of the modern era. And in that era Federer is currently the GOAT based on numbers.

But it is not undisputed because of his head-to-head records with Nadal and Djokovic and slight weaknesses in his game. He has the numbers to conclude that he is currently heading the pack but there is also enough doubt to conclude that it is not an undisputed fact.

Both Djokovic and Nadal have exposed his weaknesses and they have some impressive numbers of their own. People like Agassi and Mcenroe have stated before that Nadal is the GOAT. I don’t agree but you can make an argument for Djokovic too.

And Djokovic is still on 12 slams. For me, Djokovic has already surpassed Nadal based on the Djoker slam, the weeks at #1, the World Tour Finals titles, and just his overall mastery of all surfaces and dominance.

Nadal never dominated for extended periods of time and he doesn’t have a single World Tour Finals title. He is too dependent on one surface and too one-dimensional in his game. For me, he and Sampras are tier two.

They are very similar in their mental strength and lack of versatility. Sampras never won a French Open while Nadal never won a World Tour Finals title. Probably the best offensive player as opposed to the best defensive player ever.

Federer and Djokovic are tier one for me. Djokovic doesn’t quite have the numbers yet but in all likelihood, he will add them. We don’t know yet if he will have the longevity of Federer but he has already adapted his game to become more offensive.

He is an incredible athlete. Better than Nadal even. But he is less injury prone and lighter. He is also extremely flexible from all the stretching and very health conscious. I’m sure you can understand the difference between Nadal on 14 slams and Djokovic on 14 slams.

If Agassi or Mcenroe said Djokovic is the GOAT on 14 slams I would be more inclined to agree. You have a guy who has mastered all the surfaces, spent many weeks at #1 and dominated the sport for extended periods, has no real weaknesses in his game, and has positive head-to-heads against all his main rivals.

A lot of emphasis is being put on slam title count. Too much because most people just don’t know enough about tennis. Slam count is the most important criteria for GOAThood but it is only one of many.

People act like it determines 100% of GOATness where if you take all the factors into account it only counts something like 25% at best probably. There are so many other factors like weeks at #1, World Tour Finals titles, Masters titles, mastery of all surfaces, head-to-head records with main rivals, career winning percentage, wins over top ten opponents, record over five sets, titles won, record in slams finals, and many more.

Federer’s records are certainly immensely impressive but Djokovic is gaining fast. He already leads in consecutive slams won, Masters titles won, head-to-head record against main rivals, completeness as a player, most dominant season ever, and is closing in fast on others like weeks at #1, World Tour Finals titles, and slam titles.

Two more years of Djokovic domination and he will be right there.

  • Quick Revisit of the Upcoming Wimbledon Final

I can go on about these things forever but I have to stop somewhere. Tomorrow is the Wimbledon final which I look forward to. My favorite player is not involved but so what? It is still an interesting matchup and the outcome is not a certainty.

Having a break from Djokovic makes it more interesting to see him the next time he plays and it also gives the tennis fans who can’t appreciate his dominance a break. I have already previewed the final in my last post.

I will just add a couple of things here like the fact that this will be a good contest between a big server and offensive player and a big returner and defensive player. The head-to-head is close at 6-3 in Murray’s favor while Raonic comes off the biggest win of his career.

Did that match take a physical and mental toll on him or will it inspire him to win his first slam? In my view, it is more likely to do the former than the latter. Murray will be fresh after making short work of Berdych in the semis.

He has been supremely confident throughout the championships. You can hardly call the five-setter against Tsonga a slip up given what a dangerous grass court player Tsonga is. Murray was clinical in the decider anyway.

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I think he goes into this final supremely confident with Lendl back in his corner and he must be the favorite. But he is not an overwhelming favorite. I can certainly see Raonic win at least one set.

As we saw against Federer, Raonic can go on a kind of hot run where he does ridiculous things and becomes almost unstoppable. He doesn’t throw in the towel either. It won’t be easy for Murray to close him out and he will have to be clinical to do so.

Murray will try to make many returns and make Raonic’s life hell that way at the net. He will also try to exploit Raonic’s movement and lack of baseline consistency. Murray can certainly do it with his variation and own world class movement and groundstrokes.

Raonic will try to shorten points and not spend much time on the baseline. He will try to overpower Murray with his serve, volleys, and forehand. It will be a great contest.

WWW Murray vs Raonic

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Posted in Grand Slams, Wimbledon.

18 Comments

  1. Djokovic :-

    Djokovic is 4 : 9 Nadal in Slams
    Djokovic is 1 : 6 Nadal at the French Open ( 0 : 6 against peak Nadal)
    Djokovic is 1 : 2 Nadal at Us Open (All Finals) at what is his favourite surface Slam…
    Djokovic is 1 : 1 Nadal at Wimbledon

    Here is Federer at Wimbledon (most prestigious Slam) ;

    7 titles (equal 1st with Sampras/Renshaw)
    10 finals…….1st
    11 semi-finals (equal 1st with Connors)
    14 quarter-finals (equal 1st with Connors)
    84 match wins (equal 1st with Connors)
    18 consecutive appearances (equal 1st with Connors)

    Federer : 10 consecutive Slam finals/then Semi then/8 consecutive Slam finals
    Djokovic : 6 consecutive Slam finals

    Federer is chasing no-one…for ex Fed plays Wimbledon next year becomes 19 consecutive appearance (goes from equal 1st to 1st, etc…there is no-one to go past anymore

    For Djokovic to own Nadal in Slams he has to go 6 : 0 from here

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Federer:

    Federer is 2:9 vs Nadal in slams.
    Federer is 0:5 vs Nadal at the FO(never even went to five sets)
    Federer is 2:1 vs Nadal at Wimbledon(no, the USO is not Djokovic’s favorite surface. It is the AO where he leads Nadal 1:0)
    Federer is 0:3 vs Nadal at the AO(including that final where Nadal played a marathon the day before vs Verdasco while Federer had a day’s rest)
    Federer is 11:23 vs Nadal overall while Djokovic is 26:23 vs Nadal overall.

    Djokovic:

    Djokovic is 9:6 vs Federer in slams
    Djokovic is 3:1 vs Federer in slam finals
    Djokovic is 3:1 vs Federer at the AO
    Djokovic is 2:1 vs Federer at Wimbledon(Federer’s best slam)
    Djokovic is 1:1 vs Federer at the FO
    Djokovic is 3:3 vs Federer at the USO
    Djokovic is 23:22 overall vs Federer

    Here is Djokovic’s best slam(AO all slams count for the same these days):

    6 titles(most ever – two more than Agassi and Federer)
    6 finals(never lost a final or a semi-final)
    9 QF

    Djokovic: Most MS titles ever at 29 and only needs one to complete the set, most successful season ever in 2015, Djoker slam.
    Federer: 24 Masters titles and needs two to complete the set, could never win the personal slam.

    For Federer to lead Nadal in slams he has to go 8:0 from here and to lead him overall he must go 13:0 from here.

    I don’t think you thought it through before you made your comment, especially given that Federer is 5 years older than Djokovic.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    [Reply]

  2. Nice article Ruan. But off topic i just saw Andy has won todays final and guess what daily mail used in their title for the report…it is something like “MURRAY HAS BECOME GOAT AFTER WINNING HIS SECOND WIMBLEDON TITLE”…Can you beleive this? They are so biased. What do you think?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks. ‘Something like?’. Can you post the link to the article?

    [Reply]

  3. “These days it’s Djokovic who owns him in the head-to-head. Federer never beats Djokovic in a big match anymore. It’s like it’s over before the match even started.”

    Djokovic BARELY has a winning record against Federer. The H2H is 23-22 I think. I would not call that ownage at all. Djokovic only started to have a winning record against Fed very late in Fed’s career. Even more so, Djokovic has a winning H2H against Fed after the AO 2016 SF.

    It’s like saying Marat Safin owned Sampras because the latter lost a Slam final at the US Open against lesser players late on in his career. If you’re talking about Slam encounters being important then the positive H2H of Djokovic against Nadal doesn’t really matter, I mean 9-4 in Slams in favour of Nadal.

    Nadal, on the other hand, does OWN Federer in the H2H but his overall resume is not quite as impressive as that of Fed and Djokovic.

    Prime Djokovic winning slam encounters against Federer is normal. I don’t think Fed will win a Slam encounter against Djokovic ever again.

    About the GOAT debate, it’s futile, Pancho Gonzales and a lot of others are never even mentioned, though they have ridiculous records of their own. At least, you limited yourself to the Modern Era, excluding even Laver.

    In that case, Federer is number one with Djokovic having massive potential to be the future number one. Nadal, I don’t know. On the one hand, the guy is the one of the only few to have won at least two Slams on each surface. On the other, his consistency on non-clay surfaces is pathetic. It’s shocking that he never was able to defend even one non-clay title.

    GOAT debate is way too hard, probably we’ll never know.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘Djokovic BARELY has a winning record against Federer. The H2H is 23-22 I think. I would not call that ownage at all.’

    Hence, ‘These days‘ Eren. Obviously, Djokovic does not own Federer overall. I was referring to their last 18 meetings where Djokovic leads Federer 12-6 and 4-0 in slams. That is Nadal-like ownage over Federer.

    Sure Federer is not in his prime anymore but if you think those meetings just mean nothing I beg to differ. The crowds have always been overwhelmingly in Federer’s favor in those slam finals especially in that USO final.

    I know all about Pancho Gonzalez and other which is why I specifically referred to the modern era. I agree that Nadal’s consistency on non-clay surfaces is shocking. The fact that he never even defended a non-clay title or never won a WTF title are some of the reasons I said he is the second tier with Sampras.

    And yes, GOAT debate is hard and probably there will never be a consensus about it unless Djokovic catches Federer’s slam count. Then there can be no doubt. But even then you will have Fedfanatics disagreeing. Not that it would matter.

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    Are you suggesting that crowd support makes up for all the issues that a player comes to experience as he ages?

    So, a few years down the line, (and this is a plausible scenario) if any player were to have a positive head-to-head against an aging Djokovic and beat him regularly in slams, that’ll count for something. Just because Djokovic has the support of the crowd by virtue of being an aging yet formidable champion. His getting beaten will have nothing to do with the fact that he has slowed down?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yes, it would count for something if Djokovic is still playing close to peak level which he will have to if he makes slam finals. But it would have to be to the same player like Federer keeps losing to Djokovic and the head-to-head will have to go in the other guy’s favor like it is with Djokovic over Federer.

    The crowd support certainly helps. Especially the crowd you had in NY. Do you insist that it the crowd is completely irrelevant? Even a fanatical and drunk pro-Federer crowd?

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    I am not saying that the crowd is irrelevant. In fact, support can give a player that much needed boost while they are struggling. But in my opinion crowd support cannot replace it make up for diminishing skills. Federer will always insist that his game has improved over the years. But stamina, slowing reflexes are a consequence of age and he is prone to it like every pro or club player.

    Please understand, I am not belittling Djokovic’s wins. But it is important to keep in mind that no champion is infalliable. Mental strength is, knowing that you have it in you to pull off a win regardless of the situation. If your abilities start wavering then it will obviously impact this belief. Case in the point – Nadal.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It’s not about belittling Djokovic’s wins as much as it belittling Federer’s losses. I insist that Federer has done an extraordinary job at evolving his game to make up for diminished movement. If he won a slam against a lesser player everyone would have praised him for his longevity and abilities to adapt.

    But because he lost to someone who may be greater than himself it is said that he is old and tired. You saw what he did to Murray at Wimbledon. You saw that he didn’t drop his serve once in Cincy last year and until the semis in the USO against Stan I think. His serving was off the charts. But he played against the best returner of serve in history.

    That is why he didn’t win the title. Not because he was too old or declined. He had a drunk and fanatical crowd on his side(yes, I will keep saying it until it sinks in). That Djokovic would have beaten any version of Federer. If the crowd was unbiased it would have been an easier victory for sure.

    [Reply]

    siddharth Reply:

    “It’s not about belittling Djokovic’s wins as much as it belittling Federer’s losses”

    In your latest blog post on Murray’s win, you’ve mentioned that back 2013 when he beat Djokovic in the final, it was largely due to the fact that Djokovic was tired. Isn’t that belittling Murray’s victory?

    If a player is good enough to reach the final then he has the means to win it. And for that reason alone Djokovic is supreme. He beat Federer both in the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals as well as the US open finals.

    However, discounting the affects of age (both young and old) on a player is unfair. Consider this – Roddick has a winning head-to-head record against Djokovic (5-4). Nine matches is a significant number. But, that wouldn’t make him a better player than Djokovic. Why? Because Djokovic was a kid back then, not the player he is now.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I didn’t say it was largely due to Murray being tired. I said Djokovic appeared tired to me after the marathon with Del Potro and I wasn’t certain how legit Murray’s first two slams were. Then I said it was legit since he just won Wimbledon again. Big difference.

    I didn’t discount age either. I said Federer was still playing very close to peak level and that he adapted his game extremely well to make up for diminished movement. He just made Wimbledon semis again after hardly playing since the AO and almost made the final! What does that tell you?

    [Reply]

    Siddharth Reply:

    Also, Modern Era GOAT is misleading :-)

    A player is either the greatest of the Modern Era or the Greatest of All Time. (All time encompasses modern era) .

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Sorry but I don’t understand what this comment means.

    [Reply]

  4. “Sure Federer is not in his prime anymore but if you think those meetings just mean nothing I beg to differ. ”

    It counts, every win counts. But I don’t think it’s very relevant. Federer is not considered as one of the All Time Greats just because he was beating an (aging) All Time Great in the form of Agassi. Federer was being owned by Agassi early in his career and he turned the tables after Agassi started to age and he reached his prime level. A 35-year-old Agassi losing a US Open final in 2005 to Federer meant NOTHING as far as I am concerned.

    Everyone agreed about this particular match not meaning anything for Agassi, in the sense that you could not say that Federer was owning Agassi.

    Federer dominating Agassi late on in his career shows similarities to Djokovic dominating Federer late on in his career.

    Pretty cool you know of Pancho Gonzalez.

    “The crowd support certainly helps. Especially the crowd you had in NY. Do you insist that it the crowd is completely irrelevant? Even a fanatical and drunk pro-Federer crowd?”

    A different sport, but Cristiano Ronaldo almost always has the crowd against him and that guy still performs like crazy. He and Djokovic show similarities too. Both are not loved as much as their rivals (Messi, Federer and Nadal), yet they accomplish a lot, but do not always get the same credits for it. Both Ronaldo and Djokovic had the crowd against them from the beginning due to their own behaviour though. In the end, real champions always win (the Nole Slam for Djokovic and the EURO for Ronaldo).

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    It’s difficult to compare. All situations are different. Agassi was not the supposed GOAT. He didn’t have anything to prove. And that is only one slam final. Djokerer has been three recently. Many claim that Federer is the GOAT. Different standards should apply to him. He was already owned by one mentally strong opponent in his prime. The level he reached last year was very close to his prime. He said himself that his serve is better, his bh is better, his fh is the same, and his volleys are better. Hard to argue with that. He had adapted his game very well to make up for his declined movement.

    Djokovic was just mentally too good. His game was too good too. He pressured Federer on the serve and return. Too solid from the baseline. You won’t say these titles are meaningless for Djokovic because he played an aging Federer, just like you wouldn’t say Federer’s title vs Agassi is meaningless. Agassi was still playing at a very high level. I was a fan I would know. Federer was just better than Agassi. Same with Djokovic and Federer.

    As for Ronaldo, I wouldn’t compare a team sport with tennis. Vastly different. Interesting story anyway. There is no doubt the NY crowd played a big role in that USO final. Djokovic showed immense mental strength in all that chaos and would have won more convincingly with an unbiased crowd.

    [Reply]

  5. I believe fed will win another slam. Looking at his recent wimbledon run. All it takes is for one of the top powerhouses to get knocked out like Djokovic did this year at Wimbledon. Grass is definitely his best chance at winning unless he can make a great run at the U.S. Open this year. Clay isn’t his strong suit and as he gets older it will take a bigger toll on him. Next year at Wimbledon we will have to keep a close eye on Roger and see how he does. If you want to see what gear he and the other pro’s use check out my site: http://www.tennisproshop.x10host.com

    [Reply]

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