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.
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.
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.
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?