Novak Djokovic is one of the most mentally tough players the game of tennis has ever seen. The 17-time Grand Slam winner's exploits in the 2019 Wimbledon final are still fresh in the memory of tennis fans.
Down 15-40 on Roger Federer's serve at 7-8 in the fifth set, Djokovic was on the brink of defeat. Incredibly, he saved both match points and went on to lift his fifth Wimbledon title in a historic first-ever final-set tiebreak in the history of the grass-court major.
Fast forward to the 2020 Dubai Open semifinal, the Serb pulled off another Houdini act. Djokovic saved three consecutive match points at 3-6 down in the second-set tiebreak to down Gael Monfils 2-6 7-6 6-1 and reach his 6th final at the tournament.
In the process, Djokovic extended his head-to-head record against Monfils to 17-0, joining a select group of players to have beaten an opponent 17 times without losing even once. Let us meet this exclusive group.
#1 Bjorn Borg 17-0 Vitas Gerulaitis
Bjorn Borg beat Vitas Gerulaitis on all 17 occasions the pair met on tour. Following his victory in the pair's first meeting in the second round at the 1974 Tehran Open, Borg got the better of the Lithuanian-American in each of their 16 subsequent meetings.
Except for the 1974 Tehran meeting, the 1978 Davis Cup between Sweden and USA, and their last meeting in the fourth-round at 1981 Wimbledon, all of their clashes came in tournament finals or semifinals.
Gerulaitis came closest to a maiden victory against Borg in the 1977 Wimbledon semifinals but went down 6-8 in the fifth.
#2 Ivan Lendl 17-0 Tim Mayotte
Ivan Lendl's 6-3, 6-0 victory over Tim Mayotte in the 1990 Toronto final marked the second instance of a player beating an opponent 17 times without losing even once.
The Toronto triumph was Lendl's 4th victory over Mayotte in a tournament final, the others being 1982 Strasbourg, 1985 Dallas, and 1990 Milan. 1986 Philadelphia was a 'walkover' victory for Lendl which does not count as a 'win' in his head-to-head record with Mayotte.
Mayotte came closest to beating Lendl in the 1982 US Open second round where he lost 6-4 in the decider and in the 1986 Wimbledon quarterfinals where he lost 9-7 in the fifth after leading by two sets to one.
#3 Roger Federer 17-0 David Ferrer
Roger Federer beat 2013 Roland Garros runner-up David Ferrer in all 17 matches the pair locked horns.
Since Federer's first win over Ferrer in the 2003 Vienna second round, the 20-time Grand Slam champion got the better of the Spaniard in each of their 16 subsequent meetings.
Federer's tally of wins over Ferrer includes 4 matches at the ATP Finals and 10 matches in Masters 1000 events. The pair clashed twice in title matches - 2007 ATP Finals, then called the Tennis Masters Cup, and the 2014 Cincinnati Masters.
#4 Roger Federer 17-0 Mikhail Youzhny
Like Ferrer, Mikhail Youzhny found the Federer riddle impossible to solve.
The Russian fell for the 17th time against Federer in the second round at the 2017 US Open, a match where Youzhny led by two sets to one.
Federer won two titles at the expense of Youzhny, doing so in 2007 Dubai and 2013 Halle, with the Swiss recovering from a set down in the latter.
#5 Novak Djokovic 17-0 Gael Monfils
Novak Djokovic almost didn't make this list. Well, almost.
After winning each of the pair's 16 previous meetings, the Serb found himself trailing by a set and a break and then three consecutive match points down in the second-set tiebreak before pulling off another Houdini act to reach the 2020 Dubai Open final.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion has beaten Monfils 5 times at Grand Slam tournaments and twice in tournament finals, doing so at 2009 Paris-Bercy Masters and 2017 Eastbourne.