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Comparative analysis of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic at the 17-Slam mark

Bhargav
F ederer (left), Nadal, and Djokovic hoisting aloft their respective 17th Grand Slam titles
F ederer (left), Nadal, and Djokovic hoisting aloft their respective 17th Grand Slam titles

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are three of the biggest names in men's tennis. Affectionately called the Big-3 for their stellar achievements in the sport, the trio has combined to capture more than a quarter (27%) of the 208 Grand Slam singles titles played in the Open Era.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Federer (20 titles, 31 finals, 362 match wins), Nadal (19 titles, 27 finals, 274 match wins) and Djokovic (17 titles, 26 finals, 287 match wins) have the most titles, finals, and match wins in Grand Slam tournaments since tennis opened its doors to professionals in the summer of 1968.

The trio is part of a group of just five different players in the Open Era to have triumphed at each of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments. Each of them is a respective standalone title leader at three of the four Majors: Nadal - 12 at Roland Garros, Federer - 8 at Wimbledon, and Djokovic - 8 at the Australian Open. Federer shares the US Open title leaderboard (5) with Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras.

Djokovic's win over Dominic Thiem in the 2020 Australian Open final extended the Big 3's Grand Slam win-streak to 13, since Stan Wawrinka won the 2016 US Open. This is their best run on the Grand Slam scene since the trio swept 18 consecutive Grand Slam titles between 2005 Roland Garros (Nadal) and 2009 Wimbledon (Federer).

On that note, let us compare the Big-3's performances, under various parameters, at their respective 17th Grand Slam title mark:

#1 Fastest to 17 titles in terms of Grand Slam appearances

Nadal exults after winning his 17th Grand Slam title at 2018 Roland Garros
Nadal exults after winning his 17th Grand Slam title at 2018 Roland Garros

Of the trio, Federer was the first to arrive at the 17 Grand Slam title mark, ending a 2.5 year Grand Slam drought at 2012 Wimbledon by beating Andy Murray from a set down. It was the then 30-year-old Swiss's 53rd Grand Slam appearance.

Nadal was the next to arrive at the milestone, winning his 11th Roland Garros title in 2017, for his 17th Grand Slam title and first in three years. It was the Spaniard's 52nd appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

The youngest of the Big-3 troika, Djokovic, reached the 17-Grand Slam title mark at the 2020 Australian Open. However, the Serb was the slowest of the trio to arrive at the landmark, taking 60 appearances.

WINNER: Nadal

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#2 Fastest to 17 Grand Slam titles in terms of matches

Roger Federer wins his 17th Grand Slam title at 2012 Wimbledon
Roger Federer wins his 17th Grand Slam title at 2012 Wimbledon

Federer's win at 2012 Wimbledon was his 244th in all Grand Slam tournaments. Along the way, the all-time Grand Slam title leader lost 36 matches (87.14%).

Nadal, following his 17th Grand Slam win at 2018 Roland Garros, had a Grand Slam win-loss record of 227 wins and 31 losses for a win-loss % of 87.98%.

Djokovic needed 287 wins and 43 losses to arrive at his 17th Grand Slam title at the 2020 Australian Open, for a success rate of 86.96%. That means Nadal takes the honours in this category too.

WINNER: Nadal

#3 Top-10 record

Nadal at 2018 Roland Garros
Nadal at 2018 Roland Garros

During the course of winning 17 Grand Slam titles (2012 Wimbledon), Federer compiled a 47-21 (69.1%) win-loss record against top 10 opposition in Grand Slam play. However, 13 of these 21 defeats came at the hands of either Nadal (8) or Djokovic (8).

Nadal had a 39-12 (76.4%) win-loss record against top 10 players at the time of winning his 17th Grand Slam at 2018 Roland Garros. The Spaniard, during this period, lost twice against Federer and 4 times against Djokovic.

Djokovic comes up third-best in this category, garnering a 52-27 (65.8 %) record against top 10 players during the course of winning 17 Grand Slam titles. The Serb has endured 6 defeats against Federer and 9 against Nadal during this period.

WINNER: Nadal

#4 Losses to fewest number of different opponents

Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open
Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open

At the time of winning his 17th Grand Slam title at 2012 Wimbledon, Federer had lost 36 matches in Grand Slam play. Nadal (8), and Djokovic (5) led a group of 22 different players to have overwhelmed the Swiss in Majors during this period.

Nadal, who had the fewest defeats (31) of the Big 3 at the 17 Grand Slam title mark, has surprisingly come up second best against 24 different players. Djokovic (4), Federer (2), and Gilles Muller (2), Lleyton Hewitt (2) and Andy Murray (2) are the players to have beaten Nadal multiple times in Grand Slam tournaments during this period.

The corresponding numbers for Djokovic are 43 defeats against 16 different players. Nadal (9) and Federer (6) have inflicted the most Grand Slam defeats on the 32-year-old Serb.

WINNER: Djokovic

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#5 Longest overall match-winning streak

Djokovic at 2016 Roland Garros
Djokovic at 2016 Roland Garros

After 3 final reverses in Roland Garros finals, Djokovic emerged triumphant at the fourth time of asking in 2016 when he came back from a set down to beat Andy Murray. It meant that Djokovic became the first player in the Open Era since Rod Laver (1969) to hold all 4 Grand Slam titles at the same time.

Since losing to Stan Wawrinka in the 2015 Roland Garros final, the Serb won 30 consecutive Grand Slam matches before losing to Sam Querrey in the third round at 2016 Wimbledon.

Between successive losses to Nadal in the 2005 Roland Garros semifinals and 2006 Roland Garros final, Federer won 27 consecutive Grand Slam matches. He had another similar streak immediately after, and Nadal ended it again with a win in the 2007 Roland Garros final.

Nadal's longest consecutive Grand Slam match win streak is 25 matches, which he accomplished between 2010 Roland Garros to the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open.

WINNER: Djokovic

#6 Longest consecutive match-winning streak at a Major

Federer at 2008 Wimbledon
Federer at 2008 Wimbledon

Federer won a staggering 40 consecutive matches at Wimbledon between 2003 and 2008 before being thwarted by Nadal in a pulsating final, where the Swiss had come within 2 points of a 6th consecutive title.

If that was not impressive enough, Federer repeated the feat at the US Open, reeling off 40 consecutive wins between 2004 and 2009 before losing to Juan Martin del Potro, after once again coming within 2 points of a 6th consecutive title.

Nadal's longest consecutive match-win streak at a Major is 39, which he accomplished at Roland Garros between losses to Robin Soderling (2009 fourth round) and Djokovic (2015 Quarterfinals) - the Spaniard's only two losses at the tournament.

Djokovic's longest consecutive match win streak at a Major is 25, which he accomplished at the Australian Open between 2011 and 2014 (lost to Wawrinka in the quarterfinals).

WINNER: Federer

#7 Longest consecutive overall final-winning streak

Federer lifts his 17th Grand Slam title at 2012 Wimbledon
Federer lifts his 17th Grand Slam title at 2012 Wimbledon

Federer is the only player in the Open Era to win his first 7 Grand Slam finals, which he accomplished between 2003 Wimbledon and 2006 Australian Open.

That is the joint-longest Grand Slam final winning-streak amongst the Big 3.

Nadal also won 7 consecutive Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2011 Roland Garros, Federer being at the receiving end on 4 occasions.

Djokovic's longest Grand Slam final winning streak is 5, which is an ongoing one, following his win at the 2020 Australian Open.

WINNER: Federer and Nadal

#8 Longest consecutive final-winning streak at a Major

Nadal
Nadal

Nadal takes this honor hands down, going 11-0 in Roland Garros finals to win his 17th Grand Slam title in the 2018 edition of the tournament.

Like Nadal, Djokovic is also perfect in Grand Slam finals at one Major. The Serb is undefeated in 8 Australian Open finals.

Federer's longest consecutive final-winning streak at a Major is 5, which he accomplished at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

WINNER: Nadal

#9 Most wins from 2 sets down

Federer
Federer

Federer has had the most comebacks from two sets down, among the Big 3. The Swiss maestro has recovered from a two-set deficit seven times overall in the course of winning 17 Grand Slam titles, doing so at least once at each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

Djokovic has done so once at each of the Grand Slam tournaments except at the Australian Open.

Nadal's only career comeback from two sets down came against Amercian Robert Kendrick in the second round at 2006 Wimbledon.

WINNER: Federer

#10 Other standalone records

Federer
Federer

Among a plethora of standalone Grand Slam records by the Big 3, the following stand out:

# Federer is the only player in the Open Era to win at least 70 matches at each of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments: 102 at the Australian Open, 70 at Roland Garros, 101 at Wimbledon and 89 at the US Open.

# Federer's Wimbledon-US Open double in 4 consecutive years is unprecedented in the Open Era.

# Federer's 40-match win streaks at 2 different Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon - grass), US Open (hard court) on 2 different surfaces is also an unrivaled one.

# Federer is the only player to win 100 matches at not one but 2 different Grand Slam tournaments (102 at the Australian Open, 101 at Wimbledon).

# Nadal is the youngest (of 5 players) to have won the career Grand Slam in the Open Era, doing so at the age of 24 at the 2010 US Open.

# Djokovic is the first player in the Open Era to win Wimbledon after saving multiple championship points in the final (2019 against Federer).

WINNER: Federer

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Edited by Musab Abid
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