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Stats show how Novak Djokovic is the king of marathon matches

  • Novak Djokovic has never lost a match that has gone beyond 5 hours, which is a better record than Nadal's and Federer's.
  • Djokovic's mental stamina is the key behind his spotless record in marathon matches.
Sohinee Basu
SENIOR ANALYST
News
Modified 21 Jun 2020, 11:10 IST
Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has created a reputation for himself as an indomitable force across all surfaces, and has developed a fascinating three-way rivalry with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. But the World No. 1 player is far ahead of both his legendary peers in one key aspect - ability to grind out super-long matches.

Novak Djokovic enjoys a spotless record in matches that go beyond the five-hour mark. Aside from his incredible agility, Djokovic also has seemingly endless reserves of stamina, mental strength and resilience which help him reign supreme over all his opponents in matches that are inordinately long.

Among the Big 3, Novak Djokovic leads the way when it comes to these marathon encounters, having won all four of them. Rafael Nadal on the other hand has had to participate in five such matches, emerging victorious three times and losing out twice (both times to Djokovic himself).

Roger Federer, meanwhile, has rarely battled it out that long in his matches. The only time he did - against Rafael Nadal - he ended up losing.

Novak Djokovic's mental stamina plays a key role in long matches

Novak Djokovic after winning the epic 2012 Australian Open against Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic after winning the epic 2012 Australian Open against Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic's greatest strength is arguably his ability to turn things around even from seemingly impossible situations. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has nerves of steel, which have helped him countless big matches.

On so many occasions (the epic Wimbledon 2019 final against Roger Federer comes to memory immediately), Novak Djokovic has left everyone stunned with his display of grit. And the Serb, who is currently busy orchestrating the Adria Tour's Zadar leg, has had this quality from very early in his career.

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The first instance of a Novak Djokovic match going over five hours was when he clashed against Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon 2007. Djokovic finally tamed the resurgent Cypriot 7-6 7-6 6-7 4-6 7-5 before going on to book a date with Rafa Nadal in the semis.

The next time, Djokovic battled past Stan Warinka during the fourth round of the Australian Open 2013. He defeated the Swiss 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10 in what many believe was one of the best matches of the decade.

Novak Djokovic has defeated Rafael Nadal every time their match has gone over 5 hours

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Interestingly enough, Djokovic has taken Rafael Nadal to such five-hour long matches twice, and has handed the 19-time Grand Slam champion defeat on both occasions.

The 2012 Australian Open final, which stands as the longest Grand Slam final (5 hours 53 minutes) of all time, saw some mind-boggling tennis from both ends. But Djokovic persevered once again to defeat Nadal, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 and lift his third title in Melbourne.

It was the Serb's relentlessness that also saw him through in yet another classic clash against Rafael Nadal - this time in the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals, which Djokovic won 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11), 3-6, 10-8.

Nadal on his part prides himself on his defense and endurance, which is why he often ends up getting stuck in long battles of attrition. The Spaniard has played the most five-hour-plus matches among the Big 3, with his only two losses coming against Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal announced his arrival on the tour very early on by beating former French Open finalist Guillermo Coria in an epic encounter on clay. He outlasted the Argentine 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(6) in the final of the Rome Masters 2005, and went on to back that up by winning the French Open a few weeks later.

On another occasion, Nadal outgunned Fernando Verdasco in a thrilling semi-final at the 2009 Australian Open. He defeated his fellow Spaniard 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 to set up a final date with Roger Federer - which he also won.

 Rafael Nadal after defeating Roger Federer in Rome 2006
 Rafael Nadal after defeating Roger Federer in Rome 2006

Speaking of Roger Federer, the Swiss usually tries to avoid long rallies in his matches; his matches seldom get too physically exhausting. It's not very surprising that in the 20-time Grand Slam champion's career, he has had to battle for more than five hours just once - and that too against his arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal, in the 2006 Rome Finals.

It was this very match that cemented the greatness of their rivalry. Roger Federer narrowly lost the electrifying encounter 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5), and his record in five-hour matches has remained 0-1 ever since.

Published 20 Jun 2020, 00:34 IST
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