Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - The 'Best Ever' trio
Last Sunday, World no.1 Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray met in the final of French Open, vying to add the most prestigious clay court title to their trophy cabinet. Even if the Serb had a superior head-to-head record against the Brit, winning 12 of their last 14 meetings, he could have considered it a cake walk only at his own peril. After all, he had stormed to the finals last year, only to lose to Stan Wawrinka. But, the Djoker kept his composure, and went to on to secure his maiden title at Roland Garros in 4 sets, and secure a Career Grand Slam.
The World No. 1 became the 3rd player in the decade to complete the Career Grand Slam, following in the footsteps of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The three most dominant players since the days of Pete Sampras.
The trio of the Best Ever?
Roger Federer was the first to break through. At Wimbledon in 2001, just when Pete Sampras looked all set to march on to record 5th consecutive title, there was an upset waiting to happen. In the fourth round, Swiss Roger Federer got the better of him in a five setter. Although Goran Ivanisevic won the Wimbledon that year, a star was born.
Federer didn't have to wait for too long to win his first Grand Slam, it came in 2003 Wimbledon and the Swiss went on to win at least one each year, for the next 9 years on his way to surpassing Pete Sampras and take his own tally to 17 grand slams – a record. He was also the first of the three to win a Career Grand Slam by winning the French open in 2009.
To challenge the Swiss’ domination, an 18-year-old kid from Mallorca – Rafael Nadal – burst onto the scene by winning the French open title in 2005 and he then defeated Federer in the finals at Roland Garros for the next 3 years to win it for the record 4th consecutive time. Nadal and Federer would go on to have arguably the greatest rivalry in tennis history, and the Spaniard would win titles on the other three surfaces and took his tally to level with Sampras' 14. He completed his Career Grand Slam in 2010.
To break the duopoly of Fed Ex and Nadal, entered Serbian Djoker. After losing to Federer in the finals of 2007 US Open, Novak Djokovic won his first grand slam in 2008, and he would go on earn his place alongside the Swiss and the Spaniard, and he now has 12 grand slam titles.
The trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, besides completing Career Grand Slams, have won 43 Grand Slams collectively and have been in the finals 47 times and also shared the No.1 ranking between them for 645 weeks since Feb 2004 (more than 12 years) – unprecedented in the history of tennis.
Their records speak for themselves:
Nadal – 9 French Open titles, 5 Consecutive French Open wins.
Federer – 7 Wimbledon titles, 5 consecutive Wimbledon, 5 consecutive US Open titles. 237 consecutive weeks (overall 302 weeks) as World no.1.
Djokovic – 6 Australian Open titles.
This establishes them amongst the greatest, but what makes them the ‘Best Ever’? Let’s look at how they compare with the other greats:
How the trio compare with greats from the earlier generations
Before the trio, we saw the distinguished careers of Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Ivan Lendl . Cumulatively they have won more than 30 Grand slams and held No.1 position for several years, but they fall short of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.
While Sampras held the record for all-time Grand Slams at 14, it was eclipsed by Federer, equalled by Nadal, and Djokovic is right on his heels at 12. It is almost certain that both Djokovic, and Nadal will go past him eventually. Another point against Sampras, Borg, Connors, and Lendl is that none of them ever completed a Career Grand Slam. In fact, Andre Agassi was the only player to achieve the feat from that generation, but he was never one who showed the consistency or longevity of the trio.
Here we look at how the current trio stands against the all-time greats in terms of Grand Slams.
|Player||Grand Slam Titles|
|Australian Open||French Open||Wimbledon||US Open|
|Novak Djokovic (6)||Rafael Nadal (9)||Roger Federer (7)||Roger Federer (5)|
|Roger Federer (4)||Bjorn Borg (6)||Pete Sampras (7)||Pete Sampras (5)|
Looking at just the facts, it’s easy to see why Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic can be considered the ‘Best Ever’ trio. The scary part is, they’re not finished yet. Even though his last Grand Slam title was in 2012, Federer is always up there, and we could see one last hurrah for the Swiss. Nadal’s injury woes, have robbed him of a few titles, but if he is able to make a comeback, he is always in contention, and could yet break Sampras’ record.
Lastly, Djokovic is in the prime of his career, and we could see many more Grand Slams for the Serb before he is done. Moreover, if he successfully defends Wimbledon and US open this year, another record would get etched to his name - The first person after Rod Laver in 1969 to have won all the 4 Grand Slam titles in the same year.
‘Best Ever’ trio. I rest my case.