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Was Federer of the 2000s more dominant than Djokovic of the 2010s?

Bhargav
Roger Federer (left) and Novak Djokovic pose before their historic 2019 Wimbledon final
Roger Federer (left) and Novak Djokovic pose before their historic 2019 Wimbledon final

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have been two of the leading performers in the men's singles circuit for large swathes of the last two decades.

With 71 and 57 hardcourt titles respectively, the duo has won more titles on the surface than anyone else in history. Their respective Grand Slam tallies of 20 and 16 are interspersed only by Rafael Nadal's 19 in the all-time leaderboard.

Federer and Djokovic possessing two of the best career win-loss percentages among players to have played over 200 matches. Moreover, no player to have faced both of the stalwarts possesses a winning head-to-head record against them both.

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Both Federer (thrice) and Djokovic (once) are the only players after Rod Laver to have appeared in all four Grand Slam finals in the same calendar year, and to have won three Grand Slam titles in a year on multiple occasions (Federer-3, Djokovic-2).

By winning a bucketload of titles and occupying the No. 1 rank for vast stretches of time, Federer in the 2000s and Djokovic in the 2010s dominated the two decades unlike any other player. Let us now analyse, under various parameters, which of the two was the more dominant player: Federer of the 2000s or Djokovic of the 2010s.

#1 Grand Slam titles

Federer equaled Sampras' all-time tally of 14 Grand Slams by winning at the 2009 French Open
Federer equaled Sampras' all-time tally of 14 Grand Slams by winning at the 2009 French Open

Federer won his first Grand Slam title at 2003 Wimbledon, and at the 2007 Australian Open became the first player to win his first seven Grand Slam finals. Although the Swiss was thrice stopped by Nadal at the 2006-08 French Opens and also at 2008 Wimbledon and the 2009 Australian Open, Federer racked up eight more Grand Slam titles during the decade.

Federer tied Pete Sampras' tally of most Grand Slam titles (14) by winning his maiden title at the 2009 French Open. In the process he also became the first player since Rod Laver (1969) and Andre Agassi (1999) to complete the career Grand Slam (winning all four Grand Slam titles during the course of one's career).

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Federer also came within two points of a sixth consecutive title at 2008 Wimbledon and the 2009 US Open before being stopped by Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro respectively.

The Swiss maestro kicked off the 2010s decade by winning his 16th Grand Slam title to open up 10- and 15-Slam leads over his fellow Big 3 peers Nadal and Djokovic respectively. By the time the last Grand Slam of the decade was played, Federer's lead had whittled down to one and four respectively.

Djokovic in the 2010s was very much like the dominant Federer of the 2000s. Following a maiden triumph at the 2008 Australian Open, the Serb had to wait three more years before announcing his true Grand Slam potential.

In a breakthrough 2011 season, Djokovic won titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open and came into the French Open semis with a stunning 41-0 start to the year before losing to Federer.

In the longest men's singles final in the Open Era, Djokovic outlasted Nadal in a near six-hour slugfest to win his third Australian Open title and fifth Grand Slam overall. Like Federer, the Serb endured setbacks in his first three French Open finals (2012, 2014 to Nadal, 2015 against Stan Wawrinka) before completing the Career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open.

In the process, Djokovic emulated his Big 3 peers as the only players after Laver and Agassi to have won the career Grand Slam in the Open Era.

Djokovic poses with Nadal after the 2012 Australian Open final
Djokovic poses with Nadal after the 2012 Australian Open final

In 2015, Djokovic became the first player after Federer (2009) to reach all four Grand Slam finals in the same year. The Serb fell to Wawrinka at the French but won the other three.

Djokovic famously saved a pair of match points against Federer in the 2010-11 US Open semis and also at the 2019 Wimbledon final. In the latter, he triumphed in a historic first-ever 5th set tiebreak to become the first player since Federer to win five titles at the grasscourt Major.

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The Serb remained perfect in six Australian Open finals during the decade, beating Andy Murray four times and Nadal twice. He handed the Spaniard his only straight-sets loss in a Grand Slam final in 2019 to take become the all-time title leader (7) at the tournament.

Djokovic also reached six Wimbledon finals during the decade, with a straight-sets reverse to Murray in 2013 being his only loss.

The US Open was Djokovic's least favorite hunting ground where he endured four final defeats (2010, 2013 to Nadal; 2012 to Murray, 2016 to Wawrinka). But Djokovic also won three Flushing Meadows titles during this period (2011, 2015, 2018).

Like Federer in the 2000s, Djokovic in the 2010s also won 15 Grand Slam titles. But unlike Federer who lost six Slam finals during the 2000s, Djokovic fell short in eight, which shows he was slightly more consistent at reaching the summit clash in the Slams.

WINNER: Djokovic of the 2010s

#2 Masters 1000s

Novak Djokovic at the 2011 Indian Wells
Novak Djokovic at the 2011 Indian Wells

Djokovic is the undisputed winner in this category, winning 29 Masters 1000 titles from 39 finals during the 2010s decade. Federer in the 2000s won 16 Masters 1000 titles from 25 finals.

The Serb reached eight Masters 1000 finals in 2015, winning six, which are respective records for most Masters 1000 finals and titles in a calendar year.

With 263 Masters 1000 match wins during the decade to go with 47 defeats (84.8%), Djokovic's match win rate in this category during the 2010s comfortably outscores that of Federer's corresponding 2000s tally of 202 wins and 59 losses (77.3%).

WINNER: Djokovic of the 2010s

#3 ATP Finals

Djokovic won a record 4th consecutive ATP Finals in 2015
Djokovic won a record 4th consecutive ATP Finals in 2015

Federer during the 2000s registered a 29-7 match win-loss record (80.6%) at the ATP Finals, winning titles in 2003-04 and 2006-07, while losing his sole title match in 2005 to David Nalbandian. That loss to the Argentine prevented the Swiss maestro from tying John McEnroe's record for the best match-win loss record in a season (82-3).

Djokovic during the 2010s registered a 30-9 match win-loss record (76.9%) at the season-ending tournament, becoming the first player in the history of the ATP Finals to win four consecutive editions (2012-2015). However, he lost title matches in 2016 to Andy Murray and in 2018 to Sascha Zverev.

With both players winning an identical tally of four titles at the ATP Finals during the two decades, Federer of the 2000s takes the honours in this category owing to a better match wins record compared to that of the Serb.

WINNER: Federer of the 2000s

#4 All titles

Federer (right) won his first singles title at 2001 Milan
Federer (right) won his first singles title at 2001 Milan

After reverses in his first two singles finals (), Federer picked up his first career singles title on the carpet of Milan in 2001. After a record 24-match unbeaten run in finals from 2003 Vienna to 2005 Bangkok, David Nalbandian fought back from two sets down and then a break down in the fifth to end Federer's stunning run in tournament title matches.

Federer did not lose a final in the entire 2004 season. He racked up impressive title hauls of 11, 11, and 12 in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively, going on to win a total of 61 titles from 85 finals (72.9% finals record) in the 2000s decade.

Djokovic put up equally staggering numbers in the 2010s decade, winning an identical 61 titles but from just one fewer final than Federer played in the 2000s, at a marginally superior win rate of 73% (61-23) in tournament finals.

The Serb won 10 or more titles in a season on two occasions during the 2010s, bagging 10 titles in 2011 and 11 in 2015. However, Djokovic in the 2010s, unlike Federer in the 2000s, did not manage any season during the decade without losing a tour-level final.

That, coupled with the fact that Federer reached one more final than Djokovic, is the reason why Federer of the 2000s should be considered a slightly more dominant player in the decade than Djokovic was in the 2010s.

WINNER: Federer of the 2000s

#5 Match win-loss record

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer in the 2000s decade won 663 matches and lost 141, for a win-loss % of 82.4%.

Novak Djokovic in the 2010s decade suffered his 100th and final defeat against Federer in a group-stage match at the 2019 ATP Finals in London. Three wins later at the first-ever Davis Cup finals in Madrid, Djokovic closed the decade with a tally of 630 wins, for a win-loss % of 86.3% during the decade.

To put things in perspective, Rafael Nadal won 576 matches and lost 106 (84.5%) during the decade that was 2010-2019, which was marginally ahead of Federer's tally of 559 wins and 109 defeats (83.6%) during the same period.

Djokovic in the 2010s is a clear winner in this category.

WINNER: Djokovic of the 2000s

#6 Weeks at No. 1

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Federer has the most weeks (310) and most consecutive weeks (237) at the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings.

During the 2000s decade, Federer occupied the numero uno spot for 237 consecutive weeks between 2004 and 2008, and in another spell (6th July 2009 to 6th June 2010) was the No. 1 ranked player for 26 more weeks. The Swiss maestro was ranked No. 1 for a total of 263 weeks during the 2000s decade.

Djokovic, in four different spells at No. 1, has occupied the top spot for 275 weeks during the 2010s decade, which makes him a winner in this category.

WINNER: Djokovic of the 2010s

CONCLUSION

Both Federer of the 2000s and Djokovic of the 2010s were supremely dominant performers during the respective decades. But the Serb topped four separate categories of performance analysis (out of six), and also had a marginally superior match-wins record.

Federer did have an easier time winning his matches in the 2000s, as 498 of his 663 triumphs came in straight sets (for a rate of 75%). By contrast, Djokovic won 458 out of his 630 matches in straight sets (72.7%). Dominance came more easily to Federer, as suggested by his ratio of straight sets wins, but in the big picture it was Djokovic who sustained his dominance to a greater degree.

OVERALL WINNER: Djokovic of the 2010s

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Edited by Musab Abid
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