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

ANALYST
Feature
Modified 27 Dec 2019, 02:49 IST

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
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.

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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

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Published 27 Dec 2019, 02:49 IST
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