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Why Roger Federer is still the king of the year-end championships

Roger Federer at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals
Roger Federer at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals
Stan
ANALYST

Roger Federer is likely to finish behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam race. There are plenty of other parameters too where he could be eclipsed by Djokovic soon.

The Serb is already regarded as the GOAT by several fans and former players, and with good reason. Djokovic not only has as many Majors as Federer and Nadal, but he also leads the leaderboard of most Masters 1000 titles.

This year, the 34-year-old broke Roger Federer's record of most weeks as World No. 1 (310 weeks). He also claimed sole ownership of the record for most year-end No. 1 finishes.

Given Federer's age and recent injury concerns, not many would bet on him to add more trophies to his cabinet. Djokovic, on the other hand, is primed to win at least a couple more Majors given that he is still close to his best.

Rafael Nadal, like Roger Federer, has had injury concerns of his own. But the Mallorcan is always a heavy favorite on the red dirt of Roland Garros, so even he is expected to cross the Swiss' Slam tally.

However, there is one area of the sport where Federer still remains the unanimous leader: the season-ending championships, better known as the ATP Finals.

Yes, Novak Djokovic is close to equaling the Swiss there too, and was tipped by many to do so at Turin this year. But he fell to Alexander Zverev in the semifinals, which means that for now, Roger Federer is still the most successful player ever at the season-ending championships.

Here are a few statistics in that regard:

#1 Roger Federer has the most titles in the history of the ATP Finals

Roger Federer with his 2011 ATP Finals title
Roger Federer with his 2011 ATP Finals title

With six season-ending championships to his name, Roger Federer is the most decorated player in the history of the tournament. Novak Djokovic is the active player who comes closest to the Swiss' tally, with five titles to his name.

Ivan Lendl also has five titles like the Serb, but has long retired. Another retired player, Ilie Nastase, has won the event four times.

The season-ending championships is one of the toughest events on tour, given the format and pace of the courts. Add the fact that it comes right at the end of a season, after players have expended most of their energy, and it starts sounding like a difficult ask for an aging Djokovic to add to his tally.

#2 Roger Federer has reached the final of the year-end championships a record 10 times

Roger Federer has made the summit clash of the ATP Finals on 10 occasions, which is a record. Ivan Lendl made the finals nine times and Boris Becker on eight occasions, but quite obviously, neither of those two can get past the Swiss' record.

Ilie Nastase, meanwhile, made the final five times.

Novak Djokovic has a chance to break this record, given that he has made the final of the season-ending championships seven times and counting. But for that, the Serb would have to reach the final of the event four more times before he calls it a day.

This is possibly an even tougher ask than winning a record-equaling sixth title because of Djokovic's advancing age coupled with the increasing competitiveness on the ATP tour.

#3 Roger Federer has the most match wins at the ATP Finals

Roger Federer has 59 match wins at the Nitto ATP Finals
Roger Federer has 59 match wins at the Nitto ATP Finals

Roger Federer has taken part in the ATP Finals a whopping 17 times, over the course of which he has managed to win 59 out of 76 matches. That number of 59 wins, needless to say, is a tournament record.

Federer's feat is some distance ahead of second-placed Novak Djokovic, who has won 41 matches across 14 editions (out of a total of 58 matches played). Interestingly, both players have faced 17 defeats each at this event.

Even if Djokovic were to win the subsequent three editions of the event unbeaten, he would only have 56 victories from 17 editions. This record too, therefore, appears safe at the moment.

Ivan Lendl is third on this list with 39 match wins.

#4 Roger Federer has a greater winning percentage at the ATP Finals than Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer's 59 match wins out of 76 matches give him a winning percentage of 77.6%. While this is inferior to Ilie Nastase (88%) and Ivan Lendl (79.6%), it is higher than Novak Djokovic's record of 70.6%.

Lendl and Nastase cannot match the Swiss in other statistics pertaining to the ATP Finals, given that they have long retired. As such, even though they have outdone Federer in this regard, overall they are a notch below Federer at the year-end championships.

#5 Roger Federer has an even head-to-head record with Novak Djokovic at the year-end championships

Roger Federer after beating Novak Djokovic at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals
Roger Federer after beating Novak Djokovic at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have faced each other six times at the season-ending championships. The head-to-head between Federer and Djokovic at this event is currently tied at 3-3 (this is not counting the walkover the Swiss handed Djokovic ahead of the summit clash in 2014).

Federer beat Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2010 ATP Finals, and in the round-robin stage in 2015. His most recent win over the Serb came in the 2019 edition, again in the round-robin.

Djokovic, meanwhile, accounted for the Swiss in the finals of the 2012 and 2015 editions. He also beat Federer in the group stages in 2013.

It can be argued that Novak Djokovic's wins over Roger Federer at this tournament have been more significant, given that two of them were in the final. But the fact that Federer has as many wins over Djokovic, while also edging the Serb in a few other important metrics, suggests that he is still the best player ever at the season-ending championships.


Edited by Musab Abid
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