When Roger Federer introduced his retirement this week, he was showered with hosannas befitting one of many best males’s tennis gamers of all time.
However was he merely one of many best? Or was he the best of all of them?
It’s not exhausting to declare a favourite participant the most effective ever after which hunt down statistics to justify the argument. Let’s come at it from the opposite course and have a look at numbers first to see the place they lead.
Grand Slam Wins
If any single quantity has been extensively accepted as the last word measure of a tennis nice, it’s the variety of Grand Slam tournaments gained. And there’s definitely loads of logic behind that.
A Grand Slam title is the last word objective for many gamers: The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open draw essentially the most consideration and the strongest fields and bathe their winners with prize cash and visibility. In males’s tennis, they’re additionally recognized for a best-of-five-set format, a lengthier take a look at than these in common tour occasions.
This easiest of measures is the one most tennis followers know:
The Large Three (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) tower over the remainder of males’s tennis historical past as they do in so many classes.
Each Nadal and Djokovic are nonetheless enjoying, too, and will enhance their totals; the 2 between them gained three of the 4 Grand Slam singles titles this yr.
Grand Slam Performances
Lowering Grand Slam performances to a binary — did he win or not? — is one thing of an oversimplification. Successful matches and advancing deep right into a match are vital, too, it doesn’t matter what Vince Lombardi would possibly say.
The scoring system is likely to be debatable, however what if we awarded 6 factors for a Grand Slam win, 3 for a runner-up end and 1 for making a semifinal?
Now the gamers stack up this fashion:
If something, it’s simply as shut. And a barely completely different scoring system may simply change the order.
For instance, loads of followers take into account the Olympics, wherein tennis is staged each 4 years, to be a Slam or a near-Slam-caliber match in significance. Every of the gamers gained one Olympic singles medal. Add 6 for Nadal’s gold, 3 for Federer’s silver and 1 for Djokovic’s bronze and also you get a laughably shut race: 171-171-170, with Nadal trailing by only a level.
All three males additionally misplaced the bronze medal match at an Olympics, and Djokovic did it twice. That’s the equal of a semifinal, which might push Djokovic some extent forward.
Grand Slams From One other Angle
Counting solely Grand Slam wins, finals and semifinals doesn’t account for early spherical performances, nor does it consider that Federer received his begin sooner than the opposite two gamers and has had extra alternatives in Grand Slams. A easy won-lost report in Grand Slam occasions accounts for each of these components. By this measure:
Federer’s longevity counts towards him right here; some early- and late-career losses deliver down his win proportion. The identical may occur within the twilight of Nadal and Djokovic’s careers, in the event that they stick round.
Successful on quite a lot of surfaces is vital to a participant’s legacy. That’s why Federer’s lone Grand Slam win on clay, within the 2009 French Open, mattered a lot to tennis followers.
So — and persist with us right here — what if as an alternative of including up the Grand Slam titles, we multiplied them? This may give extra factors to gamers who gained quite a lot of Grand Slams and penalize the specialists. It could additionally give a rating of 0 to anybody who didn’t win all 4, however fortunately every of the massive three did.
Djokovic’s comparative versatility provides him the sting right here. Federer is harm by profitable solely as soon as in Paris, whereas Nadal’s superb 14 French Open wins have diminishing returns by this methodology.
Tennis isn’t just the Grand Slams, and the totality of the lads’s careers ought to most likely be checked out as effectively.
When it comes to won-lost report in all official occasions, they stack up:
By profitable proportion, it’s Nadal, Djokovic, Federer. By complete wins, it’s Federer, Nadal, Djokovic.
Right here’s extra to think about: Djokovic spent 373 weeks ranked at No. 1 and ended seven completely different years there. Federer was on high for 310 weeks and 5 occasions at yr’s finish, and Nadal 209 and 5.
Federer gained 103 tour singles titles, Nadal has 92 and Djokovic 88. (For as soon as, one other participant beats the triumvirate: Jimmy Connors, enjoying in a a lot completely different period, gained 109 titles, one thing for many who wish to make a really contrarian case for the most effective ever.)
Whereas some gamers and followers dismiss the Davis Cup, others see it as a crucial a part of the tennis calendar. Nadal has a shocking 29-1 report in Cup play, for a .967 proportion. Djokovic is 38-7, .844, and Federer is 40-8, .833.
The Nuts and Bolts
Possibly gaudy stats equivalent to wins and Grand Slams are too outcomes oriented. The ATP Tour compiles loads of others to look at the gamers at a hyper-granular stage.
However there’s little readability right here both. Who has the most effective serve? Federer gained 77 p.c of his first serve factors, with Djokovic at 74 and Nadal at 72.
Greatest returner within the clutch? They rank within the reverse order. Nadal has gained 45 p.c of break factors, with Djokovic at 44 and Federer at 41.
Possibly it’s time to throw out all these matches towards Tomas Berdych and Diego Schwartzman. How did the Large Three fare once they confronted off towards one another?
Right here, Djokovic will get the nod, if barely. He holds a 30-29 edge over Nadal and 27-23 over Federer. Nadal leads Federer, 24-16.
And in Conclusion …
There are most likely one million methods to determine it. And each time you work it, somebody gained’t like the way in which you figured it.
In our little experiment, Nadal led in 5 classes, Djokovic in 4 and Federer in three. However many of the classes have been extraordinarily shut. And if we had picked a number of completely different ones, there would have been a special end result. Except you stubbornly resolve that just one statistic issues, there doesn’t appear to be any technique to clearly separate the three.
Possibly you could have a favourite. If that’s the case, we now have given you some ammunition to make your argument when you are ready for the following match at Rod Laver Area or Arthur Ashe Stadium.
However irrespective of who your selection is, it’s clear that Federer’s retirement is the start of the top of a Golden Age for males’s tennis. Possibly younger Carlos Alcaraz will scare a few of these numbers in 20 years or so. Or possibly we’ll by no means see the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, not less than all on the similar time, once more.