Roger Federer has won 17 Grand Slam titles, and is widely regarded at the greatest tennis player of all time. World number one Novak Djokovic currently sits on 10 major titles, still some way behind, yet is comfortably the best player on the planet at the moment, and has been for the past four or five years.
Undoubtedly, the Serb, who picked up his most recent major last month when he beat Federer in the US Open final – his third Grand Slam of 2015, has the potential to beat the great Swiss’s remarkable major tally. It’s his unmatched consistency at the Grand Slams, the biggest events on the tennis calendar, which gives him a genuine chance of surpassing Federer’s 17 majors.
He has competed in 15 of the last 20 Grand Slam finals. Three finals in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Two in 2014. All four this year. It’s a phenomenal achievement. It’s increasingly becoming a big shock if he does not make it to the championship match. Although his conversion rate dipped fractionally between 2012 and 2014, where he won three of eight finals, Djokovic continues to give himself these opportunities.
In his career, he has lost eight Grand Slam finals, six of which have come in the last four years. Yet the appointment of Boris Becker, three-times a Wimbledon champion, as coach seems to have had a huge impact on the Serb’s mentality. Now, Djokovic is mentally as tough and resolute as anyone in the game, arguably as anyone in the world of sport. And Becker has certainly helped to install that mental toughness.
“Despite a deafening roar that went up after Federer levelled the match at one set all, he produced another wonderfully composed performance in difficult conditions to win in four sets. Unfazed, and mentally solid”
The French Open title is the only major evading the Serb from the Grand Slam (winning all four majors), something his great rivals Federer and Rafael Nadal have completed. He was one match away from achieving this remarkable feat in June, although an inspired Stan Wawrinka means that he will have to wait at least another year to try and win on the clay. Despite losing arguably the biggest match of his career, he came back and won Wimbledon for a third time just a month later. A remarkable comeback after the heartbreak of defeat in Paris.
Djokovic was in tears after losing that final. They then became tears of joy when he won Wimbledon just five weeks later. This mental resilience was also noticeable in New York. Federer is loved all over the world, yet the support for him in the US Open final was as passionate and hostile as it has ever been.
Yet this did not affect the Serb. Despite a deafening roar that went up after Federer levelled the match at one set all, he produced another wonderfully composed performance in difficult conditions to win in four sets. Unfazed, and mentally solid.
Djokovic has 16,785 ranking points following another title in Shanghai at the weekend. World number two Andy Murray and number three Federer have 17,180 points between them. He is so far ahead of the rest it’s frightening. This poses another question: can Federer, Wawrinka, Murray, and others provide regular competition to the Serb over the next few years?
“There are now some doubts as to whether Federer can produce the level of tennis required to beat Djokovic over five sets”
Federer, who turned 34 earlier in the summer, has played some of the best tennis of his career in the last few years, but has no Grand Slam to show for it. It’s not through the lack of trying though. He has featured in three finals since winning his last Slam at Wimbledon in 2012, yet ran into Djokovic in all three of them. The route to that 2012 final saw him overcome the Serb in the semi-finals – the last time he beat him in a major.
There are now some doubts as to whether Federer can produce the level of tennis required to beat Djokovic over five sets. The way he obliterated Murray in the Wimbledon semi-final in July suggests that he can, but that level dipped significantly in the final, and was nowhere near high enough to trouble Djokovic.
Therefore, there are doubts as to whether Federer can add to his already extra-ordinary 17 titles. The game is certainly there. He’s serving brilliantly. The forehand is as deadly as it’s ever been. The backhand is more solid than in the past. It is just of it all functioning to perfection on the day. Wimbledon seems to represent his best chance of further major success. Not that he can’t win any of the others.
“From the back of the court, Djokovic’s best beats everybody else”
His effortless movement, bigger racquet frame, and desire to get to the net all complement the Centre Court surface more than any other. This is the sort of aggressive game which can trouble Djokovic. Yet in the last two years, Djokovic has got the better of him. Federer hasn’t brought his A-game to the final, notably this year’s, despite looking ominously good in the earlier rounds.
From the back of the court, Djokovic’s best beats everybody else. There are very few who can consistently hit through the Serb, such is his incredible defence. Federer is mixing it up, recognising that if rallies last over eight or nine shots, Djokovic will likely prevail.
Image courtesy of ‘Marianne Bevis’ via flickr