Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal have 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles each. Novak Djokovic is close on their heels with 19 titles and is the youngest of the troika at 34. He has plenty of time on his side to go way beyond both of them.
Here is a list of things where Djoko has already outdone Fed-Rafa…
Federer has never beaten Nadal in any French Open. The two never met in the US Open. But what of Djokovic? He has beaten Federer in at least one match in the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Fed-Djoko have met 3 times in Wimbledon finals. Djoko leads 3-0.
Djoko beat Nadal in three straight final line-ups: 2011 Wimbledon, 2011 US Open and 2012 Australian Open. Later he beat Nadal in the quarters of the 2015 French Open and then again in the 2021 semis. That’s 4/4 Grand Slams for the 2/2 of the “greatest” players!
2. Dominates the trivalry in terms of one-on-ones.
Federer’s nemesis is Nadal. The two have met 40 times and Nadal leads a good 24-16. However it is only Djoko who has the better of all of the rivals he has played with after he came into form (he had a few failed rivalries only at the beginning of his career). Djoko and Nadal have met 58 times, which is an Open era record and Djoko leads 30-28. Anyone having 30 wins against anyone is also a men’s tennis record.
With the all-time great Federer, Djoko leads 27-23. Interestingly in 2011, he met Federer-Nadal 11 times, winning 10 of those matches! More importantly in all finals, Djokovic leads Federer 13-6 and Nadal 15-12. Did you know that only one person in Grand Slam men’s singles history has 11 losses to one player? No prizes for guessing that it’s Federer who lost to Djoko. Overall with Andy Murray its 25-11, Stan Wawrinka 19-6 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 18-6.
Rod Laver was a legend who did a calendar Grand Slam first as an amateur in 1962, then as a professional in 1969. However after that for decades, nobody managed to win all four at a stretch. Andre Agassi became the first to do a career Grand Slam in 1999. He was emulated by Federer in 2009 and Nadal a year later.
Djoko won the following titles back to back: 2015 Wimbledon, 2015 US Open, 2016 Australian Open and 2016 French Open. In the process he became the first person since 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles. That’s after a good 47 years! He is also the only player in men’s tennis history to hold these Grand Slams on three different surfaces at the same time. In more all-round records, Djoko is the only player with 9+ semis and 72+ wins overall in each of the Grand Slams.
4. Two Grand Slams each.
Djoko is the only men’s player in the Open Era to have won at least 2 each of all 4 Grand Slams. He will play for a few years more and if he picks up one more French Open, then he would have won 3 in each and that could be one record which could stand for really a long time. He is also the only person in history to have entered at least 6 Grand Slam finals each.
5. Highest ATP ranking points ever.
Djoko has these short bursts where he looks near invincible. Like the time he won four straight Grand Slams. The same is with the ATP ranking points. He is the only person in history to have crossed ATP ranking points of 16000 in 2015 (if you win each and every tournament you play in a year, then you can go to 21000). To put things in perspective, when Djoko had 16950, that was more than the No. 2 + No. 3 combined (Andy Murray and Federer).
In 2015 Djoko won 3 Grand Slams, 6 masters and 11 titles. He ended the year in style winning the World Tour Finals title and became the first to win 4 straight end-of-year finals tournaments. He also created another world record that season, beating 31 Top 10 players. Earlier in 2011, when Federer and Nadal were at their peak, he won 41 straight matches, the best after John McEnroe’s 42 in 1984. He had another such burst in 2018-20.
6. The only man to win all 9 ATP World Tour Masters 1000.
After the Grand Slams and ATP Finals, these are the most prestigious tournaments and Djokovic is the only man in the world to have won all 9, called a Career Golden Masters. In fact in 2015, he won 6/9 in a single year. In the terms of ATP finals Federer has the most with 6, but Djokovic already has 5 and so well could go past him.
There was a race between the three to get $100 million in professional tennis earnings and you never knew who would get there first. Finally it was a race between Federer and Djoko and the latter prevailed. Currently Djoko is in the range of $150 million as against $130m by Federer, which is the highest ever. In 2015 he became the only man to cross $20 million prize money in a year. Nadal’s yearly highest is $15+ million and Federer’s $13+ million.
8. Most weeks as World No. 1.
In the 1970s/1980s, Jimmy Connors spent a record 268 weeks as World Number 1. Ivan Lendl narrowly went past that with 270. Pete Sampras, who won his last singles Grand Slam in 2002, did 286. Federer did 310 and now Djoko has gone past him and is still counting (324). For year-ending No. 1s, the record 6 jointly shared by Sampras and Djoko, but the latter has time on his side. When you look at the 2010s, then weeks at No. 1, it’s Djoko 275 weeks, Nadal 159 and Federer 48.
9. King of the Hardcourt.
Nadal has a whopping 13 French Opens. Federer has 8 Wimbledons. Both stand alone there. Additionally, Federer has 5 US Opens, a record he shares with Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras. But Djoko has made the Australian Open his own with 9 titles. At the end of his career, could he touch 13 or beyond? Who knows! Djoko also has 3 US Opens, so he could also join Connors-Sampras-Federer for the most there. If Federer is the King of Grass and Nadal the King of Clay, Djoko is the undisputed King of the Hardcourt.
(This blog first appeared on July 16, 2018. This is the updated version of the same)