Pete Sampras: Djokovic’s Season Best I’ve Seen in My Lifetime
by Tom Gainey | September 23rd, 2011
  • 72 Comments

Speaking before an ATP Champions circuit event Thursday in South Florida, Pete Sampras heralded Novak Djokovic’s current season as the best he’s ever seen.

“At least in my lifetime, the best ever,” Sampras told the Palm Beach Post.

“I always thought Novak was a bit temperamental and would go through these lapses that would prevent him from winning majors,” Sampras said to the paper. “And now you look – he lost the first two sets against Roger and boom! He recovered within a couple of minutes. He’s got a short memory now. He’s progressed into this great champion.”

This year the 64-3 Djokovic has won 10 titles including three Grand Slam events.

Sampras also opined on the current player revolt brewing on the tour and the US Open scheduling issue. “Quite honestly, the U.S. Open has it coming,” Sampras said. “The handwriting’s on the wall.”

Sampras went on to beat Jim Courier last night to win the HSBC Tennis Cup held at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida.


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72 Comments for Pete Sampras: Djokovic’s Season Best I’ve Seen in My Lifetime

grendel Says:

Sampras may be right, but it should be borne in mind that he has certain axes to grind. Meanwhile, I watched Whatever Works last night (not bad, if you like Woody Allen, if you like Larry David – yes to both in my case, sometimes) and in the very last scene of the film, a shot is shown of the young man sticking on a grin, and he’s a dead ringer for the young Sampras. I wonder if anyone else caught the likeness.


grendel Says:

oh, and this young man, I understand, is scheduled to play the next Superman. Now, then.


dari Says:

Is this where you were, Kimberly. How was the exho?


dari Says:

Wishing HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the incredible Juan Martin del Potro! does anyone remember his press after USO championship? He said he was gonna use his prize $ to get a cheesecake for his bday. Jajajaja!


jane Says:

Seen that film, but never noticed the Sampras look-alike. I love Patricia Clarkson and so love that Woody casts her so often. She was funny in that one – her metamorphosis.

I don’t go in for “best ever” qualifications too much myself. I’d just say that Nole has had one of the great years in men’s tennis and leave it at that. Rafa, Fed, JMac, Laver, Graf, Navratilova etc etc etc have all had great years too. Maybe what is remarkable about Djoko’s year so far is how he has handled top ten opponents and main rivals in particular. As Pete says, Nole’s compete level has been questioned in the past, but he has sure showed his competitive heart this year.


grendel Says:

the lookalike only became apparent in the very last shot – could be my imagination, of course. Agree about Patricia Clarkson. She reminds me of someone, can’t think who. Maybe it’s of herself.


Shahzad Says:

This has been a pretty crazy season for djokovic but I’m not sure if its better than Fed’s best years. I mean he didn’t make it to the French final and his match against Fed at the US open wasn’t really djokovic playing amazing more than it was Fed giving it away.


Kimberly Says:

Dari it was great. Courier was clearly taking it easy on conners. A lot of fun. We were in the front row and they were talking an joking around a lot. Sampras is still so graceful and what a net game!


JOELLE Says:

UN BON ANNIVERSAIRE A JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO.


rogerafa Says:

Sampras is yet to come to terms with the fact that his 14 majors record went away so quickly. Federer’s unprecedented domination, combined with his uniquely beautiful tennis, made a lot of people forget about Sampras’ great achievements. Sampras wouldn’t ever have imagined that all this would happen so fast. All of a sudden, its Federer, Laver and Borg instead of Laver, Borg and Sampras. Hence the periodic snide remarks to undermine Roger’s achievements directly or indirectly. “Weak” competition, H2H with Nadal etc. Djokovic has had an extraordinarily brilliant 2011 but whether it is the best ever is still debatable especially because of the fact that he reached “only” three slam finals.


tennis coach Says:

rogerafa, there are more GS to come from Novak!The way he punished top 10 player this year is unseen in the history of tennis and that’s why Sampras,JMac,Willander,Borg,Becker and others are praising Novak’s game. Nothing to do with Federer.


ahonkan Says:

@tennis coach: Sure Novak will win more, but do you see him eclipsing even Rafa’s mark, let alone Pete or Roger’s? You surely remember Mac having the season of his life in 1984 and not winning any GS thereafter (age: 25). One of the greatest single seasons ever? Yes. But a long, long way to turn it into a Fed-like 3-yr reign at the top. Even Rafa couldn’t sustain his white-hot 2010 form for more than 1 year. JMac, Wilander (Fed-hater) & Becker are not the most reliable or logical ‘experts’.


ava Says:

Roger tenis is easeon boddy and he is still healthy but is to late to him.
Novak, Murray and even Rafa will dominate for whyle


Dan Martin Says:

I think that based on what Novak did to Rafa and winning a record 5 Masters 1000 events (I know the Super 9 only came into existence in 1990) but still over 20+ seasons no one had won more than 4 of these events before this year gives Nole a claim to the best season ever. Federer reaching all 4 slam finals in 2006 while winning 3, winning 4 masters 1000 events and the season ender, and 12 events total. Call me crazy, but I think the season ending event needs to be played before we know how to rate a season.


Skeezerweezer Says:

^ what about beating the then current #1 player in the world 6 consecutive times in finals, and only losing once to the #2? He did not have “cupcake” draws, he just simply beat everyone in his path.
Each man has his own justification, but when Novak won the USO after all he has done this year, imho he’s had the best year ever. If I was him, I’d rest in the Egg the rest of the year while sipping Mai Tai’s and watching everyone else try to win a tourney. ;)


Dan Martin Says:

Skeezer, I think he obviously has an argument to make. I think two losses coming as retirements actually hurts him a little due to his history of retiring prior to 2011. Best year ever, but in 2 pretty big occasions he could not physically finish the match? I think his year has been incredibly good. However, Connors 74, Mac 84, Lendl 86, Wilander 88, Federer 06, Nadal 2010 … they could all make an argument as well. If Nole wins in Londo I’d give him my nod as best year ever, but not until the year ends can I really say it is the best ever. If he losses early in Shanghai and Paris and losses in the semis in London are we saying slams are all that matters? If so, then Fed’s 06 and 07 were better. If these other events can and do make a difference, I’d like to see them all played before making my choice. Here are a few more of my thoughts on the issue – http://danmartintennis.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/is-djokovics-2011-the-best-year-ever/


Dan Martin Says:

London instead of Londo … typos


Dc Says:

what Nole has done this year..Fed pretty much did every year from 2004 to 2006 and to a lesser degree in 2007

Fed was 247–15 from 2004 to 2006.
In 2006 Fed also won 31 consecutive sets, the closes to that record was also Fed with 28 consecutive sets in 2005.

When Nole repeats what he has done this year for at least 3 consecutive years,we can compare him with Fed.

Not to mention, we can write a book on Fed’s records, whereas there are only pages to write about Noles.


rogerafa Says:

@tennis coach

I totally agree with you that Djokovic will win many more slams. He could become the first to get past 30 slams for all we know. I was referring to his slams this year which, as I said, has been a brilliant season. However, you’d agree with me that when it comes to comparing such “best ever” scenarios, things aren’t so easy to figure out and the exercise can sometimes be totally meaningless. That is why I think that at least as of now, it is debatable. You may be right that some of the praise going Novak’s way is genuine but I am not so naive as to think that some of it is not said keeping Federer in mind. After all, his prime years automatically come under scrutiny when Novak’s season is put forth as the best ever.


Nina Says:

I agree with Sampras, the man knows his stuff. :)


Nina Says:

@Dc… time will tell, of course nobody is comparing Nole’s career to Fed. But in terms of best season, in my opinion Nole has got the best one. And while nobody can tell if he will repeat it in the following years, he’s very capable of doing it. Right now his level is stratospheric and it’s become too much for everyone else. Let’s see if he can keep it up and if the rest can step it up to his level. 2012 will be an exciting year…


funches Says:

Anyone who says Wilander could make a claim to having a better year than Djokovic did this year is a moron.

Just saying. He won three slams, but nothing else he did came even close. Idiot.


Brando Says:

No way is nole’s season the best ever. That belongs to rod laver in 1968- 4 slams won in a calender year. After him federer in 2004, 2006, 2007 won 3 slams, YEC in all of them-reaching FO final in 2006,2007 and won 13 titles and lost only 5 times in 2007. I would place nole’s season in the top 5- at best 3rd IF he wins YEC. And as far as wilanders season is concerned, he won 3 slams in a season nole won 3, nole’s on 4 slams, wilander on 7. I don’t think mat is feeling sorry and inferior about himself atm, is he?


Dan Martin Says:

I personally don’t think Mats had a better year in 88. However, he did win Key Biscayne and Cincinnati in addition to his 3 slams. That is a pretty excellent year. Mats did more or less go away after winning the USO in 88.

The other strike against Mats is that he seems to want to use the word “balls” in every commentary he speaks or writes. I love how a glorified pusher who used to love to take lines off of the court could question anyone’s courage.


steve-o Says:

Djokovic is having one of the best seasons in men’s tennis, and for that he gets a page in the history books. Whether he can sustain it is another matter altogether.

It’s much too early to say that Djokovic is capable of repeating his feat. Other players will come up with tactics to counter him, or he may get burned out physically or mentally. Even though this has been his most dominant season ever, he’s still had to withdraw twice with physical issues. One can imagine this will become more of a problem over time. It’s certainly not going to get easier as he gets older. Even if he’s only a little bit off, that’s the difference between victory and defeat.

His baseline game relies heavily on speed and endurance, it’s quite taxing on his body. The physical effort needed for him to overcome players like Nadal, who have nearly impenetrable defense, takes its toll.

After last year everyone thought Nadal would have another dominant season in 2011, but he didn’t. And it’s not that he’s fallen off at all; Djokovic has simply leapfrogged way ahead of him.

So far this year Nadal’s reached the final of every tournament he won in 2010 (plus a couple more besides). He won all of the finals in which he didn’t face Djokovic. From AO to Montreal, the only player he lost to was Djokovic.

If Djokovic hadn’t been around he’d be having a better year than 2010. He would have five or six Masters titles and he’d probably have defended his Wimbledon and US Open titles.

Now he finds himself back to where he was in 2006-07: a clay-court specialist playing second fiddle to a #1 who dominated on all surfaces. In the space of eight months or so!

It can happen quite fast.


jane Says:

I agree with a lot of your post steve-o. Only I don’t think Nole has leapt way ahead of Nole. The Wimbledon final was a see-saw affair, and if Rafa had pushed it to a fifth, who knows. The USO final, neither Nole nor Rafa were at their best. Rafa had had to play three five set matches in three days whereas Nole had had more rest, but Nole had the back, rib, shoulder injuries nagging. Nole being the more rested pulled it out, also Rafa’s serve wasn’t firing like it was the previous year. Their finals at IW, and especially Miami, were very very close. So who knows? Oddly, it was their matches on clay that were more Nole dominated. But Madrid wasn’t a wash out, and Rafa hadn’t been well in Rome. I think people have exaggerated (a) Nole’s transformation this year, and (b) how far “ahead” he is on Rafa.

Tennis is a game of inches at the top, and as you correctly pointed out, it can and will shift. It is unlikely Nole can defend all these titles next year. But it will nonetheless be interesting to see how things shake out, who rises, who falls, who surprises. It makes tennis fun and exciting not to know what’s (or who’s) around the corner.


jane Says:

Oops, lol “Only I don’t think Nole has leapt way ahead of Nole” – meant to say Nole …ahead of Rafa. :) But in an odd way the typo makes sense too.


kriket Says:

He sure did, look at their head to head results this year – not even close. Sorry but Rafa is owned. And did Federer have so tough the opponents in his prime years? Who was there? Roddick, Hewitt? I don’t remember that well but there wasn’t a player that was even close to Federer, until Nadal came along and it was all downhill from there on.

On the other hand Novak has as tough the opponents in the top 4 as it gets. Federer, Nadal? Even Murray, come on! Current Top 3 players are all No. 1 material, and not No.1 in a Roddick kind of way, but in a GOAT candidates kind of way. Many of people here like to debate if Federer is GOAT or is it Nadal. Where was the GOAT debate in 2006-2007? I don’t remember anyone accusing Roddick of being GOAT. So Novak had to overcome 2 GOATs to become No.1. Which GOAT did Federer had to outplay? None. Nadal had Federer, hence he was a sensation. And now that Novak outplayed both of them, and in back to back matches on many tournaments, suddenly everyone is doubtful and has “smart” excuses for Nadal or Federer losing where they were “entitled” to win? Please!
Novak’s season is not the greatest only because of the results themselves, but because of the players he had to beat to achieve that. Nobody seems to give him credit for that, on this blog at least. Reading posts, one would think that he won all these finals due to his luck or Federer’s bad luck or Nadal’s bad serve or whatever. He beat them fair and square everytime. And since when the number one seed has to play no. 2 and 3 back to back to win a tournament? In semis and in finals? And them being Federer and Nadal no less?
Come on, give credit where credit’s due!


jane Says:

Kriket, In my earlier post I said that what is remarkable about Nole’s great year is how he has handled top ten opponents, but, in particular, his main rivals. It has been an awesome year, no doubt. But, imo, the matches versus Rafa were, overall, quite close. Weren’t they? We will know more next year about their rivalry, but for sure Nole narrowed the gap, esp on clay, this year. Just trying to be realistic about the possibilities.


Mila Says:

“Come on, give credit where credit’s due!”

kriket, take it easy, it takes time.
Most of the journalist as well as fans commenting on various blogs are still in denial but they will come out of that phase and will start accepting what McEnroe, Sampras and many other tennis superstars have already pointed out!

Your arguments are pretty clear and make sense especially regarding competition level.
And finally look at it in a pragmatic manner – brando and steve-o disagree with you whereas McEnroe and Sampras (and I :) agree with you – I’d take that any day if I were you!


kriket Says:

The matches against Nadal were, let’s say close in IW and Miami. After that they weren’t that close at all. What was it, straight sets in Madrid? Wimbledon was not that close at all, compared to let’s say Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final when Rafa won for the first time. USO – same deal, Rafa winning one set only after Novak gave it away, and then crashed and burned.
Novak’s matches vs Federer were closer than vs. Nadal, for sure.


mat4 Says:

To add my two cents to the discussion:

To have such a year and such results you need to have some luck. But, on the other side, Djokovic has really improved his tennis. He almost got his serve back, although it is a bit less precise and a bit slower it was in 2008. He has improved his forehand, adding a tremendous sharp angled cross court FH to his strokes, improving vastly his FH on the run too, using more his inside in FH. He can hit that stroke flatter than he did, finishing points right away. His inside out FH is a bit shorter, less penetrating, but it is still good enough. At the AO, only Federer made more FH winners on average.

He has improved his volleying and his overhead. He has now an excellent drop volley, and he is willing to go more often to the net.

He disguises more effectively his shots, and he can change the depth, the spin and the direction of his shots in the last moment. He also has more power, so he is less despondent of the opponent’s pace.

He has more patience.

His patterns of play have also improved, and he is trying to open the court from the first shot in the rally.


mat4 Says:

So, to say that the other players will figure him out is meaningless. There is nothing to figure, and there is no clear cut way to play Djokovic. To beat him, you have to serve better and to play better from the baseline. You need a big forehand and a consistent backhand. You need good nerves. For this, you have to be a great player and to play at a very high level.

Some players can do that already: Federer, Nadal, maybe DelPo, and Murray especially. But we got back to the question of luck I mentioned at the beginning.


mat4 Says:

Is it the best season ever?

The season is not over. But if he wins the Masters, I would say yes. Why? Because he has beaten arguably the two greatest players of the Open Era ten times, losing just once. Is is a feat that nobody could have think possible just one year ago.

And let’s add that Federer played better (for me, at least) this year than he did since 2007, and that Rafa looked invincible against everybody else most of the season.


grendel Says:

Kriket says:”Where was the GOAT debate in 2006-2007? I don’t remember anyone accusing Roddick of being GOAT. So Novak had to overcome 2 GOATs to become No.1. Which GOAT did Federer had to outplay? None. Nadal had Federer, hence he was a sensation.And now that Novak outplayed both of them, and in back to back matches on many tournaments, suddenly everyone is doubtful and has “smart” excuses for Nadal or Federer losing where they were “entitled” to win”.

There is another way of reading this story. First of all, when did this whole GOAT discussion start (and b.t.w. in the eyes of many the very concept of GOAT is simply incoherent)? I rather doubt that it was very prevalent in 2006. But that is when Nadal emerged to win his first slam (RG) and to contest his second slam final (Wimbledon). So Federer had won 7 slams before the emergence of Nadal as a slam winner- and he has won 9 since. That’s just one less than Nadal has won with Federer being around. Doesn’t sound so very different, looked at like that. Of course, there are other variables, but even so. And b.t.w. Roddick at his best was not a despicable opponent, Djokovic certainly wouldn’t say so and nor would Murray. Hewitt had Sampras’ and Agassi’s measure for a bit. Nalbandian was an incredibly worthy foe for Federer. Let’s not rewrite the past.

Meanwhile, in Djokovic’s annus mirabilis, he beats a 30 year old Federer only with the greatest difficulty. Let’s see what he is like when he is 30. He may be even better. Who knows? But let’s see.


mat4 Says:

Will he have another great season in 2012?

I don’t think that he can win so much, but he has the game to stay at the top. If he continues to work and improve the way he did this year, he is here to stay. The quality of the other players at the top doesn’t allow a rest.


jane Says:

mat4, an interesting claim that Fed’s played better this yeat since 2007. For sure 2008 was patchy, but he won 2 slams in 2009 (mind you Rafa wasn’t at either), and in 2010 he won the AO, whereas this year he goes slamless. Yet, I can see where you’re coming from in that at some moments Fed looked near his absolute best this year. Is it that he has been more consistent overall? Not sure. But it would be interesting to hear why you think that is so about Fed, given that he went slamless this year for the first time since 2002, is it?!


mat4 Says:

@Grendel:

Although 30 years old, Federer played a fabulous brand of tennis this year.

He has improved his backhand (adding variations in height), his forehand (adding an angled, short crosscourt FH), his serve compared to last season.

He just wasn’t lucky. One win can changed a whole season. He made an error in his game plan against Djokovic at the AO, and the whole season got a different look. Then, the loss against Tsonga: Jo Willy played – served, especially – out of his mind in that match. But, just like Djoko in the key moment of the US Open semi, he had nothing to lose, so he unleashed all his strokes, and won.


tennis coach Says:

Here is why everybody in the tennis world have admiration for Djokovic’s success:

http://leadership.ng/nga/articles/5644/2011/09/25/5_moments_have_made_novak_djokovic’s_2011.html


grendel Says:

mat4 – yes, I think Federer would agree with you.b.t.w., didn’t he always have that “angled, short crosscourt FH”? Personally, I don’t think his nerve is quite as strong, nor his capacity to concentrate for long passages of time.


tennis coach Says:

I totally agree with kriket, Novak outplayed Rafa in all matches this year. The only match that was close was Miami and that’s it!.


mat4 Says:

@Jane:

Sorry, I didn’t see your post in time.

First, about consistency: no, he wasn’t consistent as he used to be. He was tired after the Australian Open, so he played patchy in Dubai, and it affected him in Indian Wells and Miami, against Rafa and Novak. But he started to find his range in Madrid, and played an excellent FO, where for the first time I felt he could beat Rafa in the final. He had certainly the game for that. He played great at Wimbledon, even against JWT. But Tsonga is a player who can beat anybody on a given day when he serves well, and he served great. At the USO, he displayed sublime tennis until the last four games of the semi.

You know it just as well as I do: sometimes you need some luck. This year, I felt luck has turned his back on Roger. An unfortunate net cord here, a forehand that goes long a quarter of an inch, a missed easy drop shot and the season is completely different. Instead of three GS, you got none. But just like Roger said it, perhaps there is some cosmic justice in that.


mat4 Says:

@Grendel:

He played it a few times, so I believe he wanted to play that way. I was amazed the first time I saw it.

He always had an exceptional cross court FH, but not that short, with so much spin. Something like Novak’s, but closer to the net, and played from the middle of the baseline. He didn’t have it at the beginning of the year.


mat4 Says:

@Grendel:

“yes, I think Federer would agree with you.”

Let me quote Mats Wilander: you can’t argue with Roger Federer.


jane Says:

Mat4, yes, true, sometimes luck is like that. I keep waiting for the lady to shine on me, but that is besides the point. As to Fed’s consistency this year, what I meant was this: it seems to me he went consistently deep in almost all of the events he entered this year. Aside from a couple of losses (Melzer at MC and in Cincy versus… Berdych?). Semis AO, finals Dubai, semis at both IW and Miami, semis Rome and Madrid wasn’t it? Finals FO. Qfs at Wimbledon, and in Canada, but losing to a hot Tsonga both times. Semis in USO. Seems to me Fed lost more “unexpected” matches in 08, 09, & 10 (guys like Gulbis, Benneteau, Simon, Montanes, Monfils) than he did in 11, but perhaps I am mistaken there.


mat4 Says:

@Jane:

He lost to Rafa 3 times, Djoko 4 times, 2 times to Tsonga, once to Berdych, and to Gasquet and Melzer on slow clay.

Roger has always had the same problem. He is playing high risk tennis, so he needs to serve well, and he can’t afford to lose his concentration. Grendel is right when he notices that Roger can’t sustain a high level of concentration for long periods of time. That’s perhaps the reason why Nadal writes that you can always wear Roger down.

But the matches against Berdych and Tsonga showed also that his return is not as good as it was. He could try Rafa’s way of returning (he did something similar against Novak at the FO).


mat4 Says:

@Jane:

… besides the point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmSMKxcFdOs

Wish you all good night.


jane Says:

OMG mat4, you just stole my heart. I love Tom Waits; it is truly one of the best concerts I have ever seen live when I saw him. Thanks. :)


adam Says:

i dont understand where the author got the 64-3 record from. i thought Djoker record for this year so far is 64-2? someone dares to clarify.


tennis coach Says:

He lost to Del Potro in Davis Cup match Serbia-Argentina couple weeks ago.


Dan Martin Says:

Grendel Rafa won the 05 French Open so Federer had only won 4 majors prior to Nadal winning his first. Since then Federer has added 12 and Nadal has added 9. I like your points, but I think Federer’s 12 slams since Nadal came on the scene as a major champion is actually more noteworthy than the 9 you credited him with after the 06 FO final.


Dan Martin Says:

It is a fun debate to have as all of the years being considered are great years. Federer going 92-5 overall in 2006 vs. Nole being 64-3 in 2011. Federer won 4 Masters 1000 events Nole has a record 5 (and counting?). Fed won the YEC; can Nole? 12 titles to 10 at this point. Federer was 27-1 in slams vs. Nole going 26-1 this year. Novak’s big wins over Nadal (6-0) and Federer (4-1) certainly seems like a best year ever. Nole retiring twice in matches this year does not sound like a best year ever. I say let the year play out before rendering a full judgment. Beyond that other great years exist further back in tennis history that are hard to compare to these more recent years, but they were great years.


tennis coach Says:

I agree on all your points Dan, however I do not see how retiring would affect Novak’s almost perfect performance this year and possibility to be the one of the best years in history of tennis.


Dan Martin Says:

Beyond Nole having some history with retiring from matches (for the record I think the Cincy and Davis Cup retirements were legit), I think the idea that physically he was unable to complete matches for whatever reason does not stack up well with other great years in which the players in question finished all of their matches. Just a question of perception on my part as my views are certainly not normative.


grendel Says:

thankyou for the correction, Dan Martin. How sloppy of me – I actually saw that Nadal win against Puerta at RG 2005. It was exciting because – not having the gift of foresight,there still seemed to be room for speculation about Nadal – Puerta was a bit of a street brawler type, and you imagined he’d push it all the way. Afterwards, Puerta prophesied that Nadal would win Wimbledon one day. Not too many people would have taken that prediction seriously at that time.


huh Says:

Well, mat4, being a Fed fan I assure you Fed only played great tennis in one tournament this year and that is FO and we all know what happened to Novak there. At his best, there is nothing like equal to or better than Federer in his generation except on clay(where Rafael Nadal rules). The Federer of 2007 would certainly not surrender two set leads twice, HE HAS PROVED IT, HE NEEDN’T REPROVE ANYTHING TO ANYONE ELSE. The Fed of 2004-07 realy used to play out of the world, he had answers to everyone except Nadal on clay. The Fed of 2007 would have beaten djokovic in d USO 11 semi for sure. And yes, the current federer is significantly slower, less in-form, less hungrier and far more susceptiblb to concentration lapses in comparison to past. That is the FACT. That is how he lost to Tsonga at wim n novak at uso in 2011. If it were that confident or in-form Fed(as he was in his peak), the story would be diferent this year. Dont get me wrong, not tryin to diminish nole, but’d surely say: levelwise peak fed>peak nole


Umer Says:

Nice article post on greatest player of today.


huh Says:

let me say here that in my personal opinion, this year novak had a much higher level of play than the Federer of 2008-11 (the exceptions are Federer of 2010 Aus Open n of 2011 FO, where fed played Glorious n was anybody’s equal). But I would definitely put the 2004-07 Federer above the Novak of 2011, level of play-wise, confidence wise, invincibility wise, mental stability wise n even aura-wise!


Brando Says:

I completely agree with huh. Fed 2007 would beat nole 2011. Let’s face it. Fed 2011 beat nole 2011 fair and square at the FO 2011. Fed 2007 would beat nole at wimby any day of the week- twice on Sundays for good measure. Nole 2011 was lucky to beat federer at the USO- would fed 2007 let a 2 set lead slip away like that? NO CHANCE. Don’t get me wrong- personally this is easily top 5 best season ever for me by nole, but I feel that 1st place goes to laver in 1968, 2nd to federer 2007 and then nole IF he wins the YEC gets 3rd place. The arguement that nole beat some fantastic players is valid BUT you can only beat the player on the opposite side of the net, so I don’t feel it is a decisive point. Either way, well done nole for the season:-)


jamie Says:

Nadal like Michael Jackson?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cU_MSriTJk

See at 1:16


Brando Says:

@jamie: that’s a low and disrespectful comment to make abot rafa and reference to make about a deceased individual. Sad.


kriket Says:

I don’t get how can people here compare Laver, or whoever from that era when it’s clear that the sheer number of tournaments, and the level of game today are simply incomparable to 1970s?
The tennis today is not the same tennis played 30-40 years ago, plus players today are so much more tested fitnesswise due to the number of matches they have to play during the season if they want to be on top. I mean wtf?

And these so called comparisons, Fed 2007 vs Nole 2011, are also lame because it’s pure speculation – there’s absolutely no way to stake a claim like that for certain. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but that’s just that – an opinion, a guess, not FACTS in any way.

Federer IS a great player, no doubt, and it’s pretty much probable that he would achieve what he had even if the field was tougher than it was in his best years. Having said that, Federer’s game today is pretty close to his level of his best years. Only one thing is now clearer than it was in the past. Federer used to win so dominantly by stunning his opponents at the start of the match. He would dominate in such a fashion during first two sets that all of the players would be stunned and think to themselves “wtf had just happened, is this for real, how can someone be so good”, and basically fold after being overrun in the 1st/2nd set. That’s just how it was, Federer’s level and utter dominance from the very beginning of each match would psychologically devastate each player into thinking that any further resistance is futile.
But, if a match was to go further than straight sets victory for Federer, he would often show that his concentration and confidence would decline as he faced tougher resistance after his starting dominance. That’s what Nadal had exposed, and exploit – resist Federer and never allow himself to be stunned by Fed’s out-of-this-world level of play during the first 2 hours of the match.
That’s also what Novak figured out, and successfully use as a strategy against Federer – let him be the best player in the beginning, and just when he (Fed) would have thought it was over, for he got used to players fold after being overrun in the first set or two, Novak just like Nadal, would not have folded, but use Federer’s mental decline as the match would progress to his advantage. It was very clear, and I think statistically proven that Federer had often lost matches that have gone all the way to the 5th set.
This year, Federer even lost two matches when he was 2 sets up, only to lose 3-2, even having multiple match points. Last year’s USO against Novak, this year Wimbledon vs Tsonga and USO against Novak. That’s Federer’s weakness that only few players can exploit, because even when he’s declining towards the end of a match, he’s still too good for most players.
So the strategy is, let Federer be Federer in the beginning and wait for his upcoming mental fatigue to win in the end.
Point is, Federer can’t sustain his out-of-this-world level during a long match, and if a player doesn’t get stunned and fold for a straight set loss, he stands a chance for coming on top even if he was 2 sets down in the beginning. Of course, as I’ve already said, there’s not many players that can take advantage of that fact, for they have to be on top of their game to do that, but one player, named Nadal, had successfuly exposed that weakness and used it to his advantage almost every time, and now one more player, named Đoković, came along and figured it out, too. So as long as Nadal takes Federer out in a tournament semifinal, Đoković will have it easy, for he has completely figured Nadal out and owns him bigtime.
Or else Đoko will have to take out both Federer and Nadal, for he’s proven to be capable of doing that, if necessary.


grendel Says:

kriket says that in his heyday, Federer would dominate for first 2 sets, and gobshattered opponents would fold. Until Nadal, and then Djokovic, came along,and refused to buckle:”Nadal had exposed, and exploit – resist Federer and never allow himself to be stunned by Fed’s out-of-this-world level of play during the first 2 hours of the match.”

I think there’s a measure of truth to this, from the psychological angle. But you have to interpret the facts – which don’t easily bear such a supposition – fairly liberally.

I had a look at the h2h’s, and only took into account 5 setters and matches Nadal won. In 2005,RG, Fed won 2nd set. In Rome 2006, Fed won 1st and 4th sets and had 2 (I think) match points, though on Nadal’s serve. At RG that year, Fed wiped Nadal out in the first set 6-1, but then Nadal completely turned the tables, although he lost the 4th set 6-7 so he came back slightly – even so, this match is more or less in accordance with kriket’s description.

But it’s the only one. In 2007,RG, Fed won the 2nd set. In 2008 Wimbie, Fed actually lost the first 2 sets, won the next 2 and lost final set 7-9. At AO, 2009 Fed won the 2nd and 4th sets. And this year at the French, Fed should have won the 1st but squandered it just as kriket might have anticipated, but he did come back to win the 3rd.

If you look at the Fed/Djokovic h2h, there is even less confirmation of kriket’s theory – except, of course, the recent final.

“Federer can’t sustain his out-of-this-world level during a long match”. That’s surely true. But the pattern of play between Federer and his 2 most determined rivals is much more complicated than kriket allows.


jane Says:

Interesting idea: many tennis fans and players see Fed as an awesome, often insurrmountable, front-runner. There are probably a number of players like that, although Fed’s level could/can be stunning, certainly more stunning than most players’ levels. Apparently (haven’t yet read it) Rafa did say in his book that Fed can be “ground down” if you just hang in there, just stay with him. I can think of instances where that seems to hold true: more recently, Delpo, USO 2009 (besides examples already mentioned) and in the past, Safin AO 2005? This one’s maybe more debatable than Delpo, but Safin certainly hung in there; he wouldn’t relent, even facing match points (like Nole’s 2 USO wins). It takes a lot for all these guys to beat Fed over five; it’s not like it comes easy.

I can think of instances where Fed has been really tough, where he hasn’t been ground down, but has hung in through tough 5 setters: Roddick Wimbledon 2009, Simon this year’s AO, or Andreev at 2008 USO, for e.g..

Then it does depend on the foe. Not just any player can do it, as kriket says.

The opponent has to be able to hang with Fed **BOTH mentally and game-wise**; otherwise, Fed will likely win, even the 5 setters.

I’ve wondered what would’ve happened had Murray been able to take that third set at the AO in 2010…I think things might’ve turned? It felt like a possibly momentum shift. But it’s just speculation.


mat4 Says:

Some notes:

I watched almost all the Fedjoko matches since 2007, and I noticed the following:

- the key of their matches was, tennis wise, Roger’s serve; every time Djoko managed to wear out Roger, to read enough of his serves and impose long rallies, he won; when Roger consistenly served well, he had a clear advantage;

- another important moment was the battle in the diagonals; with the change of racquet, Djokovic’s FH faded, he stopped hitting hit hard and flat, and Roger gained the upper hand with his CC FH; the backhand battle was also very important: Roger’s slice hurt Novak for years (last time at the FO), and Novak’s BH was a efficient weapon in some of their encounters;

- then, we should say that in their last 20 matches (the result is 10/10), they seldom peaked at the same time: USO 2007, AO 2011 and 2008 maybe;

- in the meantime, Novak’s game and strategy changed – he used to play a lot of inside out FH against Roger in 2009, but Roger improved his BH and he is rarely doing it in their last matches. Novak seems to play with less spin today; generally, they have improved their strokes and gained some variety, although Novak’s serve isn’t as good as it was back in 2007, and Roger’s footwork seems a tiny bit slower; Roger’s played more passively two years ago, too, and is more aggressive now;

- they were usually both very nervous at the beginning of their matches, but Roger’s serve helped him to hold his nerves; idem in tie breaks and set ends;

- yet, there was a slow shift in their matches: a few years ago, the outcome of the match depended mainly on Roger; this year, Novak is making the game – we saw it in their last three GS matches – when they are both loose, Novak appears to be the better player.

And an answer to huh and cie:

just like you “think” that Roger… I “believe” that No1e… And your “thinking” and my “believing” means nothing.


Dan Martin Says:

One thought on Roger playing high risk tennis and being able to be ground down – he as a junior did not grow up with luxilon. He certainly has benefited from it. However, the foundation of his game is one of take charge of a point if possible and end it. I think today;s strings allow for equal aggression with greater margins for error. This allows for Fed to be ground down by excellent players who can hang with him. Consider when Fed is in his formative years as a player, Becker, Edberg, Sampras, Krajicek, Rafter, etc. are all out there. Fed does not play exactly like those guys by any means, but each of those players tried to take charge of a point ASAP in a rally. Today’s juniors will have the incredible yet brutal points we saw at the USO final as their template. Rafa and especially Novak are aggressive players in their own right, but each can rely on their stamina and footspeed to put pressure on the opponent with larger margins of error than Roger uses. Over time that will tilt in their favor especially given the 4+ or 5+ year difference in age.


Rahul Says:

This is definitely the best season Ive ever seen in Tennis. Nole’s won not only the slams but also most of the Masters which is really impressive and I dont think it will ever be repeated. But we need to be careful before we can start comparing him to Federer and Nadal.

Federer managed to string 3-4 years with this level of consistency. Nadal was able to do it on clay and much more. This is not to say that Nole cant but he needs to produce these kind of results for 2-3 more years for him to be compared to those 2.

Also in Tennis we have the problem of good and bad match-ups. Its not like golf where you can play your own game. Besides players constantly probing and exploiting your weakness you sometimes come across a guy whose game just doesnt suit yours. So when a guy like Rafa comes along whose forehand troubles Feds backhand you need to look at the big picture rather than on a h2h basis. Its foolish to say that Feds record against x player in his gen discredits him as the greatest ever. In fact if you go by that logic its Federer who has beaten every player in his generation i.e. Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, etc. Nadal and Djoko are 5 years younger than him. And so now that Djoko has Nadal’s game under control does that mean Nadal’s accomplishments are inconsequential?


alison hodge Says:

@rahul i could not agree more,to keep on bringing up the h2h that rafa has over roger is a very thin argument,based on some biased rafa fans trying to find some way to unfairly discredit roger been regarded as the greatest ever,tennis is not as cut and dried as that,its not about match ups,its more to do with the overall picture,and this is coming from a rafa fan,i love roger for been so great,and i think hes brought out the best in rafa,and those two have brought out the best in nole,they have all cemented there legacies and will go down in history regardless of whatever happens next.


grendel Says:

@alison hodge w.r.t.the h2h/good bad match up business, it is possible to imagine a player who rises above all of that, so obviously superior is he to all his peers. No such player, perhaps, exists at the moment – but suppose he did. Everyone would be more or less obliged to recognize his status. Argument would come to an end. Tennis sites would close down. Perhaps it is as well there is no such player.


Rahul Says:

@grendel the problem is the moment such a player appears people will say he had no competition and therefore had it easy. e.g. some would say Federer was such a player in the mid-2000s. But others like @kriket might say he had weak competition.

We all saw what Safin did to Sampras in the US. Hewitt, Roddick, Guga, etc were also strong players who perhaps could have achieved so much more. Its all so subjective. We write them off now as just decent players because their career graph shows “only” a couple of slams.

But now because Rafa and Roger are such established names, we see Nole dismantling them and say wow if he can do that to those 2, surely hes the greatest! Dont get me wrong I think Nole is a great player and may achieve incredible things but you cannot start comparing him to Rafa and Roger just yet. Both have records and streaks that cross multiple years.


huh Says:

oh come on guys, federer’s 5 set record during his peak period was quite good. And dont tell me that Nadal has figured Fed out before 2007. as soon as a player drops his level even a bit, others gain edge! thats precisely what happened during 2008, The Super Federer was gone and a relatively lesser fed took over since then! no wonder nadal beat him at wim n AO. The writing is always writ large on the wall, if u r BLIND to it, not my fault! Its quite easy to say that novak and rafa would do this or do that to a prime federer, but the FACT is rafa was no threat to fed in non-clay surfaces from 2005-07. Fed was peggd d clear fave vs rafa on non-clay at his peak, thats again a FACT! And novak, well, he hardly was regarded a threat to fed, ever, until the 2010 USO happened! rafa at least gained upperhand after 2007; novak had nothing except a win against a AO 08 Fed, until 2010 USO happend! deny this FACT too!
Btw u can also deny the FACT that Novak was not held as a better or equal 5 set guy until 2011 unfolded.


huh Says:

Mat4, your ‘belief’ in novak may surely mean ‘nothing’, because it has happened only for one year, and there too fed handed novak a sound defeat at FO, in novak’s best year itself!
but roger federer, i ‘think’ has produced four remarkable years from 2004-07! thus my ‘thinking’ about fed definitely means SOMETHING, haha ;)

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