8 Things I Think I Thought About Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer And The US Open
by Sean Randall | September 15th, 2015, 5:40 pm

Some closing comments on a most-excellent finish to the US Open…

1. Novak Djokovic Ended With A Better Grand Slam Season Than Serena Williams!
That’s right. With nearly all of the focus, attention and spotlight on Serena Williams and her bid for a Calendar Year Slam, it was Novak Djokovic who “stole the show”, finishing with the better Grand Slam numbers. They both won three Slams, but Djokovic make the finals in all four and had the more impressive victories.

And Novak wrapped up his best Slam run overcoming a hostile crowd and Roger Federer with one of his most memorable wins.

2. Serena Slammed
So what happened to Serena? It’s simple, she caved under the weight of the pressure. We’ve seen it happen to other players in other situations, but hardly ever to Serena. Yet, these were different times.

Sure, Roberta Vinci played well, but this loss had been coming. Look at all the struggles Serena faced in Paris, the Heather Watson match at Wimbledon, the fact she lost a set to Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

The writing was on the wall. It was there for the taking, but it was a question of can someone execute and Vinci finally.

That said, in a normal match, no way Vinci wins that. But last Friday the moment, the history, the expectation, all those streaks, all got to Serena. Had someone like Maria Sharapova been across the net in the semifinals, maybe that would have kept Serena on the ball. Maybe she didn’t prepare properly because it was just Vinci. I don’t know.

Unfortunately for Serena, in just a few weeks she’ll turn 34 and she’ll never have this chance again. And we’ll never have this chance again to see it.

3. The Future Of The WTA: All-Italian Finals?
Of course it’s unlikely we see another all-Italian final anytime soon in women’s tennis – and full to credit Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci for playing an enjoyable match – but watching the final on Saturday I couldn’t get past the thought that, “is this the future of women’s tennis when Serena retires?”

In the men’s game, we can see new superstars on the horizon like Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev who all showed their promise in New York, but who’s the next dominant women’s superstar?

Petra Kvitova? Probably the closest to the throne, but no. Victoria Azarenka? Past her peak. Caroline Wozniacki? No. Simona Halep? Really? Madison Keys? I don’t see it.

There really isn’t anyone you can look to and say, wow, she’s going win double digit Slams. So once Serena (and Maria Sharapova not long after) hangs it up after next season (that’s my guess, post-Olympics), we are going to see some pretty random Grand Slam finals and complete chaos.

4. Will Roger Ever Get To 18?
Roger Federer’s been stuck on 17 Slams now for three long years, and unfortunately he might stuck there a lot longer.

His problem isn’t his skill or movement, it’s his age. And so far he’s doing an incredible job of fighting Father Time, but we all know who’s eventually going to win that battle.

Right now though, Federer’s issue is best-of-5, and I just don’t think he can hang with the top in that format against the very best men, like Djokovic, on a consistent basis.

Best-of-3, he can get on a run, break out that SABR and steal a win. That’s much tougher in five sets.

And honestly, 12 months from right now I can’t imagine he’ll be a better a player than what we saw this past week. Of course, if anyone can prove me wrong it’s Federer. He’s done it before.

As for the final, it’s break points once again. Like those Federer-Nadal matches, Federer once again was bitten by his lack of break point conversions, just 5/23 against Djokovic Sunday night. That’s just not going to get it done.

Overall though, a positive event and a positive summer. And he should finish strong this fall.

5. Thank God The Roof Is Coming
I don’t know how we didn’t get another US Open Monday final, but thankfully we didn’t. Yet the rain did disrupt the last weekend of the tournament and perhaps irritated Serena’s bid for the Calendar Slam as she was forced to play her semifinals during the early part of the day Friday instead of the night before.

With the roof ready to go next year, the days of rain delays and uncertainty at the US Open are over during week two. So next year, of course we’ll see a perfect week on bright blue skies and no rain in sight.

6. Rafa Reeling
Rafa wrapped up his worst Grand Slam season losing to new rival Fabio Fognini in the third round at the US Open. That was his first loss ever at a Slam from two sets up. And that’s five straight Slams for Rafa without a semifinal appearance.

A new coach just isn’t coming. The serve isn’t going to magically get better. And he’ll keep getting older.

As the negative records continue to pile up, on the bright side, can he really do worse next year? I don’t think so.

7. In-Match Interviews!
Aside from being a little too Serena-Centric, overall ESPN had a good debut as the sole network in the U.S. And in the first round they made history becoming the first network to interview a player DURING a match.

That player was Coco Vandeweghe who had just won the first set over Sloane Stephens, and Pam Shriver did a great job breaking new ground.

I don’t recall any other players also getting interviewed, but hopefully this will be a stepping stone to more and more. It’s a good initiative.

8. Can We Move The US Open A Week Or Two Earlier?
it seems every year, the biggest tennis tournament in America – the end of the pro tennis season for many casual fans – concludes on the weekend the NFL opens play, and tennis gets slammed in the news shows and media. While the ratings may be up this year – thanks to Serena – it’s hard for tennis, much less anyone or anything, to compete with the NFL.

So I don’t know if it can be done, but in the future the US Open should end the weekend BEFORE the NFL. But I have a feeling the heads over in New York City already know that. I hope.

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90 Comments for 8 Things I Think I Thought About Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer And The US Open

Travis Bickle Says:

Hey Randal!

First, a correction: You say above Federer was 5/23 on break points, implying he broke Novak 5 times? I believe Novak was broken only 4 times.

Regarding domination – Novak Djokovic dominates men’s tennis more than Serena Williams dominates women’s tennis – take a second for this to sink in.
But it is the fact, despite most folks (including myself) would say if asked few days ago.

In majors this year:
Serena is 26-1
Novak 27-1

In terms of difference in ranking between #1 and #2:

Serena 4,721 points
Novak 6,740

I have four words for the end:
Novak is the boss!

chris ford1 Says:

Worth mentioning might be Martina Hingis and her Indian partners, plus the behavior of the NYC crowd.

*Hingis won 5 Slams this year with Mizra and Paes. 2 at the USO.
*The Flushing Meadow crowd only enhanced the global reputation of NYC as a place of pushy obnoxious A-holes.

Brando Says:

Excellent write up Sean and truly cannot add to much since it’s all agreeable for me. Props to you and the tennis x team for the splendid coverage this year, it’s appreciated.

This is it:

I mentioned the other day that I shall take a leave till AO once Sean has (and brilliantly per usual) provided us with his USO takedown, and now that’s arrived:

It’s time to say goodbye.

There’s much to do, address in one’s private life, also- quite honestly speaking- I tune out of tennis outside the run up to majors. I lack in excitement for the game outside those splendid moments. In the fall it’s other sports like Football for me. I imagine the American posters would be taken with the start of the NFL season possibly, anyhow:

Another fun year here on TX. The laughs, arguments (it ain’t TX if that ain’t going down lol), back and forth mudslinging matches. bad blood, make-ups etc: it’s been a riot to ride through the drama here again whilst we all have eagerly tuned in, seen the show unfold with our own expectations meet or dashed.

But to the folks here who I interacted with during the course of 2015 and bystanders to the wonder, madness that is Brando:

Much love on the good times, apologies completely for the bad moments with myself, hope you all enjoy a wonderful fall, stay healthy (Especially you Okie: keep your spirit up and surround yourself with that which gives you positive energy) and are all recharged for the 2016 bonanza!

I’ll see you all hopefully around AO 2016 time, returning hopefully as a better contributor met by a blog full of happy tennis lovers!

Best Wishes


jane Says:

i know rafa had a bad year, but i honestly thought he was playing better in the last few hardcourt events. in canada he showed some great play versus kei; in cincy, he barely lost to f-lo, who was clearly in good form, reaching us open quarters for the first time; and at the us open, rafa – at times – played some beautiful stuff, to the degree that our very own “humble rafa” humbly appeared telling us “humble is back.” it was shocking he lost from 2 sets and a break up, but as i’ve argued here before, fognini did play outstanding tennis to rattle rafa’s cage and get in the match. rafa rose to the occasion, largely, and nearly won. i don’t know but i think he’s on the way back to better form. i would not write him off for a comeback next season – maybe not a “miraculous” emphatic one like 2013, but a slam challenging one nonetheless.

sean, thanks for giving novak credit for trumping serena in some ways. that’s quite the achievement!

i think the WTA will be fine. i expect vika to be back in the slam-winning mix next year. she showed such hunger and just came up short in some epic slam matches this year. somehow i think she’ll go further next season.

and there are some young players making noise.

kind of like how, in the ATP, the generation of grigor-kei-milos hasn’t lived up to expectations but the next one of borna-4K-zverev-(et al) looks like a super group on the rise, i suspect some of the next-next gen in the WTA will take over…

jatt Says:

Just have a feeling, watch out for rafa next year. He is a type of personality who will find a way to come back!

jalep Says:

Belinda Bencic gives me hope and a stronger, fitter Vika Azarenka. Petra Kvitova can improve her results in 2016 – she just had some bad luck with mono that held her back.

Have a lot of hope for WTA in 2016!

Kokkinakis woulda shoulda beat Gasquet US Open – can’t forget it. He at least has the experience now and will solve the heat/fitness in GS match challenge.

Have postponed following Rublev with expectations after reading about his Boy Band.

Wog Boy Says:

I think it would be fair to give credit to Becker too, a lot of credit for what he did with Nole in less than two years, 4GS, 9 masters, WTF…
The problem that Roger has is that Becker is trying to keep his H2H with Edberg intact which is 25:10 in Boris favor, methinks.

jane Says:

ha ha wog boy, is it really?!

Wog Boy Says:

Yes, it is jane, and as a coach is 7:5 in his favor.

Wog Boy Says:

^^ that is with one WO, or 6:5 without WO.

Wog Boy Says:


The only reason I went to check their records is that I got fed up with reading post on TX how Edberg is this and that in positive way and Becker is this and that in negative way. So it appears that Edberg fits perfectly in Roger’s box and Becker fits perfectly in Nole’s box according to some worshipers, if I am allowed to say. Neither of those two was my favorite, but I had a soft spot for Becker due to his lifestyle and friendship with Boba Zivojinovic, they were both well known as party animals in Belgrade (and Europe) and that friendship costed Becker at least three to four GS titles. Edberg was far too girly in appearance for my liking, like some soapy actor, and never really liked him, I know it is heresy to say that on this forum but I am ready to take any consequences for that. What I found when I matched their records is that Becker was actually more successful as tennis player, they have each six GS titles but Becker had more titles and three WTF and with H2H that is 25:10 he ends up as a better tennis player, and all of that with party animal life style while Edberg was a picture perfect, next door boy that every mother would like as her daughter boyfriend.

peter Says:

Next year will be about

Will Nole stay healthy and maintain this high level? If he does then it is likely for a repeat. As to those saying he is 28 and players don’t win after that age, just have a look at the current top 10 players, and you realise the average age is sitting at a bit older than 29. Nole is actually younger than that, so its more likely that these older guys aka fed nadal bird stan Ferrer will decline earlier than Nole does. Where’s the competition??

The x factor is… Rafael Nadal. Yes he has been down this year, but I just cannot write him out. He’s come back successfully so many times from injury its not even funny. Only nadal at his best will be able to stop Djokovic aka 2013. It is unlikely buy possible for him to make another run.

Fed had an amazing year for his age. He’s back in the finals on the faster surfaces. Still has chance for a major, but can’t see him beating Nole in a slam so he’ll need something to upset the draw.

Murray, the only guy in top 10 who should be nole’s greatest rival now, goes back to where he was, without lendl he isn’t playing at the same level as the big 3 used to. Needs a big name coach.

Stan, too inconsistent, but definitely one of the few who could beat Nole at a slam. At 30 he probably has peaked so I think he will decline earlier than nole does.

Up and comers, well none. Nishikori is 26, not really young and not really as good as Murray or stan. Raonic dimitrov may come back to top 10 but not going anywhere. The ones to watch out for are coric and krygios but that will be another 3~5years time.

roy Says:

the problem isn’t federer’s age, it’s that players like djoker have become better than he ever was.

federer still beats the regulars (who have also improved since fed’s prime)and players will tell you federer has improved many things over the years.

but nadal (before recently) then djokovic took things to a new level.

and federer simply can’t play with the normal controlled baseline aggression he used to play with and win the big matches against these guys.

so now he’s playing right on the edge and the price is 50+ unforced errors on the day you’re not in the zone. there’s a reason he didn’t play like this in his golden period. it’s too difficult to maintain over time, even though on any given day you can blast anyone away perhaps.

he’s basically become like the players who go up against the ‘big 4’ and red line their game knowing they can’t win with normal style.

Ruby Says:

@Jalep, haha, I had to look up Rublev’s boy band after that comment! True, indeed. But hey, he’s 17. I’d still like to see him and a few others in the under-21 set do some “performing” on the court! It could only add to the intrigue of the next few years.

funches Says:

Actually Federer played quite poorly in the first set of the final or he would have won.

Anyone who thinks he will not win another slam is onsane. He is playing better right now than he ever did and moving as well as ever, too.

Okiegal Says:

@Brando 7:42…..,”Especially you, OKIE, keep your spirits up”…..gee thanks, Brando. I’m sitting here with knots in my stomach, dreading his Drs appt. tomorrow, afraid of what we might be told. Thanks for your kind words…..this is the toughest spot I’ve ever been in ever….but will remain upbeat foe him and my son.

funches Says:


Okiegal Says:

Does anyone know the record of the highest number of ranking points ever? Could Novak possibly have this stat? His ranking points are OTT!! Just curious….

dapris Says:

Some people think they can predict the futute @she is turning 34 and will never get the chance again.maybe this writer should tell us who will win us elections 2016.pls being a tennis blogger or pundit should not call for foolish predictions. How do you then feel when she wins next year??? C’mon show urself some respect

Margot Says:

dapris: Trump is storming ahead. You lucky Americans, not!

Gypsy Gal Says:

Okie all the best to your family today at the Drs,i will be thinking of you my dear ethereal friend XXXX….

Margot Says:

Good luck from me too OK.

Wog Boy Says:

“He is playing better right now than he ever did and moving as well as ever, too.”

No1e is better than Roger ever was, no?

Michael Says:

Well, Roger did have many chances against Novak too, but he was up against the familiar nemesis of not being able to convert the numerous break point opportunities. It was really a bad day in Office for Roger as his forehand, which is purported to be his bread and butter shot deserted him in the finals and he shanked many of them. Against a player like Novak, you cannot afford such liberties.

I am not sure if Roger will be able to ever add to his grand slam count. That said, he still is a threat in three setters and may be will add more to his Master series titles !!

J-Kath Says:

Okie – Please take care of yourself – it’s not being selfish – it’s being smart.

FedExpress Says:

age wasnt feds problem. it was all mental. he should have never lost the 3rd set the way he did. the momentum thing doesnt work for fed vs nole it seems

after winning the 2nd set he should have broken him from 0-30. but what did he do? spraying errors like there is no tomorrow. and then he came back from 40-0 on noles serve to create 2 BPs didnt take them. lost his serve from 40-15 up. couldnt convert his 2Bps when nole served for the set. he needs mental help.

sienna Says:

Roger will continue to raise his level like he has been doing since 2013.
Ik dont understand what your saying because it is happening for all to see.
There is 1 player better but that will not last long. We can expect Roger to overtake Novak at O2 definetely come AUopen.

He will continue to raise his level up to 2017.

Okiegal Says:

A BIG thanks to my forum friends! You guys have tender and caring hearts! Your thoughts and concerns are deeply appreciated…….Jan


I think you should have added a 9th to your list and that is the ugliness of the NY spectators during the Djokovic Federer match. What hideous behaviour from what is (was now) considered a great city. Doesn’t do much for the city in terms of marketing to the tourists. I certainly wouldn’t want to be surrounded by such vile people.

jane Says:

“spraying errors like there is no tomorrow.”

maybe that’s not mental
maybe that’s from physical fatigue?
he runs much more per point when he plays novak


skeezer Says:

“he should have never lost the 3rd”
3rd? Back up, he should have not lost the 1st He came out flat, and he paid for it. Nole played his usual back board defense. It really was on Feds racquet early, but he didn’t have the mojo.

Giles Says:

” No1e is better than Roger ever was, no?” NO!

Ben Pronin Says:

By the same logic, Federer should never lose any sets ever. Djokovic was better than Federer in the first set. And chances are he wouldn’t have gotten broken if he hadn’t slipped. But he broke back pretty fast and closed it out. It was the most straightforward set of the night.

But in set 3, Federer had a lot of chances. He was 1 point from being up 5-3. 5 points from being up 2 sets to 1. That’s why you can say he should have won it. And he definitely should have at least tied up the 4th set when he had 3 chances to break at 4-5.

But coming out flat and playing worse than your opponent does not mean he should have won the first set just because he could have and should have played better.

jane Says:

novak was just better in the first set. he came out more focused and so he had the momentum from the get-go. fed was tentative and looked a little nervous. indeed novak might’ve been up 2 breaks in set 1 were it not for his slip.

of fed’s 21 wins over novak – only 1 time has he comeback and won the match after losing the first set. that shows how important that first set was for fed.

Tennisee Says:

The most telling stat was Federer was 1/11 in converting second serve break points. On the other hand, I believe he was 50% or higher on SABR returns?

So theoretically, if he did the SABR every time he got a second serve on break point, he’d have won the match.

The difference in the match was only 2 points, and Federer was clearly stressed out and not as his top level, so to make statements like “Federer is finished” is absolutely ridiculous.

The truth is, Federer is the toughest rival Djokovic has, and the reason Djokovic gets so freaked out after losing a set and shakes so much is because he knows that if Federer is at his best, Federer will probably win the match. His main strategy is to weather the storm and wait for Federer’s level to drop. If the storm isn’t stopping, he panics. Practically had a nervous breakdown in the sitdown. Thankfully for him, Federer was not clutch on the big points that day, nor was he clutch in those two Wimbledon finals. Their matches usually come down to a few points, and lately it’s been Djokovic who is the grittier of the two on those points.

That’s why I would recommend to Federer to use the SABR on break points. That break point conversion rate is so abysmal, it can only go up.

SG1 Says:

Novak was the better player in this match. And I agree with Jane. Federer looked really nervous and tentative in that first set. Perhaps because Federer knew how important it was to get ahead based on past experience. Both of these players are phenomenal front runners and closers which Novak showed on Sunday.

As for the statement that Federer should have won the fourth set…I’m not so sure. It seems like Federer, since 2008 or so, has been alarmingly ineffective on break points at the business end of slams. I’m not sure it’s fixable at this point as I think it’s a bit mental. There were definitely some occasions where Roger looked like he wanted to attack Novak during the break points and backed off. This is something Edberg and him need to collaborate on. One thing about Edberg…he was never afraid to press the issue, win or lose. Roger is considerably more talented than Edberg so I don’t see why he was so hesitant. He’s not going to beat Novak staying back (which was what happened in the last two sets).

He really needs to fix this if, as Sienna is claiming, he will be better in 2016.

SG1 Says:

I think it’s also important to keep in mind that just because Federer is the more gifted ball striker doesn’t necessarily mean that he can beat anyone when he’s playing well. Tennis, like boxing, is all about how your strengths and weaknesses interact with your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. At this point in time, Novak is a bad match up for Federer. In reality, it seems like there isn’t anyone who is matches up well against him. He’s just that good. But, we though that about Federer until Rafa came along. There will ultimately be someone with the game to rattle Novak. There’s always someone coming from somewhere…

Ben Pronin Says:

SG1, agreed. I wasn’t saying he should have won the 4th. But 3 chances to break to get back to 5-5 says he should have tied it. But “should have” is such a weird phrase to use in these situations.

And he definitely looked like he was going to SABR or at least attack the second serve on multiple occasions, not just on break points even, but then backed off. That has to be mental especially since Novak’s second serve was okay most of the match, not blistering or anything. And I think he acknowledged as much in his press conference when he said he hasn’t been so all-out aggressive before so he doubted himself a bit, which is something he hopes will work itself out as he continues to play this way.

The game at 2-5 when Federer broke at 15 with phenomenal aggressive play and closing at the net, Federer needs to watch that on repeat for hours. That’s how he should be playing the break points. If you go 4/23 make sure they’re on your terms, not long rallies where you’re scrambling the whole time.

SG1 Says:

Federer is 10-10 in his last 20 major final appearances. Any comments?

Markus Says:

Ten finals, great! Five wins, great!! Five runner-ups, great.

jane Says:

just a point i’ve made before about second serve. it may seem easy to attack them generally but novak has the best or most effective second serve right now. he wins 60% of them!


in addition to that, he’s also most effective at second serve returns (see same link) right now/2015.

thus, not only can he protect his own serve really well even when he is not getting in a high percentage of firsts, but he can also pounce on his opponent’s second serves and put them under pressure.

FedExpress Says:

it is all the more painful that he lost all the his finals vs nole. two times in a row at the IW. two times in row at WIM. all because he brainfarts.

it looks likely that that he will be 3rd seed next year. i like that more tbh. chance that he will meet nole in the semis. he freezes against in major finals.

FedExpress Says:

think the 23 break point oppurtunities are the most he ever created in a gs slam final. Am i right?

Ben Pronin Says:

While playing a semi instead of a final could result in Federer being less nervous, I see no reason for this to be a real advantage. He’s not struggling because they’re finals he’s struggling because in a best of 5, as Federer always says, the better player will usually prevail.

There seems to be some denial from some of you guys in thinking that Federer is actually a better player than Djokovic right now. He’s not. Even if he beats him in Cincinnati, he’s not better than him. It’s 2015, not 2005. Federer is no longer the best player in the world, even though he’s still an obvious threat to anyone.

Think about this: Federer played better in the US Open final than he did in the Wimbledon final. Djokovic played better in the Wimbledon final than he did in the US Open final. The result? Djokovic in 4 sets both times.

Ben Pronin Says:

Nadal was 6/26 on BP conversions in 2010 USO final.

Maybe the problem isn’t Federer (or Nadal) converting break points but Djokovic giving up (way) too many?

Gypsy Gal Says:

People used to say the exact same thing about his matches with Rafa,a semi final or a final is neither here nor there anymore,its just a bad match up for him now,end of….

Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t remember anyone saying meeting Nadal in a semi would improve Federer’s chances.

I do remember the endless amounts of “strategic” advice everyone had for Federer regarding Nadal. Come to net, slice more, hit more top spin, stay at the baseline, serve big, vary your serve, hope that it’s damp, hope for the sun, run around the backhand, don’t be afraid to hit your backhand, hit more drop shots, hit deeper.

Man it was crazy.

elina Says:

And 1 for 11 on second serve break points?

Again, Novak was a machine with a mission. So focussed. One of the most impressive assaults I’ve witnessed in tennis given the circumstances.

Yes the crowd set a new bar for being crass but don’t tar NYC with the same brush. So many kind and friendly people there. The Arthur Ashe fedfan privileged crowd is not, as they say, a random sample.

elina Says:

Posters here (nor Roger himself) didn’t say he was the best player in the world right now, just that he’s never played better.

Those are two different statements.

calmdownplease Says:

`he’s basically become like the players who go up against the ‘big 4′ and red line their game knowing they can’t win with normal style..`

Spot on, and difficult for him to replicate
Look at Wimbledon!
He can try as man gimmicks as he likes but it won’t be long for him on the tour now.
The fat lady is about to sing and she looks suspiciously like Mirka!

`Yes the crowd set a new bar for being crass but don’t tar NYC with the same brush..`

True again, I’m a big fan of em actually.
For the most part…
But it’s `Fed Fans` we’re talking about
And you know how NY’ers always want to outdo everyone else, right?

Wog Boy Says:

If you are referring to my post it was just manipulation with a statment of another poster. I am sure educated people on TX will recognize what I am talking about next. When I went to high school we had subject called “Logika”, the professor use to show us how to come to logical conclusion if we are using two statments but also how you can manipulate them by selecting two statments to come to wrong conclusion, here is an example:

“He is playing better right now than he ever did and moving as well as ever, too.”

“Nole beat Federer right now in the four most important finals.”

No1e is better than Roger ever was.

I am not saying, I am just drawing conclusion from the first statment (which can be right or wrong) by using present facts and making second statment. I hope this is understandable since English is not my first language. I loved my “Logika” professor and a the subject itself, one of the rare classes I wasn’t skipping (waging).
mat4, I know you know what I am talking, today’s education in Serbia is nowhere near as good as classical education until late 70s early 80s:(

Amen To That Says:

This site doesn’t believe in giving Serena any love. She won 4 Slams in a row and was trying to make it 5, but life happens. Also, to the gentleman that said that Djoke owned the slams, he forgot that Djoke didn’t have 2000 points to defend because he lost in the semi’s last year.
All in all, they both had a great year, but Serena will still be going strong.

Wog Boy Says:

^^ just to clarify, when I said ” educated people” I meant people who are familiar with subject or studied the subject itself, not that others are not educated, no whatsoever.

elina Says:

No WB unrelated but I followed your logik. :)

jane Says:

i think ben and gypsy gal are right that finals or semis are neither here nor there in fed vs novak. fed’s won over novak in a couple of big semis (fo 11 / wimbledon 12 / shanghai 13) but novak has won over fed in a number of big semis too (ao 11, iw 11, us open 10 and 11, french 12, paris 13).

SG1 Says:

Federer has incomparable talent (…at least in my opinion) so I don’t think it’s a simple case of “Novak is better than Roger ever was.” Roger was more aggressive than ever before but still not quite aggressive enough at the big moments. I think Roger has enough game to figure out Novak (even over 5 sets) and even with Federer being another year older. I do think he’ll need to serve a little bigger and be more bold. We should keep in mind that the conditions on Sunday favored Novak. In a match-up so close, it doesn’t take much to tilt things one way or the other. I think Roger may have beaten Novak at Wimbledon if he’d been as aggressive as he was on Sunday.

Roger improved in 2015 over 2014 and the margins between Novak and Federer are small. If Federer can find a way to be more efficient on his break opportunities, I see no reason why he couldn’t trip up Novak at a slam again. You can’t right off someone who can do the things Roger can and has done.

SG1 Says:

What you are seeing from Roger is that old habits die hard. It’s not instinctive for him to push forward. He likes to work the ball around from back court until he can hit the forehand. This strategy just doesn’t work against Novak.

peter Says:

In the end the match wasn’t close, u can tell it by novaks celebrations right afTer match point, well there wasn’t much in it. Novaks game plan worked, all he needed to do was outlast federer. Federer is 34 not 24, against Novak his level starts dropping from set 3 onwards. A telling fact is that fed actually ran more miles than Novak in this match, some 11000 feet, more than 3 times he ran in his previous straight set victories against other opponents.

In all 3 finAl’s novAK pretty much had it in 4 (yes, including WB 14). First two sets mightily close but the 3rd and 4th not. LIke nadal, Nole is extremely confident against federer knowing that fed will wear out. That’s a huge mental advantage. Even if fed wins 1st two sets Nole has a good chance to come back.

Wog Boy Says:

“Federer has incomparable talent..”

That is a huge statment, very debatable and I am not sure if I can agree and I am not talking about Nole. Talent is one thing that doesn’t necessarily translate into success, let us start with Safin and I will leave to others to find more players whose talent is/was “comparable” with Roger’s. I am sure there is a few in open era, again, not talking about Nole and again, being more talented doesnt translate in being more successful unless you work hard as have seen in so many sports. My coach, when I was playing basketball, use to tell us that talent is only 10% of success, the rest is hard work and commitment to the sport.

jane Says:

what about nalbandian wog boy?

as peter notes about the us open final, fed also ran more in the wimbledon 15 final, too, so it does suggest something consistent. novak makes fed run and defend much more than other players do; he pins him back. you can say “fed should come forward,” but what happens when the return comes back and lands at his toes? or what happens when novak keeps switching up his second serve placement? that’s one thing he arguably he learned from roger. so how do you “sabr” a return when you can’t read where the serve is going? it would work much better with predictable servers. some of these losses is fed, sure, but a lot of it is how novak plays him too.

Wog Boy Says:

Yes jane, I was tossing between two of them but decided for Safin who was ridiculously talented and left Nalbandian for somebody else to bring him into conversation and they are both, more or less, Roger’s generation.

peter Says:

Talent doesn’t Get far these Days. Back in the 90s players can rely on talent alone to win slams, that’s when all these teenagers just come and breakthrough. Now its much more about dedication, conditioning and maintaining fitness match after match, day after day. This is what really separated federer from safin, Hewitt and roddick. Nadal and subsequently Nole learnt from federer. This explains why the olDer guys are doing better now, they are able to maintain their health for a longer period of time and extend their careers. The young ones need to gain the experienCE, the mental strength, and find the dedication that the top guys have just to hang around with them. The top guys have a great team around them, its almost like an apple, or a microsoft, vs small businesses and entrepreneurs.

mat4 Says:

jane, WB:


It’s the old Ru-an’s Federer blog. A lot of interesting articles.

jane Says:

thanks for the link mat4

interesting piece on bps, but one thing i would note is that novak didnt serve too well in the final either, so he could always improve there himself. 62% firsts is not that great for him; his average is usually 66% so a good serving day is in the 70s. novak served his worst in sets 2 and 3.

by contrast fed’s first serve averaged 64% in the final matches which is what his avg has been for the year – precisely 64%. fed only served below par in set 1. in all the other sets, he was 66% firsts or higher.

also if people think fed came forward less as the match went on, then they’re wrong.

set 1 10
set 2 20
set 3 13
set 4 16

so even though he came in during set 4 almost as much as he did in set 2 (which he won), he was broken 2 times in set 4 nevertheless.

Wog Boy Says:

Thanks mat4, agree with Ru-an, it was extremely imprtant for Nole to win this final, more importan than winning last Wimbledon.

Wog Boy Says:

just to add, Roger had nothing to lose with his records tha are so far away from the others, but loss for Nole would be devastating for all the reasons Ru-an mentioned.


great writing but would like to mention a few things:

is it really a five set match what bothers Federer..?
in my opinion it is nerves, he totaly denies it but i’m a to big fan and seen all of his matches, replays, YouTube films and interviews!
i think his nerves got the best of him, end 2nd set and beginning third he had Nole on a rope but just (on several 40-15 leads) couldn’t keep his cool!
And also thought that he let his offending style slip into defending and waiting for Noles fault instead of pull the points toward him!

phyzwiz Says:

Referring to the US open final, the 3-hour delay took away a lot from Federer than Djokovic. Plus, the humidity and heavy conditions afterwards favored Djokovic style of play. Likely the reason Fed played poorly the first set trying to adjust. Looking at the way Fed and Djoko played throughout this tournament,on dry and clear day Federer would have prevailed in the final either in straight sets,or in four. The fifth set, even under a crispy fall weather might have gone Djokovic’s wayr,

jane Says:

hard to say phyzwiz. firstly, novak generally hates playing in humid conditions. secondly, fed had played almost ALL night matches during the open, so that the final ended up being a night match actually mirrored the conditions or at least time of day in which he’d played – and won – most of his matches.

redskinnl – “he let his offending style slip into defending”. i think perhaps novak has more to do with this transition that you imply. federer, as many including myself have noted, always runs more when he plays novak. perhaps that’s because novak takes control of the rallies on his return, which tends to be very deep, and can thus keep players pinned to the back of the court.

Wog Boy Says:

You are a gem, what would we do without you.

jane Says:

aww, thanks wog boy. i just love discussing actual matches. so much right now is about the future and/or popularity, which are both so vague and unpredictable. talking about matches and stats is more concrete and thus more interesting in some ways, from an analytical standpoint.

besides, i always think it’s interesting to share perspectives from both sides of the net. and i know i tend to pay more attention to novak’s for obvious reasons. :)

Phyzwiz Says:

Jane.. .your points noted. I think Federer played almost as many matches during the earlier part of the day this tournament as he played under the lights. The humid conditions after the rain is certainly a factor in Djokovic’s favor as it helps the hard-hitter more than Federer’s game based on dekicate timing and light spin, particularly on his serves aNd down the lone shots. Not sure what they do while waiting for the match to start, but waiting fully prepared to play at age 34 is harder. I agree djokovic hits deeper and steeper angles but something else played a role here in turning Federer’s otherwise offensive game this tournament into a defensive one.

jane Says:

4 nights, 2 days prior to the final. fed hits his serves harder than novak and likely his forehands too. novak uses a lot of different spins. i don’t think it was conditions.

skeezer Says:

It does not matter what Fed did prior. Whatever he did prior he did not bring to this match. His first set was in walkabout mode. First serve percentage from the start sucked, and imo his movement and execution was off. Due to Novak? Maybe. IMO he came into the match mental, something prematch. It could be Novak is now a mental block, or something else. I know what I saw in the first, and Novak did not play outstanding, Fed played poorly and it was not based on Novaks shots. If Fed served anywhere near like it had been serving, it would have been a different outcome, at least in the first. Fed was playing tentatively and not aggressive in that first set, and it cost him. From there it was playing catchup, and that is not going to work against a #1 player in the world. I had said it pre match, Fed has to win the first to win, he did not.
Agree with Redskin in that Fed’s real challenger in his career is nerves, not players. Have watched Fed throughout his career and as a fan you can easily tell when the nerves a afoot. When they are, fear the worst. Nole know it seems brings those out very well ;)

BBB Says:

phyzwiz – this is where I get confused. Supposedly the faster the court, the better for Federer, because he can hit through Djokovic. That’s what we’ve been hearing – that’s why Federer has better chances against him in Cincy, and why pundits were saying the US Open Court was playing faster this year and that favored Federer. Whereas the slower the court, the more Djokovic can deploy his defensive skills. So based on that it doesn’t hold that Federer would be disadvantaged by conditions that favor a harder hitter….

jane Says:

okay, sigh. so fed lost because of the delay, his age, the night conditions, and his nerves. the player across the net – 4th time year end #1 – and his game didn’t matter. fine then. no point in belabouring it.

Margot Says:

The spin doctors are at work…;)

elina Says:

Spin, spin, spin the black, spin the black!

Novak was a focussed machine on a mission and was prepared for Roger and ready for the overtly biased fedfans of Ashe Stadium.

I don’t think it mattered what version of Roger showed up, even at his very best.

Fact is, Novak wouldn’t allow it as Rogers six previous opponents did.

BBB Says:

Chris Evert routinely points out that nerves get worse with age. So to say “it was just nerves” is actually devastating for Federer because it’s not something that’s likely to improve.

And we have to be honest – yes, Federer could have played better, but so could Djokovic. You can’t hold everything else constant, and just change Federer’s performance, and conclude that the result would have been different.

skeezer Says:


Don’t know what everyone else is saying. I am just reiterating what I said earlier about the first set. It’s not an excuse, just an analysis. It’s obvious the better man won that match.
(Despite a stat person who know predicted Fed would win, cause he was supposedly playing his best ever)

elina Says:

Exactly BBB. Statistically, Federer is playing better than ever but not better than Novak.

There is a difference.

skeezer Says:

Exactly. A stat Queen predicted Fed would win based on a stat he was playing “better than ever”.
bada bing bada boom.

Ben Pronin Says:

There’s too much credit going in one direction from both sides. Federer fans wanna claim it’s 100% Federer’ fault for losing. Djokovic fans wanna say it’s 100% his fault for winning.

Both guys are incredible players who have made careers out of getting their opponents into uncomfortable positions. With a variety of spins and shots and placement, they specifically specialize in making their opponents very uncomfortable. Federer’s short slice is a great example of that. “Hey guys, you don’t like to volley? Well I’m going to force you to come in!”. Djokovic is a little more subtle but if you watch his shot placement you’ll notice the same thing: he hits consistently deep better than anyone and changes directions better than anyone. Feeling good about your forehand? He’s going to pummel it until you never want to hit another one. Or he’s never going to let you see a forehand. Either way, you have no control of the situation.

That’s what has made the Djokovic-Federer rivarly so great over the years. As Federer said, they don’t really need to adjust their games for each other. They play their own games and it’s just a battle. But now Federer is adjusting his game. Not specifically for Novak, but overall. He’s moving in more, trying to be more aggressive off the forehand, and bulldozing returns.

But here’s the thing. Djokovic is more consistent than Federer off the ground. He has been for a very, very long time. Federer beats him not by engaging in rallies, but by taking time away from Djokovic. Rushing him, serving big, hitting winners early in points, etc. It’s a difficult play to sustain in best of 5 vs best of 3, that’s one of the reason’s we see this discrepancy in their rivalry.

The other thing is that, Federer definitely came into the US Open trying to employ a different type of game. Even for someone as good as Federer, it’s not always easy to just execute a new game plan at a great level. It’s easy against someone like Gasquet. And it worked against Wawrinka because Wawrinka decided that the SABR was a literal saber and just fell a part and so Federer continued employing these tactics.

If there is any player in the history of tennis that you don’t want to play if you’re second guessing your tactics, it’s Novak Djokovic. Even when you’re confident, he can make you question yourself. Imagine if you’re not convinced that returning a second serve with a half volley is not the best idea? “Should I come in? Should I stay back? Oh crap, I already lost the point!” He’s not going to give you many open looks and because of that, when he does, you get a little choked up because you’re thinking “I have to take advantage of this opportuni-OH NO THE BALL HIT MY FRAME!”

My point is, Federer did look nervous. Was it the opponent? The occasion? Feeling like he’s running out of chances? Nervous against the world number 1? Nervous against Novak himself? Hell freaking yeah to all of those. How could he not be? He’s not a machine. And then there’s Novak who’s had trouble finishing Federer off a few times now. You think he doesn’t think about the occasion, think about who he’s beating? All of this comes into play. And when it all comes down to it, how you handle that or put it aside or do whatever you need to do to play your best, is what matters most. Being nervous isn’t an excuse. Federer’s even said in the past that being nervous means he still cares, and that’s obviously good.

So what happened? Well they played a freaking tennis match and one guy happened to play just well enough to beat the other guy. Neither guy appeared to be at their best. They definitely weren’t serving great. Lots of break points on both ends. And lots of momentum swings. It was dramatic tennis at its finest.

If Djokovic loses the 4th set after being up 2 breaks, he’s labeled a choker. But Federer being unable to break to go up 5-3 in the third, it’s because he was old, nervous, and playing a delayed match. I mean yeah, spin, spin, spin. The reality is both guys contributed to the result. Did Federer miss some easy shots he shouldn’t have? Absolutely. Did he also miss some shots that looked easy but were difficult due to Djokovic’s depth and spin? Yup.

And back and forth it went. Djokovic held his nerve better, in the end, and played better when it mattered. To only win 2 more points than your opponent in 4 sets that featured no tiebreakers indicates a very close match that hinged on the big points almost exclusively.

But to say Federer’s biggest opponent was nerves is ridiculous. He could’ve been frozen with nerves and still beaten Richard Gasquet in the same exact situation.

jane Says:

“Federer fans wanna claim it’s 100% Federer’ fault for losing. Djokovic fans wanna say it’s 100% his fault for winning.”

ha ha, his “fault” for winning? ben, what’s that about?
i can see faulting someone for losing but faulting someone for winning? ;)

overall all though, hurrah! hurrah! great analysis ben.

they BOTH get nervous against each other – and their matches prove it. be it fed starting slow or novak being unable to close, or whatever! there is almost always a lot on the line when these two play each other. they’re bound to feel some nerves.

they both contribute to the results too
they both take each other out of their comfort zones.

for example, fed attacking novak more or novak making fed run more.

i also agree that we didnt see – at least not consistently but certainly in flashes, which is a given when they play – their best or cleanest tennis last sunday.

both of them did not serve at their best. i think novak’s second serve was a smidgen better, which helped on some break points, and fed’s first serve was better, which helped him in some situations too.

i am so glad you didn’t bring in conditions and made your discussion about their play.

SG1 Says:

elina Says:
Exactly BBB. Statistically, Federer is playing better than ever but not better than Novak.

There is a difference.


I really hate to open up this cyclical can of worms, but, if Federer is playing better than ever but can’t beat Novak, is he really the best ever? This is the 2nd player in his era he can’t seem to get through at the slams. We all know who the first guy was and he was taking out Federer when he was in his theoretical prime.

I am bracing to be blasted for this comment but I think it’s worth thinking about. I really think that some of Fed’s GOAT legacy was at stake in the USO Final. Had he changed tactics and beaten Novak, his GOATdom would have been secured. It would have been easy to say that he had played a tactically flawed strategy against Novak but once he corrected this, he was able to beat him. But, now he has lost to Novak staying back and being more aggressive.

So now, Federer has two players (instead if just one) in his era that are consistently able to beat him when he’s really playing well. Not to mention his .500 record in his last 20 slam finals which seems to indicate that as good as he is, he really isn’t any better than either Rafa or Novak when they are playing well. I have always been of the opinion that Fed’s initial 7-0 major record was partially due to the weakness of the period in which he started to dominate (…preparing to get blasted for this statement too). But, doesn’t his record in his last 20 major finals give at least some credence to this “weak era” stuff?

SG1 Says:

All the above being said, I do think that Roger, like Sampras before him, re-defined greatness. There may never have been a Rafa or Novak if not for Federer.

SG1 Says:

I think that if Federer continues to improve in 2015 (…certainly not impossible but somewhat more difficult with legs a year older) and beats Novak in any slam final (or Rafa at RG), I believe his GOAT status would be secured. Unless of course, Rafa or Nova win more slams than he does.

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