Novak Djokovic Is The Greatest Hard Court Player Ever

1

Yesterday, Novak Djokovic made history by being the first player ever to win all nine Masters titles, doing so in impressive fashion straight setting Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final. More impressively, he now not only has all nine Masters titles but all 14 biggest titles in the sport, which is made even crazier when you realize he’s actually won all 14 at least once since just the beginning of 2015. But with nine of these 14 events on hard courts, it begs the question: Is Novak Djokovic the greatest hardcourt player of all time? If you look at a range of statistics, he might well be.

Grand Slams

Novak Djokovic Roger Federer Pete Sampras Rafael Nadal
Australian Open 6 6 2 1
US Open 2 5 5 3
Total 8 11 7 4

 

Whilst Roger Federer has the most Grand Slams on hard courts of anyone at 11, Djokovic isn’t too far behind at eight. Sure, on total number he’s not the greatest player in this regard, but when you look into the 31-year-old’s Grand Slam wins in more depth, they’re pretty incredible. When you consider that over the past 11 years the 13-time Grand Slam champion’s biggest rivals have been Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray. it’s even more impressive. On top of that, just have a look at the Top 10 opponents Djokovic has beaten to win his hard court Majors.

Australian Open 2008 Roger Federer (1), David Ferrer (5),
Australian Open 2011 Roger Federer (2), Andy Murray (5), Tomas Berdych (6)
US Open 2011 Rafael Nadal (2), Roger Federer (3)
Australian Open 2012 Rafael Nadal (2), Andy Murray (4), David Ferrer (5)
Australian Open 2013 Andy Murray (3), David Ferrer (5), Tomas Berdych (6)
Australian Open 2015 Stan Wawrinka (4), Andy Murray (6), Milos Raonic (8)
US Open 2015 Roger Federer (2), Marin Cilic (9)
Australian Open 2016 Andy Murray (2), Roger Federer (3), Kei Nishikori (7)

Federer, Nadal, and Murray in Bold

In each of his hard court major wins he has beaten at least two top ten players but more impressively at least one top four player. You can also see in every single win he’s beaten Nadal, Federer, and/or Murray. He’s won his hard court Slams the hard way, there’s absolutely no denying that. So even while the Swiss superstar does have three more Slams on the surface, this also includes two with just a single top 10 player beaten (Australian Open ’06, ’18) and five without a top four player beaten (Australian Open ’06, ’07, ’18; US Open ’04, ’06). This is all backed up with the Serbian having a higher avg. # of Top 10 players beaten per slam (2.63), compared to Federer’s 2.45. It’s also worth noting that Djokovic is the favorite to win the US Open, which begins in just a week’s time. It may not happen, but it wouldn’t be all that unlikely to see the two-time US Open champion eat into Federer’s lead over the next few years.

Masters

Djokovic Federer Nadal Murray Sampras Agassi
Masters 23 21 9 12 8 14

*Carpet Masters included for Sampras and Agassi

As you can see, Novak Djokovic has the most hard court Masters titles by quite a big margin over everyone else not named Roger Federer. Unlike their hard court Grand Slam titles, where Federer leads but has the worse numbers against top 10 players, this isn’t the case for Djokovic here. The 23-time hard court Masters champion averages 1.96 top 10 players beaten per hard court Masters won, the 21-time one at 1.48. It’s also worth noting that in these 23 wins he’s beaten three top 10 players to win five of them, as well as two of the “Big 4” four times. With the 37-year-old, these numbers are just one and two.

Djokovic Federer Nadal Murray Sampras Agassi
Different Masters Won 6 6 4 5 4 6
Different Masters Defended 5 3 0 2 2 3

 

Next year we’ll find out if the 2018 Cincinnati champion can defend his title; if he does he will complete the set of defending every hard court Masters event. Half of these men mentioned haven’t even won more than five different hard court Masters, yet here we are with Djokovic having defended five different ones–it’s just an incredible achievement. He also finds himself with nine back-to-back hard court Masters, more than double of anyone else.

Head-to-Head

Last but not least is what I consider the defining factor, his record against every rival he’s ever had. Given the game Djokovic possesses with the best movement on the surface, greatest return of all time (according to the ATP’s stats), and the ability to attack and defend at will depending on his type of opponent, he should be a nightmare opponent, and that’s exactly what he is. This isn’t just his three biggest rivals, but almost everyone who’s spent at least a fair amount of time in the world’s top 10 this past decade.

Novak Djokovic Leads
Rafael Nadal 18-7
Roger Federer 18-17
Andy Murray 20-8
David Ferrer 13-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 10-6
Tomas Berdych 21-0
Stan Wawrinka 14-3
Dominic Thiem 3-0
Robin Soderling 4-1
Marin Cilic 11-1
Juan Martin Del Potro 10-3
Kevin Anderson 3-1
Grigor Dimitrov 5-0
Kei Nishikori 7-2
Milos Raonic 5-0
John Isner 7-2
Nikolay Davydenko 6-2
David Nalbandian 2-1
Richard Gasquet 8-1
Lleyton Hewitt 2-1
Jack Sock 1-0
Gael Monfils 13-0

 

It’s not just good, it’s absolutely absurd. Not only does the list include arguably the two greatest players of all time, it also features other hard court Grand Slam champions such as Murray, Wawrinka, Cilic, Hewitt, and Del Potro. Let this sink in, Novak Djokovic has a winning record on the surface against every finalist of the US Open and Australian Open since he won his first Major in 2008. If that wasn’t enough to blow your mind, the Serbian has a winning record against every hard court Masters winner in the past 50 events; the only exception is Alexander Zverev, who he has never even played before on the surface.

Not surprisingly, the only head-to-head on that list which is close with many matches played is against Roger Federer. Both have very similar records against top five and top 10 opponents on hard courts, but unsurprisingly given these head-to-heads, Djokovic edges both. Against top five players he is 65-34 (65.7%) and against top 10, 138-52 (72.6%). Federer on the other hand is just slightly lower in both at 74-41 (64.3%) and 154-69 (69.1%).

Conclusion

As it stands, Novak Djokovic already has a huge case for being the greatest player ever on hard courts. His head-to-heads against every rival he’s ever had speaks for itself as does his insane Masters count. The only thing holding him back is that Roger Federer in the driving seat with three more Slams. However, with Novak Djokovic being six years younger, there may just be enough time to match or even surpass that count, in which case it would really seal the deal that Novak Djokovic is indeed the greatest player to ever grace a hard court.

1 COMMENT

  1. At the end of the day # of GS titles and Masters (to an extent) will matter. If/when he surpasses Fed’s 11, he may have a case. Until then, this is really pointless and premature.

    Fed had a 5peat at USO, a total domination. Unless Novak at least matches if not surpasses Fed’s 5 titles on USO we cannot deny Fed’s claim to USO.

    Fed and Novak both had 5 titles at AO, but Fed’s the defending champ there that just went back-to-back. Hard to say Novak definitely has an edge there unless he ones up Fed by winning in 2019.

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.