The matches to five sets are the definitive proof for the modern tennis player. Duels that generally go beyond three hours of play; when it seems that mentally there is no more to give and both contenders are at the limit of their strength. Reaching the fifth set is a test of effort not only physical, but also mental: a test only for the bravest and a sign of strength and improvement.
In a tennis where the five-set matches are increasingly questioned and the search for faster matches begins to become more and more intense, it never hurts to review the balances of the best tennis players in the world when the match stretches to the last sleeve . Based on the Tennis Abstract data, in the current top-10 there are certain dissonances, surprising records, but this statistic becomes rich when analyzing the records, mainly from the Big-3. Could it be true that it is said that this type of games usually chokes Federer and benefits physical beasts like Djokovic or Nadal?
For now, if we close the circle a little, the records of the ‘wonder trio’ are given as follows:
1. Novak Djokovic – 31-10 (75.6%)
2. Rafael Nadal – 22-12 (65%)
3. Roger Federer – 32-23 (58.2%)
The numbers, in this case, they don’t lie: when the fifth sleeve becomes a decisive and differential factor, Novak Djokovic he is the tennis player who least hesitates. A percentage of 75.6% that is explained based on Novak’s impressive resilience and mental integrity in recovering from adverse situations. One of Djokovic’s greatest qualities is flip the negative dynamics within an encounter, and the five-set duels allow many ‘mini-matches’ within the same duel in which Nole ends up being mostly victorious.
Another symbol that demonstrates your ability to perform under pressure is your balance in endings with matches to five sets: he has won four (final of the Australian Open’12 vs Nadal, final of Wimbledon’14 vs Federer, final of Wimbledon’19 vs Federer and final of the Australian Open’20 vs Thiem) and lost only one (against Murray at the Us Open’12). The two finals at the All England Club, which have been written long and hard, are the best example of what was said in the previous paragraph: Djokovic has the ability to, as the game lengthens, escape and break out of the negative dynamics you are in (see the end of the fourth set in 2014 and the two match balls in 2019).
The numbers of Rafael Nadal They are also very good, exceeding 60% and showing special unbeatability on clay. On that surface only four times he was pushed into the abyss and all four were solved, with two absolutely epic duels in the finals of Rome 2005 and 2006. It is curious to see how many of his defeats have come against players away from the noble positions of the circuit: Pouille or Fognini at the Us Open, Verdasco at the Australian Open or Gilles Müller at Wimbledon pushed Manacor to the limit and were able to get away with it.
On the other hand, Roger Federer It is the one that gets worse worse from this comparison. It is the one that has accumulated the most victories and its balance is not negligible, but it is relatively far from the figures of its biggest pursuers in that fictional ranking of the best of all time. It would be easy to point out that the age and drop in fitness They could be reasons for the Swiss to have worsened his records, but the reality is different: Federer accumulated six consecutive victories in matches that lasted to the fifth set between the 2017-2018 Australian Open (Nishikori, Wawrinka, Nadal and Cilic in Australia; Tiafoe and Youzhny at the Us Open), in addition to having the game against Anderson at Wimbledon in hand, which is counted as a loss, and leave two comebacks to remember in the last Australian Open.
After analyzing the records of the three titans in a general way, Djokovic stands out from all of them when we climb the substance of the challenge. If we close the box to duels against top-10 players, the duels of a maximum difficulty, the numbers indicate that Novak has shown enormous superiority over his contemporaries:
Duels to 5 sets against top-10 players
1. Novak Djokovic – 14-6 (70%)
2. Rafael Nadal – 7-5 (58.3%)
3. Roger Federer – 11-16 (40.7%)
Djokovic’s balance when the game runs to the end is better than the balance sheet of all top 10 members current except one (which you will discover below). Ancic, Tsonga, Murray, Nadal, Wawrinka and Thiem have been the Serb’s executioners: there has been no player capable of beating him more than once in a five-set duel. In addition, of those 14 victories, on multiple occasions Novak had to save a match ball to win the duel, something that further increases the statistics (Federer at Wimbledon’19, Tsonga at Roland Garros’12, Federer at Us Open’11 and Us Open’10).
While Rafa’s record is quite balanced (only Federer has been able to beat him twice), Federer’s is misleading. Perhaps you might think that lowering the 50% barrier has to do with duels in which a Roger past thirty has had to face players like Nadal and Djokovic, in their physical fullness. Yes and no. Of the first 10 duels against top-10 players who went to the last heat, Roger only won three (!) of them, which puts him in a very bad position from the start. His reputation as a “soft player” when the game was extended was earned, in a way, by these beginnings in the elite, where he lost to rivals such as Enqvist, Tommy Haas, Jiri Novak, Hewitt or Safin. Of course, nothing comparable to his black beast (in these circumstances, is 0-3 vs Djokovic).
If we extend the statistics to the top-10, we find really surprising scales. Daniil Medvedev, for example, he has not won a single game in his career, so far, that he has gone to the fifth set (0-6); Sascha Zverev it presents a better general register than Nadal (13-6), which could dismantle the theories of his mental fragility and his inability to callus at the limit moments. But there is nothing more surprising than seeing the records of David Goffin, who with 76% (13-4) is the best player in the top-10 in terms of statistics. Of course, again, if we limit the duels to 5 sets against top-10 tennis players … the Belgian only played once against them and lost (Raonic at Wimbledon). At the end, it is what separates the very good from the legends.