Roger Federer – What makes him so good?Tim Strawn
All tennis fans know who Roger Federer is but how many truly understand why so many proclaim he is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time)? One way to assess this is to look at some statistics. As Federer is inching closer and closer to that point that all Federer fans fear (retirement) I thought it would be nice to take a look at just what the Maestro has accomplished during his career. To start with, the first chart is an overall view of some highlights.
At the top of the list is Grand Slam tournaments and with a quick glance you can see that he’s competed in 30 with a winning rate of 0.67%. That means that each time he enters a slam he’s got a 67% chance to win it all. Plus, he leads the field with the overall record of 20 Grand Slam titles. No other man has accomplished this and only two at this time look to be in a position to challenge that record; Nadal with 17 and Djokovic with 13. Many who follow the game closely are picking Djokovic to be the real contender that has the best chance of surpassing Federer, not Nadal.
Next is Year-End Championships and once again, Roger Federer has a very impressive record. Below is a breakdown of his actual match record with an impressive 80.88% W-L rate.
Masters 1000 events is also a good measuring stick for overall performance and in this category only his two closest rivals, Nadal & Djokovic lead Federer but notice the gap between the top 3 and the rest of the field. Masters 1000 events are the toughest draws on the ATP circuit which means players with a winning percentage are competing against the very top players in the world.
An often overlooked statistic is service percentages. Far too often the average fan is drawn to the players who hit massive serves with incredible pace and that “wow” factor can be very misleading. If you look at the current top 5 on the leader board and really break it down you’ll see that Federer ranks right up there at the top in some very important categories. While Federer may be 4th on this list in overall service rating, take a look at where he stands on the breakdown. In 1st serve points won there’s a very slim margin between Federer and the top 3 but the more important stat is his 2nd serves points won where he leads with 60.4%. How many times as a tennis player have you heard someone say “You’re only as good as your second serve?” Next look at service games won where Federer posts a 92.5% rate, only trailing Karlovic and Raonic, two of the biggest servers in the game today. Finally, we can see that Federer has the lowest rate of double faults per match of the current top 5 at 1.6 per match. Those are some very impressive stats that speak volumes to the argument of who truly is the GOAT.
So what do other players have to say about the Federer game?
“When a ball left my racquet with most opponents, I knew exactly where it was going and I could assess to what degree I would gain the advantage in that point. With Roger you could not count on the advantage no matter where you hit the ball. When I faced him in the 2005 U.S. Open final the biggest reaction I got was him looking down at his shoes. Then, he just went to a gear I’d never seen before. It was a privilege to have the worst seat in the house watching it. The truth is, me at my best, him at his best, I would have had to be perfect to cause him any distress. What I needed to do to display what I was good at, he could neutralize it. That turned me into a relatively average player. He was leaps and bounds better than anyone I had ever faced” Andre’s overall record against Federer was 3-8
He makes you so uncomfortable. Any ball that lands short, he’s on top of its fast. He’s into the net, taking time away and angling balls.He may be 37 now but his footwork is like a fresh 18 year old. I don’t know if I’ve ever broken him. I’m pretty crafty on the return games but I have no idea where Federer is serving. It’s not coming in fast, maybe 116-121 mph but he’s hitting his spots. Jack’s overall record against Federer is 0-4.
Maybe the biggest difference between him and Djokovic, Nadal and Murray is that he takes the first chance. Murray is a great returner, but if you survive the return he lets you play. If you hit to Rafa’s backhand maybe you get time to play the point. On hard courts Djokovic is more aggressive than Murray or Nadal but Roger is completely different. He doesn’t care if he makes 10 mistakes. If you’re short he attacks, he comes to the net and we all know he does this combination well. I hope he plays a few more years. it would be great to at least win one. Kohlschreiber’s record against Federer is 0-13
I remember the first time I played him in Basel. I thought I played so well. But I never experienced someone who takes time away like that, who has such a clear vision of the game. He’s always one step ahead of you and that makes him so dangerous. We’re all human when se step onto the court but in tough moments he’s better in so many ways. He’s the greatest out there.
So there you have it. Is Federer the GOAT? Time will tell but right now it appears as though he’s on course to claim that title, especially if you use statistics to justify your position, not emotion.