Monday, September 14, 2015

Greatest Tennis Seasons Ever

Novak Djokovic grabbed his third grand slam title of 2015 at the US Open and reached an 11th consecutive final, continuing what has been one of the greatest tennis season of all time. But how does it compare to the other great seasons in tennis history.

I limited this comparison to the last 26 years since that's when the Masters Series 1000 events became part of the tour. That way each season is more comparable and this won't just be a comparison of success at the majors.

Djokovic this year has gone 63-5 with seven titles for a total of 12,785 ranking points, which is enough to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking. Meanwhile, Djokovic has faced one of the toughest schedules in tennis history, racking 21 wins over opponents ranked in the top 10, which is the most by any player through this point in a season in the era.

With four tournaments left to play, Djokovic is chasing two of the greatest seasons ever, including one that is his own. In 2011, Djokovic won three grand slams and had a 64-2 record at this point in the season. In 2006, Roger Federer started the year 56-4 and also wrapped up three grand slam titles.

However, there is a ranking system for a reason, and if we apply the ranking system, we can really start to compare players from different seasons.

Ranking points earned in a season through the US Open:
1. 2011 Novak Djokovic 13,070
2. 2015 Novak Djokovic 12,785
3. 2006 Roger Federer 12,605
4. 2008 Rafael Nadal 11,805
5. 2005 Roger Federer 11,480
6. 2007 Roger Federer 11,090
7. 2013 Rafael Nadal 11,010
8. 2010 Rafael Nadal 10,815
9. 2004 Roger Federer 10,460
10. 2012 Novak Djokovic 9910
11. 2009 Roger Federer 9840
12. 1994 Pete Sampras 9385
13. 1993 Pete Sampras 9120
14. 1995 Pete Sampras 8885
15. 1992 Jim Courier 8400
16. 2014 Novak Djokovic 8000
17. 1999 Andre Agassi 7725
18. 1990 Stefan Edberg 7645
19. 2003 Andy Roddick 7460
20. 1996 Pete Sampras 6840
21. 1997 Pete Sampras 6795
22. 1991 Stefan Edberg 6735
23. 2002 Lleyton Hewitt 5969
24. 2000 Gustavo Kuerten 5665
25. 1998 Pete Samrpas 5590
26. 2001 Lleyton Hewitt 5290

Federer went on to finish the 2006 season with 16,155 ranking points. Djokovic will need to be nearly perfect this fall to make this one of the greatest seasons of all time. There are 4000 more points up for grabs for Djokovic and he needs to take almost 3400 of them, leaving very little room to breathe.

Even if Djokovic does not catch Federer's 2006 season in terms of ranking points, he could have a better season in other regards. Federer finished the season with just 19 wins over top 10 opponents and Djokovic already has more than that. The Serb is chasing Nadal in that category, who had 24 in 2013.

In Nadal's 2008 season, he had the most wins up to this point with 75 to go along with nine losses. Federer went 71-3 up to this point in 2005 and Djokovic was 64-2 in 2011 after the US Open. The most titles following the final slam was 10, which Nadal (2013), Djokovic (2011), and Federer (2005) all achieved once.

We are truly in a golden era for tennis. The top 11 years in terms of ranking points all happened in the last 12 years. Also the top 10 years for top 10 wins up to this point all happened in the last 12 years as well, showing the consistency of the top 10 players to get to the later rounds of big events.

Also, there are four players right now that would be having year-end caliber years if their timing was better. Andy Murray's 2015 season would show up at 20th on the list above, Federer would place 23rd, and Wawrinka would place at 26th ahead of Hewitt's 2011 season.

Overall, Djokovic is having one of the greatest seasons ever at a time when the competition has never been tougher. Click here to see a comparison of the difficulty of Djokovic's opponents to previous seasons.

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