Sunday, January 31, 2016

Djokovic surpasses Nadal on the GOAT list

With his 11th grand slam title and a firm grip on the world No. 1 ranking, Novak Djokovic has now surpassed Rafael Nadal on the list of the greatest players of all time.

Regardless of where you put Nadal and Djokovic on your list of all-time greats, Djokovic now belongs ahead of Nadal on that list based on the way he has dominated the ATP World Tour in his career.

This is my top 10 on the GOAT list:
1. Roger Federer
2. Pete Sampras
3. Ivan Lendl
4. Jimmy Connors
5. Novak Djokovic
6. Rafael Nadal
7. John McEnroe
8. Andre Agassi
9. Bjorn Borg
10. Stefan Edberg

The list goes on, but the important part here is that Djokovic is now ahead of Nadal. That may be surprising to some fans, noting that the Spaniard has 14 major titles and completed the career grand slam, while Djokovic only has 11 and still has not won Roland Garros.

However, those are the only points in favor of Nadal, while the Serb has surpassed the nine-time Roland Garros champion in many other statistical categories.

The first area where Djokovic is far ahead of Nadal is in terms of winning against the other top players in the sport. The Australian Open champion has now won 163 matches against his peers in the top 10, while Nadal has managed to dodge matches against the best players winning only 136 with a slightly lower winning percentage.

Even among the so-called "Big Four," Djokovic is more dominant than Nadal, claiming 69 wins against three of the greatest players ever, compared to 62 wins for Nadal. Djokovic even leads the series history against Nadal 24-23, despite having played the Spaniard a disproportionate number of times on the Spaniard's favorite surface.

The next area where Djokovic has surpassed Nadal is in time spent as the top-ranked player in tennis. Rankings are the ultimate measure of success in the ATP, and Djokovic is pulling away from Nadal in that category.

Djokovic has already been No. 1 in the world for 184 weeks in his career and is mathematically guaranteed to maintain that ranking for at least the next 17 weeks, putting the Serb pessimistically at 201 weeks atop the world rankings. Meanwhile, Nadal is stuck at 141 weeks and is struggling just to get back into the top four, let alone challenge Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking.

The Serb is also guaranteed to reach 100 consecutive weeks as the world No. 1, and it would be a shock if he doesn't keep that streak alive for many more weeks. The longest streak of Nadal's career was 56 weeks as the world No. 1, starting in 2010 and ending with Djokovic's incredible 2011 season.

The other main area where Djokovic has separated himself from the 14-time grand slam champion is in consistency at the majors across all surfaces. This one isn't obvious without doing some digging. Since Nadal has more major titles and has won at each of the slams at least once, it would seem that he has the advantage in this area.

However, the Serb's success at the majors has been far more balanced and consistent. Djokovic has reached 35 major quarterfinals in his career, including an active streak of 27 in a row. Nadal has only reached 29 major quarterfinals and his longest streak was 11.

Similarly with semifinals, Djokovic has reached 29 in his career. At one point, he had reached 14 semifinals in a row and has a current streak of eight in a row. On the other hand, Nadal has reached 23 semifinals in his career and his longest streak is only five, which he achieved twice.

Another way to measure success at majors would be in terms of ranking points earned at those events (based on the current ranking formula). Nadal has tallied 40,845 ranking points in his career at the majors, but Djokovic surpassed the Spaniard with his win over Roger Federer on Friday. Following his win yesterday, he now has 41,790.

When you break down that number by major, you see how disproportionate Nadal's success at the majors has been. Nearly half of Nadal's points come from Roland Garros, while he only has 8015 points from Wimbledon, which is his second best tournament. Wimbledon is only Djokovic's third best tournament, but he still crushes Nadal in that category with 10,035 points.

The gap between Djokovic's best major (Australian Open) and his worst major (Roland Garros) is 5945 points, while the gap between Nadal's two best majors (Roland Garros and Wimbledon) is a whopping 10,525. In other words, Djokovic has far more balanced results than Nadal, and he still manages to have a higher total in ranking points earned.

The Serb has been the best player on tour over the span of the last five and a half years, and there isn't much that can slow him down. Nadal's dominance appears to be all but done at this point, so whatever records Nadal still holds over Djokovic may not be around for much longer. If Djokovic wins the 2016 Roland Garros title, he would completely put this debate to rest.

2 comments:

  1. Also, according to this study: http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/maintaining-a-90-winning-percentage-the-open-era-greats.544231/ Djokovic had 5th longest consecutive period of 90% win rate (5 years, 1 month), and in the totals he's only 3 months behind Nadal, but guaranteed to pass him there if he maintains this level.

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