Saturday, May 14, 2016

Djokovic since end of 2014 vs. Nadal's career on clay

It is commonly said that the toughest achievement in tennis for the last decade or more is to defeat Rafael Nadal on clay. However, following his three-set win over Kei Nishikori today, Novak Djokovic is beginning to make the case that beating the Serb on any surface might be the toughest task in tennis.

Since his loss to Federer in the 2014 Shanghai semifinals, Djokovic has been nearly unbeatable. However, Nadal since 2005 has also been nearly unbeatable on the dirt. So how do Djokovic's numbers in the last 19 months compare to those of Nadal for over a decade on clay?

Djokovic's overall win percentage in the time period is 93.94% with 124 wins and just eight losses. Nadal is right behind with an overall record on clay of 337-23 since 2005, which is a win percentage of 93.61%.

Then comparing what Djokovic has done in the last five majors to what Nadal has done in his career at Roland Garros also shows little difference. Nadal has a career record of 70-2 at the French Open, while Djokovic has gone 34-1 in the last five majors. That's a difference of 0.08% in terms of win percentage.

Djokovic does begin to pull away from Nadal even if only slightly when looking at what Djokovic has done at ATP Masters Events, including the year-end finals. Djokovic compiles a record of 74-3 in the last 16 of such events for a win percentage of 96.1%. Nadal when playing at Rome, Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Hamburg (only when the events were clay 1000's) since 2005, has a career record of 143-14, which is a win percentage of 91.08%.

On top of that, Djokovic's ability to win against the best players in the last 19 months has been put to the test more often. Djokovic has played 43.2% of his matches against players in the top 10, putting together a record of 52-5 in such matches. However, the Spaniard plays against players in the top 10 only half as often on clay since 2005.

For the last 19 months, Djokovic has been playing much tougher competition than Nadal had to face on the clay, and his winning rate is just as good if not better. The toughest task in tennis is no longer to beat Nadal on clay, but simply to beat Djokovic on any surface at all.

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