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Peak Djokovic vs peak Federer...

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Post by lydian Thu 11 Feb 2016, 11:37 am

Having read this article recently:
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2525032-who-was-more-dominant-at-their-peak-roger-federer-or-novak-djokovic#

Its seems that the standard mantra is Fed raised the bar in tennis, then Nadal, then Djokovic, with people saying that Djokovic is now playing the best level of tennis the game has ever seen.

Then we have Djokovic saying Fed was playing better than ever at USO 2015:
http://espn.go.com/tennis/usopen15/story/_/id/13539741/novak-djokovic-says-roger-federer-top-form-ahead-us-open

So where are we at? Federer at 34.5 is arguably competing at nearly the same level as Djokovic (after all he beat him 3 times out of Djoko's 6 losses last year). Does this effectively mean that peak Fed (surely most don't accept Fed is at peak now?) therefore played a higher level of tennis than current peak Djokovic? Another question I saw raised about 2 of these guys main slams achievements is this...is Fed's 5 USOs on the bounce more impressive than Djoko's 6 AO's or vice-versa?

This is also an interesting read on the topic: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/djokovic-and-federer-are-vying-to-be-the-greatest-of-all-time/


Last edited by lydian on Thu 11 Feb 2016, 12:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by HM Murdock Thu 11 Feb 2016, 12:53 pm

I don't think there's much between their respective peak levels.

The dominance over their peers is similar.

Most would say that Federer has the more attractive game but in the hard currency of being able to win tennis matches, there's not much difference.

In terms of skills, I'd say peak Fed had the better forehand, serve and imagination, peak Djokovic has the better backhand, return and athleticism.

In the hypothetical match up between the two peak versions, Federer probably wins more on the faster surfaces, Djokovic wins more on the slower surfaces.

Federer would cause Djokovic trouble with his variety. Djokovic would cause Federer trouble with his return (one aspect of Federer's game that I do believe is as good as ever is his serve but Djokovic handles it better than anyone).

So, no, I don't believe Djokovic has raised the bar, as that implies his level is better. "Different but about equal" is how I'd think of it.

As for Fed's 5 USO v Djoko's 6 AO, I think Fed is more impressive for two reasons:

1) It was dominance that didn't have precedence at that event in the open era and hasn't been replicated since.

2) It was done at what was only his second best slam!

But Djoko's 6 AOs are still a brilliant achievement.

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Post by AdamT Thu 11 Feb 2016, 12:58 pm

This is a really tough question to answer. An excellent question all the same.

As invincible as Novak currently is, I still think Federer around 05-08 is the greatest player ever. (I'm a Nadal fan)

The only blight in Federer's peak was his h2h with Rafael.

Roger made tennis look so effortless in his pomp. He still does today against players not ranked on the top 10.

To answer the other question, I think Novak's 6 AO's. I think total number of G'S outweighs how many some win in a row.


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Post by Born Slippy Thu 11 Feb 2016, 1:00 pm

If they both rocked up tomorrow Novak 16 versus Fed 06 wins. However; if Fed had grown up playing Novak then I think his wider skill set would have seen him edge a peak versus peak rivalry.

Novak's 6 Australians are better - quality of opposition is higher.

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Post by dummy_half Thu 11 Feb 2016, 2:09 pm

Federer's peak lasted longer than Novak's has to date - 18 out of 19 consecutive GS finals with only the lost SF in between. That's reaching the final of each slam for just short of 5 seasons.

Novak 2015 v Federer 2005 or 2006 - On grass, Federer wins quite easily. On faster hard courts, Fed would have the edge. On slower hard courts Djokovic would have the edge (probably by more than Fed's advantage on the quicker HCs).

Clay would be interesting - Roger was clearly the 2nd best clay courter of his era, behind the best there's ever been, in Nadal. Djokovic has a game that should suit clay but sometimes falls short and perhaps ultimately lacks the weight of shot to be as effective on slow clay as elsewhere. Can make a case for Fed getting the better of Novak fairly frequently on the red stuff, but throw in peak Rafa and there's only one winner...

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Post by Guest Thu 11 Feb 2016, 2:19 pm

Any peak discussion will ultimately always come down to the respective strength of the competition at that particular time.

The fence sitter in me will do just that because it gets wrapped around stats and their importance or value against the opposition. It's like crows picking at a carcass.

For me Feds 5 US Opens trump Djokovic's 6 AO's purely because it was consecutive. The fact Fed did that at 2 Slams is ridiculous. It's unbroken dominance which screams out sheer consistency. With that I am talking achievement alone.

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Post by lydian Thu 11 Feb 2016, 2:34 pm

Fair enough LK but these discussions with these 2 guys are relevant because they're playing at the same time...with a H2H of 22:23. Its not really a full-on era discussion because of that.

Some of Fed's stats are still amazing, although Djokovic is still literally making the numbers up. Fed clearly dominated for a longer period...there is no doubt that Djokovic's peak has been stellar but nowhere near as long. But then people MAY argue Novak's competition is tougher now...or is it...? Regarding their playing level, I tend to feel Roger's skills were higher...for example watching Fed vs Agassi 2005 is still mind blowing now...both taking the ball early and hitting hit into the corners (Agassi's own level for a 35 year old was amazing...). I feel that Novak doesn't quite have the hand/eye skills to take the ball early on faster courts and I tend to agree with Dummy H that its v.close on clay.

After all, Fed vs Djoko on clay is 4:4. But Fed has won some significant matches, e.g. anyone remember the RG match during Novak's epic 2011 season which Fed won? Likewise, Fed beat Novak in 2014 at Monte Carlo Masters...and Fed was getting on for 33. So I tend to agree that Djokovic probably has the edge on slower HC (hence his dominance at AO) where his movement is second to none. On balance my belief is peak Fed's skills are better than peak Djokovic's skills.

Agree on USO > AO. My feeling is also that more of the players peak for USO than AO too.
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Post by Guest Thu 11 Feb 2016, 2:53 pm

Is the competition better though?

This is why the era discussion is amusing because looking at Novak one could argue playing the same faces in the finals doesn't scream out the field has a depth of quality. Isn't it Federer, Nadal, Murray, Wawrinka and Tsonga that he has played in Slam finals? The dynamic of the argument is compelling in terms that playing the same faces isn't as testing as playing a variety of different players? I'll do a breakdown of the dominance of opponents both faced in the finals of Slams.

Federer:
2004 - Safin, Roddick, Hewitt
2005 - Roddick, Agassi
2006 - Baghdatis, Nadal, Nadal, Roddick
2007 - Gonzalez, Nadal, Nadal, Djokovic

So that's 8 different players

Djokovic
2011 - Murray, Nadal, Nadal
2014 - Nadal, Federer
2015 - Murray, Wawrinka, Federer, Federer
2016 - Murray,

That's 4 different opponents. Granted it's 3 less matches, but the theme is there. I just question is it quantity over quality or a mixture?

Now doubt Djokovic's dominance is scary, but I think what is impressive with Federer was that he saw off the peak best of his competition and held his own for a while against the new guard before being pushed to one side. Djokovic is seeing off the old guard (Federer) and his main peak rivals (Murray, Nadal) and there isn't much of a new guard is there? They aren't even getting past the first line of defence.

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Post by HM Murdock Thu 11 Feb 2016, 4:34 pm

lydian wrote:After all, Fed vs Djoko on clay is 4:4. But Fed has won some significant matches, e.g. anyone remember the RG match during Novak's epic 2011 season which Fed won? Likewise, Fed beat Novak in 2014 at Monte Carlo Masters...and Fed was getting on for 33.
I don't think much should be read into that Monte Carlo result as Djokovic was impaired with a wrist injury (he played with it strapped) and was out for a few weeks afterward.

RG11 was a biggie though. My recollection of that day is that Federer served brilliantly - 18 aces against Novak on a clay court is really something!

It shows how important match ups are though. I agree that it would be close between Fed and Djoko on clay but Novak has 6 wins on clay against Rafa, while Federer only has 2 (and one of those was the day after Rafa had a 4 hour war with Novak!).

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Post by lydian Thu 11 Feb 2016, 5:02 pm

Oh I remember that (2009?) Madrid match HMM...arguably the best 3 set match I've ever seen!
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Post by socal1976 Thu 11 Feb 2016, 7:04 pm

Well I think it comes down to surface. I think peak Novak is better on the slower surfaces. The fact that Roger unique style poses problems for Novak in my mind shouldn't weigh very heavily although it is a fact to consider. But Roger hasn't beaten Novak in a slam for 3 and a half years. Furthermore, these H2h issues are not such that has prevented Novak from slim leads over both Fedal. If H2H is brought into the equation, when looked at with how he has played all his top rivals Novak comes out well. Roger plays an unorthodox style today and does it really well.

In terms of dominance Novak is pushing the boundaries even higher than peak fed. The telling and dramatic/ironic thing that has occurred is that if Novak wins the French open and becomes the first male star since laver to hold all four at once objectively peak Novak dominance surpasses peak Fed dominance. That would five of the last six slams won. So again ironically the French open is even more huge for Novak's legacy than ever.

In terms of hypothetical matchup peak Novak has edge on a slow hard court and clay. Peak Roger on the faster surfaces.

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Post by socal1976 Thu 11 Feb 2016, 7:12 pm

That competition has helped bring Djokovic today to the highest peak of anyone in our data set, edging just ahead of Borg and Federer. Djokovic peaked following his semifinal win at this year’s French Open2, reaching one-tenth of a point higher than Borg reached after his semifinal win at the 1980 U.S. Open. (They both lost the subsequent final.) Djokovic is still within striking distance of that high now





This from the article from 538 those guys are geniuses of statistical research. They usually nail their presidential and all their political prognostications. They do a thoroughough statistical breakdown of any topic they choose to research. Highly recommend that site in general for stat and prediction junkies. The best on US politics.

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Post by Henman Bill Thu 11 Feb 2016, 8:07 pm

Djokovic is the best ever in the absolute sense that if he travelled back in a time machine to 2006 he would probably beat Roger at least 3 times out of 5 - he might struggle to just win half the matches at Wimbledon and fast US open, but should have him on the slow hard courts and clay.

But Roger is the greatest ever when you allow that Djokovic had the benefit of better rackets and improved training methods and having watched players like Federer and Nadal and able to copy and build on what they were doing.

Another thing is that Nadal and Djokovic only each raised the bar about 5% beyond Federer. Federer went like 20% beyond the previous best player. Andre Agassi might agree.

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Post by bogbrush Thu 11 Feb 2016, 8:35 pm

Always tough because you run into questions like what would a young Borg be doing now? The advantage of following us huge - the new player grows up attuned to the latest technology, has the previous great to measure against, etc.

I don't believe players actually become fundamentally better each generation. By that, I think if Djokovic was born in 1950 he'd look like a 1970's player.

When I get into GOAT thinking, I try to think about stuff like standard for the time, or whether the player had some kind of 'X' factor (one reason Lendl would never make such a list while Borg would).

I go for Federer (shock!) because he's the only player I've ever seen to combine breathtaking artistry alingside long term massive success.
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Post by socal1976 Fri 12 Feb 2016, 6:45 am

Question for all those interested in the topic era competition levels aside if Novak wins the FO this year and goes four slams in a row wouldn't he objectively be more dominant in his best run than fed's best run? Not talking about a hypothetical time machine matchup or an analysis or comparisons of whose opposition was tougher. But that would leave Novak as the only guy to win 5 and the only guy to win six masters in a season with the wtf and be the holder of all 4 slams. To me that is objectively more dominant than fed has ever been. He wins the French and by the numbers he has dominated his opposition more thoroughly than fed dominated in his peak. Also he gets to final of Dubai he will break fed's best ever 17 ATP finals in a row to tie the all time record with 18. Would Djokovic winning FO and holding all 4 slams change any of the minds of those that have peak fed as more dominant? Again on the narrow question of dominating his opposition, objectively at that point and maybe even now Djokovic would be further ahead of his competition than fed was of his. This is also born out by the record gap Djokovic has in points right now which would swell even dramatically more so if he held the FO simultaneously as well.

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Post by lydian Fri 12 Feb 2016, 8:27 am

Yes its arguably more dominant but the surfaces are getting so similar now, and Djokovic has all this lovely Graphene tech in his racquet and strings, that it's more easily possible to create these runs. You could argue Agassi would have loved these present conditions too and maybe done something similar, who knows, but present day conditions better allow this type of domination. So given conditions were a fair bit more different in Feds prime (which in themselves were vastly different from 80/90s conditions) doesn't that give the nod to Roger on what he did?
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Post by Belovedluckyboy Fri 12 Feb 2016, 11:32 am

Wait, some correction.

1) I think Fed in 2006 led by a wider gap over the mo2 Rafa . 15745 vs 7735 than Novak in 2015 over Murray.

2) Novak wasn't the only one to win 5 Masters in a season; Rafa had done it in 2013, winning IW, Madrid, Romr, Montreal and Cincy.

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Post by Calder106 Fri 12 Feb 2016, 12:15 pm

Belovedluckyboy wrote:Wait, some correction.

1) I think Fed in 2006 led by a wider gap over the mo2 Rafa . 15745 vs  7735 than Novak in 2015 over Murray.

2) Novak wasn't the only one to win 5 Masters in a season; Rafa had done it in 2013, winning IW, Madrid, Romr, Montreal and Cincy.

Think Novak won 6 in 2015 (IW, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Shanghai, Paris) and made the final of the other 2 he entered (Montreal and Cincy).

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Fri 12 Feb 2016, 1:57 pm

The correction is to Socal's point that 'Novak is the only one to win 5 Masters in a season'.

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Post by bogbrush Fri 12 Feb 2016, 2:53 pm

I think on paper Novak would obviously be ahead on Slam wins, but although era stuff is the path to madness, I just think you HAVE to recognise that Rafa Nadal at his peak on clay makes a difference. I mean, he just DOES. I don't care what anyone says, winning the French in 2016 isn't the same as getting past Nadal in earlier years.

Federer went on a tear where but for Nadal on clay he would have won 10 (TEN) Slams in a row from Wimbledon 2005 to USO 2007.

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Post by hawkeye Fri 12 Feb 2016, 5:38 pm

legendkillarV2 wrote:Is the competition better though?

This is why the era discussion is amusing because looking at Novak one could argue playing the same faces in the finals doesn't scream out the field has a depth of quality. Isn't it Federer, Nadal, Murray, Wawrinka and Tsonga that he has played in Slam finals? The dynamic of the argument is compelling in terms that playing the same faces isn't as testing as playing a variety of different players? I'll do a breakdown of the dominance of opponents both faced in the finals of Slams.

Federer:
2004 - Safin, Roddick, Hewitt
2005 - Roddick, Agassi
2006 - Baghdatis, Nadal, Nadal, Roddick
2007 - Gonzalez, Nadal, Nadal, Djokovic

So that's 8 different players

Djokovic
2011 - Murray, Nadal, Nadal
2014 - Nadal, Federer
2015 - Murray, Wawrinka, Federer, Federer
2016 - Murray,

That's 4 different opponents. Granted it's 3 less matches, but the theme is there. I just question is it quantity over quality or a mixture?

Now doubt Djokovic's dominance is scary, but I think what is impressive with Federer was that he saw off the peak best of his competition and held his own for a while against the new guard before being pushed to one side. Djokovic is seeing off the old guard (Federer) and his main peak rivals (Murray, Nadal) and there isn't much of a new guard is there? They aren't even getting past the first line of defence.

What happened to Djokovic in 2012 and 2013? If he fails to reach any more slam finals will you adjust his peak chart? During the last 4 years 2011 - 2015 Djokovic is 1 - 3 to Nadal in Slam finals (1 -1 in non final slam matches). Federer could hardly hold his own against a baby Nadal let alone a peak one as he was first beaten at RG by Nadal when Nadal was 19 (and Fed was 24), first beaten at Wimbledon when Nadal was 22 (and Fed was 26) and first beaten at the AO when Nadal was 22 (and Fed was 26). Federer last beat Nadal at a slam when Nadal was just 21.

Up until Nadal pulled out of the 2014 with a wrist injury and lost the rest of the season to appendicitis there was no question about it. Nadal's peak was better than both Djokovic's and Federer's. Unless anyone wants to argue that Nadal was playing at his peak in 2015 it still is.

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Post by socal1976 Fri 12 Feb 2016, 7:05 pm

bogbrush wrote:I think on paper Novak would obviously be ahead on Slam wins, but although era stuff is the path to madness, I just think you HAVE to recognise that Rafa Nadal at his peak on clay makes a difference. I mean, he just DOES. I don't care what anyone says, winning the French in 2016 isn't the same as getting past Nadal in earlier years.

Federer went on a tear where but for Nadal on clay he would have won 10 (TEN) Slams in a row from Wimbledon 2005 to USO 2007.


I actually agree with your argument here that it would be much harder for Roger in his heyday to dominate on clay than it would be for Novak if he wins RG. But I think you would also give credit to Novak for being a tougher a matchup against Rafa on clay. If we are talking peak vs. peak I think Novak 2011 and 2015 or 2016 would have a better chance of upending Rafa as much of beast as he was on clay.

But I would like to point out you do a wonderful job of pointing out the slippery slope of comparing eras and then sliding right on down that slope by discussing the clay court competition Fed faced. Also my point is not that it was easier or more difficult for one or the other to dominate. Not that one or the other's competition is better or worse. In a way, by saying Fed couldn't dominate on clay because one guy was around who was the all time beast on clay proves my point. The gap between 1 and 2 is much bigger now than in Fed's heyday. Therefore Djokovic would objectively be more dominant. Not that he faced tougher competition but unlike Fed in 06 lets say Novak goes in to every match on every surface as the favorite. Roger just couldn't say that for one quarter of the season. I mean obviously through no fault of his own.

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Post by socal1976 Fri 12 Feb 2016, 7:12 pm

lydian wrote:Yes its arguably more dominant but the surfaces are getting so similar now, and Djokovic has all this lovely Graphene tech in his racquet and strings, that it's more easily possible to create these runs. You could argue Agassi would have loved these present conditions too and maybe done something similar, who knows, but present day conditions better allow this type of domination. So given conditions were a fair bit more different in Feds prime (which in themselves were vastly different from 80/90s conditions) doesn't that give the nod to Roger on what he did?

Agassi is a better natural ball striker than Djokovic but not by as much as people would like to believe. And Djokovic is a better ball striker from wide positions and the high ball than Andre. Plus if comparing Andre on these conditions to Novak I don't think it would be close as to Novak being better because he is faster, longer, and more flexible. Defensively, Andre would always even a young Andre be a step behind Novak.

And in terms of conditions I just don't see this continual slowdown. We know the big slowdown occurred in the early 2000s. If anything they have in recent years tried to liven the balls and speed up conditions a tad. I mean we haven't been seeing those incredible lengthy wars as frequently as a couple of years ago. Wimby slowed down after 99, the USO after 2002 and Aus went from a slow rebound ace to a slower plexicushion. But to me the tech and conditions have been pretty stable for most of the last decade. Yes refinements in strings do come along, but the big change with luxilons or polys that came into widespread use in the early 2000s as well. Racquets themselves have not in the last ten years either become so much more dramatically different. If anything while you can't claim complete analogousness in tech and conditions between Fed's peak and Djokovic's peak the conditions are more similar than between any other two champions you would want to compare, same with tech. So I don't see how this leans in Fed's favor.

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Post by lydian Fri 12 Feb 2016, 9:53 pm

Socal, I've been over the slowing of conditions many times before.

I advise anyone to have a good read of this and tell me things haven't changed drastically through-out 2000s (not just the period around 2001-3):
http://www.fawcette.net/2012/02/hard-courts-fast-clay-slow-not-so-much-.html

There have been other changes too...ITF updated recommendations on which size tennis ball events should use for different surfaces around mid 2000s. Effectively the balls have got bigger (ie. Slower). They have also stopped carpet events too around 2009.

So yes there have been quite a few changes across the 2000s!
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Post by Born Slippy Fri 12 Feb 2016, 10:09 pm

Lydian - the title of this article was a little tongue in cheek as I'd actually be in favour of some courts - notably IW - getting quicker. However, the point behind it I am convinced of. Holding serve is easier now than in the 90s. How would you explain it and does it alter your viewpoint at all:

https://www.606v2.com/t61403-is-it-time-to-slow-the-courts-down

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Post by socal1976 Fri 12 Feb 2016, 10:12 pm

Yeah but the changes the major ones polys, and slower courts and even the balls occurred before fed's heyday and those conditions are stable between fed and Novak's heyday. It simply is easier to compare Novak and Roger than lets say a player who came up in 1980 to one who peaked in 1986. The changes you discuss 90 percent took place before Roger's rise and both are modern ball, modern strings, and slower court era guys. Plus while they banned carpet it had been dying for quite sometime I don't think it being around or not is a big change week to week in the schedule.

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Post by Born Slippy Fri 12 Feb 2016, 10:14 pm

That often used diagram has always looked dodgy to me. If the full graphic is accurate it suggests the ball hits the line - which could easily result in a dramatic loss of speed. I would love to see a more complete analysis. If anyone has any other evidence I would be most interesting in seeing it.

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Post by lydian Fri 12 Feb 2016, 10:50 pm

BS, thanks - good thread which I missed. I've seen similar some stats to those before and in my opinion they actually reinforce the issue with slow courts. Generally slower courts actually help guys hold serve (believe it or not). Nadal was asked a little while ago why he doesn't serve at 130+ more if he can as showed at USO a few years back do this. His answer was that serving slower allows him to have more time for the 2nd shot. And that's the key here.

Your other thread had Nadal at over 90% service games held a few years back...but clearly he's not a big server and it can't be due to faster courts as we know they have NOT sped up. The answer why we see more guys holding now is that slower courts allow all the guys to play better 2nd shots...we're in an era of not S&V but S&F (serve and forehand). The guys now serve very spinny with pace (those good old poly strings!) and the slower, grippy surfaces make the ball sit up much higher than before making challenging returns actually quite difficult. What we see is the ball played back from these higher heights at medium pace, with medium depth...all of which gives the server plenty of time to come in and prepare for the forehand put away...or even set up the next winning shot. So the idiosyncrasy is that slower courts with poly strings have changed the nature of serve/return. What do you reckon?
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Post by Born Slippy Fri 12 Feb 2016, 11:20 pm

I don't disagree entirely with that analysis but I don't put the onus on court speed. My view is serves are hit with more pace and spin on average but strings have also made returning easier. The balance has probably remained relatively similar.

However, training and strings has led to the better servers generally being much more competent from the baseline. It's been realised that the serve-forehand combination takes a lot of risk away. In the past a big server was more at risk of a high tariff volley from a reflex block. Now, they know that they can stay back, the bounce will be true and they can power away a forehand.

If this was due to slower courts, then we would see the big servers struggling on quicker courts. That isn't my impression. Raonic will still get broken less on quick courts than on clay. His career serve holds on grass are 93% - clay 88%. Isner has 94% and 90%. Sampras in contrast is 93% and 81% - very similar on grass but massively less effective on clay.

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Post by lydian Fri 12 Feb 2016, 11:53 pm

Yes returning is easier but that doesn't mean the quality of them is increasing in terms of harming the server into worse % holds. I think its yes more go back into play but the server is still more effective these days in executing S&F approaches, aided by slowing courts.

We've discussed on the other thread that RG uses less dressing hear days which supports why the gap in holds vs grass are smaller than Sampras day when the ball would bite into the dressing more.
Also wouldn't you expect the numbers to be closer anyway with homogenisation...and that's what we're seeing with those Raonic/Isner numbers above?


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Post by lydian Fri 12 Feb 2016, 11:54 pm

Good debate btw BS Smile
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Post by Born Slippy Sat 13 Feb 2016, 12:07 am

Except we are seeing clay numbers go up and the others remain constant - which suggests a move in favour of servers. The total opposite to the usual argument that conditions favour Nadal, Novak, Murray.

Our initial debate was on Agassi v Novak/Andy. If returning now is easier but shouldn't be impacting on hold stats doesn't that mean that Novak/Andy have equally impressive stats to Andre? Note on clay that Murray - a far inferior clay player overall to Andre - wins more first serve return points in what we agree are much faster clay conditions.

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Post by Born Slippy Sat 13 Feb 2016, 12:09 am

lydian wrote:Good debate btw BS Smile

Agreed. I'm off to bed now though so will see what others have added in the morning. I actually don't think we differ too much. Just a question of the degree to which the courts have slowed down and altered the balance.

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Post by lydian Sat 13 Feb 2016, 12:11 am

Smile yeah me too...long day.
Agree on the focus...it's a question of degree, and it's so multi factorial too. Will be good to look into some of the serve and return stats more over the years...will try to do that if I get more time!
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Post by socal1976 Sat 13 Feb 2016, 1:51 am

Born Slippy wrote:Except we are seeing clay numbers go up and the others remain constant - which suggests a move in favour of servers. The total opposite to the usual argument that conditions favour Nadal, Novak, Murray.

Our initial debate was on Agassi v Novak/Andy. If returning now is easier but shouldn't be impacting on hold stats doesn't that mean that Novak/Andy have equally impressive stats to Andre? Note on clay that Murray - a far inferior clay player overall to Andre - wins more first serve return points in what we agree are much faster clay conditions.

Yes we know that it is harder to break now than it ever has been. Therefore you can not discount the returning of Andy and Novak. I think we do see in most sports people always looking back with rose tinted view of things. One factor in favor of both Novak and Andy is that they would both be superior to Andre in getting the wide serve because they are both longer, quicker, and faster. Also both being taller helps them return the fearsome kick second serve that players now generate.

One thing technically speaking I have a feeling that serve motions on the average are smoother and less idiosyncratic than the tennis of my youth. I believe on a technical level the serve is being taught better with a somewhat better technique. In the passed the server wanted to end up falling into court so it was just a couple of steps, splits step, then volley. Now players I get a feeling over all on tour there is no statistical measure, are going more up and down with their motion so they are ready to hit a baseline or near baseline shot on the first ball. But this also drives the contact point high.

Roddick, a guy who I have dissed a lot really I believe revolutionized how the serve is taught. His motion is very abbreviated and he is again one of these players who is more pushing up off the court than leaning into it. Plus in the past the serve was always taught as a 4 point or 4 beat motion with your service motion and weight transfer.

1. Lean in
2. Lean back
3. Lean in (toss)
4. Hit

Steps 1-3 produce that sort of classic rocking motion we are used to seeing with Federer and Becker. All that lean in, back, and in created that sort of look like the server was rocking himself. Roddick to me has 3 beat or 3 step serve motion. He just loads, goes up, and hits. If you think about it the lean in or step 1 in the service motion is really wasted to some extent motion. I don't know I feel like watching tennis strike points are higher, the server doesn't fall into the court as much, and more guys like Roddick are kinding ditching the rocking motion and just going more a three beat serve. I just have this sense that from my youth there was more idiosyncratic and unstandard serving that had a lot of wasted motion being taught to players. The most famous and most effective was obviously the McEnroe delivery, which for me is a delivery that was super effective you don't see anymore. Interested in getting both you and Lydian's thoughts on this.

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Post by lydian Sat 13 Feb 2016, 8:50 am

Socal to be honest theres a few curve balls in that post. You're contradicting yourself with McEnroe vs Becker (McEnroe had one of the most protracted pre-service motions going), Roddick's serve isn't a evolutionary jump forward, after all if that action is so good then why aren't more (or even any?!) modern players serving like him now? (The nearest are Monfils or Brands but they're not the same).

Roddick's action is simply an abbreviated trophy pose, probably developed that way because he had ball tossing issues as a kid and found he could start higher up the kinetic chain. His actual end action is no different to other players as people who teach the tennis serve will know it's all about achieving the "trophy pose" with then both arms pointing forwards and up...before gong into the throwing phase. Roddick just happened to have a fast throwing arm...it's genetics, like a fast pitcher, not his unusual technique. In reality it matters not one jot how you arrive to the trophy pose. But Roddicks action does put more strain on shoulder and elbow due to a less flowing motion...you're not gong to see many kids playing that way, trust me.

You then talk about Federer like his action is old fashioned....well he's not actually a bad server. But the proof of the pudding is in analysing 2 of the younger fast serving guys...Dimitrov and Raonic. I think you find it follows the Sampras/Federer method. Serving techniques haven't really changed, they'll still be serving like Sampras and Federer in 20 years time, it's the strings and racquet tech that have changed.
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Post by bogbrush Sat 13 Feb 2016, 8:54 am

socal1976 wrote:
bogbrush wrote:I think on paper Novak would obviously be ahead on Slam wins, but although era stuff is the path to madness, I just think you HAVE to recognise that Rafa Nadal at his peak on clay makes a difference. I mean, he just DOES. I don't care what anyone says, winning the French in 2016 isn't the same as getting past Nadal in earlier years.

Federer went on a tear where but for Nadal on clay he would have won 10 (TEN) Slams in a row from Wimbledon 2005 to USO 2007.


I actually agree with your argument here that it would be much harder for Roger in his heyday to dominate on clay than it would be for Novak if he wins RG. But I think you would also give credit to Novak for being a tougher a matchup against Rafa on clay. If we are talking peak vs. peak I think Novak 2011 and 2015 or 2016 would have a better chance of upending Rafa as much of beast as he was on clay.

But I would like to point out you do a wonderful job of pointing out the slippery slope of comparing eras and then sliding right on down that slope by discussing the clay court competition Fed faced. Also my point is not that it was easier or more difficult for one or the other to dominate. Not that one or the other's competition is better or worse. In a way, by saying Fed couldn't dominate on clay because one guy was around who was the all time beast on clay proves my point. The gap between 1 and 2 is much bigger now than in Fed's heyday. Therefore Djokovic would objectively be more dominant. Not that he faced tougher competition but unlike Fed in 06 lets say Novak goes in to every match on every surface as the favorite. Roger just couldn't say that for one quarter of the season. I mean obviously through no fault of his own.
I was very explicit that Nadal on clay it such an outlier case that it has to be recognised despite a general aversion to era stuff. He is, after all, by far the most dominant player on that surface ever.
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Post by It Must Be Love Sat 13 Feb 2016, 12:09 pm

bogbrush wrote:
I was very explicit that Nadal on clay it such an outlier case that it has to be recognised despite a general aversion to era stuff. He is, after all, by far the most dominant player on that surface ever.
This isn't particularly rational thinking.
Firstly I wouldn't call it 'era' stuff, unless you count Nadal dominating on clay as an era by itself. Perhaps call it 'competition in certain time period on a surface' stuff.
You can't rage against 'era stuff' and then arbitrarily use harder competition suddenly when it suits you in the argument.

Socal can say that for 9 out of 11 slams won for Djokovic, he has had to face Federer or Nadal. SoCal could then start raging at everyone for finding it disgraceful for bringing up competition/eras, but then sneakily add 'you know what actually Federer and Nadal are such great players that they are exceptions to my rule' and therefore Djokovic's competition has been the toughest ever (Federer has beaten either Djoko or Nadal in a Slam win 5 times for comparison).

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sat 13 Feb 2016, 2:34 pm

As I mentioned earlier, Fed in 2006 led the no.2 guy by a greater margin than Novak had in 2015 vs the no.2 guy Murray. Also, Rafa in 2012 to 2014 was still beating Novak at the FO when Novak was at his peak but Rafa was past his of 2008-2010. Im not sure the 2015 Novak was better than the 2014 Novak on clay, its more like the Rafa of 2015 was worse than the Rafa of 2014 on clay.

I think on clay Fed vs Novak is 50:50; I dont think Novak is better than Fed. Novak is more vulnerable too on clay than a peak Fed.

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Post by socal1976 Sat 13 Feb 2016, 7:18 pm

lydian wrote:Socal to be honest theres a few curve balls in that post. You're contradicting yourself with McEnroe vs Becker (McEnroe had one of the most protracted pre-service motions going), Roddick's serve isn't a evolutionary jump forward, after all if that action is so good then why aren't more (or even any?!) modern players serving like him now? (The nearest are Monfils or Brands but they're not the same).

Roddick's action is simply an abbreviated trophy pose, probably developed that way because he had ball tossing issues as a kid and found he could start higher up the kinetic chain. His actual end action is no different to other players as people who teach the tennis serve will know it's all about achieving the "trophy pose" with then both arms pointing forwards and up...before gong into the throwing phase. Roddick just happened to have a fast throwing arm...it's genetics, like a fast pitcher, not his unusual technique. In reality it matters not one jot how you arrive to the trophy pose. But Roddicks action does put more strain on shoulder and elbow due to a less flowing motion...you're not gong to see many kids playing that way, trust me.

You then talk about Federer like his action is old fashioned....well he's not actually a bad server. But the proof of the pudding is in analysing 2 of the younger fast serving guys...Dimitrov and Raonic. I think you find it follows the Sampras/Federer method. Serving techniques haven't really changed, they'll still be serving like Sampras and Federer in 20 years time, it's the strings and racquet tech that have changed.

I didn't say Roddick's serve had supplanted the Sampras or Fed serve or that Fed and Sampras' style serving is obsolete. No you are correct that the rocking motion is still the standard main serve. However, I have some personal experience with this, in that I did the same thing as Roddick with my serve for exactly the reason you indicate toss location. The fact that Roddick has such an abbreviated trophy pose serve is EXACTLY THE POINT I was making. Not that he abandons the physics of the serve, yes at the end you want to be turned with your lead arm up and the weight going forward. But doing away with step one 1 of the 4 beat serve is a big change that was just one part of the serving motions being smoother, kinetically having less wasted motion. I used to do the rock and it made it harder to synchronize the whole motion and get the toss always in front. But if you just load, go up and hit I believe it more efficient and we will see more people using that motion or the principle inherent of a smoother more abbreviated motion with less that can go wrong.

Roddick was an example of the general principle, and this observational so if you don't agree that is fine. What I have noticed is the servers not falling into the court as much and going more up and down. Yes still to hit a flat serve you want to lean in and have the ball in front. But in general is that I think we are seeing smoother, more abbreviated, higher strike points, and less quirky service motions. I think people underestimate how much coaching refinements and advancements also impact the quality and nature of the game while the focus seems entirely on the tech and conditions. Not trying to say that Fed or Sampras' serve is outdated, but as a whole the tour to me has made some major refinements to serving tech.

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Post by socal1976 Sat 13 Feb 2016, 7:22 pm

Belovedluckyboy wrote:As I mentioned earlier, Fed in 2006 led the no.2 guy by a greater margin than Novak had in 2015 vs the no.2 guy Murray.  Also, Rafa in 2012 to 2014 was still beating Novak at the FO when Novak was at his peak but Rafa was past his of 2008-2010.  Im not sure the 2015 Novak was better than the 2014 Novak on clay, its more like the Rafa of 2015 was worse than the Rafa of 2014 on clay.

I think on clay Fed vs Novak is 50:50; I dont think Novak is better than Fed.  Novak is more vulnerable too on clay than a peak Fed.

Interestingly, the only thing Fed has over Novak on clay is the one FO that he won by the skin of his teeth when Nadal got knocked out. Novak has way more masters and has beaten Nadal at or near his peak on clay. You claim Nadal's peak is 2008-2010 interestingly, by the numbers his best years were 2010-13, but like most Fedal myopics you push back Nadal's best tennis and ignore how great Nadal was in up till 2013 when everyone thought he was going to shoot past Fed's 17 slams. No way Fed's backhand holds up to heavy kick on clay that Nadal imparts like Novak's backhand. No way Fed can go up the line like that with his backhand. No way he handles the kick serve of Nadal on clay to his backhand like Novak. If you think Federer is less vulnerable on clay and in particular less vulnerable on clay than Novak, then maybe you have never seen Roger play Nadal on clay? If you have you might have noticed that Nadal hits 90 percent of his shots to fed's backhand usually wins easily as Fed goes out in array of backhand shanks.

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Post by socal1976 Sat 13 Feb 2016, 7:32 pm

It Must Be Love wrote:
bogbrush wrote:
I was very explicit that Nadal on clay it such an outlier case that it has to be recognised despite a general aversion to era stuff. He is, after all, by far the most dominant player on that surface ever.
This isn't particularly rational thinking.
Firstly I wouldn't call it 'era' stuff, unless you count Nadal dominating on clay as an era by itself. Perhaps call it 'competition in certain time period on a surface' stuff.
You can't rage against 'era stuff' and then arbitrarily use harder competition suddenly when it suits you in the argument.

Socal can say that for 9 out of 11 slams won for Djokovic, he has had to face Federer or Nadal. SoCal could then start raging at everyone for finding it disgraceful for bringing up competition/eras, but then sneakily add 'you know what actually Federer and Nadal are such great players that they are exceptions to my rule' and therefore Djokovic's competition has been the toughest ever (Federer has beaten either Djoko or Nadal in a Slam win 5 times for comparison).

Of course IMBL, it is exactly as I said they draw the era argument line like this. We can take eras into account to elevate the difficulty of Fed winning on clay. But you can not use the era and competition analysis to look at his competition off of clay. This arbitrary line drawing based on whatever looks best for Federer and his legacy is exactly the double standard we have both unfortunately had to deal with. Remember we have now gone from there are no weak eras, to now that Novak is winning we are in a weak era. You can chose to draw the line at Nadal on clay and claim he is an outlier, but in a GOAT debate all three guys are outliers by their very nature or they wouldn't even be in the debate. It isn't much easier to beat Fed at wimby in his pomp or the USO than to beat Rafa on clay. And isn't that the point we have been making that it is the beating other greats in Slams that can impact your records and standing and define who is or is not GOAT. Beating Nadal on clay is hard, playing Sampras on Grass really hard, Fed at peak on grass really hard, Djoko on plexicushion real hard. This proves what I have been saying that it is not the pack who don't decide slams but the handful of top guys who on their racquets the slams are decided.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 14 Feb 2016, 12:35 am

No socal, vulnerable not only to Rafa but to other players, eg Seppi and Tsonga at FO2012, Raonic at Rome 2014.

Rafa's best on clay was from 2008 to 2010, no way was he at his best on clay in 2013, just being very good, struggling during early matches at the FO. He peak later for the HCs, from later half of 2010 to 2013.

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Post by socal1976 Sun 14 Feb 2016, 3:26 am

Belovedluckyboy wrote:No socal, vulnerable not only to Rafa but to other players, eg Seppi and Tsonga at FO2012, Raonic at Rome 2014.

Rafa's best on clay was from 2008 to 2010,  no way was he at his best on clay in 2013, just being very good, struggling during early matches at the FO. He peak later for the HCs, from later half of 2010 to 2013. 
Djokovic is not more vulnerable to Roger on clay his backhand certainly isn't ask your hero Rafa or anyone who has ever seen fed play Nadal on clay


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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 14 Feb 2016, 3:52 am

Huh? What are you talking about? Fed certainly didnt have BH issue vs Novak on clay. Also Novak is more vulnerable against other players on clay, more so than peak Fed imo.

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Post by socal1976 Sun 14 Feb 2016, 5:14 am

Belovedluckyboy wrote:Huh? What are you talking about? Fed certainly didnt have BH issue vs Novak on clay. Also Novak is more vulnerable against other players on clay, more so than peak Fed imo.
We are talking who is more vulnerable on clay Djokovic or fed. Why are you playing dumb like you don't understand the conversation when you do. You claimed Novak was more vulnerable in his peak to more players than federer at his peak. I was talking about fed shanking his BH against Nadal's FH, in like every match they have played on clay pretty much, which makes fed infinitely more vulnerable to losses on clay in big finals to the guy who counts. What tour are you watching Novak's record on clay and how tight he ran Nadal on clay when Nadal was still a world beater is nothing like the massacres fed suffered in his peak at the hands of Nadal. Who are all these other players peak Novak has been vulnerable to on clay at his peak? Are we talking about one loss to Stan in beast mode or an odd loss once every year or two? When did Roger hand Nadal two ass kickings in a row like Novak did in 2011 at Madrid and Rome, oh never? So you are wrong Novak is not more vulnerable than Roger on clay comparing peaks would take his BH and game any day over Roger's especially if the guy across the net who decides the title is named Nadal.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 14 Feb 2016, 7:29 am

Novak at his peak wasnt vulnerable to players like Seppi and Tsonga at the FO? Or Raonic at Rome 2014 for eg? Fed during his heydays was rarely troubled at the FO until he met Rafa in the final.

Rafa also needed to despatch Fed in four sets most of the times they met at the FO, its not like Fed simply rolled over for Rafa. Rafa also beat Novak all the times they met at the FO prior to 2015, including 2014 when Rafa clearly wasnt at his best.

As I said, Fed vs Novak on clay was 50:50, as Novak wasnt able to exploit Fed's SHBH the way Rafa could. I have to agree with bogbrush, that the Rafa Novak met for most of 2011 to 2015 on clay clearly wasnt the Rafa of 2006 to 2010.

Its not a matter of weak era or not, for eg. The top 10 of 2004-2008 may be very much different from the top 10 of 2011 to 2015 so its hard to compare the two periods and say this or that is a weak era. However, there's only one Rafa and we certainly can compare his performance during 2006 to 2008 or to 2010 ON CLAY vs his performance from 2011 to 2015.

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Post by Born Slippy Sun 14 Feb 2016, 7:56 am

So Novak being pushed by Tsonga and Seppi is worse than Fed being pushed by Haas or Del Potro? What about Fed's losses to Gasquet or Volandri at his peak? In fact, the real position is that both of them were nearly unbeatable by the rest of the field.

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Post by Belovedluckyboy Sun 14 Feb 2016, 8:48 am

Fed in 2009? He was about 28 whilst Novak in 2012 was 25. You think Fed at 28 was better than he was at 25 in 2006??

Didnt Novak lost in R1 at Madrid to Dimi in 2013 too? They both had losses to the rest of the field - Novak to Tipsy in 2012 at Madrid; 2013 at Madrid to Dimi and at Rome to Berdych; 2014 at MC to Fed and 2015 FO to Stan.

Fed lost in 2005 to Gasquet at MC, 2007 to Volandri at Rome and to Stepanek in 2008 at Rome and to Stan at MC and Novak at Rome in 2009.

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Post by socal1976 Sun 14 Feb 2016, 11:28 am

What are you talking about Blb? Novak has a higher win percentage on clay and is tied on titles with Fed on clay certainly he will surpass Roger in that category. But that is beyond the point. Anyone with an above 80 iq who has watched Novak's BH handle Nadal's FH on clay and watched Fed doing the same thing could tell you who is more vulnerable. And Novak's record on clay the last few years is that he isn't more vulnerable on clay than fed in his peak. Who has beaten Nadal on clay more Federer or Djokovic, I value that much more than your subjective opinion, which seems to value Fed's iffy handling of the high ball on clay to the BH as superior to Novak's granite like two handed BH, probably the greatest high ball hitter on that wing ever, as a sign of Novak being more vulnerable at his peak on clay. I am sorry no one who has ever watched a fedal clay match and a Rafa/Novak clay match will ever think Novak is more vulnerable on that surface. Well unless like you they have some aversion in acknowledging that it is possible that Novak and in particular his backhand is something special. Hell I think on clay, when playing Nadal even Federer would trade his BH with Novak's. You seem to be one of the few sentient beings in the universe who see otherwise

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