Federer and the Numbers game at the Grand Slams: Why Federer is the greatest?

Chandrabhan Singh Nathawat|08-Aug-2017 22:57

Comparing Federer with Nadal, Djokovic and Sampras and let’s see who comes clear as the GOAT.

The internet has gone crazy with Federer winning 19 at the age of 35 years and 11 months. He has become the oldest to win Wimbledon and while doing so, he also became the first person to win 8 titles at the most prestigious tennis tournament.

While all the legends from the past, all the contemporaries and fans have already declared him the greatest of all time (GOAT), I would like to try and statistically prove the dominance of Federer at the top level of tennis i.e. the Grand slams.

In this analysis, I have only considered Slams as they are frequently used to discuss the dominance of any player in tennis. So let’s choose the top 4 players.

Federer: 19 Grand slams

Nadal: 15 Grand slams

Sampras: 14 Grand slams

Djokovic: 12 Grand slams

Each of these players has reached a pinnacle at different times, so I cannot compare records of Federer from the age of 20-30 years with Nadal from the age of 20-30. However, I have divided their career into 3 periods and then these periods will be compared:

1. Early Period: In this period, they were rising, but yet to dominate the World of Tennis

2. Dominance: They simply dominated during this period

3. Later flourish: The period post dominance

Also, each of these periods may not be of same duration. Like dominance for each period is:

Sampras: 1993-2000 (8 years)

Federer: 2004-2010 (7 years)

Nadal: 2006-2014 (9 years)

Djokovic: 2011- 2017 (7 years)

Though the period for each player is not same, it is almost comparable and to make things easier, I would compare them only in percent and not in absolute numbers.

Let’s compare the early period of all the 4 greats:

This is the period when they started playing the majors. While Federer and Sampras spent 5 years each, Nadal only spent 3 years and Djokovic had to spend 6 years. 

Pic: Record of each of them in their early phase

Each of them won at least one Major in their early period. Djokovic has the best win % of 78% in the period because he had an elongated early period as it coincided with dominant period of Nadal and Federer. Thus, he had to wait for them to slow down, before he could start dominating.

Nadal has the shortest period, suggesting that he started dominating at very young age. This can be seen from the fact that he is the youngest of the 4 to win first Major. Not much differentiated these Champions in their early period. The win rate for Federer was lowest with 69.64% followed by 72.9% of Sampras and 73% of Nadal. Djokovic lost his dominating period by 1-2 years by spending more time here. 


This is the period when they individually started to dominate. While Nadal spent 9 years, Sampras spent 8 years followed by Federer and Djokovic with 7 years. 2017 is currently included in the dominance period of Djokovic, as he still has US open to win, otherwise, his dominance period will end by 2016.

Pic: Record of each of them in their prime phase


This is the defining era in each of these Legends. Federer won 15 of his 19 Slams in 7 years. Nadal won 13 of his 15 in his prime. Djokovic won 11 of 12 and Sampras won 12 of 14. They were really killing the competition in their respective era. However, here Federer rose above all. He stood tall. He played 27 Q.F in 28 Slams. That is an insane 96%. Compare this to 26 Q.F in 31 slams by Nadal or 25 Q.F in 27 Slams by Djokovic. Sampras was also impressive with 22 Q.F in 30 Slams.

Federer reached S.F in 90 % of his slams. This is better than the Q.F of Nadal and Sampras. And far ahead in terms of S.F., as Sampras reached in 60% and Nadal reached in around 71%. Djokovic fared better with 81%, which is still quite low, if compared to 90% of Federer.

Now let’s talk about the finals. Federer reached 75% of the finals in the Slams he has played. This is incredibly high when compared to 66% of Djokovic, 46% of Sampras and 61% of Nadal. Federer further won every 2nd Grand Slam (in fact the percent is slightly higher with 54%). Others look small compared to Federer with the rest around 40%.

This is the dominance of Federer. He just killed the competition in his prime. He won 93% of total matches in those 7years compared to 90% won by Nadal and 88% matches won by Sampras. Only Djokovic came at par with 93%.

His record is the grandest if we see that in all the four slams he won at least 86% of the matches.

The Later flourish

This is the period when they are no longer the dominating players. While Nadal is into his 3rd year post dominance, Federer is in his 7th year. Sampras only spent 2 years before retiring and Djokovic may start the phase by next year. So Djokovic is not compared here.

Pic: Record of each of them in their last phase

In Tennis, when the player is past the prime period, his or her records start to slow down. Less wins and more loses start to reduce the overall records. So if a player plays for longer duration, it is certain that his or her record would not look that astounding.

But, say this to Roger and he has reasons to counter you. For the last 7 years he is playing post his dominant era. But stats say something different. His record in this era can be compared to a top Tennis player in their prime era, and he would still challenge them. In the last 7 years he has played in 24 slams and reached Q.F 20 times. That is an insane 84%. This is even better than the record of Sampras and Nadal in their prime. He did not play in the second week just four times. With age, players lose their strength to enter the 2nd week of Slams, but mighty Federer has done 20 times in his last 24 attempts. Nadal reached Q.F only 4 times out of 10, and Sampras could only reach 2times in 8 attempts. Sampras decided to quit when he realised he is not quick enough on the court. He only spent 2 years post his dominance. Nadal is in his 3rd year and already seems to be tiring down. Federer has won a slam 3 times in last 24 attempts compared to just one by Nadal. And the way Federer is playing, he is surely the best contender for next US Open too.

He has won 84% of his matches in last 7 years, when Nadal only won 80% in his last 3 years. Nadal may be pushed further back as he ages and play more on grass and Hard Court. Federer reached 16 S.F in 24 attempts compared to just 2 S.F played by Nadal. Sampras has already given up and Djokovic is yet to play in his “Post dominance era”, but that might start soon now.

Federer has won 80% matches in each of the slams. However, Nadal won only 66.7% in Wimbledon, 71.5 % in US Open and 76% in Australian open. Yes, he has a very strong record at French Open and he is rightly the greatest ever to play there. However, the towering stat of Federer eclipses all.

He has reached a level that can only be compared once Nadal plays for the next 4 years and Djokovic plays for the next 7 years. It seems too unreal to even imagine them at their prime in 2021 and 2024. We will truly realise the greatness of Magician Federer once again when they all retire and we have the final stats and numbers. But, still it cannot be denied that Federer has established as the Greatest of all, one of the greatest athlete ever to play any sport.


While most of their data seems similar in the early phase, Djokovic stands out because he simply had an elongated early phase. He was playing well, but could not enter his dominating phase as Federer and Nadal were dominating.

However, Federer has a slight edge in the dominant phase than each of them. He won more Slams, has better win percentage and played exceedingly consistent reaching almost all 28 Q.F

He further cements his greatness in the last phase. Sampras made an exit in 2 years, but for the last 7 years Federer is here with a record that is comparable to any dominant phase of a great player. He has simply raised the bar in this twilight era. He has raised a high standard for Nadal and Djokovic to even challenge.