Roger Federer is a first-strike player who prefers to attack first and ask questions later. Novak Djokovic is a precision baseliner who patiently picks his opponents apart from the back of the court with depth, direction and consistency.
Two different styles – but with almost identical metrics in rallies short and long.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic from 2018-2020 at ATP Tour events on Hawk-Eye courts identifies how incredibly similar their percentages are, even though the way they go about collecting their points is strategically different.
The data set comes from 2,854 ATP matches from 2018-2020 and includes players that have played a minimum of 2,000 points combined in the following three rally lengths.
0-4 Shot Rallies
This is where you would expect Federer to have a clear edge over Djokovic in winning rallies with a maximum of just four shots – which means each player gets to touch the ball a maximum of just two times. The analysis uncovers that the pair are almost identical with their performance in this key battleground.
Points Won 0-4 Shots
•R. Federer = 53.75% (4,816/8,960)
•N. Djokovic = 53.54% (4,382/8,184)
•Gap = 0.21 percentage points
Federer’s lead over Djokovic was right around two tenths of a percentage point, which is infinitesimally small. The leader in this category was Daniil Medvedev, who won 54.98 per cent (5248/9546) of first-strike points.
9+ Shot Rallies
This is where you would expect Djokovic to widen the gap over Federer in their head-to-head win percentages. We all perceive longer rallies to be much more in Djokovic’s wheelhouse than Federer’s. Once again, the numbers show us how our perception does not align with the statistical reality.
Points Won 9+ Shots
•N. Djokovic = 54.63% (1,404/2,570)
•R. Federer = 54.53% (806/1,478)
•Gap = 0.10 percentage points
Amazingly, only a tenth of a percentage point separated the two players. Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka led this category by winning winning 56.57 per cent (784/1386) of these rallies.
5-8 Shot Rallies
Points Won 5-8 Shots
•N. Djokovic = 55.51% (2,086/3,758)
•R. Federer = 53.27% (1,840/3,454)
•Gap = 2.24 percentage points
The most separation between the two players was in this medium rally length, with Djokovic edging a couple of percentage points higher than Federer. Rafael Nadal, No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, led the Tour in this category by winning a dominant 59.71 per cent (1304/2184) of the points.
The data clearly shows that Djokovic is just as accomplished in shorter rallies as Federer is, while Federer has been posting almost identical numbers as Djokovic in rallies that get extended to nine shots or more.
Sometimes you need to go to a stats sheet to really understand the greatness of these two players.