Fast starts fill the trophy cabinet.
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open an unprecedented eight times from 16 attempts since he first competed at Melbourne Park in 2005. You can draw a straight line from his silverware to his speedy starts in opening sets.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of players who have won the highest percentage of games in the opening set at the Australian Open over the past 30 years finds Djokovic perched at the top of the tree. The data set includes 105 players who have competed in at least 20 matches at the “Happy Slam” since official tennis statistics were first recorded in 1991.
Djokovic is edging towards a remarkable threshold of winning two out of every three games in the opening set at Melbourne Park from 83 matches played. He has won 64.36 per cent (484/752) of games in the opening set, which has fueled his impressive 75-8 record.
The leading 10 players with the highest percentage of games won in the opening set at Melbourne Park since 1991 are highlighted in the table below.
Highest % Games Won In Set One: Australian Open 1991-2020
(minimum 20 Australian Open matches played)
Djokovic’s standout year in wrestling control of the opening set was 2016, when he won north of three out of every four games (76.4%) in the opening stanza.
Years Djokovic Won The Australian Open – First Set % Games Won
In the eight years that Djokovic took the title Down Under, he only dropped the opening set four times from 56 matches, with three of those instances coming in the final. The scores in those three finals were:
• 2008 – Djokovic def J.W. Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2)
• 2012 – Djokovic def. R. Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5
• 2013 – Djokovic def. A. Murray 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2
Overall, Djokovic has been extended to a tie-break in the opening set 12 times in 83 matches. He has triumphed in eight of them, including all four in his successful 2015 campaign.
Djokovic is rated third-best in percentage of games won in second sets at 61.6 per cent. Stefan Edberg (67.4%) and Andre Agassi (62.8%) are the two players who sit above him. Djokovic sits in fifth place with percentage of games won in third sets at 62 per cent. Agassi leads the third-set metric, winning 66.4 per cent of games.
The Australian Open is the Slam where Djokovic has won his highest percentage of games in the opening set.
Djokovic Grand Slams – Percentage Games Won In Set One
1. Australian Open – 64.36%
2. Roland Garros – 60.91%
3. US Open – 60.17%
4. Wimbledon – 58.62%
Djokovic has a ninth Australian Open title in his sights next month. Getting off to a flyer to begin the match is a proven strategy to establish separation from his opponents. It’s a fascinating sub-plot to pay attention to when the Australian Open kicks off on 8 February.