In 2000, statistician Charles Davis argued that Sir Donald Bradman was the most dominant sportsman of all time. While he was criticised in some quarters for what was thought to be a fairly simplistic statistical analysis, The Age reported Davis’ findings and also the examples he provided of what a sportsperson would have to achieve statistically to be “Bradman-equivalent”. A basketballer would need a career average of 43 points per game, for example, and a golfer would need to win more than 25 major titles.
He also argued that a tennis player would have to win 15-20 Grand Slam titles in 10 years.
There are still three Grand Slams to go until we mark the 10th anniversary of Roger Federer’s first Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon in 2003. So far, he’s won 17 titles.
In the same period, Rafael Nadal has won a cool 11 titles, leaving him only one behind Roy Emerson, the man whose record was broken by Pete Sampras to massive fanfare in 2000, and having him currently tied with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver in equal fourth all-time. Oh, and new kid on the block Novak Djokovic has won five as well, including three in a row in 2011.
And so, on the back of Federer’s record-equalling 7th Wimbledon title, which came just a month after Nadal’s record-breaking 7th French Open title, let’s bask in the statistical dominance that is the Grand Slam glory of the men from the current era of tennis, especially Federer…
Since Nadal’s first Slam title (the 2005 French Open), Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 29 of the 30 Grand Slam tournaments. Juan Martin Del Potro, who won the 2009 US Open, is the only other man to have won a Slam during that time. To provide some context, during the previous 30 Slams (1997 US Open-2005 Australian Open), 16 different men won Slam titles. In the 30 Slams prior to that (1990 French-1997 Wimbledon), 12 different men won titles.
Federer (17 Slams) = Borg (11) + Becker (6).
If Federer was a country, he would stand seventh all-time in Grand Slam victories, behind the US, Australia, the UK, Sweden, France and 1 behind Spain. When counting only the Open Era (since 1968), he’d be fifth, behind the US, Sweden, 3 behind Australia and 1 behind Spain.
The “golden age” of American tennis: Sampras (14) + Agassi (8) + Courier (4) + Chang (1) = 27 titles.
Federer (17) + Nadal (11) = 28 titles.
While only two men – Don Budge and Rod Laver – have won all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year, 11 other men have won three slams in a calendar year, including Nadal (2010) and Djokovic (2011). Ten of those men achieved this feat once. The other, Federer, has achieved it three times.
Federer (17) + Nadal (11) + Djokovic (5) = 33 titles.
The highest combined total of any other three players in history: Sampras (14) + Emerson (12) + Borg/Laver (11) = 37 titles.
In the Open Era, Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer are the only two men to have won the same Slam on five consecutive occasions. Borg won five consecutive Wimbledon titles. So did Federer. Federer also won five consecutive US Open titles.
In reaching the semi-finals of Wimbledon, Djokovic has now reached the semis of nine consecutive Slams. He is only one off equalling the second-longest streak ever, hoping to join Ivan Lendl (1985 US – 1988 Australian) and Rod Laver (1960 Wimbledon – 1962 US) at this year’s US Open. Then, he’ll only need another 13 to equal Federer’s record of 23 consecutive semi-finals (2004 Wimbledon-2010 Australian Open). That’s like a current tour player reaching the semis at the upcoming US Open tournament and then not losing before the semis of any slam until Wimbledon in 2018.
In the Open Era, no-one has won Wimbledon more often than Federer. No-one has won the US Open or the Australian Open more often than him over that time period either. Of course, Nadal is the only player to have ever won the French Open seven times.
In 1933-1934, “Gentlemen” Jack Crawford reached the final of seven consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. Federer broke this record in 2005-2007, reaching the final of ten consecutive Slams. Just to show it wasn’t a fluke, from 2008-2010, Federer reached the final of another eight consecutive Slams.
And then, in 2011-2012, Nadal and Djokovic became the first pair of players in history to meet each other in the final of four consecutive Slam finals.
Statistically, there has never been an era like it. And we’ll most likely never see its equal. Let’s enjoy the remaining moments while we can.