With all due respect to Novak Djokovic, the result of Friday’s French Open semi-final seemed predetermined. After all, Rafael Nadal had won four titles in a row at Roland Garros, and 13 in all. He had only lost two games in his 17-year history at the tournament.
However, it was Djokovic who had handed him the most recent of those losses, in 2015, and the Serbian superstar conjured some more magic to advance to Sunday’s final with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4 ), Victoria 6-2. The result leaves Nadal stuck in a draw with Roger Federer for the record for Grand Slam singles titles, at 20; Djokovic will have a chance to close his gap to just one when he takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas this weekend.
While it came a round earlier than fans would have liked, Friday’s match represents a monumental victory for Djokovic, who has at times been excluded from the discussion about the greatest tennis player of all time. A 19th Grand Slam title and a second at Roland Garros would surely change the debate.
How does Djokovic compare to Nadal and Federer? Here’s a breakdown of their numbers on and off the court.
Djokovic holds his career prize money record, with $ 148 million in singles and doubles entering the French Open, ahead of Federer ($ 130 million) and Nadal ($ 124 million). Only one other male player in history has even won $ 45 million in prize money: Andy Murray, with $ 62 million. (Serena Williams, who has her own claim to the tennis GOAT title, has raised $ 94 million in prize money.)
Djokovic is on top this year too, with $ 2.4 million in prize money entering the French Open, and he can add $ 1.7 million to that total with a win on Sunday. Meanwhile, Nadal had won $ 997,268 in prize money this year and will receive another $ 456,000 for his loss in the semifinals; Federer, who has been absent most of the season with a knee injury, has earned just $ 45,989.
Earnings off the court
Federer has been the highest paid tennis player in the world for 16 years in a row, and the prize money is almost an afterthought in that equation. He’s earned nearly $ 1 billion in gross earnings before taxes since turning professional in 1998, Forbes Dear.
That total includes the $ 90 million, virtually all from endorsements, that landed Federer at No. 7 on this year’s list of the world’s highest-paid athletes and the $ 106 million last year that made him the top-ranked player in the world. tennis to top the ranking. Forbes athletes since his debut in 1990. Federer has an unrivaled endorsement portfolio, with brands like Rolex and Credit Suisse along with Uniqlo signing him to a ten-year, $ 300 million endorsement deal in 2018. He also has another payday On the horizon: He owns a stake in Swiss sportswear company On, which is reportedly planning to go public this fall.
While Nadal, who turned pro three years after Federer, has won a comparable amount in prizes, he has won about half over the course of his career, by Forbes count, including endorsements and appearances. Still, Nadal is not far behind as a pitcher, earning more than $ 20 million off the pitch in each of the past two years with a stable sponsor that includes Nike watches, Santander Bank and Richard Mille.
Djokovic was ranked 46th on this year’s list of highest paid athletes with a total of $ 34.5 million ($ 30 million off the court) after recently partnering with Raiffeisen Bank and Lemero printer cartridges. Djokovic, who turned pro in 2003, has made up ground with Nadal, beating him off the court in each of the past three years, but he got off to a slower start. In 2011, for example, when Djokovic looked virtually unbeatable, he was raising about $ 7 million in endorsements and appearances; Nadal was at roughly $ 21 million for the same period.
Dominance on the court
Nadal and Federer are tied for the all-time lead with 20 Grand Slam titles, with Djokovic close behind with 18 before Sunday’s final. Nadal also has a slight advantage in his match winning percentage in the majors: 87.7% as of Friday, compared to 87.2% for Djokovic and 86% for Federer. But the Grand Slams are not the only way to measure your success.
The 39-year-old Federer leads all three ATP Tour singles titles of his career with a second-best 103, ahead of 35-year-old Nadal (88) and 34-year-old Djokovic (83), and in total wins (1,243 vs. 1,027 from Nadal and 960 from Djokovic as of Friday). Federer also narrowly outstrips Djokovic in win percentage on grass (87.4% vs. 84.1%) and on hard courts (83.5% vs. 84.3%), with Nadal (78% and 77.9%) lagging behind them, but unsurprisingly crushing their rivals on clay (91.5% even after Friday’s loss, compared to 80.4% for Djokovic and 75.9% for Federer).
Djokovic and Nadal share the top spot in men’s tennis with 36 titles at Masters 1000 events, a series that has been held since 1990 and is considered the sport’s most prestigious set of tournaments outside of Grand Slams. Federer is in third place at 28, still well ahead of fourth place Andre Agassi and his 17.
Djokovic has the upper hand with his current ranking (No. 1, ahead of No. 3 Nadal and No. 8 Federer) and with his qualifying history, having spent a record 324 weeks at No. 1. Federer was the previous record holder. with 310 weeks in the first position; Nadal ranks a distant sixth on his career list at 209 weeks, behind Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors. Djokovic and Federer each hold another qualifying record: Djokovic is tied with Sampras with six finishes of the year at No. 1, and Federer spent 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1, from 2004 to 2008.
Still, for many tennis fans, it all comes down to the big leagues. All three players have won every Grand Slam event at least once, with Federer having the most success at Wimbledon (eight titles) and Djokovic at the Australian Open (nine titles, including this year). Neither has dominated a tournament like Nadal with the French Open – he won his first appearance in 2005 and has triumphed all but three times since then. He was teased by Robin Söderling in the fourth round in 2009, lost to Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, and withdrew in 2016 before their third-round match due to a wrist injury. It’s no wonder, then, that Federer and Djokovic have won Roland Garros just once, although Djokovic has an excellent chance to improve that number against fifth-seeded Tsitsipas.
Federer last won a major in 2018, at the Australian Open. Since then, Nadal has won four; Djokovic has captured six of the possible 11, with the possibility of making seven of the 12 this weekend.
Head to head
Djokovic has the advantage against Federer (27-23) and Nadal (30-28 with Friday’s victory). Nadal is 24-16 against Federer, including a 14-2 record on clay.
Djokovic has fared better than Federer on Nadal’s favorite surface, going 8-19 against him on clay and using Friday’s match to avenge his loss in the 2020 French Open final. On other surfaces, Djokovic has a 22-9 advantage.
So who is the GOAT of tennis? It’s a close call from wherever you are, but Djokovic has a great opportunity to help your case on Sunday.