Roger Federer

Breaking Down the Federer Nadal Rivalry

Note from Jonathan: This is a post from Gaurav one of the readers here and it takes an interesting look at the Fedal rivarly and how the surface bias effects the H2H, I found it a very interesting take and I hope you do too so look forward to reading your comments. Take it away Gaurav…

Every now and then in sport, a rivalry comes along, that catches the attention of all who are watching, inadvertently nudging them into swearing their respective allegiances and be the reason for a broken television remote here and a vicarious celebration there. If you’re lucky, such a rivalry will entertain you, engross you; because that’s what sport does.

But seldom, comes along a rivalry that will one day come to define the history of a sport. Because to be in an era of genius is rare, but to be in an era of two greats at the peak of their abilities, each forcing the other to raise his level beyond the boundaries of what was previously thought possible, the net result being that the sport in whole is lifted, rarer still. Such a rivalry will captivate you. It will define you.

Today we are lucky to be, in what most would agree, is the Golden Era of men’s tennis, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the helm of the sport. Few would argue the impact the two have had, not just on the court but off it as well. Rafael Nadal, the left-hander from Mallorca, Spain- the land of bull fighters and olive oil drenched breadsticks, with his vicious top spin, kicking up the red dirt, high to the majestic one handed back hand of Roger Federer, the wizard from Switzerland- the man who has come to epitomize the game.

Roger and Rafa have played 29 times, with the head to head standing 19 – 10 in Rafa's favour. Looking solely at that number tells us that Rafa stands twice as likely to win a match when these two giants meet. But what this number doesn't tell us is how those 29 matches can be broken down.

These 29 matches have seen epics that have gone down to the wire, in the fading sunlight on the hallowed grass of Centre Court. Matches where one has blown the other off the court in a mere hour, under the psychedelic roof lights of the World Tour Finals. Matches that we will tell our grandkids we were privileged enough just to witness on our television sets.

Coming more to the point of this article, what this ratio doesn't tell us is the types of surfaces these matches have been played on. Tennis is played on a variety of surfaces. It’s what makes the sport stand out from the others.

Just to list out a few there’s Grass, Clay (we’re talking about red here, because most would agree blue’s another story altogether), Indoor Carpet and Outdoor Hard court. You could say these are the four main categories that one could divide the ATP calendar into.

Now one could argue that within these surfaces itself, there is significant variation (For e.g.- Arthur Ashe stadium (US Open) and Rod Laver Arena (Australian Open) are both hard courts, but the two couldn't be more different.

Arthur Ashe is significantly faster than Rod Laver Arena where the balls move slower and bounce much higher, mildly resembling the trajectory of a ball on a clay court). And then of course there are other factors that kick in, like the type of ball used, the altitude of the stadium, the weather etc all of which play their respective parts in making our sport what it is today (or at least was yesterday)

Anyway, coming back to the various kinds of surfaces, which is the focal point of the article, what we see is that of the 29 times these two have met, they've met a staggering 14 times on clay, 10 on outdoor hard court, 4 indoors and a mere 3 times on grass. Here’s the table:

Court Type Federer Nadal Total
Outdoor Hard Courts 2 6 8
Clay 2 12 14
Grass 2 1 3
Indoor Hard Court 4 0 4
Total 10 19 29

What we can see is that Rafa is clearly the clay court favorite, (no surprises there) with the slow and high bouncing ball playing to his strengths and Federer’s weaknesses, which he quite easily exploits.

Indoor Hard court is undoubtedly Federer's turf, where the court plays fast and the ball stays low, allowing Roger to use his staggering arsenal and variety to unhinge Nadal’s standard pattern of play to the Federer back hand.

Outdoor Hard courts are a slightly strange occurrence. Where we would typically expect Federer to come out on top, we see that Rafa has the advantage here with a 6- 2 head to head. A closer look into the venues tells us that most of these matches have been played on slow hard courts that play akin to clay (which now seems to be becoming the norm rather than the exception).

These are the Australian Open, Miami, Indian Wells (which are all becoming slower by the minute) and Dubai (the one fast hard court in their matchup). It should be noted that they've never met at the US Open, Cincinnati, Rotterdam, and Montreal etc., which could be considered faster hard courts.

They haven’t had enough matches on Grass for us to say something definitively, but we do see Roger edge ahead in Grass (and reasonably so). Were it a decade ago, I would give Roger a definitive vote on the grass courts of Wimbledon, but again, with the centre court playing progressively slower with the new kind of grass they've sown, it’s a hard toss up. But I’d still have to go with Roger on this one.

What I’ve tried to do now is to see what the outcome would be, if they played the same number of matches on the 4 broad categories of surfaces. Assuming they played 7.25 (7 for simplicity) matches on each surface (which would add up to 29- their current tally), using the same win loss ratio that they have currently we get the following table:

Court Type Federer (7.25) Nadal (7.25) Total (7.25)
Outdoor Hard Courts 1.8125 5.4375 7.25
Clay 1.035714286 6.214285714 7.25
Grass 4.833333333 2.416666667 7.25
Indoor Hard Court 7.25 0 7.25
Total 14.93154762 14.06845238 29

Now what we have here is a much more honest head to head, with all surfaces equally accounted for, and none over proportionally weighing down the final ratio. What we see is that the head to head ratio would actually be in Roger’s favour, 15- 14.

I must add that the analysis is not factoring in what would have happened if the two had played a few matches on faster outdoor courts, or treating the blue clay of Madrid as a totally different surface (it clearly isn’t clay, and most definitely not hard) which might further push the balance in Federer's favour.

A lot of Federer fans have argued that if Federer hadn't reached all those clay court finals (or slow hard court finals for that matter), he probably would have had a more respectable ratio on clay. In other words, we’re saying if Federer wasn't the second best clay court player of his time, he’d never have faced Rafa, and we would have never be having this discussion in the first place.

Also, had Rafa reached a few more fast hard court finals he’d have run into Federer, where the matchup would have given Federer a slight edge (I’m not saying it would be a washout, but Federer would definitely hold the advantage with his naturally aggressive pattern of play). Anyway, that is all conjecture (as is this article really) and we’ll never know until they do face a few times on faster hard courts and grass (which I hope they do).

Most would agree that tennis surfaces are starting to become all too homogeneous, with tournament organizers slowing down the pace of the court or using heavier balls in order to facilitate the long grinding rallies we’ve all got so accustomed to. Variety is essential because it brings out so many aspects of the game (and a player’s natural style) that otherwise get stymied at the expense of defensive cross-court play.

Take serve and volley, chip and charge for example. When was the last time you actually saw a game of pure serve and volley tennis? (and I’m not counting Radek Stepanek because my grand mom could pass him all night long) Variety is what differentiates our sport from the others and makes it all the more exciting. It adds flavor and new dimensions to the tennis court. And it is essential in order to bring back the different styles of play that once were an integral part of the game.

Rafa’s game breaks down the opponent mentally more than physically I would like to believe. It hammers a weakness time and time again, resorting to the same pattern of play and court usage over and over again.

He is constance personified, unwavering in his concentration and intensity. His level rarely changes, rarely dips, and rarely peaks. Every point is played as though it might be his last. His commitment to every point is further amplified by his brilliance in defense, his speed, accuracy and topspin. That and being a lefty was always going to be an advantage.

Roger on the other hand couldn't be more different. His forte is… well it’s hard to pin point one thing with Federer really. Roger’s levels are going to dip- he’s going to frustrate you when he just decides to switch off- back hand shanks, chipped second serve returns missed, break point opportunities treated with sheer disdain.

He’s going to make you throw your remote control, punch a wall, become creative with abuses… and then, just like that he’ll decide to unleash his magic, with the twirl of a racket, a flick between his legs, his trademark ‘come on!!’ and that fist pump. And then you know that you’re in for something truly special.

We are lucky to be in an era of such greatness. Let us embrace them. Tennis isn't just about winning and losing. Well, I mean it is, but when these two legends grace the courts, it becomes so much more than that. Tennis then transcends the result. What we see is magic unfold, where what is happening in front of our eyes is more important than what is to be.

These two have shown us that the greatest rivals on the court can be pretty close friends off the court, something that is unheard of in many sporting circles.

Who could say otherwise after watching these two giggle like babbling schoolgirls, unable to complete a sentence without being consumed by laughter. If you didn't know any better, would you believe me if I told you that these two guys are one of sport’s greatest rivals?

Like both have said at some point or the other over the course of their glittering careers- “At the end of the day, it’s just a game.” …But what a game it is. And what a rivalry.

Gaurav Sood

Your average 22 year Roger Federer fanatic who breaks tv remotes when Roger flubs a break point with a chipped second serve return that floats long, punches walls when he shanks that back hand and yells so loud that the neighbors come running when he misses that easy put away. But then again he's the tennis player I've always tried to emulate- backhand shanks, headbands, fist pumps et al.

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  1. Very interesting post man thanks for the writing this. I’ve always thought the clay messed up the H2H a lot, not to say that Nadal doesn’t deserve his wins as he clearly earned them fair and square but definitely a few played into his hands.

    Of course Roger should have won more than he has but he just let Nadal off the hook too many times and didn’t show the ruthlessness required to take a guy like Nadal down.

    Again it probably highlights the need for more diversity on the tour – a Masters 1000 on grass or something.

    The only thing I disagree with you on is the friends off the court part – pretty sure these guys don’t like each other a whole lot. Maybe some respect but can you honestly imagine these two hanging out? They are like chalk and cheese. I know opposites attract but put these 2 in a room and pretty sure it wouldn’t be very interesting.


    1. Hello eveyone, first comment ever 🙂 (reading the posts for a while tough). So, I think they were firends, but that completley insane Tonyi Nadal messed things up. (I mean… I read Rafa’s book, and I felt like he just doesn’t want to say anything bad on his uncle) I remember last season they had a few not so firendly exchanges which ended up uncle Toni declaring they ‘respect each other but not friends’. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      Anyway, loved the article, keep up the good work everyone!

    2. I agree with Jonathan. These two are not friends off court. Not a chance. They are ambassadors for the same brand, Nike, hence they have to conduct themselves accordingly. I’m sure Nike has laid down some guidelines for them. These two are like poker players who dislike each other and are sitting across the table, involved in friendly small talk for the cameras, but are deceiving each other nonetheless.

    3. Thanks for putting up my attempt at an article Jonathan.

      I agree with you that Federer let quite a few matches slip from his grasp, when he just let his level dip after say, winning a first set and just let Nadal waltz back into the match.

      I think a lot of people have been asking for a Master 1000 on grass. The game clearly needs it. It’s surprising that there isn’t a single one considering the grass of Wimbledon is considered the holy grail of tennis.

      Yeah, I guess they aren’t ‘friends’, but I would have to say Fed does a pretty good job of keeping his head about him when he’s around Rafa, so full credit to him… specially once you realize what kind a emotionally charged kid Roger was. I don’t think I would enjoy bumping into a younger guy who gets the better of me if I was considered the best player of all time.

    4. @Kata thanks for commenting! Maybe you are right Tony Mafia probably played a part in it. Looks the controlling sort.

      @Gaurav No worries man, yeah couple of early French Opens, Australia 2009 were bad bad matches.

  2. Very well written article, Gaurav, and very good use of vocabulary that makes it look like written by a seasoned sports writer 🙂

    Try telling all this to a Nadal fan, especially on YouTube and your vocabulary will be enriched even further, and you will feel enlightened. I did a similar calculation some time back and found Roger to be ahead. The only thing I disagree with, is the 2:1 advantage you gave to Roger on grass. It should actually be closer to 4:1. I mean, if Nadal is 12-2 on Clay (6:1 advantage), Roger would’ve, and I’m being conservative, at least been 4:1 on grass, especially if they had met during Roger’s prime and on faster surfaces at Wimbledon (or perhaps some Masters 1000 events).

    I truly believe Roger to be a far superior than Nadal. But Nadal spends his efforts at the right places, unlike Roger who gives it his all, anywhere, anytime, and has barely taken any time off to prepare for specific surfaces. This is something a lot of people don’t take into account. Let’s not talk about his wins, let’s just focus on how anybody can beat the consistency of making it to 35 Slam QF’s in a row, or 23 Slam SF’s in a row, or a streak of 18 Slam finals in 20 appearances (Yes, 18 times he made the final in 20 tries in a row). Truly, insane!!!

    1. Hey Sid,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Haha, I don’t think having head to head conversations with Nadal fans are too much fun. It’s probably like running into Nadal’s defense on clay- a brick wall. But I guess we Fed fans do our bit to defend his records at claim to GOAT, just the same, if ever challenged 😛

      I agree with what you mean about grass, but the 2-1 I’ve taken is their actual match up on grass. I’ve tried to keep it in the same ratio as their actual ratios on each surface, without factoring what I thought ‘should be’ the head to head (which becomes something very subjective) This way the article has some basis and doesn’t become pure conjecture.

      But I fully agree that had they played more grass or faster hard court matches, they would be to Roger’s liking. I do believe I’ve mentioned it somewhere in the article.

  3. Great article, very well done.

    I do think Fed and Rafa get along very well. They may not be “friends” in the true sense of the word but they certainly have tremendous respect for each other and never show any ill will towards one another.

    1. Kyle, they won’t go as far as showing any ill will, but there is definitely a degree of animosity between them and it has almost always been Nadal who has been found mouthing off. I don’t remember a single instance where Roger said something remotely not so nice about Nadal, explicit or backhanded.

      What you see as respect is nothing but a facade, the proverbial pulling of the wool on the eyes of the world.

    2. Thanks for reading Kyle.

      You’re probably right. But I really have to give credit to Roger for not wanting to pull out a knife and stab Rafa every time they meet, because I’m sure every time they do, he’s a constant reminder of the only reason why some question his claim to GOAT (which Roger totally is 🙂 )

    3. Nadal has pulled off toilet breaks etc like in Indian Wells before a critical moment so he doesn’t always keep his gamesmanship out of Fed matches. Usually he’s worn Fed down so much that he doesn’t have to resort to his low ball tactics though.

      Best example of knowing they ain’t good friends – Madrid 2009 where Fed psyched him by making him wait for the coin toss.

  4. Nice post, Gaurav. It’s good to arm oneself with numbers when attempting to reason with some Raf-ians 😀

    When it comes to their H2H record, it is always worth noting that it simply doesn’t represent an even match-up of their abilities on their respective best surfaces. While there are many clay tournaments each year, almost all of which Nadal plays, Federer only has two opportunities to contribute to his record on grass, if that. This is clearly reflected in the mere 3 meetings on grass out of 29 times that they’ve played each other. During their best years, Nadal had more chances to build and improve his H2H in a single season on clay every year, than Federer had on grass, one of his best surfaces, over the entirety of a ~7 year period.


    1. Hey James,

      Thanks for reading my attempt at an article.

      I never did realise that. Now that you mention it, it’s pretty amazing to thing that Rafa and Roger have met more times on clay in 2 months than they’ve met in a 7 year period on grass. That’s a pretty strong way to look at it.

      1. Prepared to read more, Gaurav. So keep them coming. I am always trying to will myself into writing more often, so all the more props to you. Jonathan must surely be relieved at being lent a hand 🙂

        Another staggering stat to consider amidst all the discussion on whether Nadal should receive preferential seeding to better reflect past prowess on clay and given the period of his absence: 7 of the 9 titles that currently contribute to his points tally are clay titles (the other 2 being IW and Wimbledon). All that his points do is reflect his ability on clay.

        My personal feelings about Nadal entering RG with a low seeding are mostly of fear that he might prematurely run into and potentially disrupt the plans of Federer and Djokovic. But the current break up of events across various surfaces can’t be good if anyone could be out of play for 6-7 months and still be ranked high by besting one surface.

    2. Hi James…. I really like ur terminology Rafi-ans. Its sounds exactly like the hardcore Kneedal brick wall fans!!! Well funny.
      For Sid… I agree with ur points regarding Fedal friendship. No opposition at all. Whats the saying again ” Great minds think alike” no more to add keep doing ur thing!!!!????

  5. This has got nothing to do with this article, but I have to let out my frustrations……..
    And please I don’t mean this the wrong way…….
    But why bother going to Barcelona???? All the Spanish players play there and win???
    Now even Berdych is gone. Who has now a slightly chance to stop Rafa or to atleast make it difficult for him???

    1. Djoker would rather rest and let Ferrer try and vulture his way to another final of an ATP 500 when half the top 4 are missing but except Ferrer got schooled my Tursunov!

  6. This has been a major point of mine regardinng the H2H. A few more things to add:

    1) There are only about 25% common clay tournamanets for Fedal, yet 50% of their rivalry is played on clay [due to rafa’s relative one-dimensional play]

    2) Lefty advantage. Lefties have natural advantages in all sports. A great lefty will always have advantage over an equally or sometimes even more gifted rightie.

    3) The 5year age difference. In tennis, 5 years is a generation.

    4) Single-handed backhand becomes a liability on slow-courts. [explains djokovic having not many problems with rafa’s game]

    1. Hello Roger Messi! Nice name 🙂

      The first point you make further strengthens the argument someone made earlier that Roger has met Nadal more on clay in one season than on grass in his entire career. It also shows how Nadal specifically targets clay courts unlike Roger, a point I made earlier that said, “But Nadal spends his efforts at the right places, unlike Roger who gives it his all, anywhere, anytime, and has barely taken any time off to prepare for specific surfaces.”. Nadal also has a habit of just disappearing as soon as he feels he is struggling with his game or is feeling exhausted. He never gives the likes of Djokovic and Federer a chance to play him when he isn’t at his best.

      Nadal has created an illusion that he is a superior player based on the head to head record. But, an objective look (like Gaurav’s article) will always show that it is Roger who has found ways to play Nadal on clay time and time again.

      The second point you make is dismissed by Nadal fans when in reality, that advantage is “huge”. Imagine playing six right handed players in a tournament then suddenly having to handle the patterns of a lefty for the last and most important game. On the other hand, the lefty will find a right handed player almost always and will barely have to make any adjustments.

  7. Great break down of the rivalry. However, I don’t blame the surfaces anymore for the H2H as much as I once used to. Roger is just really mentally weak against Nadal. He’s lost too many big matches against him to keep his ground and execute his really good game plans.

    How he lost the Australian Open 2009, 2012 and the French Open 2011 is a testament to this. Roger has had countless opportunities in slams to get one over Nadal but mentally he can’t deal with Rafa and as you said Nadal “mentally breaks down his opponent.” So so true, especially with Roger. What ever confidence Fed has in a match, Rafa easily takes away and then well we know how most matches end…

    This is what is really exciting about the Nadal/Djokovic rivalry. Djokovic is doing to Nadal what Nadal has been doing to Federer for all these years. Novak hits his FH to Rafa’s BH. Actually that’s Nadal’s gameplan and it heavily relies on Novak’s FH being weak but Novak has made every component of his game equally strong.

    This is the problem with Nadal. He relies too much on his opponent to give him the match. He relies on Fed to give him the match because as you watch, he never does anything different, he just waits until Roger plays passive and eventually he dominates. Just like Djokovic, now 8 out of the last 11 times, Rafa is a mental cookie against Djokovic. He’s going to have to rely on himself more to come up for solutions rather than doubt his opponent, he’s started doubting himself. Roger and Rafa anyone? sounds familiar.

    I think on fast courts, Roger has the advantage since the balls don’t bounce high to his BH so if Roger is going to beat Rafa again in a slam, I count on it being at the US Open. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie had the same ending since the last slam meetings since 2007…

    This is how I see it: Had Roger not been so stubborn and arrogant when he played Nadal on clay early, he wouldn’t have had such a problem with Nadal and allowed him to get into his head but there’s only so much Roger can do with such a match-up and to how slow the surfaces play I guess, you have to favour Nadal when they meet.

    Regarding this Fedal bromance most fans think they have, its not true. They are rivals and “tennis” compatriots, they have to be civil to each other since they work together alot for the sport and are the biggest ambassadors for the game in current time. I’m sure they respect each other but they don’t pen dates in their diaries to hang together. Whilst I think they respect each other a lot, I have a feeling Uncle Toni and Roger do not get along at all.

  8. Hey Alysha,

    Thanks for your letting us hear your views. They’re very well articulated, if I might say so.

    I don’t think anyone likes “Uncle” Toni. Even his own nephew don’t like him, no? Hardly surprising because that guy comes across as just a dick.

    You’re right, Federer can be frustratingly stubborn for all his talents at times. I guess it’s to do with his fairly large ego that he is outright better than his opponent and can beat him on his own terms. I don’t think a in- his- prime Federer really needed to have a game plan tailored for each player like Rafa, Murray and Nole always have, because he was (and always will be) better than everyone he faced. And when he lost to Nadal, I think he was so determined to prove that it didn’t take anything different to beat him, that in the result he beat himself more often than not.

    I honestly feel sometimes that Roger 3.0 (borrowing Jonathan’s terminology) is better suited to beating Rafa because he’s
    a) Willing to try a different game plan (Indian Wells 2012, WTF 2011). I don’t really count Indian Wells 2013 because Roger was really out with a bad back.
    b) I think quite a fair amount of pressure has been lifted off him with Novak now dispatching Nadal in every final they play. I do feel Novak might be the biggest gift to Federer 😛 The player I’m actually more scared of, is… Murray. He plays smart tennis, and with his new found aggression, (which seems to suddenly, not to mention annoyingly, click in a Federer match) seems to find a way against Roger. Which is all the more annoying when he decides to beat Roger and then switch off in the next match which is generally a final. I mean if you’re going to beat Federer, at least win the damn tournament!!! 😛

    1. “I think he was so determined to prove that it didn’t take anything different to beat him, that in the result he beat himself more often than not.”

      Pretty much the Federer/Nadal rivalry in one line there, well said.

      Uncle Toni is an annoying figure in tennis, he just seems to love to psyche Fed out, putting Murray above him as a FO favourite, saying that Fed had no back pain…It will never end.

      Also I like your point about how pressure has been taken off him now due to Novak. I think if Nadal loses again to Novak at Madrid or Rome (or both again?) Roger will have to take the mentality that Rafa is not at his best and this is his last and best shot to get another French. However, with Rafa probably in Fed’s half, it’s not looking too good right now but you know I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

      Yes, Murray is another match-up problem for Roger. He drags Fed into continuous CC BH exchanges. He’s become pretty confident these days so what can we do? His game suits the slow surfaces that has come to be, it’s no surprise Roger has issues with him. But I was pretty pissed off at him this year at Australia, he was basically not fit enough to play the final and hang with Djokovic for five sets, what was even the point? Roger probably would’ve gone through and still played a better match than he did. Really surprising for such a fit guy like himself. If Murray and Roger meet this clay season but, Fed wins that one IMO.

      Lastly, thanks for the post, you write very well and have taken a great perspective at this intriguing (not really) rivalry.

      P.s- Roger 3.0 > Anyone and Everyone.

      1. Murray is over trained in my opinion. Tons of muscle on a fragile frame. He was completely weak when he was a junior, same foundations just an awful lot of hard work on his physique / stamina which is pretty commendable.

  9. Wow.. It feels like I’m reading The Roger Federer Times, with Jonathan as the Editor-In-Chief and its contributors as the columnists. Gaurav, this is a good read, pretty good for an article. Kudos to you and Jonathan who is letting others participate with this kind of interaction.

    And now it hits nostalgia especially when you mention serve and volley. And I agree.. hell, it’s been ages since I saw that gameplay in a tennis court. They’re pretty exciting and won’t make you yawn in the middle of the set. Slowly, courts are becoming more homogeneous from GS down to masters 500 level making it to the point that the changes are only the name of the event and place where it is going to be held.

  10. Murray has CONSISTENCY problems in his game. Look at what happened to him in MC. “He chickened out”.
    Dunno but he probably got spanked by his coach 🙂

    1. I was always inclined to believe that Judy was the serial spanker/ welter, what with Andy’s mark on his right calf… But I’m pretty sure Ivan can give Judy a good run for her money. 😛

    2. I still think Murray has a point to proof on clay. It’s a long clay season so he may yet be a factor. I wanna see him face off against Nadal to see where the rivalry now stands.

  11. Thanks Jonathan for letting others contribute both as guest writers and commenters. I usually don’t have a lot to add but I do so enjoy reading (and you always make me feel welcome here when I do comment).

    Great article, Gaurav, in basis and articulation. Especially interesting that it emphasizes how numbers, stats etc. always have hidden variables and it’s a great idea to view from different perspectives to get a well rounded and possibly fairer picture. And although my heart did a little leap when the numbers in your second chart gave Roger the 15-14 win, I reminded myself it is only by conventional rounding rules. 😉 But this particular perspective definitely levels out the results. In regard to surfaces, the loss of variety is such a shame as I am bored to tears with long grinding rallies that usually become “snoring matches” for me. In regard to the Fedal rivalry, as in all sports it adds enthusiasm, energy and sometimes fiery debate but in the end, nothing so far convinces me that anyone is better overall than Roger Federer! No matter whether Roger is “deemed” the GOAT by the tennis world or sports world or certain statistics, I feel beyond privileged to have been able to witness SO many moments of his greatness first-hand (albeit via t.v.) and look forward to many more.

    And to Jonathan, if you ever do decide to publish The Roger Federer Times, I’ll be a paying subscriber!

    1. Hey,

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. Couldn’t agree with you more Wendy!! So would I, if Jonathan ever did decide to publish the Roger Federer Times 🙂

      Oh and I think 14.9 vs 14.0 is as close to 15- 14 as it gets 🙂 I would have agreed with you if it was 14.5 vs 14.44 😛

    2. Thanks Wendy 🙂

      Well Nadal is playing Basel so that’s a good chance for Fed to move closer in the H2H. Not that it even matters what the H2H is in reality.

      The Roger Federer times, quite a cool name! peRFect Tennis is a non for profit organisation though 🙂

  12. Hi Jonathan,
    Thanks for your article and Gaurav’s contribution to it. I enjoyed reading it. It’s in all means an interesting look at the H2H matter, but unfortunately doesn’t take into account at what level the matches took place, as they all are treated on an even level in your calculus.
    However imo in the H2H one may not treat losing a slam title in the same way as losing a semi final match in a WTF, Master or ATP 500 event. So I think we should find a way to factor in the level or importance of the matches as well and integrate that aspect somehow in the formula. I’ve not thought yet about how one can do this. It probably would yield a slightly different final calculus result too.
    Anyway. I think it is a very interesting and creditable attempt to neutralize the unbalance induced by the dominance of one surface in their H2H.

    1. Hey Wilfried,

      I get what you’re trying to say. Interesting point of view.

      I just have one point- I understand that a grand slam would bring out a higher level of commitment than say an ATP 500 tournament, but with such competitors, who are such consummate professionals, I’m sure that they do give it their all, especially when they do play each other, regardless of the event.

      I must add though, and correct me if I’m wrong- these two have met in mostly finals (and the odd semis) of ATP 1000 events or higher (Grand slams, WTF) with the exception of Dubai (all big tournaments), so I don’t think that the end result would be all that different.

      What do you think?

      1. Hi Gaurav,

        You’re right, it doesn’t make much difference after all.

        Roger H2H-edge is about 6% (= 14,068/14,93) in your calculus, and about 4% (39,24 / 37,76) in my 2-step method.

        First step: Transforming the H2H in a corrected H2H that takes into account the relative importance of the events (used criteria: the maximum ranking points in the ATP rule book: Slams 2000 points/ WTF 1500 points/ Master 1000 points / ATP 500 points, or, when divided by 2000: 1 point for winning a slam-match, 0.75 points for winning a WTF-match, 0.5 points for winning an ATP 1000-match and 0.25 points for winning an ATP 500-match.
        Court type Federer Nadal Total
        outdoor hard 1 2.75 3.75
        clay 1 8.5 9.5
        grass 2 1 3
        indoor hard/carpet 3 0 3
        TOTAL POINTS 7 12.25 19.25

        The last column in the table above reveals however an unbalance in the Court types: outdoor hard court takes 19% (3.75/19.25), clay 49 %, grass 16% and indoor hard/carpet also 16 % of all the matches played between the two them.

        We can neutralize this unbalance by dividing all the results in the table above by the relative importance of the surface in that table. By doing this we get the following results:
        Court type Federer Nadal
        outdoor hard 5.13 14.12
        clay 2.03 17.22
        grass 12.83 6.42
        indoor hard/carpet 19.25 0
        TOTAL 39.24 37.76

        Conclusion: Roger is still above Nadal in the H2H (about 4%).

    2. Cheers Wilfried,

      Well it was all Gauravs article, I just added a sentence at the top so can’t take credit for the article 🙂

      Interesting thoughts but I tend to agree with you Gaurav, whenever Fed and Dull have met on tour it’s always been high stakes no matter what the event.

      Ever since they met in Miami there’s been a boat load of expectation on their matches from fans, the tournament organisers and consequently themselves so I don’t think the level of tournament matters a whole lot.


  13. Nadal has announced to play basel. I think finally he feels that he can beat federer in indoor matches!

    Btw, very nice article, gaurav

    1. Monte Carlo has just been liberated and now Nadal decides to try and invade Switzerland. Does he not know they have a history of being neutral?

      It’s still a way off but could be a Fedal final assuming they are both fit to play.

      1. The Swiss never go to war. But the Conquistadors are war mongers, and they don’t care 🙂

      2. General Uncle Tony Franco has his hands all over it. Probably got a good deal with Brennwald and they’ll put Fed in a tough tough draw so Nadal has a chance of dethroning Fed in his own back yard like Djoker did in Monte Carlo.

    2. Hey,

      You know it’s interesting to note that Nadal has signed on to play Basel, the year Federer’s contract expired. Don’t you? Federer still hasn’t agreed to play Basel, just by the way. I think that it’s extremely cunning timing on Nadal’s part. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls out if Roger decides to show up. Bad knee. Bad stomach.

    3. Or maybe another way to psyche out Roger? It’s not only an indoor hardcourt, it will be Basel– Federer’s territory.

    1. You can, I just don’t have comments set to auto-approve as I’d be getting spammed left right and centre. The blog receives up to 1000 spam comments per day so I have to whitelist people 🙂

      1. Yeah anywhere between 500 and 1000 a day – for all sorts of all things: viagra, porn or whatever is popular for affiliates to try and push – Dre Beats headphones are quite a common one. Any type of designer clothing too – Vuitton bags always crop up. And of course just complete gibberish ones too.

        Luckily the team behind peRFect Tennis have invested upwards of $3.4 million in industry leading technology to keep spam at bay and keep visitors safe 😛

  14. Nadal ,it seems ,is going to be playing Basel,according to the tournament organisers…I really hope Roger can give Nadal a good spanking in the finals..And i couldn’t agree more with this article..Hope this year they finally start meeting more at faster courts..

    1. Yeah probably Brennwald made him a big big offer. I’m hoping for a JesusFed beatdown, which on a fast indoor court is likely. Still 6 months away!

  15. And jonathan you know I have kept telling it would be really useful at the french if Roger was seeded number two..Now come to think of it maybe if Roger was seeded third and number Nadal somehow becomes the fourth seed ,then it might actually be good for Roger..

  16. Hi Gaurav,

    Nice effort but i just wanted to know the reasoning behind your analogy. Just to make it clear beforehand,i am a diehard Roger fan but wouldn’t it be unfair on Nadal’s part to get 6. something out of 7.25 for his 12 victories on clay(which now are 13) and give Roger a full 7.25 for Indoor courts on which he beat Nadal 4 times? Isn’t that a bit lop sided assumption. Even if they would have played equally on all surfaces i believe instead of the 20-10 it would have been 17-13 or 16-14 but no way was Roger going ahead with his mental issues coming up against Nadal. Also, i would like to mention few points that i think are significant. Roger lost few key battles in the run up to their more important battles which had a huge effect on his psyche. Had Roger won their match of Rome 2006( which i still consider their 2nd best match) he would have defeated Nadal in 2006 only and found a way to reverse the rivalry. Similarly, had Roger won Wimbledon 2008 from being 2 sets down, it would have given Nadal an irrecoverable mental blow. Nadal became mentally free in their rivalry after that match while Roger was just a shade of himself after that match. Those 2 key matches played a huge role in shaping their rivalry in the way we see it now. All said and done, i believe it was Roger who had this rivalry on his racquet and he blew it up. He is the GOAT for me with Nadal being a GOAT after Roger, Rod Laver and Sampras. Even if Nadal surpasses 17, i don’t think my opinion about GOAT is gonna change.

    Thanks for the article. It was a nice read. Please answer my initial query about the distribution.


    1. Hey!!

      The analysis is completely mathematical and is just scaling up or down the current H2H ratios. Anything else would be pure conjecture, as I’ve mentioned in the article. We could never say what would be the outcome of a match without it happening. That’s the beauty of sport. Which is why I’ve let the math do the talking here. And I’ve mentioned that explicitly.

      I understand what you’re trying to get at. But again, you can never be sure.

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