In my first article on this topic, I argued that slams won and performance in slams are the key criteria for being the modern-era tennis GOAT.
Roger Federer notched up his 100th title win by defeating Stefano Tsitsipas in the final of the 2019 2019 Dubai Tennis Championships.
It was the 152nd time Roger featured in a final, and though he has won 100 times, there are 52 instances of Federer reaching the final of a tournament and seeing his opponent come up triumphant.
These 52 finals defeats have been inflicted upon Federer by 20 worthy opponents. Let’s have a look at these champions.
Only six tennis players have defeated Federer more than once in an ATP final. Not surprisingly, the leader of the pack is the great Rafael Nadal. Overall they have met 38 times, 24 of which have been finals. Federer’s ten wins are the maximum he has won against any player in finals. However, he has also lost to the great Spaniard 14 times.
The first such defeat to Nadal was in 2006 in Dubai. Nadal won three more times in 2006 – in Monte Carlo, Rome and Roland Garros – and twice in 2007, four times in 2008 and once each in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. The last time Rafa won in a final against Federer was at the Rome Masters of 2013.
Rafa being at No. 1 among Federer’s conquerors was not surprising, and it’s similarly unsurprising that Novak Djokovic is at No. 2. The two great rivals have met 47 times, and Novak holds a 25-22 head-to-head lead. In finals they have met 19 times, with Roger winning just six times and Novak winning 13 finals.
Novak’s first win against Roger was in the 2007 Canada Masters. Novak then won once each in 2009, 2011 and 2012. He won thrice in 2014, five times in 2015 and once in 2018 at the Cincinnati Masters. Significantly, the last time Federer won against Novak in a final was at the 2015 Cincinnati Masters.
Next is Juan Martin del Potro, who has defeated Roger four times in finals, once each in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2018. Overall they have met 25 times, and Federer has won 18 times. However, Del Potro has fared better in finals, winning four out of six. These four wins came at the US Open, Indian Wells and twice at Basel. Federer has won once each at Rotterdam and Basel. Their last meeting was at the 2018 Indian Wells, which Del Potro won in a terrific match with a third-set tie breaker.
Andy Murray is next with three wins, twice in 2010 and once in 2012. The two great rivals have met 25 times, with Federer winning 14 and Andy winning 11. In finals they have met eight times. Andy’s triumphs were at the London Olympics in 2012 and at the Canada and Shanghai Masters in 2010. Federer’s five wins include one each at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.
Two other players have won more than once against Federer in finals. David Nalbandian won in 2005 at the Shanghai Masters and in 2007 at the Madrid Masters. He has once lost at Basel in 2008. Overall they have met 19 times, with Federer winning 11 times.
The next is Lleyton Hewitt, who won in Halle in 2010 and in Brisbane in 2014. Federer has won three finals against him at US Open, Indian Wells and Houston. Overall Federer has won 18 of their 27 matches.
Apart from these six champions who have more than one win against Federer in championship finals there are 14 champions who have won once each. These include his countrymen Stan Wawrinka and Marc Rosset, Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Escude and Germans Sascha Zverev and Tommy Haas. The only American to defeat him in a final is the great Andre Agassi at the 2002 Miami Masters. Federer too has won in two finals against Agassi, at the US Open and at the Houston Masters. He has an overall 8-3 record against the great American.
Borna Coric (Croatia), Milos Raonic (Canada), Jiri Novak (Czech Republic), Felix Mantilla (Spain), Thomas Enqvist (Sweden), Tim Henman (Great Britain), Davide Sanguinetti (Italy) also have a win each against Federer.