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Opinion

Roger Federer and the eleven who have a better career head-to-head against him

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Roar Guru
17th November, 2019
3

Time waits for none, except maybe the ageless Roger Federer who is one of the all-time great sport-persons – across all sports.

His feats are amazing and yet there are some players who have a better head-to-head record against him.

All know of course about Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who have better head-to-head records against Federer.

Nadal and Federer have played 40 matches with Nadal having a 24-16 positive record. On Clay courts, Rafa has a 14-2 record, while Roger has a 3-1 record on grass and a 12-10 record on hard courts.

Novak has a 26-23 positive record against Roger with the elegant champion defeating him in the 2019 NITTO ATP final and ensuring the end of the year world Number 1 for Rafa Nadal at the round-robin stage itself.

On Hard courts, Novak is 19-18 ahead, on clay courts they are even at 4-4 while on grass courts Novak is 3-1 ahead.

Apart from Rafa and Novak, if we take the criteria of a minimum of three matches there are nine more players who have a better career record against Federer.

I call them the League of the extraordinary eleven, for a player has to be extraordinary to have a better career record against the peerless champion.

Let us have a look at who these nine are.

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Dominic Thiem and Roger have played each other seven times now, with the latest match up being at the Nitto ATP Finals 2019.

They have met each other in all sorts of surfaces, outdoor hard, indoor hard, outdoor grass and outdoor clay.

Thiem has won both their clay-court matches, both at ATP 1000 level at Rome and Madrid. They split their outdoor hard matches one each which were at Brisbane and Indian Wells and Thiem won their only grass-court encounter so far which was at Stuttgart.

Both the indoor hard matches were at the ATP Finals and while Federer won last year, this year, Thiem had a straight-sets win. Thiem has a 5-2 head-to-head against Federer.

Dominic Thiem Laver Cup.

(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Alexander Zverev, popularly called Sascha, also has a 4-3 positive record against Federer. The duo have met each other on indoor hard twice, at the Nitto ATP finals and have split one match each.

Sascha has won both their outdoor hard court matches while Federer has won their only clay court match which was the first time they met at the 2016 Rome masters.

On grass courts they have met twice, both times at Halle and have won one match each.

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Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a former world number one, a twice Grand Slam champion and Olympic gold medallist has played against Roger Federer six times.

On indoor carpet, they have won one match each while the Russian won both their matches on indoor hard court.

Federer won their only match on clay, while Kafelnikov won their only match on grass, which was at Wimbledon in 2000 when Federer as a 19-year youngster displayed his skills in a 5-7, 5-7, 6-7 loss in the first round.

Kafelnikov has a 4-2 career head-to-head against Federer.

Spaniard Alex Corretza, who reached the French Open Finals twice, losing to Carlos Moya and Gustavo Kuerten has plated Roger Federer five times and has won thrice.

All three of his wins came on clay while Federer won both their matches on indoor hard courts. The career head-to-head is therefore 3-2 in the Spaniard’s favour.

Thomas Enquist from Sweden, who reached a high of world number 4, was a losing finalist at the 1999 Australian Open final, where Kafelnikov won. He also won three Masters titles.

He too has a career head-to-head of 3-2 versus Federer, with Roger winning both their matches on indoor hard courts and Enquist prevailing in both their outdoor hard court matches and their only indoor carpet match which was a five-set thriller at Basel.

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Patrick Rafter, a two time Grand Slam winner himself and a former world number one is the only player who has a 100 per cent win record against Roger.

All three wins were on different surfaces. Rafter won at French Open (outdoor clay), Miami ( outdoor hard) and at Halle(grass).

The modest Rafter has a simple explanation for it – that Federer was young and learning. Their first meeting was when Federer was 17 and the last was when he was 19.

Gustavo Kuerten, popularly called Guga, is a three-time French Open Champion who is considered one of the best clay-court players of all time.

He has a 2-1 career head-to-head against Federer. On clay courts, they won one match each. While Federer won at the Hamburg Masters in 2002, he lost to Guga in straight sets at the 2004 French Open, the first Grand Slam tournament where he was the top seed and world number one.

Guga won their only outdoor hard court match which was at Indian Wells in 2003.

South African Wayne Fereira, who in his career won two Masters 1000 titles and twice reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open has played Federer thrice and has a 2-1 record.

He has won at the Stuttgart Masters (indoor hard) and at the Rome Masters ( outdoor clay) while Federer has prevailed at Sydney (outdoor hard).

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Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, a semi-finalist at the 1999 French Open also has a 2-1 record against Roger.

He won the first two times they met at the Paris Masters (indoor carpet) and at the Cincinnati Masters (outdoor hard) while Roger won their only grass-court encounter at Wimbledon in 2008 when he lost the final to Rafa Nadal in what many call the greatest match ever.

These then are the eleven. However pertinently, head-to-head depends on the stage of career and venues.

For instance, seven are pre-2005, when Federer started his ascendency, while two, namely Zverev and Thiem are players who are one, maybe two generations after Federer.

That leaves two, none other than his great rivals, Nadal and Djokovic.