With his final triumph against Federer in the ATP finals, Novak Djokovic has ended a dream season. There is a universal consensus that recognizes that the year of the Serbian has been one of the most successful in the history of tennis. But the question we could ask if it was really the best.
It is not a trivial question. The history is very long and we always tend to highlight the latest. However, there are precedents of impressive seasons, comparable to that made by Djokovic this year. From www.thennisbase.com we want to make a comparison, taking advantage of the arsenal of historical data on the web, as well as the rankings made with a single mathematical model measuring results since 1877.
Considering the record of victories and defeats first, maybe it can surprise the fact that up to 31 times! has been exceeded that percentage of 93.18 % corresponding to 82 victories and 6 defeats of Djokovic this season. Leads this classification Bill Tilden, who in 1925 achieved the impressive record of 92 victories in 93 matches. However, “Big Bill” played almost of these matches in American tournaments where the opposition, although significant, cannot be compared with the season that Novak has had this year, 36 matches against top-10. Tilden, in that glorious 1925, only played 10 matches against players of that category, including 7 with Vinnie Richards, a player he had taken the measure.
Other players with best percentage in a season are Tony Wilding, Henri Cochet, Jack Kramer, Jack Crawford, Vincent Richards, Bill Talbert, Roy Emerson, Don Budge, Tony Trabert, Jean Borotra, Bobby Riggs and Ted Schroeder, apart from the same Tilden Bill who managed to overcome this 93,18% up to 7 different seasons. However, none of these brilliant seasons can be compared to Djokovic at the level of the opponents or the category of tournaments played.
In the open era, there are 5 records higher than the Serbian: Connors in 1974, 95.96 %, with a record of 95-4 (ATP gives a 93-4 because omits two rounds in the Manchester tournament) ; Borg in 1979, 84-6 equivalent to 93.33 %; the great famous season of McEnroe in 1984, balance of 82-3 for a percentage of 96.47 % and finally , the imperial Federer seasons in 2005 and 2006 with records of 81-4 (95.29 %) and 92- 5 (94.85 %) respectively.
Other glorious seasons were, Donald Budge in 1938, when he managed to complete the Grand Slam, Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969, also achieving the Grand Slam in both; Pancho Gonzales and Ken Rosewall wiped out on the professional circuit in 1956 and 1963 respectively and Djokovic in 2011 made another year for framing.
The problem which arises is to decide what criteria used to classify the achievements in these “magic years”; we have already seen that balance victories and defeats is insufficient because the level of tournaments and the opposition can be highly variable. The same can be said of the number of tittles obtained (Wilding has the record with 23 in 1906). ATP ranking tells us that the season of Djokovic has beaten the record of points and even that would be above the marks of Federer in 2005 and 2006, but cannot make comparisons with McEnroe, Connors, Borg and Lendl as systems score were very different. Not to mention the players before the open era, because this ranking only exists since 1973.
In tennisbase.com we have developed periodic rankings since 1877, under a single mathematical model. That allows us to analyse the performance of any player at any time and, of course, allows us to establish comparative best seasons.
So far, the 3 best seasons recorded in the history of tennis, according to our model, were the Pancho Gonzales in 1956, 19645 points, Roger Federer in 2006 with 18668 and Rod Laver in 1969 with 18603 points.
Gonzales, in 1956, won 11 tournaments in the hard professional circuit, including the World Pro Series, sweeping with a score of 74 victories to 27 to a Tony Trabert who had won the previous year, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Federer, in his great 2006, won 12 tournaments, among them Australia, Wimbledon and the US Open, 4 Masters 1000 and the Masters Cup. He was only stopped by Nadal on clay, whom he lost in the finals in Monte Carlo, Rome and Paris. As Rod Laver, in 1969 he achieved the Grand Slam and won other 14 titles between ATP events and tournaments of the professional circuit that still survived.
In this 2015 Novak Djokovic has been able to overcome all these great champions and score 19925 points which establish that no one has never managed to dominate world tennis as he has done this year. An extraordinary feat that is projected over 138 years of history and awarded him a place of honour in the Olympus of this sport.
Three Grand Slam, six Masters 1000, the ATP Finals and 31 victories against ATP TOP-10 represent an unequalled record to date and we will see if unique. Records are to beat them, but some are of such dimension that remains anchored for decades in the lists.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Novak Djokovic, best season in the history of tennis. Congratulations, great champion.