Tennis History: Novak and Roger’s 2008 & 2016 Aussie Matches

5 set points? No problem

2007: Roger Thrives and Novak Arrives

Novak Djokovic announced his presence in the top tier of tennis in 2007.  Early in 2007, Novak played well at Indian Wells and then dominated the Miami event.  His semifinal runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon were followed by a Masters Canada win and US Open runner-up finish.  Across multiple surfaces and for a long period of the year, Novak Djokovic was playing great tennis.  Roger Federer capped off an amazing 4 year run in 2007 by winning 3 majors and finishing as a runner-up at Roland Garros.  Federer claimed 11 of the 16 majors held between January 2004- September 2007.  Roger lost to Novak in the finals of Masters Canada, but he won both Cincinnati and the US Open, beating Djokovic in the final, to maintain his reign in New York.

Nole rising!

2008: Novak Draws Blood and Roger Takes New York

Roger Federer entered the 2008 Australian Open having won 3 of the previous 4 titles in Melbourne.  Federer reached the semifinal round and found Novak Djokovic waiting for him.  Federer let an early break lead slip from his fingers in the first set as he lost the set 5-7 after leading 5-3.  Novak got on a roll and dominated most of the second set with Federer getting a cosmetic service break late making the score 6-3 in favor of Djokovic. Roger pushed Novak to close out the match by forcing a tiebreak in the 3rd set, but when the dust settled Novak had won 7-5, 6-3, 7-6.  Novak went on to win his first major title by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 4 sets.  Roger played well enough in 2008.  He took a lopsided French Open loss to Rafael Nadal and lost to Rafa again in a classic 5 set Wimbledon tilt.  Roger had a 17-3 Grand Slam record heading into the US Open.  Many did not view Roger as threat despite him being a the 4-time defending champion.  Roger injected positivity into his tough year by claiming and olympic gold medal in Beijing with Stan Wawrinka in men’s doubles.  These good feelings propelled Roger through some early tests at the US Open.  He battled through Novak Djokovic in a 4 set semifinal to reach his 5th consecutive US Open final.  Roger won in straight sets and proved all of the people predicting his implosion wrong.  Novak claimed a bronze medal in men’s singles and won the World Tour Finals to compliment his Grand Slam breakthrough in Melbourne.

Maybe you shouldn’t have criticized Roddick after your quarterfinal win

2016: Longevity from Roger and Novak

We all know Roger Federer has been in the top tier of tennis since winning Wimbledon 2003.  At 34, he has declined, but it has been a gradual decline and quite a soft landing. Roger appears to be the guy on tour as likely or more likely than any other to win a major if someone upsets Djokovic.  Roger is 3-6 versus Novak since 1-1-2015.  Roger is on the wrong side of the stick, but 3-6 is not bad considering that the world #2, Andy Murray, has only beaten Djokovic once since the 2013 Wimbledon final.  Novak Djokovic is in the middle of a masterful run at the top of the tennis world.  Longevity is an odd adjective to apply to a player in his prime.  However, since Djokovic won his first Masters Shield in April 2007 and his first major title in January 2008, he has demonstrated longevity by being among the top 5 players in the world for a ridiculous 9 years.  I have been lucky enough to see each of these men play a lot of great tennis.

If anyone had told me in January 2008 that Federer would be playing a rematch with Djokovic in the 2016 Australian Open semifinals, I would have laughed. Even the biggest Federer optimist in 2008 would not expect him to have posted a 23-4 record over the past 4 majors tournaments (spanning Roland Garros 2015-Australian Open 2016) with each of his 4 losses coming to the eventual champion.

To be honest, if someone told me in January 2008 that Novak Djokovic would be the odds on favorite heading into the 2016 Australian Open final, I would have been skeptical. Many players have a shelf-life in the top tier that lasts 4-6 years.  Patrick Rafter emerged in a big way at Roland Garros 1997 and was done by the 2002 US Open.  Jim Courier was a slam factor from Roland Garros 1991 through the 1995 US Open semifinals in which he lost to Pete Sampras in 4 sets.  Juan Carlos Ferrero looked like he would be a contender at Roland Garros for 5-10 years after his 2003 title but was never the same after the 2004 Australian Open.  A player, no matter how impressive, is never promised a long run at the top.  Novak Djokovic’s dominance is also a factor of longevity that speaks to his sublime mental and physical toughness.

You are not beating me in an Australian Open semifinal

 

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