Why has Roger Federer Struggled to Beat Novak Djokovic in the Past 4 Years?

Published 08/03/2019, 6:34 AM EDT

The rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer is one of the most celebrated rivalries in tennis. The two legends of the sport have faced each other 48 times with Djokovic leading their head-to-head with a score of 26-22.


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Their matches exhibit an unforeseen display of shot-making. Novak Djokovic is the only player to beat Roger Federer in all the four majors. Similarly, Federer is the only player to beat the Serbian in all the four Grand Slams.


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In their most recent encounter, Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in a thrilling five-setter at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships finals. The world No.1 saved two championship points before winning the fifth set tiebreaker to conquer his 16th grand slam title.

Federer was defeated by Djokovic for the 5th consecutive time. The 20-time grand slam champion has not defeated the 32-year-old since 2015. Moreover, the Swiss maestro has not defeated Novak Djokovic in a major since the 2012 Australian Open semifinals.

Why is the 20-time grand slam champion struggling against Novak Djokovic for so long? Let’s find out.

The Serb is known to be one of the best returners of the game. During the 2016 Australian Open semifinals, Federer could manage to win only 26 percentage points on his second serves, which is quite below his career average of winning 56.9 percent of his second serves. When he improved his second serve to 89 percent in the third set, he won the set. This statistic shows how important it is for Federer to improve the winning percentage on his second serve to triumph against Novak Djokovic.

The world No.1 won 50 percent of the points while returning the second serve combined in all the previous five meetings with Roger Federer.

Roger Federer has lost all 5 tiebreakers that he played against Novak Djokovic during the 2018 Paris Masters and the 2019 Wimbledon Championships. The Swiss has conquered 63.5 percent of tiebreakers in his career at the semifinals and finals stages. However, he failed to do so against his arch-rival, Novak Djokovic.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was certainly unsuccessful to edge past Novak Djokovic at the crucial moments in the tiebreakers, which led him to lose the match in their last two clashes.

The reason why Federer lost the Wimbledon finals was he wanted to finish the points too early during the tiebreakers and was too hasty to approach on the net backed by a weak forehand.

Roger Federer was definitely the inferior player between the two when it comes to conversion of breakpoints opportunities in all of their previous five matches that he lost. Federer could manage to break Djokovic’s serve only 10 times in their last five meetings.

He also created fewer breakpoints opportunities for himself in all these matches. Djokovic earned 44 break point opportunities combined in their last five meetings and faced only 22 breakpoints on his serve.

The 37-year-old also couldn’t capitalize onto Djokovic’s second serve in all these matches. He could manage to win only 71 out of 189 points while returning on the second serve.

Novak Djokovic dominated the points more than Federer in their last four matches before the Wimbledon Championships 2019. According to the statistical reports, Djokovic’s points dominance percentage was more than 1.25 percent. While the Swiss dominated less than 0.8 percent of the points in their four matches before the finals at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, last month.

The Serbian was the inferior player at the Championships 2019 when it came to points dominance. However, the 32-year-old won the crucial points in the tiebreaker as he prevailed in the match, winning three tiebreakers.

The Swiss Maestro certainly hit too many unforced errors under pressure. Federer tried to do too much in the critical points and these marginal errors cost him the match. He hit more unforced errors than Novak Djokovic in all of these five meetings that he lost.


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Federer struck 22 unforced errors against Novak’s 6 unforced errors at the 2016 Australian Open semifinals. The 37-year-old also hit 39 unforced errors in the course of two sets at the 2018 Cincinnati Masters finals. During the last month finals at the Wimbledon Championships, Roger Federer committed 61 unforced errors, which made a small difference in the match.

Four out of their last five meetings came on the Hard court, which is more suited for Djokovic’s style of play compared to Federer, who specializes on grass. Before the 2019 Wimbledon Championships finals, the two played out their last four matches on the Hard surface at the finals of the 2015 ATP World Tour Final, 2016 Australian Open semifinals, 2018 Cincinnati Masters and 2018 Paris Masters.


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Novak Djokovic looked unbeatable during in the 2015 and 2016 season. In their four matches between 2015-2018, Djokovic came into each match in excellent form. He won three Grand Slams titles and reached the finals of the French Open in 2015. The Serb also reached the finals of every Masters 1000 tournament of the season except the Madrid Masters, where he did not participate. He looked unbeatable in the 2015 and 2016 season.

The 32-year-old entered the 2018 Cincinnati Masters after clinching the Wimbledon Championships and reaching the finals at the Queen’s Club. He also came at the 2018 Paris Masters after winning the US Open title. While Roger Federer was in a substantial form, Novak Djokovic was in a godly form in their previous four clashes before the 2019 Championships.



Varun Khanna

1334 articles

Starting off as a tennis author in 2018, Varun Khanna has gone on to contribute to EssentiallySports in various capacities. After setting up interviews with the likes of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Alizé Cornet, and Noah Rubin, Varun is now part of all major ATP and WTA press conferences and has gone on to pen more than 1300 articles for EssentiallySports. He now heads the tennis and NBA division of the organization.