When Novak Djokovic levelled up his head-to-head series with Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer in the same week, during the ATP World Tour Finals in November, it highlighted yet again just how far he had come with his standing in world tennis.
While terminology such as “the Big Four” is common with the inclusion of Andy Murray, it really is the domination of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal that stands out above all. They are the “Mega Three”.
Between the three of them they have played each other 124 times – Djokovic is 23-23 with Nadal and 22-22 with Federer and Nadal is 23-11 with Federer. If Murray is included in the mix he is 9-21 versus Djokovic, 11-14 against Federer and 6-16 versus Nadal.
So it was with that dimension I asked Djokovic, Federer and Nadal to compare the rivalries between each other and how they may be different, if at all, and if they consider one of those rivalries is more special than the others.
The rivalries, they're unique in many ways. Obviously the more I play Novak, the more he's achieving in that timeframe, the more special it becomes. It's natural because every match becomes more important that we didn't play, as well.
With Rafa I go back further. The fact is obviously the epic Wimbledon finals. Then we had all these matches for me which were hard, the French Open finals. But they were very important for my career as well to win the French Open in 2009.
Yeah, I think we were the new guys and the face of the tour for so long. It's nice to see Novak and Andy break through, take it to the next level. Andy winning slams, Olympic gold. The same for Novak. To go on the run he's on, was hard to predict after being stuck at 3 and 4 (ranking) for a while. So even more impressive for him to change it around and do it. That's also why I believe our rivalry has become nice as well.
Which is more special? It's hard to predict. Maybe slightly Rafa just because he came before Novak. I've always enjoyed the matchup with Novak. I think it's always very cool and athletic and straightforward, unlike Rafa where I feel like I have to change my game completely to compete with him.
The interesting point from Federer is that he is the only one of the three that included Murray in his discussion even through all three were questioned with Murray’s name excluded.
I am happy to be part of that great rivalries. Both are I think great for the sport.
Different rivalries. I think against Federer what makes little bit more special for everybody is the combination of styles. That makes the match a little bit more tactic, the match little bit more interesting that one try to do one thing, the other try to do the other thing. Probably that makes our confrontation little bit more special for the people.
But for me, seriously, I feel happy to compete against those players. Both are probably one of the best of the history, the other one he is already one of the best of the history but he going to be better in the next couple years.
I feel happy to be part of that rivalries, and at the same time unlucky to be part of this era combined with them.
The interesting point made by Nadal is that in the past he has always referred to Federer as “the best of the history” this time his referencing on Federer is “probably one of the best of the history”.
They're different rivalries. It's hard to really compare.
In terms of matches played, maybe the most exciting matches that I've played maybe the Nadal rivalry would be the one I would pick. Again, two different rivalries because two different players.
Those two rivalries made me a better player, the player I am today, no doubt. Made me understand what I need to do both on and off the court to be able to be in this position now.
The interesting aspect Djokovic pointed out was that Federer and Nadal made him the better player, and maybe that could see him being regarded as the greatest of all time. Albeit he has some way to go but his domination of all players makes him the player for now and the foreseeable future.