Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Follow-up III: Djokovic as GOAT? (III) and COVID distortions

with 2 comments

In the previous follow-ups (cf. [1], [2]), I noted that “The arguably best tennis player in the world, right here, right now, is Djokovic.”, with further remarks on how he was artificially disadvantaged and how he, among other consequences, might miss the ATP Finals through these artificial disadvantages.

As it happens, Djokovic just won these ATP Finals, even be it in the absence of Carlos Alcaraz, the injured number one on the world ranking, giving further support to my assessment. To wit: out of the five most important tournaments of the year, Djokovic won two (Wimbledon and the ATP Finals), lost against the eventual winner in the French Open (Nadal), and was artificially barred from both the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. In contrast, Nadal won the Australian Open and French Open, the first in the absence of Djokovic. (And flopped badly in the ATP Finals.) The sole other winner, Alcaraz had “only” the U.S. Open—again, in the absence of Djokovic.

The existence of the ATP Finals is, of course, yet another reason to discount the “majors won determines the GOAT” idea: While the relative value of the ATP Finals and the majors can be discussed back and forth, neglecting the former is silly. Looking at this year, Djokovic went undefeated* in five matches against players all in the top-9 of the world-ranking. Winning a major, seven matches against players in the top-128, or so,** is standard, and beating even one top-9 player is not a requirement—beating more than two is rare. If we look at totals of majors and ATP Finals for the “Big Three”, we find Djokovic at 21 + 6 = 27, Federer at 20 + 6 = 26, and Nadal at 22 + 0 = 22. (Yes, Nadal has never won.)

*Unlike the majors, the ATP Finals are divided into two round-robin groups, followed by semi-finals and finals. Correspondingly, it is possible to win the overall despite an imperfect record in the group phase.

**There are 128 slots for each major, but some are filled with wild cards, qualification players, and the like, that are not necessarily in the top-128 ranking-wise.

In a correction to my earlier claims: My fears that Djokovic would miss the ATP Finals were a little misguided, as there is a wild-card rule for those who have won one of the four majors during the year. Due to this rule, it would have taken a very unfortunate constellation for him to be excluded (barring more COVID-nonsense, of course).

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Written by michaeleriksson

November 20, 2022 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] further make my point from yesterday, the new ATP rankings are […]

  2. […] I have argued repeatedly in the past (cf. [1], [2], [3], [4]), Djokovic is the true number-one player in the world, only failing to be so officially due to […]


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