Does Djokovic have the most weapons on Tour?

vex

Hall of Fame
Posts like this scream “I don’t actually watch any of the matches”

Guy who can beat Rafa FH to FH has no weapons. Guy who literally 4 days ago turned Rafa into a pure defender with relentless offense. No weapons. Cool story.
Djokovic uses his FH in a different way that guys who used it as a pure weapon like Del Potro, Federer, or Agassi.

For Djokovic, it's less about pace and power and more about consistency and depth. Combine the latter two and it can allow you to dictate as he did against Nadal for stretches. The consistency also allows him to set up some nice angles. I'll say that Nadal also played fairly poorly, some of that on him, but some of that due to Novak's play and the depth on his shots.

Frankly, Nadal's forehand does a similar thing, but it relies on his heavy spin to dictate rather than consistent depth.

It's not a weapon in the same way as guys who had monster forehands or even prime Federer, but it gets results because of how he deploys it within his whole game and approach.
consistency, depth and accuracy can match or beat incredible spin and power.
 

Kralingen

Hall of Fame
Djokovic’s best attribute hasn’t been listed, which is basically playing error free tennis for crucial sets/multiple games. Federer and Nadal’s FHs might have more pop but Djokovic almost never misses when it counted in his Slam wins, and that ability is harder to break down. Consistency and balance off both wings, crucial reading of the game, timing and variety of shots, etc. can’t really be quantified but it’s what separates him, and everything is elevated by his movement/defense.

Think this thread is a great reminder of why separating a player’s individual shot from the rest of their game is pretty pointless overall. Del Potro couldn’t do as many things moving to his FH side as Djokovic but almost everyone would say his FH is “better” because of its power.
 

vex

Hall of Fame
Sometimes. It did on Friday. Overall, Nadal has been pretty successful on clay vs Novak.

On the other surfaces, it's a pretty solid strategy.
No doubt, I’m not knocking Rafa’s FH effectiveness. It speaks for itself.
 

Martin J

Professional
He's probably in the race with Wilander and Murray as the most weaponless number 1s in history.

His defence on the other hand, that is up there with the best ever.
Nah, I strongly disagree with this. His forehand, backhand and serve are all weapons and a lethal combination. How do you think he managed to win all these majors, WTFs and masters if he's weaponless? He's very strong off both wings.

Now I do agree that he lacks a killer weapon (Pete's serve, Fed (pre 2014)/Nad forehand) which could make his job easier in a neutral really or when he isn't playing well in general. I actually think this is the reason why he lost four major finals to the players who are not among the ATG (Fed and Nadal have one such loss), as sometimes, when your whole game isn't working, you need a shot that could easily change the dynamic of a single rally or a game. But it seems that he was able to compensate it with the other elements of his game most of the time.

But I would never call him weaponless.
 

Kralingen

Hall of Fame
Nah, I strongly disagree with this. His forehand, backhand and serve are all weapons and a lethal combination. How do you think he managed to win all these majors, WTFs and masters if he's weaponless? He's very strong off both wings.

Now I do agree that he lacks a killer weapon (Pete's serve, Fed (pre 2014)/Nad forehand) which could make his job easier in a neutral really or when he isn't playing well in general. I actually think this is the reason why he lost four major finals to the players who are not among the ATG (Fed and Nadal have one such loss), as sometimes, when your whole game isn't working, you need a shot that could easily change the dynamic of a single rally or a game. But it seems that he was able to compensate it with the other elements of his game most of the time.

But I would never call him weaponless.
If you heard it from TTW, Djokovic would be a 3 or 4 time Slam winner in hypothetical matchups that focus on “weapons” and “best shots” lol
 

vex

Hall of Fame
Nah, I strongly disagree with this. His forehand, backhand and serve are all weapons and a lethal combination. How do you think he managed to win all these majors, WTFs and masters if he's weaponless? He's very strong off both wings.

Now I do agree that he lacks a killer weapon (Pete's serve, Fed (pre 2014)/Nad forehand) which could make his job easier in a neutral really or when he isn't playing well in general. I actually think this is the reason why he lost four major finals to the players who are not among the ATG (Fed and Nadal have one such loss), as sometimes, when your whole game isn't working, you need a shot that could easily change the dynamic of a single rally or a game. But it seems that he was able to compensate it with the other elements of his game most of the time.

But I would never call him weaponless.
This is a great point. And on flip side we’ve seen a few Federer upsets come because the FH just wasn’t there and we’ve seen a few stretches of time where Rafa struggled because he was just looping FHs much shorter than normal.
 

Crazy Finn

Hall of Fame
Djokovic’s best attribute hasn’t been listed, which is basically playing error free tennis for crucial sets/multiple games. Federer and Nadal’s FHs might have more pop but Djokovic almost never misses when it counted in his Slam wins, and that ability is harder to break down. Consistency and balance off both wings, crucial reading of the game, timing and variety of shots, etc. can’t really be quantified but it’s what separates him, and everything is elevated by his movement/defense.

Think this thread is a great reminder of why separating a player’s individual shot from the rest of their game is pretty pointless overall. Del Potro couldn’t do as many things moving to his FH side as Djokovic but almost everyone would say his FH is “better” because of its power.
This is probably the best comment on this thread.

The first post called Novak's volley "Above Average" which .... maybe.... possibly... it is compared to the rest of the ATP tour. But, make no bones about it, Novak does not have a good volley, compared to other ATGs. However, he is GOOD ENOUGH mostly, and he fits it into his game at the right spots. Novak's play doesn't expose his volley much and he tends to deploy it mostly when it's advantageous to him. Again, his volley is good enough and it fits into his overall game just fine.

Novak's game is a synergy of all his approaches and tactics. He'll grind you down with consistency, he'll break you down with depth. He doesn't seem to tire much physically, so even when a player outplays him for stretches - like Tsitsipas in the final, it's hard for most to do it over 5 sets.

I also find it kind of dull as hell, mostly, but you have to appreciate it for it's brutal and mind numbing effectiveness.
 

Kralingen

Hall of Fame
This is probably the best comment on this thread.

The first post called Novak's volley "Above Average" which .... maybe.... possibly... it is compared to the rest of the ATP tour. But, make no bones about it, Novak does not have a good volley, compared to other ATGs. However, he is GOOD ENOUGH mostly, and he fits it into his game at the right spots. Novak's play doesn't expose his volley much and he tends to deploy it mostly when it's advantageous to him. Again, his volley is good enough and it fits into his overall game just fine.
I also want to make this distinction: his below the shoulder volleys, i.e. digs, drop volleys, reflex gets at the net, running shots, etc. are Top 3 on tour.

He made Tsitsipas look silly on quite a few of these below the shoulder volleys and scoops cross court. His movement definitely accentuates this. OH obviously an issue but overall “volleys” are definitely far from a weakness.

Also to the rest of your point: I try to visualize it by imagining x player hitting 25 drop shots, 25 shots to the FH side, 25 shots to the BH side, 25 shots lobbing over the player at the net.

Djokovic probably makes the least errors on all of those shots, allows the least winners, and plays the 1st or 2nd highest number of difficult shots to return, on the ones he gets to. He basically emulates his opponent’s worst nightmare and exploits their weaknesses for 3 hours - which when you consider you don’t have to ever play tennis perfectly, simply miss less than your opponent - makes him a 19 Slam champion.
 
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Oval_Solid

Semi-Pro
djorkovics consistency and balance is perfected matched for todays slow surfaces
but u can say his biggest weapon is mental toughness
 

Forehanderer

Professional
Mental game is a recent thing in evaluation of tennis players. It started with Nadal and it so happens that Djokovic is in the lead and is prevalent in the age of MTOs, bathroom breaks, players wasting time while serving and receiving, etc. I've been watching tennis from the 90s and never was mental strength mentioned in players as a weapon
 

Jokervich

Hall of Fame
Backhand - GOAT candidate

Return - GOAT Candidate

Movement/Fitness - GOAT Candidate

Mental Game - GOAT Candidate

Serve - Elite/top tier near ATG level

Forehand - Top 10 all time. Top 20 depending the way you see it

Volleys - Above Average

Drop Shots- ATG level. No one has used this shot more in the last 20 years. Serve and Volleyers of the day didn't use this shot to it's full effectiveness, since this is a shot that is more effective in this era with people standing behind the baseline. Would probably only be behind Federer on tour at the moment. Both his drop shots and drop volleys are world class.

Lobs - Hard to measure, especially since most players are more likely to employ a passing shot cc or dtl. See his lobs against Federer's SABR at the USO however. I don't think his lob is good as Hewitt's though.

There are 4 areas of tennis that he is a GOAT candidate in...

Not necessarily saying he is more offensive than Federer, but more that his game is extremely polished.
The thing I'm most impressed by Djokovic is the depth on his shots. The number of times he gets the ball within 2-3 inches of the baseline is huge, more than any other player I've seen. It's hard to defend against that sort of depth. Not sure where you'd include that in your list.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
The term "weapon" is misleading. Tennis is about not missing. There are guys who don't miss in a spectacular way, and those who just get the job done.

Go here:


Then check out % of return games won. Look at the guys at around 30% or higher. The only guys at the top of this list who are not multiple slam winners are the one with weak servers. So Coria, Schwartzman, Ferrer.

Now check out % of service games won.

It's the same thing. The guys at the top of the list are ATGs if they have a strong return game.

The biggest "weapon" in tennis is winning around 60% of your games at your peak. Getting even close to that tells your opponents that you are at ATG level and nearly unbeatable.

If you win 60% of your games but your style is not glamorous, exciting or "pretty" your detractors will say your game is boring (maybe it is) or "ugly", but all your opponents know is that they can't beat you.

The biggest weapon I can have is making you believe I can't be beaten. That if you don't have the best day of your life, while I'm totally off, you don't have a chance.

That's what Joker has. I don't like his game. I don't enjoy watching him. I almost never root for him. I'd be happy if tennis was done with him. But do I admire him? Yes. Very much. His real weapon is having no glaring weaknesses. Even his overhead isn't that bad, because if it were opponents would lob him about 100 times per match. No one is doing that, and you can't tell me the best players on the planet would not do that if it worked.

He gets in the heads of his opponents. He makes them think they have to play unbelievably risky, low percentage tennis to win, and even then it usually won't work.

There is no greater weapon in sports than making your opponents believe they can't win. That's what Joker has.
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Mental game is a recent thing in evaluation of tennis players. It started with Nadal and it so happens that Djokovic is in the lead and is prevalent in the age of MTOs, bathroom breaks, players wasting time while serving and receiving, etc. I've been watching tennis from the 90s and never was mental strength mentioned in players as a weapon
Tennis has always been a mental game. That's where the whole idea of "percentage tennis" came from, and that goes back to Jack Kramer. It didn't start with him. He just made the concept popular.

You are conflating "mental game" with "gamesmanship". As for the latter, read about Nastase.
 

Forehanderer

Professional
Tennis has always been a mental game. That's where the whole idea of "percentage tennis" came from, and that goes back to Jack Kramer. It didn't start with him. He just made the concept popular.

You are conflating "mental game" with "gamesmanship". As for the latter, read about Nastase.
Gamesmanship is part of mind game tactics as is percentage tennis. If you just take percentage tennis into account, all of the big 3 and the champions before them have it in them. The next gen have only taken the gamesmanship part and left out the percentage tennis part
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Gamesmanship is part of mind game tactics as is percentage tennis. If you just take percentage tennis into account, all of the big 3 and the champions before them have it in them. The next gen have only taken the gamesmanship part and left out the percentage tennis part
There is a fine line between gamesmanship and cheating. Or to put it another way, there is the old concept of "fair play", and I think at times both Joker and Rafa have made a mockery of that. There have always been champions who just get on with it. In the past one would be Ashe. He just played the game. Then you had guys like Connors and Mac who in my mind cheated and should have been defaulted. Borg was a straight up guy, and Laver, and Rosewall. I think Sampras was.

Some players have always bent the rules as far as possible, usually not enough to get fined or defaulted. I think it's partially personality.
 

Crazy Finn

Hall of Fame
To me he’s like a souped up Wozniacki. But she had better overheads.
Ouch?

There is a fine line between gamesmanship and cheating. Or to put it another way, there is the old concept of "fair play", and I think at times both Joker and Rafa have made a mockery of that. There have always been champions who just get on with it. In the past one would be Ashe. He just played the game. Then you had guys like Connors and Mac who in my mind cheated and should have been defaulted. Borg was a straight up guy, and Laver, and Rosewall. I think Sampras was.

Some players have always bent the rules as far as possible, usually not enough to get fined or defaulted. I think it's partially personality.
I'd say that Sampras was a straight up guy. I don't think I ever rooted for him, but definitely a straight up guy.

I can't remember Fed pulling that stuff, either, but who knows if I remember everything.
 

Krish872007

G.O.A.T.
Right now? Yes clearly

Also his forehand is a lot better than it's made out to be and in a number of cases has proven to be stronger than the backhand in relative terms (in absolute terms it's a given that forehand > backhand for nearly all pros)
If you're trying to unsettle Djokovic in a rally, instead of trying to move him from side to side it's better to move him up and down and disrupt his stable base. Hitting hard and very deep down the middle of the court, then playing the ball in short (not a drop shot necessarily, just playing him into the net).
 

NoleFam

Talk Tennis Guru
Djokovic uses his FH in a different way that guys who used it as a pure weapon like Del Potro, Federer, or Agassi.

For Djokovic, it's less about pace and power and more about consistency and depth. Combine the latter two and it can allow you to dictate as he did against Nadal for stretches. The consistency also allows him to set up some nice angles. I'll say that Nadal also played fairly poorly, some of that on him, but some of that due to Novak's play and the depth on his shots.

Frankly, Nadal's forehand does a similar thing, but it relies on his heavy spin to dictate rather than consistent depth.

It's not a weapon in the same way as guys who had monster forehands or even prime Federer, but it gets results because of how he deploys it within his whole game and approach.

Also Novak's entire return game is about doing the same things - consistency and depth.

Whether or not Novak hits a bunch of winner isn't vital to his game. It's about pushing he opponent back, making them uncomfortable, getting them off balance, pushing them to make errors or at least hit short balls that he can then attack with less risk.
He was hitting his forehand 5 mph faster than Nadal on average in their last match according to Tennis Channel up to the middle of the 2nd set. 76 mph versus 81 mph. It is about the depth but there's also considerable pace on it. This is not even rare when he plays Nadal either. When they played that year at ATP Cup, his average groundstroke speed was 84 mph. So he crank it up anytime he wants. He has easy power where it doesn't look like he's hitting it that hard but he is.
 

socallefty

Legend
From an ESPN article still on their website about the greatness of Djokovic

“In 17 previous meetings with Nadal before their Paris Masters final in 2009 that were charted by Tennis Abstract, Nadal had hit 254 forehand winners to Djokovic's 221, and with 27% fewer errors. Beginning with this match in Paris, however, Djokovic flipped that completely around. In their next 30 charted matches, Djokovic hit 506 forehand winners to Nadal's 365, and with only 10% more errors.”

Having watched all the players live over the years at Indian Wells, I have been shocked by the number of TTW posters who think Djokovic’s FH is not a huge weapon compared to Nadal. I have always felt that he uses it more offensively than Nadal as he hits the ball on the rise early which only Federer can match. Between late 2009-2016, he hit 40% more FH winners than Nadal in their head-head matches with only 10% more errors. Maybe, some of the detractors of Djokovic’s FH can chew on that if they think he doesn’t have a FH as good as Nadal or Federer. There is no way he could win 20 Slams, record number of Masters titles and have the record for #1 weeks if he didn’t have a FH on par with them that he can use for offense as well as defense. If you watch his matches in person when he decides to be offensive which he usually does in the late rounds of major tournaments, his FH power and accuracy is incredible.

I am not posting the FH stats of his last 11 matches against Nadal because I don’t know where to find it - I doubt that the trend would be any different as he has a 6-5 record over Nadal in that period also.
 

NADALalot

Hall of Fame
Can Djokovic join Nadal and Laver as the only men to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open in succession?
Its the most difficult 3-slam sequence in tennis history, the ultimate test of manhood.
 

tex123

Professional
Backhand - GOAT candidate

Return - GOAT Candidate

Movement/Fitness - GOAT Candidate

Mental Game - GOAT Candidate

Serve - Elite/top tier near ATG level

Forehand - Top 10 all time. Top 20 depending the way you see it

Volleys - Above Average

Drop Shots- ATG level. No one has used this shot more in the last 20 years. Serve and Volleyers of the day didn't use this shot to it's full effectiveness, since this is a shot that is more effective in this era with people standing behind the baseline. Would probably only be behind Federer on tour at the moment. Both his drop shots and drop volleys are world class.

Lobs - Hard to measure, especially since most players are more likely to employ a passing shot cc or dtl. See his lobs against Federer's SABR at the USO however. I don't think his lob is good as Hewitt's though.

There are 4 areas of tennis that he is a GOAT candidate in...

Not necessarily saying he is more offensive than Federer, but more that his game is extremely polished.
You forgot his secret weapon - toilet break. WSJ has an article on that.

 

DSH

G.O.A.T.
When I think of Djokovic's game one word sounds familiar to me: consistency.
He rarely fails, especially for prolonged periods, and that "scares" his rivals on duty who give up before their time or succumb to pressure, going more to the limit as the game progresses and that confuses them by making more and more unforced errors.
The Serbian is like a "vacuum" who sucks everything and leaves them breathless.
Almost always, he has a second or even a third wind that feeds him inside and that explosion of adrenaline ends up flashing almost all the tennis players of the current circuit who, powerless, they fall at the feet of the best player in the world.
8-B
 

socallefty

Legend
When I think of Djokovic's game one word sounds familiar to me: consistency.
Explain to me why he hit 106 more FH winners (a whopping 40% more than Nadal’s FH winners) in his 30 matches against Nadal between late 2009-2016 while making 10% more errors. Sounds like Nadal is Mr. Consistency who stands 15 feet behind the baseline and makes less errors while Djokovic is Mr. Offence who stands close to the baseline and pounds 40% more FH winners. Do you think the BH stats might be any less skewed in terms of Djokovic hitting more winners than Nadal? If you hit the ball early, you hit more winners and take time away from your opponent which forces errors - that‘s what both Federer and Djokovic do.
 

DSH

G.O.A.T.
Explain to me why he hit 106 more FH winners (a whopping 40% more than Nadal’s FH winners) in his 30 matches against Nadal between late 2009-2016 while making 10% more errors. Sounds like Nadal is Mr. Consistency who stands 15 feet behind the baseline and makes less errors while Djokovic is Mr. Offence who stands close to the baseline and pounds 40% more FH winners. Do you think the BH stats might be any less skewed in terms of Djokovic hitting more winners than Nadal? If you hit the ball early, you hit more winners and take time away from your opponent which forces errors - that‘s what both Federer and Djokovic do.
Djokovic's plan against Nadal is to take time away from him, okay, but I was referring above all to this season where he seeks to achieve the monumental feat in one more week.
His controlled aggressiveness makes him an out of series since if he was a little more like to players who seek to win the point of in the fastest possible way, the Serbian would not have had the success that he is very close to achieving.
Do not see it as a way to undermine his game but the opposite, as one of the many virtues that the number 1 in the world has to win his matches.
;)
 

SonnyT

Hall of Fame
Djokovic's weapons are rarer than his rivals'. As we know from economics: the rarer a commodity, the more valuable it is.

Federer has a terrific serve, Djokovic has a terrific return. Many, many players have great serves in tennis history. How many players are known for returns, in history? Three: Connors, Agassi and Djokovic.

Nadal has a great FH; Djokovic a great BH. Once again, great forehands are much more common than great backhands.

Djokovic has world-class mental strength, on the same level with only Borg. Sampras only faced rivals that he was clearly superior to.
 

mehdimike

Professional
Explain to me why he hit 106 more FH winners (a whopping 40% more than Nadal’s FH winners) in his 30 matches against Nadal between late 2009-2016 while making 10% more errors. Sounds like Nadal is Mr. Consistency who stands 15 feet behind the baseline and makes less errors while Djokovic is Mr. Offence who stands close to the baseline and pounds 40% more FH winners. Do you think the BH stats might be any less skewed in terms of Djokovic hitting more winners than Nadal? If you hit the ball early, you hit more winners and take time away from your opponent which forces errors - that‘s what both Federer and Djokovic do.
Are there any stats for forehand winner for neutral rallies?! I think that would be closer, maybe not?! At least in more than 3-4 shots rallies. Because Rafa doesn't return as well as Novak so Novak possibly has a better chance of hitting an easy mid court forehand winner than the other way around. I am not debating I just got curious to know if it was a case.
 

RaulRamirez

Legend
I'm not sure how to assess this, and many others have done a good job of analyzing this.
One thing that Novak has - even among all of the ATG players - is the best balance between forehand and backhand.
(For women, this was Seles. Superfluous comment: Verynice person, but didn't enjoy watching her....but an amazing baseline player!)
Maybe, Agassi can challenge this, but then add Novak's greater length, athleticism and speed ...

Does Novak have more weapons than Roger? I don't know, probably not.
Roger plays more of an attacking style, so his weapons "pop" more, and maybe, he does have a greater arsenal.
Is there any shot that Roger can't hit, and he also has great imagination.
Novak can do almost anything he wants with pace and touch, but doesn't (generally speaking) have Roger's serve, volley and - for what it's worth - overhead. But, he has a much more reliable backhand, a stronger ROS and a little better speed and quickness. Don't get me wrong -- Roger was one of the best movers of all-time, too.

Rafa gets shortchanged in these discussions. Other than not having a great serve, he has everything else you could possibly want in a tennis player, with the extra "weapons" of athleticism and will-to-win. Compare Rafa to Roger, weapons-wise. Roger, obviously, has the greater serve, and that is huge. Where else is he superior, "weapons-wise"? Forehands are different, but comparable in their versatility and lethality. Their backhands are so different, and both are underrated here. Fed, in general, comes to the net more, but they both are great at the net, and have amazing overheads, even those backhand flicks/bolos. Both of them have unreal feel, and touch, and I'd give Rafa the edge in point construction....is that a weapon? Again, vintage Roger could fly and play defense when called upon to do so, but Rafa took these to another level. So, how does one compare weaponry?
 

socallefty

Legend
One of the most potent weapons he has when you see him play in person is his ability to slide on hard courts, save steps in footwork, change direction quicker and convert defense to offense by hitting hard, angled shots on the full run from both wings. Others are now imitating him, but he was the revolutionary who started it and he was the only guy doing it for most of the last decade when he dominated. Watch this video analysis of how important this skill is.

 

Aabye5

Hall of Fame
Explain to me why he hit 106 more FH winners (a whopping 40% more than Nadal’s FH winners) in his 30 matches against Nadal between late 2009-2016 while making 10% more errors. Sounds like Nadal is Mr. Consistency who stands 15 feet behind the baseline and makes less errors while Djokovic is Mr. Offence who stands close to the baseline and pounds 40% more FH winners. Do you think the BH stats might be any less skewed in terms of Djokovic hitting more winners than Nadal? If you hit the ball early, you hit more winners and take time away from your opponent which forces errors - that‘s what both Federer and Djokovic do.
Because of his superior serve
 
The thing I'm most impressed by Djokovic is the depth on his shots. The number of times he gets the ball within 2-3 inches of the baseline is huge, more than any other player I've seen. It's hard to defend against that sort of depth. Not sure where you'd include that in your list.
This is important and to extend what you are saying, these returns are largely to the center of the court where the opponent cannot do much with it. As one tennis commentator put it, this resets the shot in a way that no one else on tour does so that the server has now lost any advantage on the point. Of course, even Djokovic does not do this on ever ROS, but he does it often enough that it raises his breaks substantially.
 

Waves

Rookie
Novak creates shot intolerance in his opponents. It’s a combination of many factors, homogenized sport, yes, but more so his mental strength and consistency of shot/stroke. It’s a thing of beauty really.
 
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