Federer Is The Tie-break Titan
Roger Federer has long been the most dominant tie-break competitor on the ATP World Tour. No other player in the history of tennis has won a higher rate of tie-breaks (65.1 per cent) or a greater number of tie-breaks (432), according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone.
But it takes a little bit of digging to learn just how impressive that is. For instance, this year’s Wimbledon and US Open champion, Novak Djokovic, ranks second among active players by winning 63.3 per cent of tie-breaks in his career. To pass Federer, the Serbian would need to win his next 19 tie-breaks without losing one, and have Federer stand still on the leaderboard. Not so easy.
Best Career Tie-break Win-Rates All-Time
|Player||Career Tie-break Win-Rate||Career Tie-break Record|
|1. Roger Federer||65.1%||432-232|
|2. Arthur Ashe||64.9%||159-86|
|3. Novak Djokovic||63.3%||229-133|
|4. Andres Gomez||63.2%||182-106|
|5. Pete Sampras||62.8%||328-194|
Federer's dominance in tie-breaks also extends to championship matches, where the level of competition is the toughest.
“The tie-breaks are huge, especially in big-time moments like Grand Slam finals or finals in general,” Federer said at the US Open. “That's where you really, really want to win the breakers.”
In finals at Grand Slams, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and the Nitto ATP Finals, Federer has won 40 of 65 tie-breaks, a 61.5 per cent win rate. Only 10 players other than Federer have been that successful in championship match tie-breaks at all tour-level events, forget while having a ‘Big Title’ on the line.
He has been especially effective in Grand Slam finals, triumphing in a jaw-dropping 70 per cent of his tie-breaks in those moments. Federer thought deeply in Flushing Meadows about what it takes to thrive at 6-6 in a set.
“If you have a good serve, that's always helpful,” Federer said. “You want to play patiently aggressive, I would think. You don't want to go for broke, don't want to do crazy things. But it does sometimes pay off as well. You have to balance it right.”
The two active players directly behind Federer in number of tie-breaks won are arguably two of the biggest servers of all time in John Isner (387-244, 61.3%) and Ivo Karlovic (377-378, 49.9%).
Most Career Tie-break Wins All-Time
|1. Roger Federer||432-232|
|2. John Isner||387-244|
|3. Ivo Karlovic||377-378|
|4. Pete Sampras||328-194|
|5. Andy Roddick||303-185|
Those are the only two players in history whose tie-break victory total comes within 100 of Federer’s. And while Federer has split eight tie-breaks in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Isner, the 37-year-old Swiss has won 15 of 18 against Karlovic. Part of his success at a set’s end has come from his mindset heading into the finale.
“I think it really depends on how the set has gone. Do you play better as the set goes forward? Or, sometimes, you also have the feeling that you go in a breaker and you're just like, ‘It's just not happening, I'm not feeling the serve, the return's not happening, the play is going his way,’” Federer said. “I think when you go in with a negative mindset into a breaker, very often you also either start poorly and then you lose it anyway, or you actually start well, and you're like, ‘I probably shouldn't be in the lead’, and then you end up losing it. So I think a very positive mindset is good.”
Now, you might ask, didn’t Federer lose two tie-breaks en route to a fourth-round defeat against John Millman at the US Open? Yes, but that appears to be an exception, not a norm. In fact, Federer has lost two set tie-breaks in the same match just 23 times in his career. However, the Swiss has earned two or more tie-break victories in the same match 53 times.
So while it doesn’t always work out for the World No. 2 in every tie-break, it’s safe to assign ‘The Swiss Maestro’ an additional nickname: ‘The Tie-break Titan’.