2004: Roger Federer's Best Season Ever?
ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS now allow fans to compare the year-end No. 1s in Serve, Return and Under Pressure categories from every season since 1991
Some Monday mornings are better than others.
Take, for example, 2 February, 2004. On this particular Monday morning, Roger Federer, aged 22, woke up for the first time in his life with the No. 1 ranking beside his name. It was day one at the top of the global tennis tree, courtesy of defeating Marat Safin 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Australian Open the day before.
The Swiss legend would go on to hold the coveted year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2004 – the first of five times he would earn that distinction. He held the top spot four straight years, from 2004-2007, and again in 2009.
The 2004 season was a coming out party for Federer. He won three majors, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and three Masters 1000s among an 11-title haul and a 74-6 match record. In many ways, 2004 was as good a body of work as he has ever put together.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Federer’s 2004 season showed he elevated his serving and returning and at pivotal moments during matches. The new year-end Infosys No. 1 LEADERBOARD spans 25 years back to 1991, allowing a comparison of the No. 1 player from each year in the categories of serve, return and under pressure.
Federer’s prowess holding serve in 2004 was without peer, and amazingly his average was higher against Top 10 opponents. In 2004 he won 91.6 per cent of his service games, and that bumped up to 92.5 per cent when facing Top 10 opponents. (Fans can filter the LEADERBOARDS by performances against Top 10, Top 20 and Top 50 opponents.)
Service Games Won: Top 5 Years Since 1991
|Year||Player||Service Games Won|
On the returning side of the equation, Federer had his best year of returning first serves in 2004, winning 34.8 per cent of first-serve return points. (He achieved the same percentage in 2006). Federer trails category leader Novak Djokovic, 35.7 per cent in 2011, by less than one percentage point. Remarkably, Federer’s return prowess against first serves in 2004 was superior to other notable year-end No. 1 returners, such as Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Djokovic in 2014 and 2015.
Federer’s remarkable level of play in 2004 directly helped him save more break points than any year-end No 1 player. Federer saved 72.6 per cent of break points, edging Pete Sampras’ 1996 season, 72.3 per cent.
Tie-breaks were another key area that helped Federer put together an unparalleled season. He won 80 per cent of the end-of-set shootouts, best among the year-end No. 1s. Dominating tie-breaks has been a calling card of the Swiss. During all five years he finished No. 1, he won at least 70 per cent of the tie-breaks he played.
Federer’s career continues to evolve some 12 years later, but his 2004 season was one for the ages.