This post was first published by Ubitennis on 30 December 2015 at the following link: http://www.ubitennis.net/blog/2015/12/30/djokovic-5-years-of-out-earning-and-out-playing-federer-and-nadal-combined/
The previous article in this series analysed how Djokovic had earned USD 21.6m of prize money in 2015. One of the questions that naturally follow from this is how Djokovic’s prize money earnings compare to those of his two main rivals in this era: Federer and Nadal.
This article sets out the prize money earnings of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic by year, providing both the actual amounts won as well as, for ease of comparison, inflation-adjusted amounts. For example, in the table below, Federer earned USD 10.1m in prize money in 2007. Adjusted for inflation, this is equivalent to USD 11.8m in today’s money (also known as “2015 dollars”). The table only provides the players’ singles prize money and does not include doubles prize money or additional income, such as appearance fees or sponsorship endorsements.
Actual and inflation-adjusted singles prize money: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic
Some findings to highlight from the above table:
- Despite recent increases in prize money, Federer remains the lead prize money earner of the 3 players with an inflation-adjusted total of USD 108.6m.
- In career terms, Djokovic passed Nadal’s inflation-adjusted prize money total this year and could conceivably overtake Federer’s actual and inflation-adjusted totals in 2016.
- This underlines Djokovic’s recent dominance: over the last 5 years, adjusted for inflation, Djokovic (USD 75m) has earned as much as Federer and Nadal combined (USD 76m). In this period, only in 2013 was Djokovic not the lead prize money earner.
- Set against the historical context, where in the last 5 years the men’s leading player has generally earned an inflation-adjusted USD 14m, Djokovic’s year in 2015 can be seen for the outstanding achievement it is.
- Federer’s prize money earnings have remained remarkably consistent, a tribute both to his continuous high level of play and sustained fitness. Only in 2013, when Federer admitted to a long-standing back problem, do earnings show a dip.
- In contrast, Nadal’s well-documented problems with injury (where he missed parts of the 2009 and 2012 seasons) together with a dip in form in 2015 are responsible for larger fluctuations in his prize money totals.
- As outlined in the previous article in this series, Djokovic’s earnings in 2015 were the product both of sustained excellence and of increases in (in particular) grand slam prize money over the last 4 years. Therefore, in comparison to Djokovic, it is fair to say that Federer and Nadal’s earnings are somewhat depressed given that the majority of their grand slam success took place prior to 2011. (Federer won 16 of his 17 grand slams prior to 2011; Nadal won 9 of his 14.)
Prize money, of course, is only an indicator of the game’s more valuable “currencies”, two of which without question are grand slam victories and weeks ranked as the number 1 player. Djokovic’s recent prize money dominance translates well in these areas:
- Since and including 2011, Djokovic has won 9 grand slams, Nadal 5 and no one else more than 2. Djokovic’s total of 10 grand slam victories is now bettered only by Federer (17), Nadal (14), Sampras (14) and Borg (11) since the “open” era began in 1968.
- This year, Djokovic overtook Nadal for the number of weeks at number 1 (141) and is about to pass John McEnroe (170). After this, only Lendl, Connors, Sampras and Federer will have spent more weeks at number 1 than Djokovic.
In addition, Djokovic has dominated his meetings with both Federer and Nadal in this period (winning 32 matches to 16). His overall record against Federer stands at 22 wins apiece, and much has been made of Federer’s ability not to have fallen behind in the head to head. But the record over the last 5 years is clear: Djokovic leads by 16 wins to 9. It is the same with Nadal: the overall record stands at 23 wins apiece. In the last 5 years? 16 wins to 7.
Big picture conclusion
Whatever you may think about the rights, wrongs or futility of debating the greatest player of all time, there is little doubt that Federer and Nadal would be part of that debate. What was not clear before the 2015 season – and what has seemingly sneaked up on us – is the possibility that Djokovic might force himself into the debate too. His career, no question, has occurred so far in the shadow of the achievements and popularity of Federer and Nadal – two reasons why public awareness and acceptance (sometimes grudging) of Djokovic’s achievements appear to lag behind. But 2015 put an end to that.
Djokovic will need more grand slam titles to be included in the debate, and at least one French Open title in Paris would be obligatory. What is interesting is that although it his 2015 season brought Djokovic into the debate, it is the culmination (at least until next year) of five years of dominance in the men’s game.
Featured image source: Getty Images / dw.com