The Curse Course – When Federer, Nadal or Djokovic is beaten


We have already talked about the ‘Rafa curse’ in an earlier article. In this article we will extend the discussion further by incorporating into it similar statistics of another two top players – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – in the five-year time period from 2011 to 2015.

Before we start, we remind you of the fact that a curse of a player is deemed to be successful if the rival who beats the former loses in the very next round of an ATP tournament, excluding the Tour Finals which is not an outright knockout competition involving only top 8 players of the season.

We begin with the curse details of Djokovic.

Player Ranked Event Round
Roger Federer 3 2011 French Open SF
Kei Nishikori 32 2011 Basel SF
Andy Murray 4 2012 Dubai SF
John Isner 11 2012 Indian Wells Masters SF
Janko Tipsarevic 8 2012 Madrid Masters QF
Juan Martin Del Potro 7 2013 Indian Wells Masters SF
Grigor Dimitrov 28 2013 Madrid Masters 2R
Tomas Berdych 6 2013 Rome Masters QF
Roger Federer 4 2014 Monte Carlo Masters SF
Tommy Robredo 20 2014 Cincinnati Masters 3R
Kei Nishikori 11 2014 US Open SF
Ivo Karlovic 27 2015 Doha QF


Not much from the 11-time Slam winning Serb – who has had his best career patch during this time around. Meanwhile, Federer was certainly on his wane and 2011 marked his progression into the dreaded 30s of tennis – an age which is earmarked ‘past prime’ in this sport. Here are the details of the Swiss, the 17-time Grand Slam winner.

Player Ranked Event Round
Rafael Nadal 1 2011 Miami Masters SF
Jurgen Melzer 9 2011 Monte Carlo Masters QF
Rafael Nadal 1 2011 Madrid Masters SF
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 19 2011 Wimbledon QF
Tomas Berdych 9 2011 Cincinnati Masters QF
Rafael Nadal 2 2012 Australian Open SF
Andy Roddick 34 2012 Miami Masters 3R
Novak Djokovic 1 2012 Rome Masters SF
Novak Djokovic 1 2012 French Open SF
Tomas Berdych 7 2012 US Open QF
Andy Murray 3 2012 Shanghai Masters SF
Andy Murray 3 2013 Australian Open SF
Tomas Berdych 6 2013 Dubai SF
Kei Nishikori 16 2013 Madrid Masters 3R
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 8 2013 French Open QF
Sergiy Stakhovsky 116 2013 Wimbledon 2R
Federico Delbonis 114 2013 Hamburg SF
Daniel Brands 55 2013 Gstaad 2R
Tommy Robredo 22 2013 US Open 4R
Gael Monfils 42 2013 Shanghai Masters 3R
Rafael Nadal 1 2014 Australian Open SF
Kei Nishikori 21 2014 Miami Masters QF
Andreas Seppi 46 2015 Australian Open 3R
Nick Kyrgios 35 2015 Madrid Masters 2R
Albert Ramos-Vinolas 70 2015 Shanghai Masters 2R
John Isner 13 2015 Paris Masters 3R


An interesting fact is that although Roger Federer had been able to dodge the Rafa curse, but the Mallorcan himself had been cursed four times by the Swiss – thrice when Nadal was world no. 1 in the rankings. Djokovic also tasted the wrath of Federer twice in 2011. Federer too had identical number of revenge curses from the Serb. In fact, their roles were reversed in the Roland Garros for the successive years 2011 and 2012.

The Japanese, Kei Nishikori who was scarred once by Nadal, received the curse twice each from Djokovic and Federer. None of Nadal’s curse bunnies – David Ferrer, Fabio Fognini or Fernando Verdasco – do find a single mention in the curse list of Ferderer and Djokovic. Apart from Nishikori, the other two players who have been at the receiving end of all the three special forms of blights in discussion are Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych. The Czech, Berdych, has in fact suffered thrice from Fed-curse.

Coming to the point of rankings, both Federer and Djokovic were kinder to opponents outside the top 100 – Federer having caused two such casualties where as Djokovic who seldom loses to an unseeded player has none to his credit. In contrast, Nadal had six such victims. Federer has most victims from the top 10 – the number reads 13 to Nadal’s 11. Federer, in fact, has dished curses to world no. 1 on five occasions.

In all, neither of Federer’s (61.9%) or Djokovic’ (52.17%) curse efficiency is as impressive as that of Nadal’s (84.62%). However, the Swiss maestro was right on the money with his curses in 2012 with a success rate of almost 86% – the very year in which he won his last Grand Slam and the only Olympics medal till date. Most of Djokovic’s curses were resulted into the late stages of the tournaments. For Federer, it was quite similar to that of Nadal’s. In fact, all the four such occasions of the last season came at or before the 3rd round for Federer.

The major difference between the sport’s one of the famed rivals is the success efficiency. The ratio is highly staked up for the Mallorcan is because of his physical game playing hard for each point which certainly drains his rival (himself as well) for the next game – thus losing the next for a curse even if he manages to breach the Spanish armada. On the other hand, in many cases relatively fresh rivals have managed to win their next game after scalping Federer – thus avoiding the curse.


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Photo by Marianne Bevis


    • Truly they represent one of the greatest eras in the sport. Keep following Sports-Nova for more such stuffs.