I was a bit bored, so I researched some stats about the best years of the top 3, and this is what I found. All stats were conjured using the ATP's RICOH ATP match facts thingy in the player's profile pages.
6.76 per match, Fed 2006, 97
4.51 per match, Djokovic 2011, 76
3.83 per match, Nadal 2010, 81
This is no surprise, Federer has the best peak first serve, followed by Djokovic, then Nadal.
1.88 per match, Djokovic 2011
1.48 per match, Nadal 2010
1.22 per match, Fed 2006
Actually Djokovic has the worst valley 2nd serve, then Nadal, then Federer.
5.54, Fed 2006
2.63, Djokvic 2011
2.35, Nadal 2010
So basically, Federer has the best first and second serve. Djokovic has a better 1st serve than Nadal, but Nadal has a better 2nd serve than Djokovic.
1st serve %:
67%- Nadal 2010
65%- Djokovic 2011
63%- Federer 2006
In terms of percentage, again not a surprise here.
1st serve points won:
77%- Federer 2006
75%- Nadal 2010
74%- Djokovic 2011
I’m surprised Fed is not further ahead here. Also interesting that the previous stats told us that Djokovic has the better first serve, but Nadal wins more points on his first delivery. Quality of the ground game, surely.
2nd serve points won:
60%- Nadal 2010
59% Federer 2006
56%- Djokovic 2011
Now this is a bit of a surprise. Nadal, despite having a worse 2nd serve than Fed, defends it much better. Djokovic, who’s 2nd serve is the worst, predictably ranks lowest here.
Break points faced and saved per match:
Fed 2006- 4.11 per match, 70% saved
Nadal 2010- 3.98 per match, 69% saved
Djokovic 2011- 4.62 per match, 65% saved
Now this is a bit interesting. Djokovic faced the most break points per match, and saved the least. Nadal faced the least, and saved just 1% less than Fed, who faced more per match. It can be said in this case that, on serve, Federer is the most clutch, Nadal 2nd, Djokovic 3rd. On return is another story, as we’ll see in a little bit.
Service games won and serve points won per match:
Fed 2006- 90% serve games, 70% serve points
Nadal 2010- 90% serve games, 70% serve points
Djokovic 2011- 86% serve games, 68% serve points
Interestingly, both Fed and Nadal won 90% of their serve games and 70% serve points. I’d have thought Fed would be better here. Djoker just a bit below.
1st serve return points won:
Djokovic 2011- 36%
Federer 2006- 35%
Nadal 2010- 31% (34% in 2008)
It can be said here, that Djokovic returns the first serve the best, followed by Fed, and Nadal far behind. This conforms to general wisdom.
2nd serve return points won:
Djokovic 2011- 58%
Nadal 2010- 55%
Federer 2006- 54%
This is a bit surprising to me, Djokovic 3 points ahead on 2nd serve returns, I’d have thought Nadal would be a bit closer here as well as further ahead of Fed than a single point.
Break point chances and conversions:
Djokovic 2011- 9.11 per match, 48% conversion
Nadal 2010: 8.32 per match, 44% conversion
Federer 2006: 9.02 per match, 43% conversion
Again, Djokovic surprising me here. On return, he is clearly the best by a good margin, creating and converting more chance than both Fed or Nadal. Rafa creating fewer, but converting more than Fed.
Return games won and return points won:
Djokovic- 39% return games won, 45% return points won
Federer 2006- 32% return games won, 42% return points won
Nadal 2010- 29% (33% in 08) return games won, 40% (43% in 08) return points won
Shockingly, Federer won more return points and games than Nadal 2010, but not Nadal 2008. Djokovic still way ahead.
Total points won:
Djokovic 2011- 56%
Federer 2006- 56%
Nadal 2010- 55%
I think it’s a bit interesting that the Top 3’s best years, some of the best years in the history of the game, all 3 slam seasons, they all won only 55-56% of the points they played.
So overall, Djokovic has far and away the best return, Federer the best serve, and Nadal the best? Mentality? Guts? Determination? Intangibles? Things that don’t show up in stats? It is also clear that Nadal 2010 had a better serve than Nadal 2008, but Nadal 2008 had a better return than Nadal 2010.