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100 and counting: Djokovic hits a magic milestone in Melbourne

  • Lee Goodall

One hundred. It’s a beautifully round number that in many cultures and elements of life – and across many different sports – is something notable and worthy of celebration.

Whether it’s a 100th birthday, 100 degrees or 100km/h, a ‘ton’ demands attention.

In sport, it’s often even more significant. The 100-metre sprint has always been the blue-riband event at the Olympic Games. We celebrate footballers reaching 100 appearances, applaud as snooker players compile a ‘century break’, and in cricket, when an individual’s run tally ticks past 99, we see a raised bat.

Tennis is no different. In ranking terms, all players talk about the significance of cracking the ‘top 100’, and for select few that special number takes on a different meaning.

On Friday at Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic reaches yet another mind-boggling milestone, competing in his 100th Australian Open main draw match when he faces Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry at Rod Laver Arena. 

Djokovic plays his 100th match at his most successful major on Friday

Novak, of course, is no normal athlete and it won’t be the first time he has passed 100 matches at a major.

The 36-year-old will make it a clean sweep across the Grand Slams on Day 6, having already passed the mark in Paris (108), at Wimbledon (103) and in New York (101).

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Regardless of the outcome of his third-round match, the Serb’s record of 91 wins and eight defeats in Melbourne means he has the tournament’s highest Open era match-winning percentage. 

Novak Djokovic 2008
One down, nine to come (and counting) - Djokovic's first AO title came in 2008

Such achievements put you in exclusive company, and Djokovic is one of only three players to have played at least 100 matches at the opening major of the year – the retired Roger Federer (117) and Serena Williams (105) have competed in even more.

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Just four men have hit the 100-match milestone at any of the four majors during the Open era – Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Jimmy Connors. Federer’s 119 matches played on Wimbledon’s grass put the Swiss out in front.

Likewise, just four women have joined the ‘100 club’ at the biggest events in the sport – Serena and Venus Williams, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who leads with 134 Wimbledon singles matches during her glittering career.

As far as hit rates go, nobody can get near Nadal’s 98-2 win-loss record during his first 100 matches at Roland Garros.

Nadal and Roland Garros ... there's usually only one ending

The Spaniard’s only defeats during that period came to Sweden’s Robin Soderling in 2009 and Djokovic six years later at a venue where he has held the trophy 14 times.

And which player has won the most matches at a single major tournament? Navratilova again. No-one can touch Martina’s individual Open era record at Wimbledon, where she compiled 120 victories on the turf.

Nadal sits in second spot on that leaderboard, trailing the 18-time major singles champion with 112 clay court wins (and counting) in Paris.