Tennis / federer
A Reality Check For An Old Tennis Fan And The Quest For The Grand Slam
I have always considered myself to be a tennis fan. As a teen, I was a very avid tennis player and could be found on the court almost daily. I even won my High School tennis tournament when I was in grade 12. I watched a lot of tennis back then as well. I was a huge fan of watching Wimbledon and the French Open. There was something about watching tennis being played on a different surface that made the game even more exciting. At the time, I considered myself to be very knowledgeable about the world of tennis. I knew all the players and followed them closely. Source As I got older, I became less engaged with tennis. It wasn't that I stopped liking the sport but rather, I had less time to engage with all sports and so, therefore, some sports got nudged out. I simply didn't have enough time to fully engage myself in all of them. I have always kept an eye on the big players and the big tournaments and feel like I had some idea of how things were going in the world of tennis but it was not at the same level as when I was younger. As a result, the glory days of tennis have always been the era where I was a big fan. I have been fully aware of the great players on tour and the dominance of players like Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic but in my head, I still felt like MacEnroe, Conners, Agassi, Sampras, and Lendl were the greats. My favourtie player growing up was Boris Becker because of his power game combined with his ability to play the finesse required on grass. Source Over the past few weeks, my interest level in tennis has been on the rise again. Reading @jodcarey's regular tennis posts and the beginning of the Aussie Open has got my tennis fire burning again. I have been keeping a closer eye on the action than I have in a very long time. It is exciting to see the two Canadian men doing well so far. Both Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic have advanced to the third round. Unfortunately for Eugenie Bouchard, she ran into the Serena Williams freight train in the 2nd round and was ousted in straight sets. Source The Australian Open is not necessarily the sexiest of the Tennis Slams but it is extremely important in terms of setting the tone for the tour season. It is the first of the 4 Slams and by winning in Australia, you still have an opportunity to accomplish the most difficult of tennis feats. A Grand Slam! The Grand Slam means that a player has won all four of the major tournaments in a single season. This means winning the Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon, and The U.S. Open. What makes this so difficult is that each tournament has its unique qualities. While the Australian and U.S Opens are both played on a hard court surface, the French is played on clay and Wimbledon is played on grass. Playing on clay and grass dramatically impacts the game and changes the style of play. Some players are more suited to different sources. Source I have also been doing a lot of comparison between tennis eras. The dominance that has been happening in men's tennis over the past 20 years is profound. The number of tournaments won by the big three of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic is simply in a different stratosphere than the legends of the past. The players who I have always considered the best ever barely hold a candle to the accomplishments of these men when it comes to the slams. As far as total career championships there are a lot of similarities between the 80's and 90's era and the 2000's to the present but when you take a closer look a the number of major championships won the current crop of players have built a gap that might never be duplicated. Screenshot of ATP Tour Stats Since 2003 there have been a total of 64 major tournaments played. That is 4 per year for 16 years. The current Aussie Open that us currently underway will be number 65. Over that span, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have combined to win an incredible 51 of those Slams. That means that in the past 16 years only 13 other slams have been won by other players. Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray account for 3 each. That statistic is mind-blowing in terms of the sheer dominance that these men have had over the tour. Jimmy Connors is still the all-time leader in tournament wins but his major victories is a drop in the pan compared to these guys. Only Pete Sampras comes close to matching the totals and after that, there is Bjorn Borg who we can only wonder what totals he would have if he didn't walk away from the game after only 10 years. Source When you look at the number of slams that these men have won, you would think that they would have translated into one or even more Grand Slams for these guys but not a single one of them have accomplished the feat. Now, each of them has a career Grand Slam under their belt which in itself is a rare accomplishment. Only 8 men have ever been able to win all 4 slams over the course of their career. To further exemplify just how difficult a single season Grand Slam is, only 2 men have ever done this and it hasn't happened since 1969 when Rod Laver did it for the second time. With such a dominance over the slams over the past 16 years, you would think that one of these guys would have completed the single-season sweep but the stars just haven't aligned for them. Screenshot from ATP Tour Website One reason for this might be that these three men have been fighting against each other. In order for each of them to have won so many Slams over the years, they had to be splitting the 4 majors each season. There are a few years where they have won 3 of the 4 but there was always that one Slam that evaded them. Federer has been close 3 times but the French Open and Nadal stood in his way. In fact, Federer has only managed to win the French one time. The Grass specialist has struggled to match the dominant play of Nadal on clay. It has been the opposite for Nadal who has struggled to win at Wimbledon over the years. With Nadal winning the French 11 of the last 16 years it makes it difficult for any other player to pull off a sweep and Nadal has only been able to win once at Wimbledon. Source Technically, Djokovic has completed a consecutive Grand Slam by winning the 4 Slams in a row. However, traditionalists don't look at this as being an official Grand Slam because it happened over the course of two seasons. Regardless, I think it is pretty impressive and he is the only one of the 3 who has been able to do this. When I started looking closer I thought that some of the greats from the past would have accomplished at least a career slam. So many greats that I watched over the years. Connors, MacEnroe, Bjorg, Sampras. None of them was able to get all 4 over their career. The only man from that era to do it was Andre Agassi and he was the one of them all to win the least number of total majors. This only further widens the gap between the big three of today. The fact that they have all been able to do it while fighting each other and when so few of the greats of the past could do it is simply stunning. Source So here we are at the start of the quest once again. Which of the big three will take the first step towards the elusive Grand Slam crown? Only one player will have the chance to pull it off and we will know who that is soon. Maybe it won't be one of the big three at all. Could there be an upstart newcomer that is going to win the Australian Open or could Andy Murray battle through his injury struggles to steal another major from these guys? I know that I will be watching closely to see who will have the opportunity to take that run in 2019. I would love to hear your thoughts about who might win this first Slam of 2019 and your opinions about the greatness that we have been witness to over these past 16 years.