How wrong they all were…
The momentum changes in tennis are fascinating.
A couple of years ago, Roger and Rafa were done, Andy was struggling to make Slam finals (let alone win them) and Novak could not miss a shot. Tennis writers were writing their long-saved-up Federer obituary, whilst wiping away the tears shed about Nadal’s knees.
“What will we do without the big three?! Who will be the arbiters of Tennis, now that the gatekeepers are too old and grey?! If I put my head in the sand now, will I be able to watch replays of the 2008 Wimbledon final on repeat?!”
How wrong they all were.
This year’s Wimbledon has been an excellent signpost as to where tennis has come in the last few years, and, more importantly, where it is going.
Roger and Rafa
Roger Federer is 35.
For mere mortals, the twilight of his career would have arrived. He would say in interviews that making the second week in a slam is “a lot of fun”, and the commentator offers would begin to come a-knockin’.
Fortunately for our saliva, Roger Federer is not mortal. He is a god that creates films on a tennis court, where opponents are mere characters in his script.
They are in the illusion that they are matching him, before all of a sudden it is 6-4 and you are back in your chair. The second set you lose 7-4 in the tie break, before the final set 6-3 because you think you are taking up too much of his time.
By skipping the French, Federer has come in to Wimbledon playing sumptuous tennis. He has not dropped a set, and looked imperious against Dimitrov. With Nadal out, it is arguably his tournament to lose, which is quite ridiculous considering he is half way to 70.
Now, on to the Spaniard.
Can everybody please CALM DOWN! He won the French last month, without dropping a set, and suddenly everyone goes crazy when he struggles on the grass. Muller played the best tennis of his life and lost out to a massive server – as Novak did learned year.
He looked absolutely distraught, and is the man who tries the hardest out of anyone on a tennis court. No doubt, he will be back next year.
Rafa certainly isn’t as elastic as he once was, but at 31 he still has much left in the tank.
Andy vs. Novak
Murray and Djokovic are both into the fourth decade of their life and have had their distractions of late.
Murray’s ascension to World Number One has brought with it the expectation that label brings. A fourth-round loss at The Australian and a weak semi-final at The French brought some questions. Year to date, his form has been patchy.
However, it is amazing how both of these two just bring an extra level at Wimbledon, and with Rafa out Murray has a yellow brick road to the Final laid out.
Djokovic’s off court issues have been well publicised with his tennis seemingly taking a hit. His Wimbledon form has been excellent, and like Federer has not dropped a set.
We wait anxiously to see who comes through the Serb/Swiss semi to meet Andy in the Final (probably).
A Glimpse to the Future
Alexander Zverev continued his rise in the mens’ game by reaching the fourth round against Raonic. By taking him to five sets, it has again proved that the young German can play, and at 21 is one to watch.
Dominic Thiem mirrored Zverev’s efforts by taking Berdych to five sets in the Fourth Round. All of this is great experience for the youngsters who will be desperate to make it to the second week next year.
Milos Raonic is the closest out of the three to the zenith of tennis. His final performance against Andy last year was frustrating, but getting there at the age of 25 was impressive enough.
In a time when the big four are 30+ it is these young superstars who will be fighting over the Slams when they do slip up.
It is these young guys who we will be labelling the big three, four, seventeen, or whatever.
And it is these who we will adore watching on the white and green canvas that is Wimbledon.
Roll on the quarter finals!