PARTAB RAMCHAND | 16 JULY, 2019
The Race Is On Among the Big Three
He played in the singles final at Wimbledon in 2003. Sixteen years later he figured in the singles final again. He won the first time and lost the second time around. But the fact that he was still around and challenging strongly for the title speaks volumes of the skill and longevity of Roger Federer already acknowledged to be the greatest tennis player of all time.
And it was not just another match that he lost but the longest Wimbledon final ever lasting all of five hours. That speaks volumes also of the stamina and the fighting spirit of the legendary Swiss who turns 38 in just over three weeks time.
On the other side of the net was a player who is challenging Federer for the title of GOAT. At least that’s what Boris Becker is convinced of. ``Novak is not quite happy yet. He is one of the greatest of all time but he wants to be the greatest of all time’’ Becker a three time singles champion at Wimbledon and Novak Djokovic’s coach from 2013 to 2016 said in an interview shortly after the dramatic five-set match concluded.
Even the dramatic scoreline – 7 – 6, 1 – 6, 7 – 6, 4 – 6, 13 – 12 – does not convey the grandeur of the tennis played by the two giants of modern tennis. It was the first time that the new tie-breaker rule at Wimbledon for the fifth set was applied otherwise it might have spilled over to a second day. The players were obviously evenly matched and this is reflected in the overall record with Djokovic leading 26 – 22.
One of the two semifinalists was Rafael Nadal making it clear that the Big Three were in no hurry to abdicate their places in the top three in the ATP rankings. There was much talk before the tournament commenced as to whether the GenNext of players would halt the dominance of the Big Three.
Not only did they not even come close to doing so they put up such a sorry show that there is little doubt that Messrs Federer, Djokovic and Nadal will continue to dominate the rankings and the Grand Slams for an extended period. As it is the three of them have won the last 11 Grand Slam titles between them.
The GenNext quartet of Alexander Zverev, Stephanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem and Kevin Anderson all made early exits at Wimbledon and it is clear that the total number of Grand Slams titles won by the Big Three – 54 – will just keep increasing. But one major interest will now centre round who will win most number of Grand Slams. At the moment Federer (20) is leading the bunch closely followed by Nadal (18) and Djokovic (16). The race is on.
But while the Big Three continue to dominate the men’s event there is no such dominance in the women’s singles.Symbolizing this is one simple fact. The three Grand Slams this year have all been won by different players. Japan’s Naomi Osaka won the Australian Open and in the process took over the No 1 spot in the rankings from Simona Halep of Romania.
From nowhere as it seemed Australia’s Ashley Barty unexpectedly won the French Open and very soon she climbed to the top spot. At Wimbledon it was Halep who triumphed and she has since gone up from No 7 to No 4 in the rankings though of course she is a former No 1.
Besides these three players like Karolina Pliskova, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniacki have either won a Grand Slam event or been No 1 in the rankings. It is almost like anyone in the top ten could win a Grand Slam and anyone in the top ten could rise to No 1 in the rankings at any time.
All this is because Serena Williams’ powers are finally on the decline. The all time great who turns 38 in September is still making a valiant effort to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
At the moment she is one short and her making it to the final at Wimbledon raised hopes that she might achieve her long time goal. But an aggressive Halep gave her no chance of settling down and a quick 6 – 2, 6 – 2 demolition means that time is now running out for Serena particularly as one recalls that her last Grand Slam triumph was at the Australian Open in 2017.