Posts Tagged ‘roger federer’
Before the 2013 Australian Open even began, there was plenty of talk concerning the history that Djokovic or Murray would make, should either of them claim the first of the year’s grand slam titles.
Djokovic was aiming to be the first player in the Open era to win three successive titles in Melbourne. Murray, having won his first Grand Slam title with the US Open in September, was looking to become the first player to follow up a maiden title by winning back-to-back titles.
It was fitting then, that these two should contest the final, as they did two years ago. Last year, the two men faced each other in a gruelling five hour semi final, and a match that could have gone either way with only the finest of margins separating the players.
Djokovic won both of those meetings – as he did in the 2013 final earlier today – but Murray’s five-set win against the same opponent when they met in New York only four months ago is evidence that he’s more than capable on his day of triumphing over the world number 1.
On route to the final, Murray claimed his first win over Roger Federer in a grand slam event. It would be premature to suggest that Murray has overtaken Federer in the men’s game, but it was nonetheless a significant victory, and one which could have been achieved in straight sets had the Brit been more clinical.
If Murray can improve on his dismal showing during last year’s clay court season, there’s every chance of him improving his ATP World Tour ranking enough to leapfrog Federer and head into Roland Garros as the second best player in the world.
In fighting off the challenge of Djokovic to reclaim the world number 1 spot in 2011, Federer proved to his doubters that he’s still amongst the sport’s best, but there must surely be questions over just how long he’ll be able to compete with the likes of Djokovic and Murray in five set tennis.
And with Rafa Nadal far from certain of retaining his position amongst the elite after such a long injury lay-off, there looks to be very few players capable of challenging the dominance of Djokovic or the emergence of Murray.
That could either offer tennis fans with many fascinating battles between the sport’s top two stars, as it did during the period between 2006 and 2008 when Nadal rose to the challenge of toppling Roger Federer, or it could lead to a predictable state of affairs, where the two finalists may as well be handed a passage straight through to the final for lack of any serious threats elsewhere.
For me, the lack of progress made from players such as Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro has been disappointing.
A series of injuries certainly affected Del Potro for a lengthy period after he won the 2009 US Open, but he’s fought his way back into the top ten, and has the ability to be causing problems for the very best players.
Similarly, Berdych and Tsonga both have the talent to be more of a threat, but simply don’t look any closer to breaking into the elite than they did three or four years ago.
Each of those two players have long had the ability to challenge the top players when they meet, as well as having the potential to get much closer to competing for and winning the biggest prizes.
But with each major tournament that goes by, there’s a similar outcome whenever a top four seed is pitted against an opponent ranked in the lower half of the top ten. Berdych and Tsonga both showed glimpses of their ability to produce tennis of the highest quality in their respective matches against Djokovic and Federer, but neither genuinely looked like upsetting the odds.
Amongst the younger players, I was looking forward to seeing how Milos Raonic coped in his fourth round match with Federer. Raonic clearly has plenty of potential but failed to provide any real test for Federer, who in the TV commentary was described as “looking bored” as he closed in on a comfortable victory.
The previous round had resulted in Bernard Tomic – another player touted for future success – send crashing out by Federer in straight sets.
In a sport that was ruled by Federer, taken over by Nadal and then by Djokovic, there appears at the moment to be only one genuine contender to the Serb’s status as world number 1 – Andy Murray.
Nadal v Federer was a rivalry developed in tournaments all over the world on every surface. Murray and Djokovic have each played in three of the last four grand slam finals, and the evidence suggests that the pair could contest many more, in a rivalry that is shaping up to be the fiercest on the men’s tour.
It was perhaps fitting that Novak Djokovic should come out on top at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
The world number one may have achieved fewer title wins in 2012 than he did over the previous calendar year, but it was always going to be a near impossibility to repeat his extraordinary 2011 season anyway.
Instead, his aim was to prove that last year was no fluke, and that he was at the top of the men’s game for good.
A consistency which saw him win the opening grand slam event of the year – with a gruelling win after six-hours against Rafa Nadal – and then go on to compete in two further grand slam finals as well as reaching the last four at Wimbledon and the Olympics confirmed his status as the best male tennis player in the world right now.
Of the other members of a top four which has consisted of the same quartet for a fifth consecutive season, each have played their part in a terrific year of tennis.
Rafa Nadal was firmly on the way to challenging Djokovic’s dominance before injury struck before the year was even half completed.
Nadal’s absence from more than four months of competition was to Andy Murray’s benefit, with the Brit finishing the season ranked in third place.
Murray has made giant strides of his own this season and in any other year, a first Wimbledon final, followed by an Olympic gold and a maiden Grand Slam title would have been enough to make him the stand-out performer on the tour.
But such has been the standard from all of the top players, Murray is merely one three – along with Djokovic and Federer – who have achieved big things during 2012.
Arguably, the finest individual achievement was not Murray’s victory in the US Open, but Roger Federer’s win at Wimbledon that saw him replace Djokovic as world number one.
To still be capable of adding major titles at such a late stage in his career – and with such fierce competition from such a talented trio of rivals – is testament to the Swiss, and further strengthens claims that he is the greatest player in tennis history.
Successive quarter-final defeats at Wimbledon in 2010 and 2011 looked to be proof that Federer had past the point were he was still able to match the likes of Nadal or Djokovic and compete for the sport’s biggest prizes.
But to the credit of Federer, he refused to accept the fact that there are players around that he is incapable of winning against, and a new desire and determination has been very much evident over the last year or so.
Whether that continues will much depend on his physical ability, especially in longer five-set matches at grand slam events.
As for the other questions for next season, will Andy Murray continue to build on his major successes of the summer, and even pose a challenge for the number one ranking?
And can any of the challengers below the top four provide a greater threat to the favourites?
What is certain is that if next season brings anywhere near as much drama as this year has, we’ll be in for another treat.
For many tennis fans, there may have been some mixed emotions during this afternoon’s gold medal match in the men’s singles competition.
On one side of the court stood Andy Murray, a player with all the ability to be a multi-Grand Slam winning tennis player but who has yet to win any of the biggest prizes on offer in the sport.
Facing Murray was Roger Federer, the greatest player in tennis history, and a man who has won everything in the game – apart from an Olympic gold medal in the individual event.
Federer did, in Beijing four years ago, win a gold in the double’s competition. But in what was likely to be the last Olympics that he stood a realistic chance of competing for gold, it would have been fitting for such a great champion to complete the set of every major tennis honour by claiming victory on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. In doing so, he would match Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal in winning a career “Golden Slam”, consisting of a win in each of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and also in the individual tennis event at the Olympic games.
Ignoring the prospect of Great Britain’s place in the medals table being strengthened by a win for Murray, I was desperately hoping to see him win this time around, particularly after a loss in his first taste of a final at Wimbledon only a month ago.
The opportunity to win an Olympic gold medal comes around only once every four years but relatively few competitors ever get the chance to achieve such a feat on home soil.
Murray has been consistently been amongst the top three or four players in the world for the past five years, and in the absence of a Grand Slam title to date, being crowned Olympic champion is the least he deserves to show for his career so far.
The hope now is that a first Grand Slam title will soon follow for Murray. It’s bad luck that a player of such a high level of ability happens to have two of the greatest players of all time competing during the same era in the sport, but it’s not too late for Murray to make his own mark on the history of the sport.
Such a dominant display in the final against Federer not only shows that Murray is capable of adding major titles, but having lost in each of his four previous grand slam finals, an Olympic win will give the Brit renewed confidence going into events such as next month’s US Open.
Rafa Nadal’s determination to topple Roger Federer eventually reaped its rewards and Novak Djokovic transformed his own fortunes almost overnight in going from a regular semi-finalist at major events to a consistent winner of the biggest tennis titles.
There’s no reason to suggest that Murray cannot do the same. After all, there was little between him and Djokovic two years ago, both in terms of achievements at the time, and also the potential of each player to challenge the top two.
A win at the London Olympics doesn’t do anything to change Murray’s Grand Slam record, his achievements of beating the two top players in the world en route to a triumph in a five-set final of a major event will hopefully be the catalyst towards further success for Britain’s finest player in many a generation.
It’s men’s semi-final day at Wimbledon today, and two fascinating matches are in store.
Federer versus Djokovic has become a regular contest at the semi final stage of a grand slam tournament, with the pair having met eight times in the last four of one of the majors.
Djokovic holds the advantage of having won five of those encounters, but today’s match will mark the first time that the two players have faced each other on grass. That makes it a difficult match to predict with Roger Federer, perhaps the greatest grass court tennis player ever, performing much better this year than in either of his past two showings at the All England Club.
As well as a place in the final, both men are contending for the number one ranking in the world, with Federer set to take top spot if he can lift his seventh Wimbledon title.
The winner will face either Andy Murray or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and anticipation for the second of the men’s semi finals is every bit as great.
Neither of the two players involved have a grand slam title to their name, and both will sense an opportunity to put that right by the end of the week.
Andy Murray takes part in his fourth successive Wimbledon semi and while he may be relieved not to have to face Nadal this year, he’ll need no reminders of what happened in 2009 when, after seeing Nadal withdraw from the tournament due to injury, he went on to face Andy Roddick in the last four. Murray was the favourite but it was Roddick, the number six seed, who triumphed in four sets on the way to a narrow loss to Federer in the final.
Many will again consider Murray to be the favourite as he takes on Tsonga, but the Frenchman poses a genuine threat to the prospect of a first British finalist in the men’s event since 1938.
Tsonga’s ability is in no doubt and there are signs that a grand slam title may not be far away if he continues to progress. Only last month, Djokovic found Tsonga almost impossible to live with for a large part of their clash at Roland Garros, and Murray himself will recall how tough an opponent Tsonga can be, having faced him in a quarter-final at Wimbledon only two years ago.
I was in the crowd at Centre Court on that day and for much of the opening two sets, Tsonga was virtually unplayable. Home advantage certainly helped Murray, but still he was on the verge of finding himself two sets down.
Tsonga, serving with a 5-4 lead in the second set tie-break, chose the most unfortunate moment to drop points on his serve and having handed the momentum back to his opponent, it was Murray who pounced to level the match at one set all.
From that moment on, Tsonga looked beaten and there was little sign of any fight or determination to regain an advantage in the match. Having been the better player in each of the first two sets, he was swept aside with ease over the next two, both finishing 6-2 in Murray’s favour.
For me, that match perfectly summed up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and illustrated the difference between the top players, and those who are just behind. Where competitors such as Nadal, Djokovic and Murray can often find something extra and find a way to win even if circumstances don’t look to be in their favour, there are other players who have the ability to compete with the very best, but struggle to find the extra mental strength needed to fight their way out of a corner.
If Tsonga can find a way to maintain the level of tennis he is capable of for more than just a set or two, I think he’ll have too much for Murray. He’s in good form, is improving with each year, and having reached the semi final at Wimbledon for the first time last year, will be looking to go one better this time around.
But that’s a big if, and if Murray gets on top in the early stages, or the match is a close fought affair that goes to four or five sets, then I couldn’t see anything other than a Murray win.
Whatever does happen, the two matches promise plenty of drama – and on Wimbledon semi final day, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
As expected, the French Open gave us a dramatic couple of weeks of tennis.
The women’s competition provided the first ever Chinese Grand Slam champion, in Li Na. In the men’s singles, things seemed no different to so many years of late with Rafa Nadal picking up a sixth title, and Roger Federer yet again the beaten finalist.
It was far more dramatic than statistics alone may suggest, however.
Nadal may have gone into the competition holding three of the four Grand Slam trophies. But the form of Novak Djokovic over the previous six months was grabbing far more attention.
His unbeaten record, which during the tournament went on to become the longest ever unbeaten start to a year, had included wins over Nadal in four separate finals. Two of which had come on clay, a surface on which Nadal is widely considered to be the greatest player in tennis history.
The two would only meet in the final, should they have both made it that far.
Stuttering form in the early rounds suggested Nadal would be lucky ever make it to the final, but he saved his best tennis for meetings with Robin Soderling and Andy Murray, both of whom were dispatched from the competition in straight sets.
Djokovic meanwhile had cruised through to the semi finals, and needed only to beat Roger Federer to set up another final with Nadal, and guarantee top spot in the ATP World Tour rankings.
While Federer had been the other form player throughout, few had even given him a chance. But it was the Swiss who finally ended Djokovic’s 43 game winning run.
The most decorated tennis player in the Open era was enjoying the lack of pressure, simply getting on with what he’s always done best, and illustrating quite emphatically that on the biggest stages in the game, he is still amongst the men to beat.
After four previous losses to Nadal at Roland Garros, three of them in a final, it would have been something of a fairy-tale ending for Federer had he finally clinched a win over the Spaniard.
Nadal himself had plenty to play for, needing a win in the final to maintain his number one ranking, and it his absolute refusal to be beaten which proved decisive in a gripping and closely fought final.
It might just have been the hardest fought of all of his six French Open titles but like a true champion, Nadal did what was required to achieve success, even when Djokovic’s form was causing many to write off his chances.
Federer and Nadal have now won a total of 26 Grand Slam titles between them. For Djokovic, as well as Andy Murray, it’s a statistic which highlights just how far they must go before really being able to compare with two of the game’s all time greats.