By winning the US Open Roger Federer has again won three Slams in a single season for for the second straight season, and the third time in the last four years. That’s some pretty lofty tennis.
Federer has also reached 10 straight Slam finals and he’s won all 12 non-clay finals. Again, absolutely ridiculous numbers, far and above what his GOAT rival Pete Sampras ever did.
Sampras does still have Roger in finishing six straight years at No. 1 – Roger’s currently at three years and a fourth is now looking quite promising. Pete also won a Davis Cup title for the US. He also spent more time at the No. 1 ranking, and of course finished with two more Slam titles than Roger, though both those last two records will fall, it’s just a matter of when and where.
But what you have to take away from this Slam season is that indeed while Federer is still the best on the planet I don’t think he’s as sharp as he once was and I think that the challengers around him are getting better.
Rafael Nadal has been there with Federer the last few years, no doubt. But now you really have to look at Novak Djokovic as a serious threat to Federer. Even theugh Djokovic choked on the big points during that final you have to respect him for at least getting to that stage. At 20 years, I think he’ll learn from those nerves and inexperience and next time in a big match at a Major against Federer maybe he’ll overcome them and win those critical points.
Let’s face it, Novak should have been up a set if not two against Federer. That doesn’t automatically mean the Serb will go on to win that match but it does show he has the ability to go toe-to-toe with the Swiss.
You could also argue that Fed did not play his best tennis. But when has he of late? He’s had some good stretches – like against Feliciano Lopez – but then also some lulls as we saw against Davydenko.
Or maybe what we saw was Fed at his “new” best. Perhaps he’s no longer capable of bringing that game he had a year or two ago when he was virtually unbeatable. Hard t say either way.
Back to Novak.
There’s naturally a lot of chatter of just how great Novak will be. I could see maybe four Slam titles. Six wouldn’t surprise me. But with him it’s still far too early too tell. Novak’s developed far quicker the rest of his peer group – Andy Murray, Thomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, Marcos Baghdatis, etc – so I will be interested to see what happens they also hit their stride that is if they ever do!
Right now Novak is clearly the best of that young bunch, but in five years, who the hell knows? Remember how many of us thought when Juan Carlos Ferrero reached No. 1 that he would be at the top for years to come? Or when Marat Safin won his first US Open that he’d win double digit Slams? Who would have believed back then that for both those guys that those moments were basically their crowning achievement?
It’s fun to speculate but in tennis you really don’t know. Injuries, burn out, motivation, mental issues, off court problems, girlfriends, boyfriends, coaches, etc., all directly factor into player performance.
Back to Fed.
I think his days of winning the calendar Slam are likely over and maybe also his days of winning three Majors in a single year. The French is not going to be any easier for him to win – unless Rafa gets injured – and the same goes for the Australian Open and the US Open, where I think Djokovic along with Nadal can be a legitimate threat. That said I still think Roger still has a few more “easy” Wimbledon titles left in him before things start getting difficult on the lawn.
He’s also starting to take the Sampras deceleration approach of focusing solely on the majors, which will likely mean more losses during the season like we have seen this year from Fed while maintaining those Slam victories. Sampras struggled with that late in his career, let see how Federer does midway through his.
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