Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal won the first three Slams of the year in 2007. The same is true in 2017, a decade later. Is that good for the game of tennis? Brett Margolies claims it might not be, and that there are definite downsides to it.
What Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done this year is quite remarkable. Coming in to the 2017 season neither one really had big expectations, but have taken the tour back like they did a decade ago. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s good or bad for the game, but it’s more of a testament of how special these two players really are. In a sport where it’s one on one and such a grind physically, and mentally I don’t know if we’ll ever see such an accomplishment again. In 2013 I never expected Roger Federer would be able to do what he’s doing right now. He lost back to back matches on clay after Wimbledon in Hamburg, and Gstaad to Federico Delbonis, and Daniel Brands. Rafael Nadal also had a moment like that as well in 2015 when Novak Djokovic beat him on Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros 7-5 6-3 6-1. If you were to just fast forward to this year, you would never suspect that these two legends had any moment in their career where they would be written off at the level they are playing at.
It shows just how dominant these two have been throughout their career. I strongly believe in most other eras players like Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and David Ferrer would’ve been able to salvage a grand slam and put together two weeks of high quality tennis to win just once in their otherwise successful career’s. It’s unfortunate to a certain extent as so many other players have such intriguing stories that mainstream sport fans will never get to hear. Even though there’s still time for the top players in their early 30’s to sneak in a slam as each passes by it’s looking more and more unlikely. It’s tough to place blame on the great players in the same era that won’t ever win a grand slam, as the sport truly has been dominated by the same four guys for such a long time.
After the last couple years seeing Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray battle out most Grand Slam finals, it’s nice for a change to see the resurgence of Nadal and Federer. You can make an argument that what Djokovic and Murray did while Federer was on the decline almost determined him to up his game to another level to get past them in 2017. With the US Open six weeks away, it would be good for the game if the “Big Four” of old were able to all be playing their best the second week in New York.
However, this will have its eventual downside. It’s hard to believe after what we’ve seen recently, but there will be a point in time when the “next gen” players start winning these Grand Slams. We’ve seen parity on the women’s side with the field being seemingly wide open the past two Slams. I’m not sure when it’ll happen on the mens side but it obviously will. When it does eventually happen I think it will be good for the sport. It might be an adjustment period for fans all over the world, but unpredictability on the mens side would be nice for a change. For the time being it’s probably good for tennis since Federer and Nadal have the biggest fan bases in tennis and the fact that you’re able to have so many people following these two players religiously week in and week out might hurt the game later down the road when there isn’t a Federer and Nadal to follow. At the very least, during the gap before new players come to the fore we will probably see a huge decline in interest. As Roger Federer approaches 36 years of age, and Rafael Nadal at 31 nothing we’ve seen this year would lead you to believe their time is running out. They say nobody’s beats father time, but these two future hall of famers make you rethink that.