The Real Reason Federer and Nadal Dominated 2017

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Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had terrific 2017 seasons–from sharing all four Grand Slams equally to winning five Masters events. While we were once upon a time very used to such thing It was rather out of the blue in 2017, with the pair starting the year ranked ninth and seventeenth and in many people’s eyes very unlikely to add to their Grand Slam count.

When they dominated tennis in the past, it was because they were simply the best. In 2004-2007, for the most part Roger Federer was unbeatable except for against Nadal on clay. He was more often than not getting the better of everyone else in big events–hence his 11 Slams, 13 Masters titles, and three Tennis Masters Cups (Now called ATP Finals) throughout those four years. Admittedly, while to many these years were rather weak and some of the players he had to beat to win big events (e.g. Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Gonzalez) aren’t greats, the sheer dominance of level from the Swiss man overshadows this.

With Rafael Nadal, it’s more or less the same. When the Spaniard won two Slams in 2008, it was because he was outright the best player in the world–beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic routinely at Roland Garros, winning the title not dropping a set. Then the very next month he went on to beat Federer again in arguably the greatest match of all time–stopping the defending champion from a sixth consecutive title–and following it up with an Olympic Gold medal in Beijing. Even in 2010 and 2013, years which he won three and two Slams, respectively, he outclassed the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Why 2017 was different

The difference in 2017 is that both haven’t been anywhere near the level of play we saw in those years. Both are a lot older now, at 36 and 31, so it’s to be expected–but the media make it out to be as if both are at their very best, which is simply untrue and just shows the love affair the media have with the pair.

The one key reason why this is even being brought up is because many are forgetting what a horrible year this has been for many top players in the world due to injuries. Of the top five who finished last season, not a single one of them finished inside the top eight this year, which includes the winners of the last eight Slams prior to 2017. Further, all took significant portions of this year off. One of these five is Novak Djokovic, who stopped Roger Federer from winning the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals, as well as the 2015 US Open final. He even stopped the Swiss from winning an Australian Open semifinal as well as two World Tour Finals, all of this since 2014. Evidently, he was Roger Federer’s biggest obstacle in adding to the 17 Grand Slams he started the year with.

Rafael Nadal had a shocking few years heading into 2017, without even a Grand Slam semifinal in two-and-a-half years. During this period, his head-to-head against Djokovic was 0-7, not even winning a single set. He also struggled against others who started 2017 in the top five: he was 1-2 against big serving Canadian Milos Raonic, and 2-2 each against Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Britain’s Andy Murray. While he did have a winning head-to-head during that period against Stan Wawrinka, against all the others he evidently struggled.

With all these players being shadows of themselves in 2017 and not even playing many events it was inevitable that lower ranked players would have the chance to take centre stage for themselves. In this case it turned out to be two all-time greats in Federer and Nadal. And while they’ve both been considerably better in 2017 than in recent years, it doesn’t take away the fact both were severely aided by the state of their fellow top competitors this year.

This isn’t to take away from their achievements; Federer winning a record breaking eight Wimbledon and Nadal an amazing tenth Roland Garros both without dropping a set is absolutely incredible. However, en route to Wimbledon, the Swiss maestro didn’t beat a top five player and if you think that is bad the Spaniard won the US Open without facing a top 25 player. Compare this to Djokovic who’s had to beat a fellow top FOUR player in all of his twelve Slams, which includes two in 2016.

Of course it’s not their fault, as they can only beat who’s in front of them–but had they played the likes of 2016 Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the Majors, would they have won two majors each? We’ll never know and maybe they would have, but one thing is for sure if those other guys were fit it wouldn’t have ended up being so easy.

To conclude, I’m taking nothing away from what both achieved this year. To see both play well and win Grand Slams again was great for the game and hopefully they can keep it up with others recovering and re-joining them at the very top of the game. It’s just when you have the media screaming that both are back to their best (some analysts/journalists saying they’re even better now), it’s a lie. For both to be as good as they have been this past year, several things had to go their way in and out of their control and it just so happened they did. Yet somehow the only side we hear of the story is how they’re playing amazingly again forgetting what’s happened to everyone else–which makes it even funnier in some respects when you consider just last year (when Murray and Djokovic were dominating) many claimed it was just because of tennis being in a poor state and Federer and Nadal being far from their best.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! Very insightful and precise. Hopefully Djokovic and the other top players are healthy throughout 2018 so there’s real competition and results will most likely be different than ’17.

    • Geat Article LOL!!! It is nice of you to stick up for your friend, Jason Fernandes, but it also makes you a follower, not a leader, Your reply is obviously connected to my criticism of his article, the writer. Now you can create another user name and respond. When Roger Federer wins another couple of Grand Slams, and perhaps reaches 25 to 30 GS mark over the next 3 years, then maybe Djokovic and Murray can get one. Besides, Djokovi , Murray and Nadal are inferior to Roger Federer, you will have to wait 30 years for another player to consider being a top player because Roger Federer has dominated two ERA’s. so you and your friend will have to wait a long time. Just read your reply to Jason again, LOL!! Hopefully Roger Federer can play his best and win all 4 grand slams this year, because he won 2 last year and he was only at 10% of his game, Even 10% of Roger Federer’s game would destroy Djokovic and Murray, To bad they did not play the last couple of months because they would be embarrassed, Did you see what I just did there. Now do not be jealous of Roger Federer because he is that great.,

  2. Jason Fernandes,
    Your article shows you have no knowledge of Tennis, We can play this game if you want. First thing,
    The only reason Djokovic was ever able to beat Roger Federer is because Roger Federer had ailing
    injuries and was not 100%. He was also out for 6 months, so any titles that Murray and Djokovic won
    and for that matter any tennis player that won was because Roger Federer and Nadal were out with injuries, or and any matches that Murray and Djokovic win when they comeback is because Roger Federer is not in his prime., so they do not count as real wins,interesting though that Roger Federer beat 33+ Agassi 8 in a row. But Roger 33+ years old is 5-0 over Rafa 4-0 over Murray and 4-5 over Novak in super prime. It is what a player accomplishes over his career that defines who is best. Roger Federer is past his prime, he is ten years past his prime, yet he is beating everyone. Another interesting point is, people like to say the next generation is always better, that theory does not bode well, because Roger Federer is 10 years past his prime and he is destroying this new Generation of players,So Roger Federer will have dominated two ERA’s, and when he retires this generation of players will be past there prime, Roger Federer is the greatest Player to ever play, if players are out with an injury is because they were not good enough to keep up with Roger Federer. By the way, The only reason Roger Federer lost any game to NADAL is because of the smaller racket he was using, but since he has changed to a larger racket, Nadal cannot beat Roger. Now you know how stupid your article sounds. We can play this game all day, Roger Federer will win 4 majors this years, and he still will not be at his best. Did you see what I just did there.? Now stop writing , you sound bitter, jealous, and resentful, and most certainly a person of very low character. CASE CLOSED

  3. “This isn’t to take away from their achievements.”

    Funny, because that’s precisely how it reads. Just as your article on the Men’s final reads like a bitter anti-Federer diatribe. You’re not a journalist. You’re just an opinionated hack with a chip on his shoulder.

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