When Roger Federer decides to retire he will end his career as, possibly, the best player ever to enter a tennis court. Federer holds the men’s record with 16 Grand Slam singles titles; he also won five consecutive Wimbledon titles from 2003-’07. Also between ’03 and ’07, Federer won 12 out of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, only losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open in ’06 and ’07.
To put that in perspective for you, that’s like the Boston Red Sox reaching the World Series 14 years in a row, and only losing twice. Federer is the Pete Sampras of this generation and possibly all generations to come. In 2008, while in the midst of his incredible run, everyone thought that no one could beat Federer. They were wrong.
Nadal reached his first Grand Slam final in 2005. His opponent was Mariano Puerta and the venue was the French Open. At the mere age of 19, and in his first French Open, he won his first Grand Slam by beating Puerta in four sets. No one believed that the young man standing before them would go on to win seven French Open titles, the most by any player in the modern era. The next year Nadal reached the final, this time playing opposite Roger Federer. Nadal beat Federer in four sets, securing his second Roland Garros title in as many years.
Just weeks later Federer and Nadal met again, this time in the Wimbledon final. At that time grass was to Federer what clay was to Nadal. Federer was unbeatable. This time it was Federer’s turn to win in four sets, but Nadal put up a good fight, pushing two of the sets to tiebreaks. This pattern continued the next year, Nadal beat Federer in the French Open in ’07, Federer then beat Nadal at Wimbledon in what people said was the most thrilling match they had ever seen. That was, until the next year.
The 2008 battle between Nadal and Federer began much the same way with Nadal beating Federer in the French Open, and then came the Wimbledon final. As usual it was Federer versus Nadal. That match will never be forgotten; it was definitely the best match of the decade. Nadal and Federer would play five sets, survive several rain delays, and multiple tiebreaks. Finally, Nadal had a chance at Championship point, he served to Federer who returned it long. Nadal had finally beaten the master on his home court. Nadal’s road to being the best player in tennis had begun.
Nadal would go on to win the next year’s Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and then finally complete his career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open. Nadal was the king of tennis, until he came across Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open. After that title he was always the player that would make it to the quarterfinals and then lose, until 2011. After losing in the final of the 2010 U.S. Open to Nadal, Djokovic came out swinging in ’11. He won the Australian Open, beating Andy Murray in straight sets. He went on to win his first Wimbledon title by beating Nadal. Starting at this point Nadal and Djokovic would go on to play against each other in all of the Grand Slam finals. After Wimbledon, it was the 2011 U.S. Open, then the 2012 Australian Open, and more recently the 2012 French Open. Djokovic had been winning everything, until he played Nadal in this year’s French Open, where Nadal proved that no one can beat him on clay.
All three athletes excel on a different surface: clay for Nadal, grass for Federer, and hard surfaces for Djokovic. Along with their different preferences for court, they also have very different ways of playing the game of tennis. Federer is quiet, respectful, and never lets his emotions overtake him on the court. Nadal is much the same; he is respectful, and never lets his emotions take him over during the match. Djokovic, on the other hand, doesn’t quite hold himself up to those same standards. Djokovic has had a history of throwing and breaking his rackets, and letting his emotions boil over. One trait that he shares with the others is that he is very respectful of other players, especially Nadal, who he has played against 33 times since 2005.
“Fantastic, impressive. The way he’s been treating this sport is a real example of a champion, you know. He’s one of my biggest rivals, but I only have nice things to say about him. He’s been achieving so much,” Djokovic said after Nadal broke a seven-match winning streak against him.
With Wimbledon 2012 just a week away, what can we except to happen? Will it be Djokovic versus Nadal? Will Federer make a comeback? Will Andy Murray finally be able to break out of the semifinals and make to the finals? All of theses questions will be answered. What we are guaranteed though, is that we are in store for two weeks of great tennis.