This weekend, the Australian Open saw both Serena Williams and Roger Federer make tennis history. Serena beat her sister Venus to win her 23 Major title, meaning she has now won more Majors than any women in the Open era. The following day, Federer beat Rafa Nadal to win his 18th Major title, extending his lead over other men in tennis history. Both finals were like a throw-back to 10 years ago, no one would have imagined finals involving the Williams sisters and Federer and Nadal.
Anyone who has read my blogposts on tennis knows that I am a huge fan of Serena. However, I found myself hoping that her sister Venus would win on Saturday, a strange position to find myself. It’s not that I didn’t want Serena to win her 23 Major title, I did ver much. But, I also thought that this could be Venus’ last chance at a Major title, she seems much closer to retiring than her younger sister, partly because she battles with an auto-immune disease.
However, the fairytale of Venus winning was not to be; her younger sister overpowered her in two sets to take a well-deserved title and hence become the winner of an incredible 23 Major titles. This takes her clear of Steffi Graf, and so Serena is now the greatest woman tennis player in the Open era. Only Margaret Court has won more Majors, but she won hers during the time when tennis was not open, so one could argue (as I would), that Court was not playing against all of the best women players, some of whom had turned professional.
One of the many remarkable statistics about Serena is this is the 9th Major she has won since turning 30! This compares to Martina Navratilova, who won 18 Majors in total but only 3 after she turned 30. Serena shows no sign of slowing down, if she looks after her body there is no reason why she cannot carry on for another 2 or 3 years. Already, in my opinion, she has shown herself to be the greatest woman tennis player in history; but she would take great pleasure in not only passing Margaret Court’s 24 Majors, but obliterating it by winning 25 or more.
Federer vs Nadal – déjà vu!
After Serena v Venus on Saturday, on Sunday we had another trip down memory lane; a Federer v Nadal final. If you didn’t know it, you would have thought that you had been transported back to 2007! Both Federer and Nadal came into the Australian Open after very little competitive tennis, both having suffered injury riddled seasons in 2016. For Nadal this is nothing new, sadly his injuries have dogged his career in the last 3 to 4 years. But, for Federer to have an injury lay-off is something completely new to him. Ironically, the knee operation which forced his 6-month break from the tour was not sustained playing tennis, but instead by twisting his knee when he slipped in his bathroom running a bath for his children!
But, it looks like the freshness had done both a favour. With Djokovic going out in the second round, and Murray in the third, the draw opened up for both men to make it to the final. A Federer v Nadal final is something that I am sure neither thought that they would see again in their careers.
It was a cracker of a match. Federer won the first set, Nadal the second. Federer cruised through the third (6-1), but Nadal came back to win the fourth. He even broke Federer in the first set of the fifth, and it looked like the writing was on the wall for Federer. But, at 3-2 down in the fifth, Federer raised his game, broke back to 3-3 and then won the next 3 games to take the final set 6-3.
Just like Serena, Federer showed once again why he is, arguably, the greatest tennis player the men’s game has ever seen. That is a highly contentious claim, and I would qualify it by saying that we really can’t compare eras. But, for my money, the only player from any era who could claim to be the greatest ever if it’s not Federer would be Rod Laver. Both Federer and Serena are 35; but contrary to Serena, Federer has only won two Majors since turning 30. I think Federer is closer to the end of his career than Serena, but if he manages his body and tournaments wisely I see no reason why he cannot win Wimbledon for a couple more years, he is still the finest natural grass court player around today.
Well done the oldies!!!