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Posts Tagged ‘Majors’

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.

Sublime Serena

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.

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Serena Williams won her 23 Major title, moving one clear of Steffi Graf and becoming the woman who has held most Major titles in the Open era. Only Margaret Court has held more, 24, but she won hers before tennis went open.

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.

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Federer beat Nadal in a thrilling 5-set match to win his 18 Major title. He now stands 4 clear of Nadal, and it is his first Major title since winning Wimbledon in July 2012.

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!!!

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After yesterday’s semi-finals, we now know the line-up for the 2012 Wimbledon Men’s final. 6-times champion Roger Federer against the Scot Andy Murray. It will be Murray’s 1st Wimbledon final, although he has made it to the final of a Major three times before (twice in the Australian Open and once in the US Open). Although Murray is a fellow Celt, I will be shouting for Roger Federer, my favourite player of the last decade.

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Roger Federer in his jacket celebrating 15 Major titles.

This will be Andy Murray’s 1st Wimbledon final and his 4th Major final. He is yet to win a Major.

Federer has the chance to set a number of records on Sunday. Should be win, he will increase his record of Major titles to 17, widening the gap between him and the previous holder Pete Sampras, who won 14 in his career. He will also equal Pete Sampras’ record of 7 Wimbledon titles. Thirdly, he will become only the 3rd man behind Sampras and Rafa Nadal to have won a particular Major 7 times (Nadal achieved this by winning the French Open for a record 7th time this June). And lastly, should he win on Sunday, he will go back to being Number 1 in the World rankings, which will mean he will beat Pete Sampras’ record of the most weeks ranked as World number 1.

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Pete Sampras shaking hands with the man who would eclipse his Majors record, Roger Federer.

Why am I such a big fan of Federer? For me, he is the most complete tennis player I have seen since John McEnroe. I know that is a pretty big statement to make, but it is my opinion! His range of shots, his ability to either play at the baseline or come to the net, is something I don’t feel I’ve seen since John McEnroe. Also, his touch. He has a level of skill and touch with the ball which again, I have not seen since John McEnroe. Sure, in the last 2-3 years Federer has increasingly lost to Nadal and, this last 12 months, to Djokovic. But, without taking anything away from these players, I find they rely more on power, speed and strength rather than the range of shots Federer has. Also, just for Federer’s backhand, he deserves a place in the list of the very best tennis players. As someone who never managed to master a decent backhand, I am in awe of the power and precision he is able to get on his backhand. It is the finest men’s backhand I have ever seen, with Justin Henin having the best women’s backhand I can remember ever seeing.

Should Federer win on Sunday, and thus achieve the list I made above of accomplishments and records, where does it place him in the list of all time tennis greats? It is so difficult (impossible) to compare players from different eras. Not only has the game changed, with the development of modern, more powerful rackets, but also the tournaments have changed. If Djokovic had won the French Open in June he would have become the 1st player since Rod Laver in 1969 to have held all 4 Majors at the same time. Although Federer and Nadal have won all 4 Majors, they have not held them at the same time. And, even if Djokovic had won the French Open, he would not have won all 4 Majors in the same calendar year. Again, Rod Laver is the last person to have done this, in 1969.

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Rod Laver, the only man in the Open era to have done the Grand Slam (winning all 4 Majors in the same calendar year).

What is remarkable about Rod Laver’s achievements is that he did the calendar Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and 1969. And, he didn’t play any of the Majors in the period 1963-1967 as he was banned from playing them, as he turned professional after his 1962 Grand Slam. In 1968 tennis went “open” (allowing professionals to play) and Laver won Wimbledon in that year (note: the Australian Open in 1968 did not allow professionals, the first Major to be open to professionals was the French Open of 1968). The following year, he won the Grand Slam, the first player (male or female) to win it in the Open era, and the only male player to have done so. One can only speculate how many Laver could have won, if he’d been allowed to compete during those years from 1963 to 1967.

However, one has to also remember, and this is not to take anything away from Laver’s remarkable achievements, that in his day 3 of the Majors were held on grass, the only one which wasn’t was the French Open. Additinoally, the Australian Open was held in December at the end of the year, and very few Northern Hemisphere players used to bother going to Australia for it, making it a much easier tournament to win than it is today.

Ultimately I think trying to compare players from different eras is impossible. One can talk about records, number of titles won etc. But even that depends on who is around at the same time. Federer finds himself playing at a time when the level of competition from Nadal and Djokovic is very high, it may be that in Laver’s day he did not have such fierce competition.

I am too young to remember Rod Laver, but I grew up admiring the skill and touch of John McEnroe. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, due to his frequent outbursts at officials. But, I always saw this as his perfectionism, and also the fact that most of the time he probably did see the ball better than the line judges.

For me, the greatest display of tennis I have ever seen is his victory over Jimmy Connors in the 1984 Wimbledon Men’s final. He completely destroyed Connors, playing as if possessed. He won 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. He himself says it is the best match of tennis he has ever played, every shot he tried came off, and some of the shots he tried were unbelievable. Bearing in mind that Connors was the no. 2 in the World at the time, the gulf between the standard of tennis of the two in that match is truly remarkable.

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John McEnroe, holding the Wimbledon Men’s title cup, which he won in 1981, 1982 and 1984.

The entire 1984 final between McEnroe and Connors seems to be available on YouTube, split into multiple parts. Here is the 1st part:

But, although I would dearly like Federer to win on Sunday, I am in a bit of a win-win situation, because if Andy Murray wins he will become the first Celt to win Wimbledon ever, and we Celts have to stick together. 🙂

UPDATE

Federer wins 3-1. Well done Federer!

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From today’s (Monday the 9th of July 2012) Daily Telegraph newspaper.


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