Patrick Mouratoglou

Two great Champions for an exceptional decade

Patrick Mouratoglou

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On the eve of the upcoming US Open I find it interesting to focus on the absolute domination of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer over the last ten years.
These two great champions have printed their name on the history books.
It is also the moment to analyze their real chances to win at Flushing Meadows, which will start in a few days.

Two players have written tennis's history over the last five years.

If we take a closer look at the history of tennis, we can notice only one, or two players have dominated a decade of tennis.
In the 70's it was Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg who were on top of the tennis world and claimed numerous Grand Slams.
In the 80's, it was Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander and John McEnroe turn.
In the 90's Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have written the most wonderful moments of tennis.
It was then the turn of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to make history headlines since the beginning of the twenty first century. However there is a clear distinction between the Swiss and the Spaniard and the others since they have totally dominated the tennis world for the last five years.
It is also very surprising if we also consider today's general level of play have improved so much. Therefore, many specialists think it will be more and more difficult for players to dominate.
But one statistic is still stunning:
Federer and Nadal have claimed 17 of the last 19 majors played.
Taking the numbers one step further, over the last 27 majors, only 4 have not been claimed by one of these tremendous players.
Numbers tell the story for these two great champions, who managed to downgrade all players ranked under them, even if they are also true very good players.
We have to look at the facts clearly. We are lucky to be in the most amazing era in the history of tennis.

They managed to downgrade very talented players.

We don't measure enough the dimension of this unparalleled situation. Two amazing players fight in order to mark history books time and again. They took away most of the majors and left an entire generation of very good players with small pieces of the pie.  It was unfortunate for them to fall in the same era. Of course I'm thinking of Nalbandian, Safin, Roddick, or Davydenko, who would have had a greater career in another era. They constantly had to face Roger or Rafa and gave up.
After countless setbacks they had to be happy with being forced to win minor league events during their career.
Andy Roddick won the US Open but then had to be satisfied by reaching three Wimbledon finals and one US Open final. He lost all four matches in the hands of Roger.
Marat Safin met the man from Switzerland 12 times, but only managed to win a couple of times against him.
Davydenko was a semi-finalist in four majors and lost three times against Roger Federer.
As for the actual generation, they are also heavily punished by these two greats despite being very talented. Of course I'm thinking of Berdych, Söderling, Murray, Djokovic, Cilic, and Del Potro.

Federer and Nadal have not been in the same shape at the same time for almost three years.

The constant fight undergone by Federer and Nadal is exhausting for the body and the spirit.
That is why they have not been at the peak of their form at the same time.
We had the total domination of one, or the other in succession. Rafa often struggled with his fitness, while Roger had a lack of motivation.
2007 was a Federer year, where the Swiss won three Grand Slams. He then showed less motivation and let Nadal take the lead.
2008 was a Nadal year, where he won both the French Open and Wimbledon. The Swiss was said to be declining slowly. Some even thought he would retire.
In 2009, Nadal was injured and it was Roger's turn to take command of the ship.
The man from Switzerland also managed to grab both the French Open and Wimbledon, claiming at the same moment his first Roland Garros crown and breaking another record by winning all four majors. Some specialists are upset about the Spaniard's health. We could read on some papers his knees would not last long.
In 2010, the Mallorcan made a very successful return to competition. He suffered from being out of the game for weeks and his motivation is huge. Once again he managed to claim both the French Open and Wimbledon. However the Swiss is having trouble finding the same interest in the game after what happened in 2009. His wife also gave birth to two twin daughters. Roger clearly was in quest for a new motivation.
But despite his loss in the two midseason majors he started the North American series with a boost. His fighting spirit and determination are back after reaching the Toronto final and winning Cincinnati. As for the actual Rafa, he seems to be struggling finding his game. He lost both tournaments making unusual unforced errors.

No clear favorite on the US Open.

Nadal is struggling with his game, while Roger is just starting to find it, which means a bunch of very promising talents and the already old guard could turn tables around :
Murray, Djokovic, Berdych, Baghdatis, Nalbandian and Fish are determined to break the absolute domination of Roger and Rafa.

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