For the past fifty years Men’s Tennis has had many rivalries. In the 70’s we had Borg and Conners, then during the 80’s we had Lendl, McEnroe and Becker, it was the turn of the Americans in the 90’s with the two powerhouses of Agassi and Sampras. At the turn of the millennium Europe began to dominate with Federer and Nadal, but now in 2012 we are blessed to have a rivalry of four as Novak Djokovic and our very own Andy Murray join both Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer in competing for every Major possible and in my opinion have created both the most exciting and competitive era of tennis.
For the past eight years Men’s Tennis has mainly been dominated by Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal and between them collecting 27 major titles in the process. Their success became so dominant that for eleven finals in a row a major title was by either Nadal or Federer, but in 2008 in the Rod Laver Arena a new champion was crowned. A young Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open and his first Grand Slam title. Was a new rival emerging to challenge for the top? Especially after defeating Federer in the semi-final and breaking the Swiss player’s amazing record run of 10 consecutive finals. Well the quick answer would be no and this was put into fact as 10 of the next 11 finals were again won by Federer or Nadal. It was clear something big was going to be needed to topple these two amazing champions.
So in 2011 up steps Djokovic and after working harder and stronger both mentally and physically Novak was ready to show that his Australian Open win was not merely a one-off. With Federer struggling with injury and approaching 30, Djokovic and Nadal were out to prove their youth, pace and power were enough to shift the tables away from the legendary Federer and create their own sporting history. Djokovic started 2011 breaking British hearts by beating Andy Murray in the final and collecting his second major title and this was just a pointer of what was to follow. The Serbian added both Wimbledon and the US Open to his titles and with Nadal winning the French Open, for the first time in 9 years Roger Federer had not won a major title. Were we slowly bidding farewell to the most decorated man in Men’s Tennis history?
Of course while Djokovic and Nadal were collecting titles, there was always one player never too far away – Andy Murray. We Brits had pinned all our hopes on Murray becoming the first major winner since Fred Perry back in 1936 but as we all know we are used to heartache in sport. In the space of four years Murray had reached five semi-finals and three finals but only to come up short. So with Federer fading away and Murray never quite having enough on the day, were Nadal and Djokovic going to streak away with every upcoming major title?
Well in 2012 a Golden Era began. For the first time in nine years, each of the four Majors were won by a different tennis player. It began with familiarity with the Australian Open again being won by Novak Djokovic – his third major title in a row and fifth in total. Rafa Nadal dubbed the “King of Clay” proved why he should be credited with such a nickname by winning his 7th French Open title and adding to his tally of ten major titles. If Nadal is described as the “King of Clay” then it was now time for the “Gentleman of Grass” as Roger Federer was out to prove there was still life in him yet and age is just a number as he was searching for his 7th Wimbledon title.
No one would begrudge Federer his record Wimbledon title if it was not for one thing. He faced Murray in the final. Andy Murray had reached his first Wimbledon final after crashing out in the semis the previous three years running. As Britain had fingers crossed and hopes pinned on every shot unfortunately it was all to no avail. The experience shone through from the Swiss warhorse and Andy Murray was inevitability dealt with in four sets. Again Murray had to face the thought of “so close but maybe next time” for a major honour, but little did he know that next time was just around the corner.
With Team GB shining in the London Olympics, Murray had his own chance to get quick revenge on Federer and duly did so beating him in the gold medal final in three sets on the court where he had suffered heartbreak just three weeks previous. With one major title remaining and Nadal ruled out of the US Open due to injury, it gave the other three players a chance to end the year on a high. With number one seed Federer crashing out to up-and-coming Tomas Berdych in the quarter finals, both Murray and Djokovic knew their biggest rival was no longer a threat. Murray and Djokovic both got through tough semi-finals and on Sunday 9th September 2012, finals day history was about to be made. As one of the most pulsating finals ever ebbed and flowed and the clock ticked past midnight at 2:04am Murray sent British fans into jubilation as he won his first major title and hopefully is starting a dynasty for British tennis.
It is not just in the Men’s game that British Tennis is beginning to flourish. Both Heather Watson and Laura Robson are progressing up the rankings to prove themselves as future stars. With promising junior titles behind them – Robson winning the Wimbledon junior champion and Watson winning the US junior title respectively – it’s more than enough to show they have what it takes to compete with the best. Only earlier in October 2012 Heather Watson became the first British woman to win a WTA title in 24 years by winning the Japan Open and thus breaking into the World’s top players for the first time in her short career. It is yet more evidence that British Tennis is on the up.
So with 2013 just a few months away, next year promises to be a great year for Men’s Tennis. With four players looking to retain their respective major titles, Murray looking to add a second honour to his career, Djokovic hoping to win his first ever French Open, Nadal looking to prove he is better than ever battling back from injury and let us not forget Roger Federer who is looking to prove he is not ready to chuck the towel in yet and could show the young guns he can still teach them a thing or two. Could we be looking back in 20 years times at a Golden Era in Men’s Tennis? Possibly the greatest ever era in Men’s Tennis? Only time will tell.
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