TENNIS: 2012 epitomises the greatest era in men’s tennis

Over the past ten years many experts believe Roger Federer has ascended to the title of the greatest tennis player in history.  Within a similar time frame a young Spaniard in Rafael Nadal came along and developed one of sport’s most famous rivalries and became, at the very least, the greatest clay court player in history.  In 2011 Novak Djokovic had an unbelievable season, since Rod Laver’s calendar year Grand Slam in 1969, by winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.  All that tennis fans wanted to talk about were the top three players and their standing in history.  Andy Murray was a consistent performer for a number of years and a Grand Slam ‘bridesmaid’ on four occasions.  He was always criticised for his overt outbursts and mental inability to win a Grand Slam.  However, the 2012 US Open has seen the emergence of Andy Murray as a Grand Slam champion and cements this as the greatest era in men’s tennis.

As the saying goes ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’, but tennis enthusiasts know exactly how lucky the sport is right now.  This dominance in the men’s game is astonishing.  Fifteen years ago the sport was graced with players such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Pat Rafter, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic and Jim Courier.  This was a relatively even era with the exception of Sampras and Agassi who won 22 Grand Slams between them by the end of their careers.  As it stands Roger Federer has 17 Grand Slam titles, Rafael Nadal has 11, Novak Djokovic has 5 and Andy Murray finally has 1.  With the exception of Federer the other three players are at their peak age.

At every Grand Slam it seems there are records being broken or new ones created.  At the Australian Open Nadal and Djokovic played in the longest Grand Slam final in history.  At the French Open Nadal won an unprecedented seventh title eclipsing Bjorn Borg’s record of six titles.  A month later at Wimbledon Federer won the championship for a seventh time equalling Pete Sampras.  As a result of that victory Federer reclaimed the number one ranking and surpassed Sampras’ previous record.  At the US Open Federer reached an extraordinary 34th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final and Murray became the first British player to win a Grand Slam, since Fred Perry in 1936.  That was just this year!

2012 saw the top four share a Grand Slam title each.  It was the first time that four different winners have held a Grand Slam title in the same year since 2003.  Not only did they win a Grand Slam but they won the title that has effectively started their careers.  Djokovic won the Australian Open and first won it in 2008.  Nadal won the French Open and has only lost there once.  Federer won Wimbledon which was his first Grand Slam title back 2003.  Murray claimed the US Open title, which is where he made his first final back in 2008.      

For players like Llyeton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Marat Safin and Juan Martin Del Potro, they may have been able to win more Grand Slam titles if it were not for the supremacy of these top four athletes.  Next year it will be intriguing to witness what new heights Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray will reach.  But for now Murray will just be counting his lucky stars that after the 2012 US Open final that it was not five consecutive finals losses.  The final major event of the year is the Barclays World Tour Championships in London beginning in November.

 

Sean Munaweera is a Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University.  Follow his in depth analysis on Tennis, AFL and other sports on Twitter: @sean_muna              

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