Federer, Nadal not slowing down any time soon
Domination is a popular and common term often applied to sporting performance. If anything, it is tremendously overused, and therefore its meaning has been diluted by the majority of sporting publications. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines domination as “supremacy or preeminence over another” and “exercise of mastery or ruling power.” Despite your initial thoughts, the premier example of nonstop and unrelenting domination in a professional sport isn’t found on the gridiron, hardwood court, or baseball diamond. It is found on the tennis court, in the form of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, two world class athletes who continue to consistently and unshakably demolish the rest of the field.
To put Nadal and Federer’s unbridled success into perspective, they have combined to win 26 of the last 34 Grand Slam titles ( Grand Slams constitute the U.S. Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open). Since taking home his first win at the U.S Open in 2003, Federer has gone on to earn 15 other Slams, and finish as runner-up seven times. The current #3 ranked player in the world possesses a tremendous 810-186 singles record and has won 70 career singles tournaments and 8 doubles tournaments. So far, Nadal has 10 Grand Slam victories under his belt, cementing himself as the King of Clay by winning six titles at the French Open. The 25-year old Spaniard is currently ranked #2 in the world and boasts 46 career singles titles and a 544- 117 singles record.
Federer and Nadal have utilized different playing styles to dominate professional men’s tennis over the years. While many players have several specialties, Federer is an all-around quality player. His shots are crisp and accurate, and he moves with a fluidity and intelligence that help him track down shots and respond with winners. His spins are deadly, and he is known to pull off some truly impressive shots. His tremendous versatility was best summed up by former world #1 Jimmy Connors, who in 2006 stated to the BBC, “[In the modern game], you’re a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist … or you’re Roger Federer.” While many fans and experts alike believe Federer has another Grand Slam or two left in him, when all is said and done, he will go down as the greatest player in the history of men’s tennis.
Nadal spends his time treading the baseline and powering back shot after shot. He is a stubborn defender, who uses heavy topspin ground strokes to pummel him opponent. His athleticism is second to none, and he isn’t afraid to wreak havoc at the net. Even more remarkable is the fact Nadal isn’t naturally left-handed, as a young boy his father encouraged him to learn how to play with his left so he’d have an inherent advantage against the competition. Despite being recently hounded by nagging injuries, Nadal is still in his prime and is in position to potentially threaten Federer’s record 16 Slam titles.
Over the course of the last nine years, either Nadal or Federer has won 76% of the Grand Slams. That is uncanny, unbelievable, and ultimately magnificent. In a sport where it’s literally every man for himself, these two individuals have held their own through the pressure of success and with hundreds of other players breathing down their necks. I keep waiting to see a dramatic shift in the field, a time where other players not named Novak Djokovic began to make a real impact on the sport. And I don’t see it.
Andy Murray continues to struggle to end his Grand Slam drought. Andy Roddick is past his prime and demonstrates the maturity of a five-year old on the court. John Isner is solid but seems to be unable to truly break out. Gaels Monfils is erratic and has consistently proven he cannot advance far on any other court surface but clay. This is all very puzzling because it seems like the winds of change should slowly and inevitably begin reshaping the professional tennis landscape. Federer is 30 years old (middle-aged status for pro athletes), and Nadal has been riddled with various injuries due to the demands of the professional circuit. Yet they both keep chugging along at such a dominant and unrelenting pace that they seem to heads and shoulders above the competition.
And yes, I am aware of Djokovic, who put together a stellar 2011 campaign that included three Grand Slam titles and a sizzling 43-match win streak. The #1 ranked Serb is a true talent and one of the few players who can hang with and beat Nadal and Federer. But I want to see him keep up this pace for another year or two before I feel comfortable putting him in the same league as Nadal and Federer.
Nadal and Federer are only getting older, and their competition is only getting younger. But they show virtually no signs of slowing up, and will surely continue to do what they do best: dominate.