When Pete Sampras won his record 14th major, no one would have ever thought about that record getting undone in the next eight years or so. But, Roger Federer had other ideas. When he won his Wimbledon in the year 2009, he got his 15th major and right now he is the proud holder of a record 16 majors.
Now, the question is how long will Roger Federer’s record last? My answer to this question is – well, if Federer survives the ‘Nadal Scare’ he would just be holding his record for atleast two decades. I cannot forsee what sort of players will come thereafter and so I left it with saying just two decades.
When Nadal won the French open last year in a four setter against Roger Federer, thereby claiming his 10th major, the latter’s record looked more vulnerable. But almost a year since it happened, Nadal’s total count of majors is still 10, thanks to the emergence of the present World No.1, Novak Djokovic. Nadal’s best chance to win a major this year would be in Roland Garros and if he does it, his count would go upto 11. The sort of domination Novak Djokovic enjoyed last year if it continues this year too, Rafa may have to stay on 11 titles till the end of 2012, assuming he wins the French Open this year.
Thereafter, for Rafa to equal and overtake Roger’s record would become all the more difficult considering the fact that he is one of the most injury-prone players in the tennis circuit. Rafa, since he plays a baseline rally game, as years go by, will not be able to play with the same type of tempo and aggression as he has been doing nowadays. So, I feel, as it stands today, it looks unlikely that Rafa would be able to break Roger’s record. If we can say that for Nadal, then for Novak Djokovic who just has 5 majors till date, breaking Federer’s Grand Slam record would be highly impossible. Other than Nadal and Djokovic, no one else in the present pool of players even look like coming close to Federer.
Now, coming to my statement that Federer’s record will hold good for atleast two decades, I need to support it with reasons. Normally, when you see an era getting over, there would be a couple or more players we would find bursting into the ATP circuit, well equipped with the skills of winning major tournaments. There has never been a gap like what we see now. When Borg’s era was getting closer to end, Mcenroe’s era started to rise and similarly when Ivan Lendl’s game was fading, there was Boris Becker who became the next big thing in tennis. Round about the same time, we saw a very young Pete Sampras winning his first US open then. And even if we take Sampras’ case, Hewitt was looked upon as someone who would turn things around though he never quite achieved what was expected of him. In short, there has never been a dearth of young talents in tennis whenever one great player retired.
We are about to see an era, which is perhaps the greatest ever known or heard, coming to an end in another couple of years or so. I am talking about Roger Federer’s era. By now, as a tennis fan, you would expect someone to fill the shoes of the great Roger but to my dismay there has been no one as yet. Many still speak about players like Milos Raonic and Bernard Tomic who are viewed as replacements in the future. When we talk of young guns in tennis, normally such players who are just over their teens are expected to beat players who are aged thirty or perhaps a bit lesser. A good example was when we witnessed a 19 year old Federer ending Sampras’ reign in Wimbledon. We had seen how Agassi, who was 30 plus then got beaten by younger players in those days like Nadal and Federer repeatedly. But, I don’t see the youngsters nowadays dominating the older players. Leave alone Roger Federer who is a special player in every sense even in his thirties, the youngsters like Raonic and Tomic are unable to beat lesser known players who are nearing their thirties. Yesterday’s loss of Raonic to Ferrer in Barcelona Open is one such example.
When Rafa won his first Grand Slam he was just 18 years of age and when Djokovic won it he was just 21 years. Both Tomic and Raonic , aged 19 and 21 respectively, do not look like even reaching the semifinals of any majors, leave alone winning them. There is one Nishkori from Japan who is doing well, atleast better than these two. But then again, he gets capitulated against stronger players who are veterans right now.
So, in my opinion these youngsters have to wait for a few or more years to win their first major. Atleast for the next five years it is not going to happen. Both Nadal and Djokovic and even Del Potro who is even more younger than the other two, could split the majors between them. Considering the poor and lackluster performance of Andy Murray recently, I have taken him out of the equation and it will be worse for the younger players if he also joins the party in the future. So, for the next five years the future generation players in men’s tennis are likely to have no majors between them.
From there on, if they have to try winning majors, each of them can get a maximum of 6 or 7 Grand Slams and I feel even that would be difficult. The reason is the type of game the youngsters are playing nowadays. The baseline game, unless it’s consistently played in every match, one cannot keep playing seven good matches in a row which is a basic prerequisite of winning a Grand Slam. I don’t see that quality in either Raonic or Bernard Tomic to provide error-free games. Thus, they are bound to lose a few matches here and there and so they won’t be in a position to put forward a performance which would help them to break Federer’s records.
Furthermore, since the younger generation have a better liking for baseline games, atleast for the next ten years or more we would be seeing games containing rallies and not volleys. Such things are going to do no good for the players as they would be plagued by injuries more often than not.
So, when you look at the situation from any perspective, Federer, if only he survives “Nadal Scare” will be enjoying his Grand Slam record for many more years to come.