Tennis’ golden era started in 2005, when a teenage Rafael Nadal met then-World No. 1 Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals. Since then, the duo have played each other 38 more times in what is widely considered the greatest tennis rivalry ever.
Arguably the two greatest players of all time, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been part of epic Slam finals at Wimbledon (2006-08), Australian Open (2009) and four times at Roland Garros (from 2006 to 2011). It is no secret that the two have popularized the game of tennis with their battles, helping boost viewership numbers greatly.
But many believe the sport would be in for a tough time when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal hang up their boots, as their top rival Novak Djokovic is also expected to following suit soon after. No young player seems ready to take up the Big 3's mantle at the top of tennis, which is a worrying sign.
Against that background, Daily Mail journalist Mike Dickson and former Brit player Dan Kiernan discussed the future of tennis on the podcast 'Control the Controllables', while also hoping for a catalyst to emerge that would get more people to follow the sport deeply.
It is well-known that tennis doesn't have an extremely wide fan-base, with most of the viewership being restricted to ardent fans. Dickson, who has covered sports since the last 35 years, gave his say about how this problem can be solved.
"The one thing that really shifts the dial is edgy personal rivalries, that is the kind of salt and pepper of the game. Sometimes, the men's tennis world seems like a cozy, kinda corporate mate's club, always slapping each other on the back," Dickson said.
Even though Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have competed fiercely with each other for more than a decade, the two have also been the epitome of sportsmanship and cordiality. According to Dickson, tennis might need to forego this element of camaraderie if it intends to bring in new fans.
The journalist believes that top players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are often too nice when it comes to giving interviews. He claimed that if the top players get more personal and blunt with each other, it could help the popularity of the sport.
"There should be more people competing with the attitude of 'You're trying to take the food off my table'. Male players should be able to express themselves more," he went on.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done an incredible job driving the sport forward: Mike Dickson
Emphasizing how influential Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been over the last 15 years, Dickson said that their friendliness has rubbed off on the rest of the field - leading to a tour that is 'cordial' from top to bottom.
"I do think that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done an incredible job driving the sport forward. I think that the players have taken their lead from this kind of cordiality that they have most of the times between them," Dickson said.
"Players should be encouraged more to speak their minds more. I remember Sharapova vs Williams, the anticipation for the match was like a heavyweight world title fight," Dickson said.Published 28 Jul 2020, 13:37 IST