Andy Murray failed to participate in the 2018 Wimbledon, having struggled to reach peak fitness levels following his hip surgery. It has been more than a year since Murray last played at the Grand Slam level. There has been a spate of injuries on the men's side since 2016, and nearly every top player has fallen prey to it. It has ignited a lot of debates regarding the surfaces, and the best of five format, but the truth is that tennis is a very physical sport and injuries are a part of it. Nearly all the top players are close to 30, and with age, the risk of injuries are ever increasing.
To play at a consistent level at Grand Slams is a very difficult task. Equally difficult is to turn up at every Slam with peak fitness levels. Success comes to a player only when he is playing at full tilt. Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori are two contrasting examples of how fitness affects a player's chances at the highest level.
Over the course of tennis history, there are several players who have maintained a high level of fitness and consistency. There are 4 Grand Slam tournaments during a year, and the conditions are vastly different in every single one of them. To turn up at each Slam over a period of time is a very difficult task, and must be appreciated as such.
Following is a look at the Top 10 players with most consecutive Grand Slam appearances:
(10) David Ferrer (Spain): 50
From: 2003 Australian Open to 2015 French Open.
Win-Loss Record: 145-62.
Best Performance: Final (2013 French Open)
David Ferrer made his Grand Slam debut at the 2003 Australian Open, and has only missed 1 Grand Slam in his 15-year career. Ferrer was forced to miss the 2015 Wimbledon due to an elbow injury, snapping his streak at 50. If it were not for that injury, Ferrer would be close to the top of this list. It is a perfect encapsulation of his career; so near and yet so far. Ferrer has won 725 matches in his career, a record for players without a Grand Slam title.
Ferrer has won 27 titles in his career, and 13 of them have come on clay. It is then no surprise that Ferrer has performed his best at the French Open. Ferrer reached the final of the 2013 French Open, but was swept aside by Rafael Nadal in straight sets. Ferrer reached the semi-finals in 2012, and has made the quarter-finals on 4 different occasions as well. He is no slouch on other surfaces either, having made the semi-finals at the Australian Open twice (2011, 2013), and the US Open twice as well (2007, 2012). He also made the Quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2012 and 2013, which remains his best performance there.
Ferrer achieved his career-high ranking of 3 in 2013, and has ended the year as a top 10 player eight times, 7 times in a row (2009-2015). Ferrer is a 3-time Davis Cup winner, and also made the final at the World Tour finals in 2007. The Spaniard is near the end of his career, and while he may never win a Slam, he will be an inspiration to his fellow athletes and fans across the globe.
#9 Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland): 50
From: 2005 French Open to 2017 Wimbledon.
Win-Loss Record: 132-50.
Grand Slam Titles: 3.
Stan Wawrinka made his Grand Slam debut at the 2005 French Open. Wawrinka reached the 3rd round, losing to finalist Mariano Puerta in 4 sets. It marked the beginning of a wonderful streak for Wawrinka, who did not miss a Grand Slam for the next 12 years, but all good things come to an end. Wawrinka struggled with injuries in the latter part of 2017, and was forced to miss the 2017 US Open, where he was the defending champion.
Wawrinka always had the talent to be a world beater, but he rarely lived up to the hype. In his first 31 Grand Slam tournaments, Wawrinka made it to the quarter-final stage only twice. Wawrinka pushed Novak Djokovic to 5 sets at the 2013 Australian Open, and it was the beginning of change for him. Stan would go on to win 3 Grand Slams in the next 3 years (2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open, 2016 US Open). He defeated at least one member of the Big Four in all his Slam victories. Wawrinka also reached the Quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2014 and 2015, and is only a Wimbledon title away from completing the career Grand Slam.
Wawrinka achieved his career high ranking of 3 in January 2014, and has finished in the Top 10 for 5 straight years (2013-2017). Wawrinka, alongside Federer, won the Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Davis Cup in 2014. He is yet to return to full fitness since his injury, and whenever he does, there should be little doubt that he would add to his Slam tally.
#8 Novak Djokovic (Serbia): 51
From: 2005 Australian Open to 2017 Wimbledon.
Win-Loss Record: 251-41.
Grand Slam Titles: 13.
Novak Djokovic made his Grand Slam debut at the 2005 Australian Open. He lost in the opening round to eventual champion Marat Safin. Djokovic won his first Grand Slam match at the 2005 French Open against Robby Ginepri, before retiring against Guillermo Coria in the second round.
Djokovic gained a reputation of faking injuries, but it is important to note that he did not miss a Grand Slam tournament till the 2017 US Open. A shoulder injury meant that Djokovic retired at the 2017 Wimbledon, and subsequently missed the US Open. It ended his streak of 51 consecutive Grand Slam appearances.
Djokovic has won 13 Grand Slam tournaments in his career, winning the Australian Open a record six times. He has also won Wimbledon 4 times, US Open twice and French Open once. In 2016, Djokovic became the first player in 47 years to hold all the 4 Grand Slams simultaneously. Djokovic has been incredibly consistent during his career, and has often been overshadowed by Federer's looming presence.
Novak has made the quarter-final in 41 out of his 54 Grand Slam tournaments. He also made 28 consecutive Slam quarter-finals, 14 consecutive Slam semi-finals, and 6 consecutive finals.
Djokovic won the Bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and has won the World Tour Finals on 5 occasions, 4 times in a row (2012-2015). Novak has been ranked the No.1 player for over 4 years (223 weeks). He also finished in the Top 10 for 10 straight years (2007-2016), and has a winning record over both Federer and Nadal. Djokovic recently won his 13th Grand Slam, his first in two years, and there should be no doubt that he will add to that number in the coming years.
#7 Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic): 52
From: 2003 US Open to 2016 Wimbledon.
Win-Loss Record: 143-58.
Best Performance: Final (Wimbledon 2010)
Arguably the greatest player to have never won a Grand Slam, Tomas Berdych made his Slam debut at the 2003 US Open. He reached the 2nd round, losing to 32nd seed Juan Ignacio Chela. Berdych played 52 consecutive Slams from thereon up to the 2016 Wimbledon. Berdych was forced to miss the 2016 US Open due to appendicitis, bringing an end to his remarkable streak.
Berdych shot into prominence when he defeated Roger Federer at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Berdych's greatest moment came at the 2010 Wimbledon, where he reached the final defeating Federer and Djokovic en route, but succumbed to Nadal in the final, losing in straight sets. Wimbledon is where Berdych has enjoyed most success, apart from reaching the final there in 2010, he has reached the semi-final twice (2016, 2017) and quarter-finals twice as well (2007, 2013).
Berdych is the only player other than the Big Four to reach the semi-finals of all the 4 grand slams. He reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open twice (2014, 2015), and has reached the quarter-finals on 5 other occasions as well. Berdych also reached the semi-finals of the French Open in 2009, and the US Open in 2012. He is one of the few players to have defeated all members of the Big Four in Grand Slam tennis. Berdych is a two time Davis Cup winner, and finished in the top 10 for 7 straight years (2010-2016).
#6 Andreas Seppi (Italy): 53*
From: 2005 Wimbledon to 2018 Wimbledon.
Win-Loss Record: 54-54.
Best Performance: 4th Round (6 times).
Andreas Seppi made his Grand Slam debut at the 2004 US Open, and defeated 11th seed Rainer Schuttler in his first match. Seppi was unable to qualify for the next 2 slams, losing in the 2nd round of qualifying in both of them. Seppi made his return at the 2005 Wimbledon Championships, and has not missed a slam since. He leapfrogged Tomas Berdych for the 6th spot on this list at the 2018 Wimbledon, where he lost in the 2nd round to eventual finalist Kevin Anderson.
Seppi has had the most success at the Australian Open where he reached the 4th round on 4 different occasions (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018). His most famous moment came at the 2015 Australian Open when he defeated Roger Federer en route to the 4th round. Seppi also reached the 4th round of the 2012 French Open, he led Novak Djokovic (gunning for a calendar slam), by 2 sets to love but Djokovic ultimately prevailed. Seppi also reached the 4th round at the 2013 Wimbledon, and has reached the third round of the US Open on 3 different occasions.
The Italian has a 50% win record at Grand slam tournaments, while he has not enjoyed great success, he is no pushover as well. Seppi has had his share of upsets at the highest level, and would like to build upon it. Modern day athletes are playing late into their career, and Seppi is no different. Seppi is 34, and has shown no signs of slowing down. He has a good 3-4 years left in him, and the longer he plays, the higher he would go on this list.
#5 Stefan Edberg (Sweden): 54
From: Wimbledon 1983 to US Open 1996.
Win-Loss Record: 178-47.
Grand Slam titles 06.
Such has been the dominance of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal that a generation of great players do not get the praise that they deserve. Make no mistake about it, Stefan Edberg is a first ballot hall of famer. Edberg is the only player before the 2000s to make his presence felt on this list.
He made his grand slam debut at the 1983 Australian Open, but missed the French Open that followed. Starting from the 1983 Wimbledon, Edberg did not miss a slam till the end of his career (US Open 1996), thus ending his streak at 54. He was the first player (male or female) to play 50 consecutive grand slams in the Open era.
Edberg's best slam was the Australian Open, which he won twice (1985, 1987), and he reached the final on 3 other occasions (1990, 1992, 1993). Edberg also won Wimbledon twice (1988, 1990), and US Open two times as well (1991, 1992). He never won the French Open but reached the final there in 1989, losing to 17-year-old Michael Chang.
Edberg was ranked as the World No.1 for 72 weeks, and won the Tour finals in 1989. He also won 3 doubles grand slams, and the Davis Cup on 4 separate occasions. He also won the bronze medal in both singles and doubles in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Edberg won the sportsmanship award 5 times, and the award was later renamed after him.
#4 Wayne Ferreira (South Africa): 56
From: 1991 Australian Open to 2004 US Open.
Win-Loss record: 104-56.
Best Performance: Semi-finals (Australian Open 1992, Australian Open 2003)
Wayne Ferreira made his grand slam debut at the 1990 Wimbledon, reaching the second round. He failed to participate in the 1990 US Open, which was the only time Ferreira missed a slam in his career. Starting from the 1991 Australian Open, Ferreira played in every slam till the 2004 US Open. He lost to Hewitt in the first round, and did not play a Grand Slam thereafter. Ferreira broke Edberg's record for the most consecutive slam appearances at the 2004 Wimbledon, and stayed atop the list for almost 8 years.
Ferreira's most successful slam was the Australian Open, where he reached the semi-finals in 1992 and 2003. He also made the Quarter-finals in 2002, and 4th round on 6 separate occasions. Ferreira made the Quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 1994 and at the US Open in 1992. His best result at the French Open was a 4th round appearance in 1996.
Ferreira was ranked No.6 in the world in 1995 and finished inside the top 10 for 2 straight years (1995, 1996). Ferreira won 15 titles in his career, including 2 masters. He won a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics alongside Piet Novel and won the Hopman Cup in 2000. Ferreira made the most of his potential and retired from the tour as the record holder in 2005.
#3 Fernando Verdasco (Spain): 61
From: 2003 Wimbledon to 2018 Wimbledon.
Win-Loss record: 102-61.
Best Performance: Semi-Finals (2009 Australian Open)
Fernando Verdasco made his Grand slam debut at the 2003 Wimbledon, losing to Jarkko Nieminen in the first round. Verdasco is yet to miss a grand slam in his career, and has played 61 consecutive grand slam. Verdasco's first grand slam match win came at the 2003 US Open. He qualified as a lucky loser and knocked out 17th seed and fellow countryman Tommy Robredo in the first round.
Verdasco's best result at a slam came at the 2009 Australian Open. He reached the semi-finals and lost to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. The match lasted over 5 hours and is ranked as one of the greatest of the Open era. Verdasco would have his revenge years later, knocking out Nadal in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open. Verdasco reached the quarter-finals of the US Open twice (2009, 2010) and Wimbledon once (2013). He has reached the 4th round at the French Open 7 times, but has failed to progress beyond.
Verdasco had the potential to win multiple slams, but failed to live up to it. This is not to suggest that he has not had his moments. He is a former World No.7, and finished in the top 10 for 2 straight years (2009, 2010). He has also won the Davis Cup on 3 separate occasions and won the Hopman cup in 2013. Verdasco is capable of beating anyone on his day, and remains the biggest giant slayer in modern day tennis. He won his 100th grand slam match at the 2018 French Open and looks set to win many more.
Verdasco is only 34 and is likely to end at the top of this list. The men's field has never been more open than now so don't be surprised if Verdasco feasts on it one day. Among other things, if the Spaniard manages to retire without missing a single Grand slam, it would be one of the greatest achievements in tennis history.
#2 Roger Federer (Switzerland): 65
From: 2000 Australian Open to 2016 Australian Open/
Win-Loss Record: 336-53.
Grand Slam Titles: 20
There are not a lot of tennis related lists that do not feature Roger Federer at the top or near it, and this one is no different. Federer has been a model of consistency throughout his career, and his presence on this list is further proof of the same. Roger Federer made his grand slam debut at the 1999 French Open, but failed to qualify for the US Open later in the year. It was a red herring for the 19-year-old Swiss, and he took heed of it.
Starting from the 2000 Australian Open, Federer appeared in 65 straight slams up to the 2016 French Open. A knee injury forced him out of the 2016 French Open, thus halting his streak at 65. During this period, he won 17 slams, appeared in 10 consecutive finals, 23 consecutive semi-finals and 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals. These are feats of consistency unmatched in tennis history. Federer became the record holder on the men's side at the 2014 Australian Open passing Wayne Ferreira (56), and the overall record holder at the 2015 French Open, passing Ai Sugiyama's record of 61 consecutive grand slam appearances.
Federer is near the end of his tennis career and is yet to retire mid-match. An incredible feat, considering Federer has played more than 1400 matches in his career. The Swiss has won 98 titles in his career and would be looking to go ahead of Jimmy Connors who sits atop with 109 titles.
The only thing missing from Federer's glittering resume is an Olympic gold, and with him recently signing a clothing deal with Japanese clothing company Uniqlo, it would be fair to say that Tokyo 2020 is the biggest mission looking ahead.
#1 Feliciano Lopez (Spain): 66*
From: 2002 French Open to 2018 Wimbledon.
Win-Loss Record: 93-67.
Best Performance: Q/F (Wimbledon 05, Wimbledon 08, Wimbledon 11, US Open 15)
Feliciano Lopez made his grand slam debut at the 2001 French Open, where he lost to fellow countryman Carlos Moya in the opening round. Lopez failed to qualify for the next 3 slams and made his return to Grand Slam tennis at the 2002 French Open as a lucky loser. Lopez defeated Didac Perez for his first grand slam win before succumbing to 3rd seed Tommy Haas in the second round.
Starting from the 2002 French Open, Lopez is yet to miss a grand slam tournament, and has now appeared in 66 consecutive slams. Lopez passed Roger Federer for the top spot in this list at the 2018 Wimbledon, where he lost in the second round to Juan Martin Del Potro.
Lopez is predominantly a grass court player, and it is at Wimbledon where he has had the most success. He has made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon on three separate occasions (2005, 2008, 2011), and has made the 4th round 3 times as well. Lopez also made the quarter-finals of the 2015 US Open, losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in 4 tight sets. The Spaniard has made 4th round appearances at Roland Garros as well as the Australian Open. He achieved his career-high ranking of 12 in March 2015.
Lopez won the 2016 French Open doubles title alongside Marc Lopez and has won the Davis Cup 4 times as well. Lopez is 36 and has shown that age is no barrier to consistency. There is a very good chance that he makes 75 consecutive Grand Slam appearances, and wins 100 grand slam matches. If it happens, it will be thoroughly deserved.