The Past Week Proves 2017 Will Be Tough For The Big Four

Andy Murray (zimbio.com)

One certain thing has arisen following a roller coaster week in Acapulco and Dubai, the renowned ‘big four’ have their work cut out this year.

World No.1 Andy Murray was joined by the formidable Roger Federer as the headline acts at the 25th Dubai Tennis Championships. Federer, who lifted a record 18th grand slam title at the Australian Open in January, was the first to fall. Facing world No.116 Evgeny Donskoy in the second round, golden opportunities came and went for the Swiss maestro. Crashing out in three sets, Federer failed to convert a trio of match points in the second set, lost a 5-2 lead in the third and wasted a 5-1 advantage in the decisive tiebreaker.

“I had my chances. I should close it out. Don’t know how it got away, but he did very well, and yeah, it’s a rough one, for sure.” Federer said following his loss.

Murray managed to live up to his seeding to clinch the title, but it wasn’t without a severe scare (seven to be precise). Facing Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals, the Wimbledon champion fended off seven match points during a 38-point tiebreaker to keep his title hopes alive.

“Of course losing is always disappointing, but I’m not sad. I think I played great tennis, one of my best matches,” 33-year-old Kohlschreiber said following his loss.
“Okay, the result is sad, but the way I played, the way I enjoyed myself on the court, there is nothing to be sad about.”

What is the ‘Big Four’ in tennis? The Big four refers to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Together the four have dominated the majority of major tournaments in the men’s game since 2003.

9000 miles away in Mexico, the other half of the big four also suffered their share of blips. The Acapulco Open featured a star-studded field containing five top-10 players. Headlining the tournament’s best ever field was fan favourites Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. After winning their two opening matches, the duo seemed on course for their 50th clash on the tour until Nick Kyrgios spoiled their dream.

The Australian constructed a masterful display, featuring 25 aces and 41 winners, to send the former world No.1 out of Mexico. The triumph illustrated how much potential the controversy-stricken player has as a bitter Djokovic was once again left facing some uncomfortable questions.

“‘He deserved to win. Congrats.” A bemused Djokovic said during his brief 12-word press conference.

Niki Pilic, who coached Djokovic during his junior years, believes that Serbian is currently lacking the spark in his game.

“Novak had a physical and mental edge second to none, he was in sixth gear,” Pilic recently told Bosnian newspaper Nezavisne.
“That tenacity is no longer the same. It remains to be seen whether he can rediscover it and get back to the top level.

Some consolation for Djokovic was Rafael Nadal’s shortcoming in the final. Facing Sam Querrey, a player who he had beaten on four previous occasions, the Spaniard was stunned in straight sets. Prior to the defeat, Nadal had a 14-match winning streak in the tournament.

“He played very well, almost reaching perfection,” said Nadal. “I played under a lot of pressure because of his serve and baseline game. He left me with very few options, and the few I had he also played good. I have to congratulate him.”

The past seven days have been far from smooth running for the big four, but it is something that is hardly surprising. With the emerging of new talents such as Alexander Zverev as well as the resurgence of others such as Grigor Dimitrov, this year proves that the once invincible ‘big four’ are no longer as mighty as they have been in the past. This was best shown at the Australian Open with Djokovic’s and Murray’s losses in the first week.

The legacy of the ‘big four’ is something that will stay in the history of tennis forever. Between the four they have won 47 grand slam titles and 96 Masters 1000 trophies. It is an achievement that the sport has never seen and may never see again. Nevertheless, as others on the tour become more and more comfortable with playing against the stars of the men’s game, it is inevitable that the dominance of the quartet in 2017 is likely to tamed by their rivals.

The second coming in tennis is starting to occur and it is one welcomed by many.

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