Why Roger Federer and His Slam Record is Not Impossible for Novak Djokovic Anymore - UBITENNIS
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Why Roger Federer and His Slam Record is Not Impossible for Novak Djokovic Anymore

Ivan Pasquariello

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When he won his second US Open title; his 10th Grand Slam title; his third Grand Slam of the season; his 9th major in four years, Novak Djokovic finally held his head high. Not that the Serb hadn’t the will and righteousness to do so long ago, let’s be clear about it. But on September 14th for the first time something has changed between Novak and his view on the history of the sport and of those champions who did dictate it and write on it before he could get started.

 

For the first time, Djokovic wasn’t afraid to answer a question regarding an immaculate record made possession of Roger Federer in 2012. The seventeen Grand Slam titles which are as great as they sound.

For the past three years all experts and fans in tennis – we can also include the other ATP players in the list – thought there was only one name designed to threaten that record, and that name had to be Rafael Nadal.

federer NadalSince the Nadal-Federer rivalry kicked off in 2004 in Miami, it has been the highlight and evergreen spirit that brought together tennis fans, created new legions of tennis affectionate and racquet lovers, far more than the sport had ought to define as target when the Sampras era came to a halt. Federer the crystalline talent, Nadal the infinite will and humbleness. The clash of the two titans has been all tennis fans have been looking for to watch in every single Grand Slam final over the past decade or so. And those two made sure expectations met with reality, winning all titles they could, putting together an impressive total of 31 Grand Slam titles in two. So there they sit, first and second place (tied with Sampras) for the most major successes in the history of the sport.

What about the other contenders?

There aren’t, well, there weren’t. The Fab-Four era seemed a tentative to throw some spice in a perfectly balanced plot. Truth is that no matter who came, if he were to threaten the Nadal-Federer rivalry he never was warmly welcomed. Roger and Rafa managed to become the only possible antithesis of one another. One could be “enemy” of the other, but whoever came next would automatically be the “enemy” of the two of them simulatenously.

And so those who won Grand Slam titles in the Nadal-Federer era had to succumb to the role of the actor in a supporting role. Safin, Del Potro, Murray, Cilic, Wawrinka and Djokovic. None of them has ever been loved or has ever polarised the tennis fandom as much as Roger and Rafa had done in 11 years together.

But the time has come to admit – dear Fedal friends – that there is one more player in the picture, someone who could possibly end his career further up than those two untouchable legends. And the problem – for those attached to the Federer and Nadal rivalry above all – is that since the 14th of September 2015, he now knows it too.

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal (foto di Tasha Pop)

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal (foto by Tasha Pop)

Asked by the New York Times what he thought about a chance to pass Federer and his Grand Slam record, Novak Djokovic didn’t smile a dreamy smile of “I Wish”, nor did he look down thinking the reporter was over excited. The Serb didn’t dwell on humble justifications of impossibilities. Novak just said:

“I would not be truthful to you if I would say I’m not thinking about it. Of course I am.”

Now a run to history is possible for Djokovic. With 10 Grand Slam titles at 28 years of age, after finishing a season worth of a Calendar Grand Slam, Novak has no reason to keep his head down and prolong in the overdue admiration for those two legends who dictated the sport so well these past ten years. At the current stage of things, Novak can be considered part of a triangle of tennis dominators, a name that will fill in the history pages.

Novak won his 10 Slam titles facing and beating all top players, including Federer and Nadal, Murray, Del Potro and also the new generation of Raonic, Dimitrov, Kyrgios, or the always good players like Berdych, Tsonga, Gasquet, Cilic. The one player he also beat, but lost to in a threatening way has been Stan Wawrinka, who took his career Slam dream away this Spring in Paris.

And it looks like Wawrinka could be the only one to trouble Djokovic in Grand Slam finals next year. But would the Swiss be enough? Novak is currently the most in-form, adaptable, multi-surface, physically at peak player in the field. Not only he is the favorite to win all the tournaments at the end of this season as he did over the past three years. He will also be the player to beat in Melbourne and then again in Paris, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows next year.

Considering the perfect balance off and on court, of body and mind, Novak should have at least 5 more seasons of high level tennis. Let’s consider two Grand Slam titles per season, which is a realistically achievable goal for the Serb. Then the picture comes off blur.

Those who were born before him failed to stop him in the long run. Those born to beat him are yet to blossom. Novak is 28, is following a gluten free diet, is married, has a family, is motivated to win more. He will have crowds against again, when he will face Federer in a Grand Slam final, for instance. But maybe one day, together with a place in history, he will have found a place in the heart of the tennis fans.

It will be the moment that fans follow Novak in his realisation. Yes, he could end up being the Greatest of his time, of all time.

 

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Nikoloz Basilashvili survives scare in Sardinia

The third day of the Italian 250 event saw a trio of seeded players secure their places in the quarter-finals.

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A strong Mediterranean wind was not enough to blow away Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Sardegna Open as he came through a tense 3-setter against Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik.

 

The fourth seed’s typically aggressive style at times threatened to prove his undoing in Cagliari. A topsy-turvy encounter in blustery conditions was ultimately defined by the marathon tenth game in the deciding set, Kovalik missing five match points as his opponent’s serve just about held firm. Basilashvili then immediately broke himself, going on to complete a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory.

He will take on Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter-finals. The fifth seed overpowered Britain’s Liam Broady 6-4 6-2, a much-improved performance from the German after his nervy first-round slugfest with Joao Sousa.

Qualifier Broady, whose strong start to the year has seen him reach a career-high ranking of 152, started well. He broke the fifth seed in the second game, but Struff was able to respond immediately before going on to take the first set 6-4. The Brit faded in the second set, Struff’s superior ranking showing as he overpowered his opponent with some brutal forehands and booming serves. If both men bring their best form, his match-up with Basilashvili on Friday should be an entertaining encounter.

https://twitter.com/TennisTV/status/1379725700949770242

Elsewhere, Aljaz Bedene defeated Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 7-6(5). Fresh from an impressive win over Guido Pella in round one, qualifier Gerasimov would have had high hopes to progress further, facing an opponent ranked only 22 places higher. It looked good for the Belarussian as he edged a break ahead early on, but the ever-reliable Bedene reeled off three games in a row to take the first set. A similarly tight second set looked to be going Gerasimov’s way when he stormed to a 4-0 lead in the tie break, but Bedene once again took charge, winning 7 of the next 8 points to book a spot in the next round.

His opponent there will be second seed Taylor Fritz, who enjoyed a relatively easy ride in the final match of the day. He breezed through the opening set against Andrej Martin 6-2, looking strong in his first outing on clay in 2021. The players traded two breaks each in the second set before Fritz took the tie break 7-4. This week is the first tournament Fritz is playing as American No.1 after recently overtaking John Isner.

https://twitter.com/TennisTV/status/1379857536912924675

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Roger Federer Set To Start Clay Campaign In Madrid

The world No.7 will be back on the Tour shortly as he seeks his first title since the 2019 Swiss Indoors.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is set to return to competitive tennis later this month after being included in the entry list for a key Masters 1000 tournament.

 

The former world No.1 is currently down to play the Madrid Open which will start on April 30th and takes place over 10 days. Federer returned to the Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships last month in what was his first tournament in over a year due to a knee injury which required two operations. In Dubai he reached the quarter-finals before losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili who went on to win the title.

Since then the Swiss maestro has returned to the practice courts to “work his way back out on tour,” according to his agent Tony Godsick. Federer has already confirmed that he will play on the clay this season but admits that it is because he has little choice. The 39-year-old has already stated that his goal is to be in top shape in time for the grass-court swing which starts after the French Open.

“What comes before the grass courts are the clay courts,” Federer told reporters on March 11th. “So I have no choice but to play on clay if I want to play matches.
“The clay could be good or bad for me. I will only know in practice, but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. I assume I will play some clay.”

It isn’t the first time Federer has started his return to the clay in Madrid. In 2019 he played his first match on the surface in almost three years at the tournament after skipping the clay-court season the two previous years.

Also on the Madrid entry list is Federer’s rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who both missed the Miami Open. Dominic Thiem is also set to play in the tournament after he recently announced a delay to his return to professional tennis because he isn’t ready to compete yet.

The Madrid Open has been largely dominated by the Big Four (including Andy Murray) for more than a decade. Since 2008 only one player outside of the quartet has won the title which was Alexander Zverev back in 2018. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Rafael Nadal Will Be Ready For Start Of Clay Season, Says Doctor

A member of Nadal’s team has issued some encouraging news.

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Rafael Nadal (image via twitter.com)

It appears that Rafael Nadal’s recent woes are behind him as he looks to get back on track at next week’s Monte Carlo Masters.

 

The 34-year-old hasn’t played a tournament since his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. Throughout the first quarter of the season Nadal has been troubled by a back problem which he first picked up in Melbourne. The injury forced him to pull out of both the Rotterdam Open and Miami Masters. Overall, he has played just five matches so far in 2021.

Nadal will be looking to regain momentum on his beloved clay. A surface which he has won 60 ATP titles on, including a record 13 French Open trophies. According to his doctor, Ángel Ruiz-Cotorro, the world No.3 is ‘training well’ at present.

“He is training well, he is training hard. His goal is clay. First is Monte Carlo and his final goal is Roland Garros. It is clear,” Cotorro told RTVE.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion will be seeking his 12th title in Monte Carlo in what is a tournament record. He has won three out of the four past editions with the only exception being Fabio Fognini who won the title in 2019. Last year’s tournament was axed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking further on in the calendar, Nadal is expected to play tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome before the French Open which is set to start in May. Although it is possible that his commitments could change. A member of the French government has also admitted that it is possible that Roland Garros could be delayed for a second year in a row due to the pandemic but no such change has been formally announced.

So far in his career Nadal has won 86 ATP titles and earned more then $123 million in prize money. He is only the fourth player in the Open Era to have won 1000 or more matches on the men’s Tour.

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