Was it harder to win a slam in Marat Safin's era? - UBITENNIS
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Was it harder to win a slam in Marat Safin’s era?

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In a recent interview with Tennis World USA, Marat Safin claimed that it was much easier to win a grand slam now than in his era. The Russian who won two slams, the US Open in 2000 and the Australian Open in 2005, said: “At that time there were more quality players. In the top 20 there were big names like Ivanisevic, Krajicek, Sampras, Agassi, Kuerten, Norman, Kafelnikov. The level was higher than today. Now there are only four or five players who dominate. The rest are far away”.

 

So, does he have a case?

Juan Carlos Ferrero was asked about the matter yesterday by Spanish site Punto de Break and he agreed with Safin. “I don’t think the level has gone up but it has stalled a bit and that’s why the players at the top dominate so much. There aren’t 18 or 19 year olds knocking on the door. Back in the day you would face Agassi or Sampras at that age and give them a good match or even beat them. Winning a grand slam is always difficult but on clay before there were more specialists like Nalbandian, Cañas, Coria, Gaudio…now there’s only really Ferrer, Nadal and Djokovic. Before there were ten or twelve players who made it tough for you but now Djokovic or Nadal reach the quarters or semis of Roland Garros with a lot of ease”, said the former world number one.

To analyse the different eras I have taken the period between 1998 and 2006 as Marat Safin’s, and 2007-2015 as the current generation in order for both to have the same amount of years.

From 1998 to 2006 there were seventeen different grand slam champions (Korda, Moya, Sampras, Rafter, Kafelnikov, Agassi, Kuerten, Safin, Ivanisevic, Hewitt, Johansson, Costa, Ferrero, Federer, Roddick, Gaudio and Nadal). In fact in the years 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 ther were four different champions, which is a clear sign that no one dominated the game.

In the period between 2007 and 2015 there have only been seven different champions (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Del Potro, Murray, Cilic and Wawrinka) and there have only been four different winners in a single season in 2012 and 2014.

This diversity in the first period can also be seen amongst the winners of the World Tour Finals (Masters Cup) and Masters Series events. The likes of Rios, Krajicek, Corretja, Rusedski, Enqvist, Philippoussis, Norman, Pioline, Ferreira, Portas, Pavel, Grosjean, Cañas, Mantilla, Henman, Coria, Nalbandian and even current players Robredo and Berdych popped up with wins.

After that it was all mainly occupied by Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray with odd threats of resistance from Davydenko, Del Potro, Soderling, Tsonga, Wawrinka, Ferrer or even Ljubicic.

Looking at the mere numbers it would seem that Safin is wrong and in fact it was cheaper to win a grand slam back then as, quite simply, more of them were being shared. The absence of a clear dominator opened the door to more contenders and, as they were more equally matched, the outcome was more unlikely and, perhaps, fun because of the uncertainty.

The clear case in sample in Roger Federer. The Swiss maestro burst onto the scene in 2004 by winning three grand slams and, to this day, has been winning or contending for grand slams.

Perhaps where Safin and Ferrero could have a case is in that there was a stronger ‘midfield’ on tour. This is the reason why there were more surprises back then than now, and when I mean surprises, I’m talking about any seed falling at an early stage, because I strongly believe that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer would have dominated and won the same amount of slams now as they would have back then.

As an example of the strength in depth I have randomly chosen the 2002 Roland Garros draw to take a look at the 32 seeds and compared it to this year’s French Open.

If you look at the top eight seeds, it would seem that the current crop are stronger: 2002 (Hewitt, Safin, Haas, Agassi, Kafelnikov, Henman, Kuerten, Federer) v 2015 (Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Berdych, Nishikori, Nadal, Ferrer, Wawrinka). But when you look at the final eight seeds you would feel inclined that the former was pluckier: (Robredo, Mirnyi, Escude, Lapentti, Nalbandian, Schalken, Gaudio, Ljubicic) v (Karlovic, Garcia-Lopez, Tomic, Fognini, Kyrgios, Mannarino, Troicki, Verdasco). I think more of the 2002 crop would be capable of pulling off an upset than this year’s group.

Obviously this is just a single selection and doesn’t encompass or justify a verdict on both eras. Everyone will have their opinion as you can’t measure the quality of a player but the feeling is that ten years ago or so there was a greater variety of tennis players, as there was also a greater variety of playing surfaces. There were clay court specialists, who were as good as anyone in the world on that surface, and then the same on grass. Today, regardless of the surface, the same players make the same rounds. A unification in surfaces has led to a unification in players. Big serves and huge forehands are what you get from any youngster coming through. You no longer see a player like Fabrice Santoro or Pat Rafter; Gaston Gaudio or Sebastien Grosjean. Therefore once you have sussed out how to beat one of them, you know how to beat them all, and therefore there is no new challenge or surprise factor.

So to answer the main question of the article, it would be harder to win a grand slam for most players in Marat Safin’s era, but for Nadal, Federer or Djokovic it would have been the same as their level is substantially above anyone from the last twenty years.

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Rudolf Molleker knocks out two-time champion Leonardo Mayer in Hamburg

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German 18-year-old Next Gen player Rudolf Molleker knocked out 2014 and 2017 Hamburg champion Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 after 1 hour and 39 minutes at the Hamburg European Open.

 

Molleker beat Mayer in 2017 in the Hamburg qualifying round, but Mayer got a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser and went on to win the title.

Molleker fended off all three break points in two consecutive games of the first set, before saving two set points in the tie-break. He sealed the second set with a single break.

The German teenager saved two break points in the seventh game with two service games with two service winners and one more chance in the ninth game to set up a tie-break. Mayer took the lead twice at 6-5 and 8-7, but Molleker saved both chances with two winners and sealed the tie-break on the 18th point after a double fault from Mayer.

Molleker earned an early break at the start of the second set and held his service games in the next games before sealing the win with a service winner at 5-4 to secure his spot in the round of 16.

Marton Fucsovics cruised past Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-0 dropping just 16 points on serve. Fucsovics got an early break in the fourth game to clinch the opening set 6-3. The Hungarian player broke three times in a one-sided second set and sealed the win with a service winner.

Andrey Rublev, who lost in the second round at Wimbledon and Umag, edged this year’s Munich and Houston champion Christian Garin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) after 1 hour and 39 minutes to score his second win over the Chilean player this year. Rublev broke three times to seal the opening set 6-4. The Russian player got the break back at 4-5 in the second set to set up a tie-break, which he sealed 7-5.

Jeremy Chardy came back from losing the first set to beat Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-3 after 2 hours and 34 minutes. Paire fended off a set point at 4-5 in the opening set to clinch the tie-break 7-4. Paire got a late break in the second set, but Chardy won two games at 5-5 to force the match to the third set. Chardy went up a double break to seal the third set 6-3.

Martin Klizan converted all five break points to cruise past Daniel Altmaier 6-2 6-2.

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Alex De Minaur Learning Patience After Two Month Injury Lay-Off

Alex De Minaur is ready to be patient as he looks to build some momentum in Atlanta this week.

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Alex De Minaur (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

Alex De Minaur is learning the art of patience after missing less than two months of action earlier this year. 

 

The Australian had a rough start to the 2019 as he was forced to fight off a groin injury despite winning the Sydney title in January.

Then he had a couple of months off before once again struggling on his return at Indian Wells where he lost in his opening round.

But these setbacks haven’t stopped the 20 year-old from being patient as he looks to make his mark in the US hard court swing,“I feel like I’m doing all the right things, putting myself out there,” De Minaur told atptour.com.

“If it doesn’t happen this week, next week or the week after, I’m going to keep doing the same things. I’m going to do all the right things, be mentally strong, physically strong and I’m playing good tennis, so I think it’s just a matter of time.”

After Indian Wells, De Minaur spent a few weeks in his home in Alicante, Spain as he looked to regain match sharpness.

It was a period that proved challenging for the talented Aussie as he loves to compete, “I’m not used to being at home for that long and, I mean, us tennis players, we need to go out there and compete, at least me,” De Minaur explained.

I’m a very competitive person, and it was tough for me. I had my outlets. I was playing golf a lot. But still, I needed to get back on court. 

“Obviously seeing people go ahead of you and guys are playing these tournaments and seeing the results they were doing and me not being able to actually even be able to be out there and competing, that was very tough.”

Despite losing five of his seven ATP tour matches since returning properly in Estoril, De Minaur is determined to get back to the level that saw him rise to world number 24.

The Next Gen Star thinks it’s a confidence thing and is not easy to regain after an injury, “[It’s] just confidence. Playing matches, playing the big points right,” he explained.

“It’s something that you take for granted when things are going well. But when you have to stop and try to get back into it, it’s tough. Now I’m just keen to go out there and compete and play some good tennis.”

De Minaur continues his comeback surge this week when he competes in Atlanta, where he will face Bradley Klahn or Marius Copil in his first match.

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Nicolas Jarry Aims To Follow In Family Footsteps After Reaching Bastad Final

Nicolas Jarry looks to join his grandfather in winning an ATP title as he reaches the Bastad final.

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Nicolas Jarry (@FOXSport_Chile - Twitter)

Nicolas Jarry will look to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps tomorrow when he takes on Juan Ignacio Londero in the Bastad final. 

 

The Chilean was in fine form today as he beat another Chilean in Federico Delbonis in the semi-finals today, 6-3 6-2 in 64 minutes.

It is Jarry’s third ATP final and his second of the season following his final in Geneva, where he wasted two championship points to lose to Alexander Zverev.

Should the 23 year-old be triumphant on Sunday, he will join his grandfather as an ATP titlist after Jaime Fillol Sr. won six tour titles and finished a high of number 14 in the rankings in 1974.

Next up for Jarry is Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero, who cruised past 2016 Swedish Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.

The 6-3 6-4 victory included the Argentinian winning 73% of his first service points as he dominated the Spaniard in the 1 hour and 21 minute win.

It will be the second final of the season for Londero, who has enjoyed thriving on the clay in 2019 which has helped him reach a career high ranking of 58 in the world in June.

A good sign for Londero, was that en route to winning his lone title in 2019 in Cordoba, he beat Jarry in their only previous ATP World Tour meeting.

Both men will look to cap off an excellent week tomorrow as the final is scheduled for 2pm local time.

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