Australian Open 2011 – The Joker is the thief

Saturday, February 5, 2011 Posted by the sportsloop team
So Novak Djokovic has managed to secure one of the rarest items in world sport - a Grand Slam title that has not been placed in the hands of either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

Amazingly, Djokovic’s Melbourne triumph sees him join Lleyton Hewitt as the only multiple Grand Slam winners currently on tour outside of the Big Two, with Hewitt’s success coming long before the Fed-Rafa era had started.

In light of this, there has been plenty of discussion over the past week upgrading the Big Two to the Big Three. There can be no doubting the likeable Serb’s impressive run of form through the US Open, the historic Davis Cup victory, and now the Australian Open title have been impressive, highlighted by two magnificent semi final defeats of Federer. The form lines though are eerily similar to those of when Djokovic first lifted the Norman Brooks Cup in 2008. That victory came on the heels of a maiden Slam final in New York the previous year, and the world hailed the emergence of a genuine new star in the game. But the following three years did not pan out as many had thought, with Djokovic unable to reproduce his very best on the big stage and with questions being raised about his temperament in difficult conditions.

There is no doubt that now three years older, Djokovic is wiser, fitter, both physically and mentally, and equipped with all the tools to now regularly challenge for the biggest prizes. But before he can be placed in the company of Roger and Rafa we need to understand just how dominant those two have been.

The rivalry between those two men must be considered the greatest in tennis history. Seven Slam finals, the most of any pair, along with seven years of trading places as the world’s top ranked player. The standard of their play has taken the men’s game to a different level. In a different era, the tennis played by Andy’s Murray and Roddick would have been good enough to have the trophy engravers learning their names, and Djokovic would long ago have ended concerns about being a one Slam wonder.

Twenty-three Grand Slams have been contested dating back to Nadal’s first Roland Garros title in 2005 and the beginning of this Australian Open. Of these, 21 went to either Roger or Rafa, with only Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro’s upset 2009 US Open win breaking the mould. In fact, the Big Two accepted 29 of the 46 invites to the Slam finals in this period, with only 13 men in total appearing in a final.

By comparison, the era between the 1993 and 2000 Wimbledon finals that saw Pete Sampras win 12 of his 14 of his Slam titles, and Andre Agassi five still managed to produce 11 champions and 25 different finalists over 29 events.

But a potential change this time around is more likely than it was in 2008. Federer’s semi final defeat sees him in possession of no Slam trophy for the first time since his breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2003, and at 29, his standard has finally started to slip from the unbelievable heights of the mid-noughties.

Ultimately though, if Djokovic wants to continue to hear his name alongside the two he is chasing, he needs to back up his Melbourne Park title in the remaining Slams this year. Another crown this year, particularly in Paris or London, away from his favoured hard courts, would rightly see his name elevated once and for all, and Two would become Three


Grand Slam final records of all players in the Roger-Rafa period between 2005 French Open and 2011 Australian Open are included for reference below
Federer: 12-6
Nadal: 9-2
Djokovic: 2-2
Del Potro: 1-0

Murray, Roddick: 0-3
Soderling: 0-2
Baghdatis, Berdych, Gonzalez, Tsonga: 0-1
Agassi, Puerta 0-1 (retired)

Post a Comment