The Renaissance of Federer and Nadal
A Unique Time of Tennis
To many casual tennis fans, seeing that Roger and Rafa are now at the top is no surprise. But for much of the past six years, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have been the dominant forces of men's professional tennis, winning the majority of the ATP masters and major tournaments.
However, ever since the end of the 2016 season, both of these players experienced declines in their performances, which allowed Federer and Nadal to climb the rankings once again. This type of resurgence was surprising for Rafa and Roger who, although extremely talented, are reaching the latter stages of their careers. Arguably what was even more unexpected, though, was the sudden recession of both Andy and Novak.
The Last Major of the Year: The US Open
Injuries of Novak and Andy: Physical and Mental
The reasons behind the struggles of Novak and Andy were somewhat unclear. At press conferences, both of them blamed these on injuries: Novak citing his elbow, and Murray mentioning his hip. However, while injuries may have played a large role in Murray's poor performance, it is hard to say the same about Novak's.
His fall from the top began in the middle of 2016, following a loss to the big-hitting American Sam Querrey at Wimbledon. If the issue had been his elbow the whole time, why was he keeping it a secret? And why did he fire almost his entire coaching and training staff? It is not like a new staff will magically heal his injuries.
Evidence for this mass dismissal could be seen in the decreasing confidence of Djokovic in himself. Djokovic showed various signs of mental defeat: complaining to his coaches box, bobbing his head, and moving lethargically around the court. This type of behavior was rarely seen in champion form Novak, who always appeared to possess more energy and desire than his opponents, never appearing disinterested.
Once he began to lose belief in himself, every match since was played with a seed of doubt in his mind. His opponents, who became aware of this, have had more confidence playing against him. In result, they had more success and Novak has had less. Djoker felt that he needed to change the people around him in order to reach his peak performance once again and ultimately win more matches. But knowing what kind of character he can be, how much of it is in his own head?
Murray in Action
Success Depends Partly on One's Competition
Regardless, Federer and Nadal looked to capitalize on Novak's retirement and Andy's shaky form. Without Andy and Novak in the draw, the greats will have a much easier time reaching tournament finals. Another potential obstacle, Stan Wawrinka, a man who was 3-1 against the big four in Grand Slam finals, also decided to rest for the rest of the season due to injury.
Despite the lack of major threats that remain in Fed and Rafa's way, there are other formidable competitors that remained. Thiem, Raonic, and Zverev were just a few on that list. Cilic is somewhat of a dark horse, beating Federer in the 2014 semis on the US Open, then going on to win the tournament against Nishikori. However, it can be argued that both Roger and Rafa were playing the best tennis of their careers at the time this article was written, almost as if their talents allow them to ignore father time. All I can say is watch out ATP: a feasting session grander than those at Hogwarts is about to begin.