There has never been such an amazing array of talent in men’s tennis as we have at the present moment.
As I watch the U.S. Open from Flushing Meadows, I marvel at the possibility that no fewer than five or six men may have a chance to win this year’s title. Of course, the way that the number one player in the world, Novak Djokovic, is playing means he is clearly the favorite. But Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and perhaps even a Martin Cilic (remember he won the U.S. Open last year!) or Tomas Berdych could hold the championship trophy aloft.
Notice I didn’t mention Rafa Nadal. He somehow managed to lose to the number 32 seed, Fabio Fognini, in the third round after winning the first two sets rather easily. Oh well, he will be back. And no, Fabio won’t win this year’s tournament.
There have been other magical times for men’s tennis. The great Aussies, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Ken Rosewall, dominated in the 1960’s. We had Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors (who stuck around forever), John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Then came Stefan Edberg, Mats Wildander and Patrick Rafter (the latter to some extent) and eventually Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. All of them wonderful men’s tennis champions who engaged in classic battles against one another over the past 50 years.
But in most of these eras, one or more of the great players was descending, while another one or two were ascending. Such is not the case with today’s group of mega-stars, three of whom may go down as the greatest tennis player of all time.
That case has already been made for Roger Federer, who has a remarkable 17 Grand Slam singles titles. But Nadal has his admirers that point to his dominance at the French Open, his ability to win on all surfaces, and his 14 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic has nine Grand Slam championships and seems to be still on the rise. Who knows how many more he can win if he stays fit and engaged? Three, four, eight? Will he go down as the greatest men’s tennis star of all time?
Murray (he also has a gold medal in singles) and Wawrinka have two Grand Slam titles apiece and are also in the prime of their careers. The fact that the latter two somehow managed to win two Grand Slam tournaments each when the Big Three were standing in their way each and every major tournament (Nadal has missed a few because of injuries) is remarkable in and of itself.
Federer, at the age of 34, looks like he can go on forever. He seems fitter than he has been in a few years and has added some new wrinkles to his all court game. We must remember that Nadal (29) is still relatively young, although he is a big man and has some tough miles on his wheels. Djokovic is 28 and we have speculated on the possibility of him winning another half dozen of more Grand Slam titles.
Let’s enjoy this wonderful collection of men’s tennis talent and hope that these players maintain their high level of play for several more years. There is no doubt in my mind that we are in a Golden Age of men’s tennis, one that has never been rivaled in the history of the sport.
by John Torsiello