Does Federer-Nadal-less Wimbledon mark the end of an era?
The 126th edition of one of the most prestigious grand slams of the world- the Wimbledon- will be remembered for a long time to come.
For the first time in years, most part of a major would be without tennis’ two legends – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
It is hard for Federer fans not to see him in Wimbledon, especially after his breathtaking performance in the last season. The ‘King of Grass’, seven-time Wimbledon champion was ousted from the tournament in round two, his first ever defeat in such an early round in a grand slam since 2004. The defending champion was defeated in four sets by Ukraine`s world number 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky. Such was the impact on Sergiy that he declared after the match that for him playing this match was against two players- Roger and his ego.
Interestingly, Federer was celebrating his tenth year at the All England Lawn Tennis Club this year. But the celebrations were short lived.
The debate on Federer-Nadal era being on the decline will once again gain momentum. Ever since the emergence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Federer and Nadal`s duopoly over grand slams has declined. But their past magnificence cannot be overshadowed by any results they produce now.
This is the best period for the game of tennis as the Big Four have upped the ante and the upcoming players are fighting hard to match their levels. For tennis lovers, watching such matches is sheer delight.
One quote from the recently victorious Stakhovsky justifies Federer’s status as the greatest ever tennis player. He said: "In our game Roger Federer is Tennis." So for Federer fans seeing their idol crumpling on his favourite surface was severely heart wrenching.
Another disappointment in Wimbledon was Federer’s nemesis Rafael Nadal. The ‘King of Clay’, on a high after his record eighth Roland Garros title, could not even survive in the first round of the tournament. Clearly, on a grass surface, his fragile knees could not sustain. Injury has been a part of Rafa’s career for long, be it his defective tarsal scaphoid or his resurging knee issues. But still it was unusual as in the last 35 tournaments, it is the Spaniard’s first first-round defeat.
Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker claims Nadal should have contemplated not playing Wimbledon this year, considering his last dismal performance where he was defeated by 100th rank Lukas Rosol. But for Rafa, the show must go on. He says that defeat is a part of the game and it is not a tragedy. His 2008 Wimbledon final match against Federer has been touted as one of the greatest matches ever played in the history of tennis, and he has been part of five finals on the grass court, winning two. The stats aren’t that bad.
Still, shock waves ran through the tennis fraternity after the exit of two of the game’s biggest names from the tournament. The two GOATs definitely were inflicted their careers’ most humiliating defeats. Nadal, clearly shaken at the post match conference refused to take credit off his opponent Steve Darcis, while Federer has warned his critics not to write him off yet.
Whatever said and done, the fact file says that it was for the first time in years that a grand slam quarter-final will not see Rafa or Roger. Compare this to the heydays of the two friends-off the court, there was a time between 2006 and 2008 when they played in every French Open and Wimbledon final. They are the only pair of men to have finished six consecutive calendar years as the top two ranked players on the ATP Tour, which they did from 2005 to 2010. They also hold the record of the longest consecutive reign as the world no. 1 and 2. They held the top two rankings for 211 consecutive weeks between July 2005 and August 2009.
Interestingly, had these two been around, their quarterfinal line-up this Wimbledon could have been the ‘clash of titans’ match.
With no Rafa or Roger, there are chances that Andy Murray getting Britain its first Wimbledon in 77 years after Fred Perry, but he has to watch out for a certain Novak Djokovic, who in absence of Federer and Nadal, will leave no stone unturned to claim his second Wimbledon title.
As for Rafa and Roger, the fans will long to see their rivalry gain new heights before the sun sets on their careers.