Eight out of fifty-eight, yet so significant. Yes, you heard it right! The fifty seems like the norm, making the ‘eight’ even greater than great. Out of the 58 Grand Slam tennis finals played between Australian Open 2005 and Wimbledon 2019, the trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have taken home fifty of them. Ro(gerRa)fa(elNov)ak Fed(erer)(Na)dal(Djoko)vic, allow me to call this phenomenon Rofaak Fedalvic !!!
Having taken the top three slots to an unprecedented level and incredibly out of reach for others during most part of the last fifteen years, this phenomenon of Rofaak Fedalvic has made bigger headlines only when any one of them lost a match than winning the fifty of them. Hence the ones that did end up in other addresses, only eight of them (14 AO: 13/1, 15 FO: 14/1, 15 W: 13/2 and 14 USO: 10/4), are naturally the ones to be talked about. Let’s take a deeper stab at those eight titles that escaped the three of the greatest of all time in the history of tennis.
ONE: The first being the 2009 US Open final, best remembered as the ‘hawk-eye final’. With two sets to one up, the stage was all set for Federer to lift the trophy for sixth consecutive times at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. However, the twenty-year-old Argentine Juan Martin del Potro with the demolition of Nadal in the semi-final in which he had lost only six games, under his belt unleashed some outrageous forehands to take the match to the decider and eventually defeated a chase-review-distracted Federer. The citadel got breached for the first time.
TWO: Britain’s 76 years wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion had to end someday and it was destined to be at Arthur Ashe Stadium on September 2012. Riding on a runner-up finish at Wimbledon and a gold medal in Olympics that summer, Andy Murray got the better off the defending champion Djokovic in a close to five hours long five-set battle. From two sets to nil to two apiece when a revitalized Serbian looked like set to leap with joy, Murray displayed some defensive shot-making of the highest order to eventually clinch the final major of the year and the first of his career.
THREE: 2013 Wimbledon final was yet another scripted-by-someone-up-there. Tipped as a grudge match between Murray and Djokovic as the latter had defeated the Scot at the year opening slam at Melbourne. The centre court had gone berserk for over three hours as the home crowd wanted so badly to see Murray emulate Fred Perry and the highest point being a dramatic final game that ultimately stamped a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 straight-set victory for Murray.
FOUR: The next one to breach the three-pillar wall was the owner of arguably the best one-handed backhand ever- Stanislas Wawrinka. At the 2014 edition of the Australian Open, the Swiss became the first since a certain Sergi Bruguera in 1993 to beat the top two seeds to win a grand slam title. En route he snapped a 14-matches losing streak against the three-time defending champion Djokovic in an epic five-setter quarterfinal after being a break down in the decider and a 13-matched streak to the then world No. 1 Nadal in an ensuing final and denying the Spaniard the distinction of being the only active player to win at least two titles at each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
SIX: Little over a year after his first Grand Slam win, Stan the man would rule the red clay at Roland Garros in 2015 and do that rarest of the things of defeating the top two seeds en route to win yet another Grand Slam title- this time getting the better of the second seed Federer in the quarter-finals and denying the top seed Djokovic his career Grand Slam. The tag of a possible one-slam wonder was so quickly rendered meaningless.
SIX: How often does one expect a 14th seed to win a major? With no Rafael Nadal at the 2014 US Open to defend his title, all eyes were on the top two seeds Djokovic and Federer who were clear favourites going into the tournament. However, a certain Croat had other plans. As the tournament progressed Cilic grew in confidence and eventually scalped Federer in the semi-final who might have run out of gas after a gruelling quarterfinal against Monfils. In a battle of two first time slam finalists, it was the tall Croat who registered a straight-set victory over Kei Nishikori to become the first his country to win a Grand Slam singles championship since his coach Ivanisevic won the 2001 Wimbledon Championship.
SEVEN: Against the run of play, the two-times defending champion Djokovic fell to Sam Querrey ending a streak of 28 quarterfinals in a row, leaving it easy for Federer at the 2016 edition of Wimbledon championship. However, Federer squandered a two-sets-to-one lead against Raonic in the semi-final who booked a centre court showdown with the local favourite. Murray did not actually have to shed a sweat until he ran into Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Quarterfinals. Berdych and Raonic were not any matches whatsoever to the Scot who bagged his second Wimbledon championship and the third major of his career.
EIGHT: Stan, the man at the job again. With the five-times champion Roger Federer not featuring in the US Open in 2016 and the second seed Murray and fourth seed Nadal not making it to the last four, the task was cut out for the Swiss. Riding on the victories against Del Potro and Nishikori it was a confident Wawrinka that notched up his third major in as many years and his 11th consecutive win in a championship final. Notably enough, with this Stan defeated the No. 1 in the finals of all three of his Grand Slam finals.
The reason why all these eight instances find the pedestal little more elevated than normal is that they were snatched away from the throttlehold of the Rofaak Fedalvic clutch in the past fifteen years. My sincere apologies if, by any chance, I would have left any hint of demeaning the achievements of Murray, Del Potro, Cilic and Wawrinka.
About the author
The author is the Chairperson at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER).
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