The State of Men’s Tennis Post Wimbledon
Wimbledon is over. Roger Federer has netted himself a record breaking eight titles at the All England Club, a record-extending nineteenth Grand Slam, and become a two-Slam champion at the age of 35 (but basically 36).
The arguments against Federer being the greatest are falling away with remarkable consistency. But let’s look at the other big names, starting with the Big Four.
The State of Men’s Tennis Post Wimbledon: The Big Four
For the first time in quite a while, the Big Four occupy the top four spots once more. Federer and Nadal are very much in the ascendancy, however, and on current evidence, we should expect to see them in the top two spots soon.
Andy Murray remains the number one tennis player in the world, but at this point, it’s in name only. Both Nadal and Djokovic could have dethroned the Scot during Wimbledon, but fate decided to give him at least a few more weeks at the top. Most of Murray’s number-one-ranking success came in the second half of 2016, and it’s very difficult to see how he could possibly defend enough of those points, even if he wasn’t hobbled with a bum hip. Still, it says a lot for Murray that he can reach Grand Slam semi-finals and quarter-finals in spite of his physical and mental woes. A fall from the top spot may be imminent, but it might be a bit early to predict Murray’s decline.
Djokovic is largely in the same the boat as Murray, though I personally feel that his struggles are more mental than physical, elbow injury retirement aside. Perhaps he would have gone on to challenge Federer had his elbow held out, but then the same could be said of Murray and his hip. Currently the lowest ranked of the Big Four, Djokovic could have returned to world number one with a championship victory, but it wasn’t to be.
On paper, Nadal’s fourth round defeat to Gilles Müller looks the worst of the Big Four defeats. If we’re honest, however, it’s been a long time since Nadal was a real threat on the grass of Wimbledon. And even when he won it, it was far from his favourite surface. Given that Nadal got to the final of the Australian Open and won the French, not to mention all the success in between, I think it’s safe to say the Spaniard is far from done this season. In fact, at only a few hundred points behind Murray, he’s most likely going to be our new world number one in the near future.
And so we come to Roger Federer. What can you say about this man? His latest Wimbledon victory not only extends his lead in the all time men’s singles Grand Slam titles list. Not only moves him as the lone holder of the most men’s singles Wimbledon titles. It makes Roger the oldest man to ever win Wimbledon. Bearing in mind that Federer had already broken most of the records he currently holds before he became “old”. Federer is breaking new ground, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see other big players be far more selective with their appearances as the years roll on.
The State of Men’s Tennis Post Wimbledon: Outside the Big Four
My post on the French Open final aftermath included a bit on Stan Wawrinka being “Big Five” material. Wimbledon has caused me to re-evaluate that opinion. Wawrinka is undoubtedly the most accomplished non-Big Four player of this era. But the consistency that has allowed Murray to dominate despite not winning as many trophies as his contemporaries is not there for Wawrinka. Even on a bad day, Murray can reach the last eight or four of a Slam. On a bad day for Wawrinka, he barely makes it out of the locker room. He is dangerous, and a great player, but consistency is the big difference between the Big Four and the rest.
Marin Cilic came as close as he could to adding to his unlikely Grand Slam tally. Along with Juan Martin Del Potro and Stan Wawrinka, he is one of the very small number of active players outside of the Big Four who can call themselves a Grand Slam champion. Though it seems Cilic also fell foul of injury, few would have picked him to topple Federer. Still in an era of players living in the Big Four shadow, Cilic remains one of the few highlights.
What’s perhaps most concerning is that you have to go all the way back to the fourth round to find any of the so called next generation. The Thiems and Zverevs and Dimitrovs. One would hope that at least one of these bright stars would make a quarter final, perhaps a semi final. Granted each of the three I just mentioned would have come up against the Fed Express. But only Dimitrov actually went out at the hands of the Swiss.
As I said, it seems pretty set that Murray will lose his number one ranking fairly soon. It also seems likely that Nadal will be taking over the top spot. Federer will be looking for Grand Slam number twenty at Flushing Meadows. Another US Open title would also see Federer break yet more records. A sixth title would move him clear of Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras in Open Era US Open titles. Murray will be eager to put in a good showing at the US also. Last year he had a disappointingly early exit… and proceeded to win just about every tournament after that. In short, the US Open is Murray’s last real chance to gain some ground in the rankings.
But there’s plenty to watch between now and then. In the meantime, fingers crossed that all the fallen heroes of Wimbledon can recover in time to fight again!