These three events are not exactly at the top of the heap in terms of prize money or prestige, but the wins and computer points all count.

  • John Isner avenged his loss to Jack Sock in Newport with a straight set semifinal win.  His showings during the US Open Series often buttress John Isner’s standing in the ATP rankings.  Isner’s results in the US are typically strong whereas he has some strange patches when playing outside of the US.
  • Pablo Andujar reached the semifinals in Rio and had match points versus Rafa. He looked poised for a big clay court season.  That did not materialize prior to Roland Garros, but the Gstaad title and Rio semifinal are nice achievements.  Carlos Moya used solid play in these type of events in 2002 to gain momentum and take a title in Cincinnati essentially launching a nice 3 year period for his career.  Perhaps, Andujar will build on this title.  
  • Pablo Cuevas won his first ATP title at Bastad and took the final match in under one hour.  At 28 years of age, he broke through later than I am sure he was hoping, but a first title has to be sweet.  

Jon Wertheim has recently mentioned how rare it is to see juniors at Grand Slam events using one-handed backhands.  I started learning to play tennis in 1985 and put serious time on my tennis game starting in 1989. In 1985 3 of the 4 Grand Slam titles were won by men with one-handed backhands.  In 1986 and 1987 all of the Grand Slam crowns were won by men with one-handed backhands.  1988 saw Mats Wilander win 3 of 4 majors, but 1989 once again saw players with one-handed backhands win 3 of 4 majors.  During the mid and late 1980s, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf controlled the women’s tour and used one-handed backhands. Despite all of the success pros with one-handed backhands had, no one seemed to be using one-handed backhands in the junior ranks of Kentucky in the early 1990s.  I saw just two other players in Kentucky junior tennis using one-handed backhands.

The Impact of Using a One-Handed Backhand on my Junior Days

I was never going to be a star junior player.  I had a strong serve, an above average net game, and a streaky forehand.  My foot speed was never a strength.  However, my biggest weakness was my backhand.  Hitting a solid one-handed backhand required more strength and coordination than a two-handed backhand did at that age.  My backhand turned into a weak slice with the exception of my ability to hit a nice slice approach shot up the line.  I chopped and blocked a lot of balls during rallies.  If an opponent could get a bead on my serve, I would be in trouble because my backhand was not going to trouble many opponents.  I won some matches as a junior, but I would not call that period the high point of my tennis playing days.

The Benefit I Passed Up

Had I used a two-handed backhand from 1985 0r 1989 forward, I would have had a better return of serve and been able to play with greater consistency during rallies.  This probably would have helped add consistency to my forehand as well.  I would have won more matches and had a higher ranking at the state level.  In an honest assessment of things, I would not have benefitted so much as to move to regional or national junior tournaments.  I would have probably been in the middle 3rd of the junior rankings in Kentucky instead of the bottom 3rd.

Why did I pick a One-Handed Backhand

My first tennis clinic in 1985 I remember the instructor only showing the students how to hit a two-handed backhand despite using a one-handed backhand himself.  I got interested in tennis because of Boris Becker winning Wimbledon and my father playing tennis on weekends with his friends.  My father and Becker both still use one-handed backhands with different degrees of success.  No one told me to hit a one-handed backhand, but I wanted to get to the net (and dive!) like Becker.  During the second session of the clinic, I asked the instructor, “How do I hit a one-handed backhand?”  That was that.  Future instructors never tried to get me to change to a two-handed backhand. They worked with me on how to hit an approach shot because they saw I wanted to move forward.  They worked largely unsuccessfully on me being able to also consistently come over the ball and hit topspin backhands.

12th Grade and College: 20/20 and Strength

In 12th grade, I was frustrated with the slow progress I was making in tennis.  I decided not to play on my high school team because I did not want to cause a 9th grade player to be cut from the team so I could play half-heartedly.  Two weeks after the tennis season started I got an eye exam and my first pair of glasses. Suddenly, the net looked half as high as it had, and I was playing better tennis than I had at any point in high school despite not playing on my school team.

I was lucky enough to be randomly paired with a college roommate who was a highly successful junior tennis player.  He and I hit tennis balls far less frequently than we probably should have, but when we did I noticed that I could slice my backhand in a manner that was not a chop or a block.  Amazingly, I could also come over the ball and hit the topspin backhand that I had struggled with so mightily as a junior.  I remember my roommate telling a friend of ours that I “had a backhand like Stefan Edberg.”  He was joking, but at 19 my backhand was more versatile and more consistent than my forehand.  I took his comment as a nice compliment and wondered why didn’t I have the strength at 13-17 as a junior player that I had at 19 when I played tennis far more rarely.  I was still no speed demon, but I had a strong serve, good hands at the net, a lot of versatility on my backhand and that streaky forehand.  I had a pretty complete game right as I was moving out of tennis for a few years.

The Impact of Using a One-Handed Backhand as an Adult

Before parenthood, I played a lot of both singles and doubles.  I have cut back on playing over the past 5 years. Still, many people my age hit one-handed backhands, and my guess is that many of them used two-handed backhands as junior players if they played as a junior.  One’s footwork does not need to be quite as precise with a one-handed backhand, and as players get into their 30s, 40s and beyond one-handed backhands seem to be en vogue.  If I have any advantage it is that my movement and timing for my backhand have a 15 year head start.  I think my ability to hit approaches is perhaps a bit better than most of the guys I play with who hit two-handers before switching over.  By today’s standards my topspin backhand is pretty flat, but my timing hitting a one-hander generally allows for this stroke production.  I also like my ability to move forward because at 38 I am not overly interested in long rallies.

Was It Worth It?

I think I am a better player today than I would have been if I had hit a two-handed backhand growing up, but I also think tennis can be tricky for an adolescent because losses are not easily rationalized.  If one loses in singles, one of two reasons are almost always the explanation: 1. the opponent was just better or 2. one played below his/her abilities.  In team sports, blame for a loss can be shared by coaches and teammates. In tennis, a loss has to be owned.  Winning more often from 1989-1993 would have been nice.  Realistically, teens have the opportunity to play tennis more frequently than most adults.  So the tradeoff might be me being better today, but being plagued by a weaker wing when I was able to play tennis the most frequently.

In retrospect, those losses don’t amount to a hill of beans.  I am not a great player, but I think I have a good foundation that many coaches and pros helped me to acquire.  My form is solid, and I have a good basis in tennis that will be with me for the next 25+ years.  I can’t and won’t complain about that, but I also think the physical demands of having a one-handed backhand that will hold up in rallies and in matches is not likely to ever make one-handed backhands popular among junior players.  Telling someone “you won’t really be able to hit this shot well until you are closer to your adult physique” is not something that will typically go over well with a player learning the game. Still, the number of guys over 30 at parks and clubs hitting two-handed backhands is almost as low as the number of juniors I saw hitting one-handed backhands in the 1990s.  I was just ahead of my time.



Tennis and the World Cup: A Plan

Posted: July 18, 2014 by Dan Martin in World Cup of Tennis

The 2014 World Cup concluded and it as always was a major sporting event across the globe. Basketball and Baseball have added the Basketball World Championship/World Cup and the World Baseball Classic.  Each has been successful and will likely grow in importance.  Couldn’t tennis do something along these lines?  Shouldn’t tennis do something along these lines?

Why Not

  1. Tennis is already very international – Every tournament features players from a variety of locations.  Why add more international competition?
  2. Tennis already has Davis Cup, Federation Cup, Hopman Cup and of course the Olympic Games.
  3. The tennis schedule is packed and offers no true off season for players to train and recover.
  4. The alphabet soup of tennis’ governing bodies would not be easy to navigate in creating a Tennis World Championship event.


  1. This event should be able to sell itself.
  2. Team competition in an individual sport would be intriguing.
  3. **** Tennis could offer a World Championship in which both female and male players contributed to the overall outcome.  ****  This would be pretty unique and create some interesting match-ups.  Imagine the US vs. Spain.  The men’s and women’s singles matches would almost certainly cancel out and doubles would take on a major role.  
  4. A set date and location every 4 years would be easier to sell than the current Davis and Federation Cup configurations.


  1. No one is going to let the old traditions of Davis and Federation Cup go extinct.  So any ideas creating a Federation of Davis Cup every 4 years needs to be dropped.
  2. I do think if tennis ran Davis and Federation Cup in their current format every other year skipping Olympic and World Championship years some wiggle room in the crowded schedule could be achieved so that Olympic and World Championship years do not overload a players schedule.
  3. Use the Federation and Davis Cup results to determine the 8 qualifying nations for the World Championship.
  4. Hold the World Championship of Tennis in the Fall after the WTA and ATP seasons have concluded.
  5. Hold the World Championship of Tennis 2 years after a Summer Olympiad concludes.
  6. Find host countries in which tennis is popular that also have cities and facilities capable of supporting multiple rounds of play.

Format Options

  1. One option would be to have 2 singles matches for men, 2 singles matches for women, 1 doubles match for men, 1 doubles match for women and a mixed doubles match to split the difference if two countries tied 3-3.
  2. I don’t particularly like mixed doubles having that much importance so I think a third male and female singles player for each team should be on hand.  If two countries tie 3-3, then a coin is flipped to determine if the final match is men’s or women’s singles.
  3. Perhaps cut doubles all together and have each country bringing their top 4 male and top 4 female players.  The 4th only playing if the overall series ties at 3-3 and a coin flip decides the gender.  Of course in this system, a best of 5 verses best of 7 format could be used and each country would bring their top 3 male and top 3 female players.
  4. Any selected format should feature singles.  Doubles could play a role, but it would not be the dominant role in this system.  As teams advance a World Champion could be crowned.
  5. No Stacking in Singles is Allowed.  If Serbia played the Czech Republic, Berdych can’t be placed in a match versus Serbia’s #2 ranked player.  Computer rankings would make 1 vs. 1 and 2 vs. 2 for the singles matches.
  6. The World Championships would be over by early or at worst mid November if Davis and Federation Cup are not played during those years.




2014 Power Ranking #8 – Wimbledon

  1. Novak Djokovic – Nole and Rafa continue to play hot potato with my top spot.  Novak is now a two-time Wimbledon champion and a newly wed.  I think the wind is at his back for the hard court summer.  Novak was tennis’ most consistent player from 2012-mid 2014, but he was not tennis’ most clutch player.  I think this Wimbledon win will recharge his mental toughness after a number of near misses.  Change since last ranking +1
  2. Rafael Nadal - Rafa looked to be rounding into form in the weaker half of the draw until a 19-year-old hit 37 aces.  He ran into a hot player, but 3 consecutive years of failing to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinal round following 5 somewhat consecutive trips to the championship round does raise questions about his ability to win Wimbledon in the future.  Change since last ranking – 1
  3. Roger Federer – The Fed picked up a title in Halle and reached his 9th Wimbledon final.  He snuck out the first set versus Nole and out and out grasped the 4th set from the jaws of defeat.  He can win an 18th major even if a lot has to go right for that to happen.  Change since last ranking +4 
  4. Milos Raonic – The big serving Canadian continues to make incremental progress up the ladder in men’s tennis.  On balance, he did not have the grass court season that Dimitrov had, but he did much better in Paris than Grigor.  His match versus Federer was not must see TV and he will need to handle such situations better in the future.  Change since last ranking + 1
  5. Grigor Dimitrov - Grigor won Queen’s Club beating Wawrinka along the way and then saved a match point before rallying to take the title.  He backed that up with 5 wins at Wimbledon including a dismissal of an out of sorts Andy Murray.  He fought Djokovic in the semifinal round as well.  In the past 52 weeks he has won 4 titles on 4 surfaces, reached his first slam quarterfinal, reached his first slam semifinal and collected wins over Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka.  Change since last ranking: Not ranked
  6. Stanislas Wawrinka - He appears to have recovered from his post-Monte Carlo clay court swoon.  Stan mixed it up with an in form Feliciano Lopez and could easily have been up 2 sets on Roger Federer.  Once Federer won the second set, the match turned in Roger’s direction, but Stan was close to reaching his second slam final of 2014.
  7. Marin Cilic – Goran has helped as he has posted a nice year.  Had he beaten Nole after going up 2 sets to 1, the tennis world would have been in chaos.  Change since last ranking: Not ranked
  8. Tomas Berdych – He’s been quite solid this year, but I don’t suspect that he is on the cusp of any sort of breakthrough.
  9. Andy Murray – The good news is that Andy has been 13-3 in Grand Slam play in 2014 finishing in the top 8 or better at all 3 slams.  The bad news is that his defense of his Wimbledon title lacked something.  I am not sure where his game is since his back surgery, but he has very few signature wins since returning to the tour.  Change since last ranking – 6
  10. Feliciano Lopez – FLo was runner-up at Queen’s Club/Aegon Championships, won the Aegon International and reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon.  His 12-2 record on grass in 2014 warranted a spot in the top 10.  Change since last ranking: Not Ranked 

Entered the Poll – Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic both re-entered my 2014 Power Ranking.  Feliciano Lopez also made an appearance.  

Dropped out of the Poll – David Ferrer, Kei Nishikori and Ernests Gulbis all fell out of my Power Ranking.

Biggest Mover – Andy Murray dropped 6 spots

Thoughts on Nick Bollettieri

Nick Bollettieri’s impact on tennis is manifold.  Tennis fans obviously know the linear story of Jimmy Arias and Aaron Krickstein emerging as the early stereotype of a Bollettieri player with a big topspin forehand and perhaps a more limited serve, backhand and net game. Krickstein’s injuries undercut his career as he did round out his game over time. Andre Agassi became the breakout star that catapulted Bollettieri’s status in the sport.  Of course, other players were in his stable such as Paul Annacone.  In 1989, Bollettieri Academy product Jim Courier upset Andre Agassi at the French Open.  Bollettieri coached Monica Seles emerged at the 1989 French Open as well.  By 1990, Nick Bollettieri was the top producer of tennis players.  He also had some drama as Courier left his charge shortly after the 1989 French Open. Monica Seles and her family denied his influence and role as a true coach.  Still, Agassi’s 1992 Wimbledon title gave both Andre and Nick a lot of validation as doubts had been cast about each man’s bona fide tennis stature.

1993 led to a split between Andre and Nick despite Nick Bollettieri.  Andre hired Brad Gilbert in early 1994 and success soon followed.  Nick had some big successes with Mary Pierce reaching the 1994 Roland Garros final and winning the 1995 Australian Open. Andre Agassi won the 1994 US Open and 1995 Australian Open and claimed the #1 ranking. Nick started coaching Boris Becker at the 1994 Miami Masters.  Agassi and Becker met in the 1995 Wimbledon semifinal round.  Agassi was #1 in the world and beat Becker in the 1992 Wimbledon quarterfinal round.  Agassi raced through the first set and grabbed a two break lead in the second set.  Becker roared back on the 10 year anniversary of his first Wimbledon title to win the match.  That was a high point for Nick Bollettieri, but Becker parted ways with him a few weeks later.

After the Becker-Agassi moments, Nick coached other players and played a role in the development of other up and coming players.  Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Tommy Haas, and Mark Philippoussis all were students at his academy.  Other players have trained at his facility using the resources to sharpen their games when the season offers some down time.

Nick Bollettieri’s Coaching Tree

Nick Bollettieri like many coaches in US college sports has a coaching tree.  Paul Annacone was a student of Nick’s, and he coached Pete Sampras for 7 of his 14 Grand Slam titles. He coached Roger Federer during his successful 2012 Wimbledon title run.  Annacone also coached Tim Henman.  Jim Courier is the current captain of the US Davis Cup team.  Boris Becker is coaching Novak Djokovic.  It would be unfair to say that each of these three learned everything they know about coaching from Nick Bollettieri, but they clearly picked up something from every coach they had including Nick.


Pat Etcheberry was brought on to Andre Agassi’s team to raise his fitness level.  Agassi’s biography takes some shots at Etcheberry and his methods, but Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Justine Henin, and others benefitted from Etcheberry’s work.  Given the degree to which Courier raised the level of fitness on tour, Bollettieri bringing Etcheberry into tennis from his work as a strength coach at the University of Kentucky had a huge impact on tennis.

Other Sports Following his Model

There was a time in the 1980s in which high-level junior tennis received a lot of bad press in the US. People felt that tennis was producing young robots who did nothing but hit tennis balls. Bradenton, Florida is now a home to the IMG Sports Academy.  Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy is part of a bigger system that includes programs for baseball, basketball, American football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, track & field and cross country.  In addition to producing high school athletes who go onto to successes in collegiate and professional athletics, many athletes come to the academy to train before a given professional draft or during an offseason.  Bollettieri’s system that once seemed crazy to 60 Minutes is now more and more the norm in how athletes across multiple sports emerge into the top levels of competition.

One of the Architects of Contemporary Tennis

A former player on the Challenger Tour told me that Bollettieri’s methods were influenced by Sweden’s player development programs.  This might be true.  However, I will say with 100% certainty that Barcelona’s tennis programs as well as the programs for basketball players at places such as Oak Hill Academy are heirs to Bollettieri’s system.  Big forehands, intense training methods, inviting Etcheberry into tennis, coaching players ranging from Agassi to Courier to Seles to Pierce to Becker to Sharapova to Haas to ….  Tennis in 2014 has been built by many people, but Nick Bollettieri’s contributions to tennis since the early 80s through today are among the largest.  His induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame is well deserved.

Karlovic has been a hard nut to crack for Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt entered Wimbledon 2003 as the defending champion and as the top player of the New Balls generation.  His peers were making inroads prior to Wimbledon 2003. Juan Carlos Ferrero was an Australian Open quarterfinalist and won Roland Garros.  Andy Roddick was an Australian Open semifinalist who fired his coach after a first round loss at Roland Garros.  He hired Brad Gilbert and promptly won Queen’s Club in an impressive fashion. Roger Federer won a number of titles in 2002 and in early 2003 such as Dubai prior to winning Halle for the first time heading into Wimbledon.  Still, Hewitt had 2 Grand Slam titles and a pedigree on grass.  Hewitt was the defending champion at Wimbledon and owned 5 career titles on grass.  He also drew an at the time unknown named Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the first round.

How does one return Karlovic?

Karlovic quickly became known as he beat the defending champion in 4 sets.  Hewitt is listed at 5’11”.  I stood next to him as he left the practice courts at Cincinnati in 2002 and I am 5’11”. He was shorter than me.  Lleyton Hewitt may be close to 5’11”, but he is also a slightly built guy.  Ivo Karlovic is 6’10”.  When I had press credentials to the 2009 Cincinnati Masters Series event, I passed Ivo on the stairs leading to the press box.  He’s not only tall, but he cuts a pretty intimidating figure.  He smiled as I walked by so that put me at ease, but he is a big dude.  Anyway, Karlovic looked like “he was serving from a tree” as Andy Roddick described it.   Hewitt’s reign among the New Balls generation was on shaky ground entering that match, but Ivo knocking Lleyton out just as Roger Federer and Andy Roddick cut through the draw to have a semifinal clash was not great timing.  Federer won the match with Roddick and took the tournament.  Roddick in turn won 2 Masters 1000 events and Indianapolis as he headed into the US Open and claimed that title and the #1 ranking.  Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Hewitt and Andre Agassi en route to the US Open final.  Ferrero and Roddick dueled for the 2003 #1 ranking in the fall just as Federer dominated the World Tour Finals without losing a match and snatching the #2 ranking from Ferrero.  Hewitt ended the year #4 among the New Balls players.  When Marat Safin rejuvenated himself and reached the 2004 Australian Open final, Hewitt in reality was 5th among his peers.  His solid 2004 hard court summer re-established Hewitt, but the Karlovic loss was the beginning of the end of his dominance.

Both Guys Still Pull Off Big Wins

Lleyton knows your pain Grigor

Lleyton Hewitt won his first career title in 1998.  Halle 2010 and Brisbane 2014, his two most recent titles, entailed defeating Roger Federer in the championship match.  Hewitt beat Stanislas Wawrinka at Wimbledon 2013 and beat Juan Martin del Potro at the 2013 US Open. Ivo Karlovic beat Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets to open the 2014 Roland Garros championships.  These are two guys no one in the top 10 particularly wants to see in their section of the draw at a Grand Slam event.

Hewitt Could Win Titles on Grass at 5 Different Events

Roger Federer holds 13 career titles on grass.  No one is catching that record in the near future.  Lleyton Hewitt holds 7 titles on grass at 4 different events.  He has a Topshelf title from the Netherlands, a title at Halle, 4 Queen’s Club titles and 1 Wimbledon title.  Andy Murray has 4 grass court titles at 3 events (Queen’s Club, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games).  Federer’s 13 grass court titles have all come at either Wimbledon or Halle.  Hewitt has won grass court events in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Germany.  A title in Newport, Rhode Island would mean 8 grass court titles spread over 5 events and 4 nations. That is a pretty unique achievement.   Win or lose, Hewitt will eventually be inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Karlovic has to be Favored

Hewitt will be the underdog in his third consecutive Newport final

Karlovic has won 2 grass court events in his career.  He also is 4-1 head-to-head versus Hewitt.  Giving up a foot in height on a surface that tends to reward the server is not ideal for Hewitt.  Most distressing to Hewitt’s camp has to be Karlovic’s 3-0 record versus Hewitt on grass.


I think Hewitt will find a way to sneak out two sets and win this event.  Hewitt d. Karlovic 6-4, 6-7, 6-3


Tennis Abides enjoyed its best run ever over the past 8 weeks.  I intend to keep plugging away and producing good content for fans of tennis.  The number of readers/visitors from the close of Masters Roma through Wimbledon has been amazing.  From covering Roland Garros and Wimbledon to talking about tennis instruction and doing product reviews, this has been a great period for me.  I’ve enjoyed all of the writing, and I am glad people are enjoying the site!

Thanks and and keep visiting,


Dan Martin

PS – My post Wimbledon Power Ranking will be up sometime tomorrow.  For now, I am taking a nice 2 day break.

Dan Martin:

They both look to be in great spirits as they should be!

Originally posted on For The Win:

One of the fun quirks of Novak Djokovic’s victory over Roger Federer is that his second Wimbledon title came in the same year as Petra Kvitova, who defeated Eugenie Bouchard for her second Wimbledon championship on Saturday. Djokovic and Kvitova also won in 2011, which means the players have two official Wimbledon winners’ photographs taken three years apart. It’s a fun bit of symmetry.

2014 — Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova

Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova. (Getty Images)

. (Getty Images)

2011 — Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova

Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova. (Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova. (Getty Images)

Notice anything different this year, aside from Petra wearing her hair down and Novak keeping the polka dot vest in his closet? How about when you look at pictures of the other Wimbledon winners this decade. (And no, it’s not the oddly Photoshopped picture of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, which was composited despite the fact both players were in attendance at the same time and posed…

View original 259 more words

Originally posted on World Of Sport:

kvitova wimbledon 2014 final

Petra Kvitova has again won the trophy at Wimbledon. Three years ago, Czech tennis player defeated Maria Sharapova and now Canadian player Eugene Bouchard. Kvitova in the final of the London grass did not give any chance to Bouchard, as the score was 2:0 (6:3, 6:0). The battle for the most prestigious trophy in the Grand Slam lasted only 57 minutes.

In the first section there was a little uncertainty as Canadian did not immediately allow a Czech woman to “freak out”. Kvitova could lead 4-1, but Bouchard was determined ​​and decreased to 3:2. By the end of the game there were breaks (two for Kvitova, one of Bouchard), and the result was 6:3. By the end of the match Kvitova played with no game lost.

On the way to the trophy, Kvitova defeated Hlavackova, Bartel, Venus Williams, Peng and Safarova. After this success, her latest rankings will be…

View original 89 more words

Breaking the Trend

Novak Djokovic finished 2012 as the #1 player in the world, but only captured 1 of the 4 majors.  In 2013, Novak went 24-3 in Grand Slam play and Rafael Nadal went 12-1.  Despite twice as many Grand Slam match wins as Nadal, Rafa ended the year with a US Open and French Open title and the #1 ranking while Nole had an Australian Open title and 3 near misses.  2014 seemed to be a continuation of that storyline minus an Australian Open safety net.  Novak lost in 5 sets to Stanislas Wawrinka in Melbourne, he won 3 Masters 1000 events prior to a somewhat subdued 4 set loss to Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final.  His tough matches with Stepanek, Cilic and Dimitrov could have signaled that Novak is great in ATP Tour events and is likely to go deep in Slams, but not quite reach the finish line.  Today’s win reversed that trend and as Novak regained the #1 ranking while Nadal has a boatload of points to defend between now and the close of the US Open.

Breaking the Trend was not Easy

Roger Federer with his 7 Wimbledon titles, movement that works well on grass, new partnership with Stefan Edberg and his 9 match winning streak were not ideal for claiming a 7th slam title and ending some bad streaks in major finals.  Federer played well in the 1st set, but Novak played better.  Nole was holding more easily and rebounded from an early mini-break to have set point on his serve at 6-5 in the breaker.  Federer held firm and got to 6-6.  Novak had a second set point, but was this time returning.  Roger won both his service points and cashed in his first set point.

Federer’s what if moment may come with the 30-0 lead to start the second set that devolved into Novak breaking his serve and fending off any first set momentum Roger might have.  Nole still had to save his first break point of the match when serving for the first set at 5-4, 30-40.  The 3rd set seemingly replayed the first with Novak pressuring Roger’s serve, Roger answering well enough to hold and a tiebreak ensured.  Nole winning that tiebreak had me thinking the match was his.

Nole was up 2 sets to 1 and really should have won the first set.  He got an early break in the 4th set.  Cue the trophy right?  Well Roger broke back immediately.  Then Nole broke Roger again.  That’s it right?  Well not exactly as Roger managed to break Nole when he served for the match and then to break him again at 5-5 and then serve out the 4th set.

Anyone thinking that Novak’s five set loss to Murray at the 2012 US Open, his 5 set loss to Rafa after leading by a break in the 5th set at the 2013 French semifinals, his losses to Murray, Rafa, Wawrinka and Rafa at the next 4 slams were not weighing on Novak needs to consider that he nearly failed to serve out the 2nd set and twice lost a break lead in the 4th set.  Jim Courier was never the same after absorbing 2 Grand Slam final losses in 1993.  Novak has absorbed 5 Grand Slam final losses since his dominant 2011 campaign.  He also absorbed US Open final losses in 2007 and 2010.

Novak’s win today likely ended what could have been a crippling trend.  He won 3 sets when he really could/should have won all 5.  Anyone who has played tennis knows that self-doubt is no easy opponent.  Roger Federer being 1 set away from winning his favorite tournament when he was on the ropes made the 5th set that much more dramatic.  Novak now has a Wimbledon title, 3 Masters 1000 titles and heads into a section of the season played on a surface that meshes with his game.  This win makes Novak the early favorite to win the US Open.  I’ll revisit that idea after the hard court prelims and Masters 1000 events have been played. For now though, Novak is riding high.

History Questions: What does this win mean for Novak?  What does Roger’s runner-up finish mean?

Novak was already a Hall of Fame tennis player.  6 major titles, a lot of Masters 1000 success, a long period of time being ranked #1, Davis Cup success and of course a Bronze Medal in 2008, make Novak a legend as Andy Roddick tweeted.  A 7th Grand Slam title and a return to #1 have Novak leap frogging Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander.

Federer’s GOAT credentials would have certainly been reinforced by an 8th Wimbledon title.  It would have made Roger the most decorated champion in Wimbledon history and given him an 18th major title.  Still, his grass court season helped his legacy in incremental ways.  He picked up a title in Halle and more importantly reached his 25th Grand Slam final.  The race and debate between Roger and Rafa is still going to rage.  Roger could have quieted it a bit with a win today, but Roger may very well leave London thinking that his days of winning slams are not over.  With Rafa and Roger still being moving targets, I am not sure what else can be said in this debate, but my guess is that both whatever can be said and whatever shouldn’t be said will be said in the Fedal debate.

Having said all of that, I’d like to say a bit more about the new #1.  Novak is 1 slam away from equaling Connors, Lendl and Agassi’s total of 8.  I think if he gets to 8, he will be obviously clear of Agassi due to his better performance at the World Tour Finals, surpassing Agassi’s time at #1 and having more Masters 1000 titles than Andre.  Connors and Lendl’s consistency and longevity (Agassi had longevity but lacked consistency from 1988-1998) makes overtaking them harder, but a 9th major would be the easiest way to leap frog those two great champions as well.  Novak and his career are still full of possibilities.