Many words have been written about how great Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been for tennis. Each has been nearly omnipresent on the big stage for many years. Both players are respected by fans and the media alike. Most importantly, each appeals to different sensibilities. Nadal draws on the gritty hustle driven tennis that many love. Nadal is a worthy successor to players such as Jimmy Connors, but he has superseded grinders like Jimbo because most of Nadal’s grit comes from a place that is not as dark or negative as Connors or Hewitt’s grit. Federer is a hybrid of 1990′s players such as Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg and artistic players such as John McEnroe or even Henri Leconte. Federer blends these styles while being more media and fan friendly than Sampras was while being a genius with consistency many have lacked and without the inner turmoil of John McEnroe.
Post Fedal World
The Fedal Era is not over. Federer has won a tour leading 6 titles this year including Wimbledon and 3 Masters 1000 events. Rafael Nadal dominated the clay court season as comprehensively as most of his best years and more so than he did in 2011. However, injuries and age will eventually make tennis a sport that is no longer directed by these two different yet excellent ambassadors. This weekend will give us a glimpse of what that reality may resemble.
Janko Tipsarevic’s twitter war is evidence that tennis’ image may not be entrusted to players with the likability and savvy of Rafa or Roger. The out of touch spoiled tennis stereotype may indeed get another run. Nevertheless, I think the future is not in a bad spot. David Ferrer represents a style of play and a work ethic that is easy to embrace. Novak Djokovic has been an ambassador for the sport since 2007 and his excellence in 2011 demonstrates that more great champions will arise in the future. Andy Murray’s emotional defeat at Wimbledon and inspiring rebound at the 2012 Olympic games are proof that a man who has been on the cusp since September 2008 may yet breakthrough. Tomas Berdych is an archetype for tall players such as Delpo, Sodeling and Cilic who move reasonably well and hit the ball with breathtaking power. A champion will be crowned from these four non-Fedal players. Each points toward a future that can be positive for tennis.