WHY IS NO ONE BEAT­ING Nadal, Fed­erer?

The ten­nis heavy­weights have long dom­i­nated the courts. Maybe it’s time some new blood aced them out

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­press.co.za

Rafael Nadal (31) and Roger Fed­erer (36) – world num­ber one and two, re­spec­tively – are still dom­i­nat­ing the ten­nis sphere. In the world of ten­nis, they are con­sid­ered to be quite old, so why are younger play­ers not stop­ping them? Just this year, Nadal and Fed­erer swept up all Grand Slam ti­tles and fin­ished on top of the ATP rank­ings.

There are many young tal­ented pro­fes­sional play­ers, but not one has re­ally chal­lenged the pair – par­tic­u­larly in Grand Slam tour­na­ments.

When a teenage Nadal de­feated Fed­erer in the 2005 French Open fi­nal, it was the be­gin­ning of a great ri­valry.

Fed­erer was quoted on The Aus­tralian’s web­site af­ter his Wim­ble­don suc­cess in July as say­ing: “Every gen­er­a­tion def­i­nitely is dif­fer­ent. Since my gen­er­a­tion and Rafa’s gen­er­a­tion, the next one hasn’t re­ally been strong enough to push all of us out, so that has been help­ful for us to stick around.”

Fed­erer be­gan this sea­son ranked at num­ber 17, hav­ing missed the sec­ond half of last sea­son be­cause of in­juries to his back and left knee.

Nadal was num­ber nine, af­ter hav­ing pulled out at the end of the sec­ond round of last year’s French Open and skip­ping Wim­ble­don en­tirely be­cause of an in­jured left wrist.

This year, Nadal won his 10th French Open and third US Open, while Fed­erer clinched the Aus­tralian Open and col­lected a record-break­ing eighth Wim­ble­don win.

Roger Rasheed, for­mer coach to re­tired ten­nis player Lley­ton He­witt, said that Fed­erer and Nadal were “two all-time greats – not just in ten­nis, but also just gen­er­ally in sport”.

He said that, when Fed­erer was in his teens, his life was all about ten­nis, but there were too many dis­trac­tions for to­day’s gen­er­a­tion.

“So­cial me­dia takes over as well. That’s part of the sport­ing pack­age now, to un­der­stand how you can ac­tu­ally work with that. You’ve got more peo­ple get­ting ac­cess to you. There’s a bit of that which cre­ates a bit of in­sta­bil­ity,” he added.

A num­ber of great play­ers – all 30 or older – in­clud­ing three-time Grand Slam win­ner Stan Wawrinka, two-time US Open win­ner No­vak Djokovic and two-time Wim­ble­don win­ner Andy Mur­ray missed out on this year’s US Open be­cause of an as­sort­ment of in­juries.

What should have been the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for the younger gen­er­a­tion to break through was wasted, al­low­ing Nadal’s dom­i­na­tion as cham­pion to pre­vail.

Young play­ers with the po­ten­tial to wres­tle the court away from Nadal, Fed­erer and other older play­ers in­clude 20-year-old Ger­man Alexan­der Zverev, 24-year-old Aus­trian Do­minic Thiem and 22-year-old Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios.

While some crit­ics have sug­gested that the stan­dard of ten­nis may drop when the likes of Mur­ray and Djokovic re­tire, South African ten­nis an­a­lyst Bruce David­son dis­agrees.

He ob­serves that, in­stead, the stan­dard will rise as Nadal and Fed­erer have al­ready done enough to in­spire more young play­ers to fol­low in their foot­steps.

THE RULERS Cham­pi­ons Roger Fed­erer (left) and Rafael Nadal con­tinue to dom­i­nate men’s ten­nis. They have a com­bined to­tal of 31 Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles

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