The Swiss and Spanish renaissance: A year to remember for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

They won all four Grand Slam titles between them and will end the year as world number one and two. What a 12 months it has been for the 36-year-old Swiss and 31-year-old Spaniard.

Nadal and Federer.jpg
Image Credit: GETTY IMAGES via. http://www.eurosport.com/tennis/roger-federer-and-rafael-nadal-win-first-doubles-match-together-at-laver-cup_sto6343942/story.shtml

Just when it seemed like two legends of tennis had been chewed up and spat through the exit doors by the impressive, younger stars at the end of 2016, both came rallying back to dominate the 2017 season.

Of course, I’m talking about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Both subsequently came into this year following injury lay-offs. Federer had been out of action since Wimbledon 2016 with a knee injury, whilst Nadal ended his tour in October of that year after problems with his wrist.

As a result, Nadal was seeded ninth and Federer 17th going into January’s Australian Open.

However, the Swiss beat two of the top 10 seeds in Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori in the early rounds, before defeating Mischa Zverev (Andy Murray’s victor in the fourth round) to become the oldest player to make it to a Grand Slam semi-final since Jimmy Connors in 1991.

Federer battled past fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in five sets to become the oldest singles male player to make a final since 1974, where he would meet old nemesis Nadal.

The Spaniard himself had beaten Zverev’s impressive younger brother Alexander and Gael Monfis before coming out of his five-hour, semi-final grudge match against Gregor Dimitrov victorious.

This was Nadal’s first Grand Slam final since 2014, whilst Federer had not been in a major final since the 2015 US Open.

The subsequent match at the Rod Lever Arena was almost a reincarnation of that exhilarating Wimbledon final of 2008, but this time it was Federer – who was playing in his 100th match at the Australian Open – who came out on top in five sets.

Federer’s win was his first Gram Slam title for five years, but it was also his first Grand Slam win over his old rival since 2007 and the first that wasn’t at Wimbledon.

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Federer made a winning start in Melbourne. (Image Credit: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS via. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/sports/tennis/roger-federer-rafael-nadal-australian-open.html)

That win in Melbourne was a historic one for the illustrious Swiss. He became the first man to win five or more times at THREE of the four Grand Slam events and the second-oldest man behind Ken Rosewell to win a major singles tournament.

Titles at Indian Wells, Miami and Halle swiftly followed, but Federer had his eyes on one prize that was close to his heart and had evaded him for half a decade: Wimbledon.

From round one all the way to the final, the Swiss maestro dominated his opponents, and after defeating Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the final, he managed to win his eighth Wimbledon title without dropping a single set.

Federer became the record holder for most Gentlemen’s singles Wimbledon titles, surpassing both Pete Sampras and William Renshaw who had won it seven times.

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No one has won more Gentlemen’s Singles at Wimbledon than Federer. (Image Credit: REUTERS via. http://indianexpress.com/article/sports/tennis/wimbledon-2017-roger-federer-creates-history-with-eighth-wimbledon-title-marin-cilic-final-4753235/)

He won more trophies in Shanghai and in his native Switzerland at Basel to cap off his best season statistically since 2007.

As for Rafael Nadal, defeat at the Australian Open only spurred him on for the rest of the year.

In April he won his first title of the year at Monte-Carlo, before winning both the Madrid and Barcelona Open back-to-back in his native Spain.

Much like Federer, Nadal had an eye on the one prize he had won so many times- the French Open title.

Roland Garros was like a second home to the 31-year old, and once again he was at his very best in Paris.

He comfortably made it to the final where he would face Wawrinka, but even he was powerless to stop Nadal from winning ‘La Decima’ (“the tenth” in Spanish) and become the first tennis player to ever win 10 titles at the same Grand Slam.

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La Decima. (Image Credit: GETTY IMAGES via. http://www.sportingnews.com/other-sports/news/french-open-2017-rafael-nadal-win-stan-wawrinka-grand-slam-roland-garros/12uzn2xx4stqb14pqjtttcrqu0)

Nadal dropped no sets and only 35 games at Roland Garros this year, the second-lowest return in Grand Slam history.

The final Grand Slam of the year – The US Open – was again dominated by the old guards. After overcoming a difficult test in Juan Martin Del Potro in the semi-finals, Nadal comfortably beat Kevin Anderson in straight sets for his 16th career Grand Slam title.

His final victory of the year came at the Chinese Open in Beijing in October.

In December, the ATP Rankings saw Nadal and Federer ranked as world number one and two respectively, sending a message to the ATP Tour that despite their age they are both far from finished. At 31, Nadal is the oldest man to ever end the year top of the tree.

Despite his and Federer’s successes, 2017 wasn’t so rosy for Novak Djockovic and Sir Andy Murray.  These were two of the leading members of this new, younger, ambitious group trying to push Federer and Nadal out, but now it looks like they will all need to go back to the drawing board.

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Not such a good year for these two. (Image Credit: GETTY IMAGES via. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/novak-djokovic-elbow-injury-boosts-andy-murray-pursuit-world-number-one-spot-1583836)

Djokovic and Murray have both had injury problems this year, with the former splitting with coach Marian Vajda in April.

Beforehand the Serbian had lost to a player outside the top 100 for the first time at a Grand Slam in his career in Australia.

He appointed Andre Agassi as his new coach in the summer but an elbow injury at Wimbledon saw him retire during his quarter-final match with Berdych and ultimately ruled out for the rest of the season.

Murray went into 2017 as world number one following his best season to date the year before. However, an early exit at the Australian Open was just the first of many shock defeats that the Scot endured during the season.

He lost in the first round at Queen’s Club before also exiting Wimbledon at the quarter-final stage.

A hip injury saw him miss the remainder of the season and drop as low as world number 16 in November, his lowest ranking since 2008. He also split with Ivan Lendl for a second time in the autumn, as he now prepares for the new season which starts next month.

All of these developments set up an exciting 2018 for Men’s tennis. With Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka all set to return from injury and both Nadal and Federer in their best form for years, we could see fireworks in the months ahead.

One could even argue that there has never been a greater anticipation for an upcoming ATP Tour since it was established back in 1990.

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