When Roger Federer finished in Wimbledon 2001 with a streak of four consecutive Pete Sampras titles, a total of seven at the All England Club, defeating him in the round of 16, it was hard to imagine that eight years later he would match his 14 grand. He did it in Roland Garros, in a deed relatized by the immense value that he possessed in order to finally succeed over Parisian clay and join Laver , Budge , Perry and Agassi , then the only men able to put his seal on the big four. Sampras had won the last of his majors at the 2002 US Open, which was also his farewell game of tennis.
When Rafael Nadal stopped Federer in the semifinals of Roland Garros 2005, to later win Mariano Zabaleta his first Grand Slam title and lift the first of his 12 cups in that tournament, it was also unlikely that almost three decades later he would have the possibility to get into the Swiss drawer, today already owning 20 majors. Sampras rose to the height of Borg's 11 greats - already retired on that date - by winning his fifth Wimbledon in 1998, and then leaving him behind. It would take Federer just three weeks to take distances with the American, winning his sixth Wimbledon and opening a blunt gap in the seasons that came.
Now, at the Australian Open, where he was champion in 2009 and has played the finals of 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2019, Nadal, 33, attempts against a record that was sometimes presumed definitive. Everything remains to be played since the Spanish debuts in Melbourne against the Bolivian Hugo Dellien , 72nd in the world, on the Spanish morning of Tuesday, but the hypothesis that on February 2, the day of the final, can become an uppercase date in The history of tennis is there.
«There is no secret. It's just passion, love for the game and the ability to stay positive in complicated moments, ”Nadal said in Melbourne in his appearance before the media, after admitting again that he is surprised at his brilliant longevity on the courts, given the characteristics of his game.
The three candidates, active
Australia is the first bullet in the Nadal loader that, unlike Federer when he equaled Sampras or the Washington player when he reached Borg, has the Swiss still active, with the possibility of raising their numbers and defending with greater guarantees the more than an honorary place as the best tennis player ever. The trend, however, places Federer , 38, whose last big date from Melbourne 2018, at a disadvantage. Nadal won again last year at Roland Garros and also did it at the US Open.
Even without entering this direct struggle at the moment, it is convenient to consider Novak Djokovic , seven-time winner of the Australian Open and defender of the title. The Serbian has regained the lost spark in the final stretch of last year and again demonstrated with his victory against Nadal in the recent final of the ATP Cup which is, by far, the best on hard court. Also winner of Wimbledon in the year he left, with his 16 majors is willing to litigate as the one in that race of uncertain outcome that has resized his enormous interest.
Australia, brutally flogged with fire for weeks, is the true opening of a season that has so far only issued some indications of what is to come. In the colossal fight between the three great dominators of the game in the last five years they will try to get their heads out once and for all the calls to take over.
There is Stefanos Tsitsipas , last champion of the ATP Finals, semifinalist last year in Melbourne, perhaps the most daring of those who arrive, traveling on the side of the Djokovic box. And Alexander Zverev , looking to get into the top four in a tournament of this category for the first time, to fight acne breakouts that still haunt him with out of tune reactions and unconvincing results. There is Daniil Medvedev , Nadal's opponent in hypothetical semifinals, whose emergence in the second half of 2019 should have continuity. There is the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios , with plenty of qualities to disturb Nadal himself if they have to deal with them in the round of 16.
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- Rafael Nadal
- Novak Djokovic
- Australian Open
- Roland Garros
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