Thursday, December 2, 2010

But Not Enough

How many days can I stretch out Roger and Rafa? I think it is probably quite a few. And then we have Davis Cup. Wow, what a festival of things to talk about.

I talked a lot about Roger and Rafa yesterday. I think it's not unfair to say that it was a fitting way to end the year, with a Federer/Nadal final. There have been a number of years where Nadal has been the one person stopping Federer from winning the calendar Slam. This year, Federer fulfilled the role for Nadal. For so, so long, tennis has been about these two dudes. At the end, it's always Roger vs Rafa. That is what tennis is about.

And yet... we talk about the Big Four. Sometimes even the Big Five if Soderling gets his nose in, but we're not going to talk about the Yoker today. No, let's instead focus on Roger and Rafa's backup dancers, the two that are supposed to be on the same level - and sometimes genuinely are! - but can't seem to make it happen at the big dance. Let's talk Djokovic and Murray.

Both Nole and Muzz have had one Slam final this year, and both were smacked down by what seemed to be the hand of God. When Djokovic faced Nadal after that marathon of a victory over Federer - it is important to note, I think, that both Murray and Djokovic had a victory at the Slam level over one of the Hispano-Suisse domination machine - he had a shot. If you're going to beat Federer, of course you have a shot. And he actually didn't do too badly - he took a set off Rafa and played reasonably competitively. It was good stuff, good times.

But not enough. Djokovic has that one Slam in his bag, and the second one has never looked further away.

And then there was Murray. He beat Nadal en route to his final at the Australian Open (Nadal did retire, but Murray was playing spectacularly) and a lot of people thought he was going to win that one. And he got absolutely humbled. He didn't play awfully - he wasn't great, but he didn't suck, especially in that third set breaker, where he had a handful of set points - but there was just nothing that he could do against Federer. He did what he could.

But not enough. And now we're wondering whether Murray will EVER win a Slam.

Murray and Djokovic did not have bad years. They both made a Slam final and performed pretty well at Masters level and generally just did not really suck - though there is a case to be made that Murray suffered a supreme slump for a while after his loss in Australia. But at the end of the day, the year belonged to Rafa, and the one dude standing between him and supreme domination was Roger. Just as it has been in other years - 2008 belonged to Rafa as well, and 2004-7 and 2009 were Roger's. There is no room for anyone else at the top. Roger and Rafa are reigning supreme.

In other era, Murray and Djokovic would probably both have a handful of Slams right now. But this year... one final apiece, and that is all. Murray lost to Nadal in the semis of the World Tour Finals and Djokovic to Federer. While Roger and Rafa are around, Nole and Muzz are doomed to always be three and four, the perennial semi finalists.

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