Once upon a time, we had the big four in tennis. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. They would dominate the titles, slams and rankings for a long time.
Have you caught up on the news that the quartet will officially be together as teammates for Team Europe to defend the Laver Cup in September? Just revealed.
Andy Murray then had a lot of injury trouble on and off for years which resulted in him resorting to getting a metal hip and a brief retirement which has seen him not be able to maintain his absolute elite level.
Roger Federer has also had injury troubles with his knee over the last few years and that along with Father Time has seen him not being able to compete and maintain his elite level. The other two, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still there and still dominating the rest of the field.
Nadal has had an incredible 2022 season after most of 2021 was wiped out with injuries. He came to Australia to start his season two weeks before the Australian Open after being on crutches less than a month before and also recovering from covid.
With very little match play in the last six months, he won an ATP 250 event before going on to win one of the most incredible Australian Open and any titles of his entire career.
Nadal was underdone but his will to compete and outwork his opponents is frankly mind-blowing. He escaped a huge scare in the quarter-final with a five-set win over Dennis Shapovalov in extremely hot and humid conditions where he was struggling with the heat and lack of conditioning.
As we have seen many times before though he would bounce back from this match in exceptional form to take out Matteo Berrettini in the semi-final under the roof on a rainy but warm day in Melbourne.
Many thought the indoor conditions would suit the bigger serving Berrettini but once again Nadal’s ability to adapt outwork and outclass his opponent came to the fore.
Awaiting him in the final would be the current world number one Danil Medvedev who only four months earlier would beat Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.
Medvedev won the first two sets in the final after the second set went over an hour and up 2-3 0-40 it seemed he was only one point away from a straight sets victory. Fast forward a few hours later bringing the length of the match to five hours twenty-four minutes and Nadal had found his way to an incredible victory full of his never give up fighting spirit that he is known for.
Nadal would go on to win Acapulco and then reach the final of Indian Wells before going down to Taylor Fritz bringing an end to his twenty match win streak. Injury though played a major part in this match with Nadal fracturing a rib in his previous match.
After only five matches on the lead in clay events and losing to Dennis Shapovalov in Rome where he was hampered by his chronic foot injury there were huge concerns over how he would go at the French Open, the tournament he has dominated over the years.
Nadal would defeat four top ten players along the way including a quarter-final victory over Novak Djokovic to go on and win his fourteenth French Open title and his twenty second major.
At the age of thirty six, he became the oldest man to ever win the French Open, and incredibly win the first two majors of the year. Nadal would have his doctor with him and had to have injections in the foot to put it to sleep so he could compete.
Day session, night session, Babolat balls, Wilson balls, June, October, roof open, roof closed, fully fit, injured, everything has changed over the years but not the outcome!
112 - 3 win-loss record at the French Open is phenomenal.
After having treatment on his foot Wimbledon rolls around and Nadal’s golden slam (all 4 majors in the same year) is on.
Once again he competes and finds ways to win including a five set quarter-final victory over Taylor Fritz even though clearly injured and serving speed well below his normal speed. Unfortunately, the ab tear he dealt with throughout the tournament got too much and he was unable to compete in the semi-final and had to withdraw.
19-0 in majors this season for Nadal and 35-3 on the season shows the dominance.
Novak Djokovic the other man of the once big 4 has had an interesting season but unlike Nadal, it is not due to injury.
The circus around him at the Australian Open this year was enormous and eventually, after a court hearing and detainment he was deported from the country and unable to compete due to not being vaccinated for covid-19.
His first major of the season was the French Open after finding form and fitness in the clay season tournaments he breezed through his section of the draw to tee up a much anticipated and mouth-watering quarter-final showdown with Nadal.
An epic match it was with Nadal jumping out of the blocks before Djokovic found a way into the match. The match was all but set to go into a 5th set with Djokovic leading 5-2 in the fourth before yet another epic comeback from Nadal to force a tiebreaker and then dominate the tiebreaker to end Djokovic’s French Open.
Wimbledon rolls around and Djokovic is the heavy favourite to win the event and that is exactly what he did.
The quarter-final vs young gun Yannik Sinner was the only test along the way after finding himself down the first two sets. An incredible belief though in himself and his game as we have seen many times in the last few years he comes back and wins.
In the final vs Nick Kyrgios, he was tested but always felt like the one in control and goes on to win his 21st major closing the gap to one behind Nadal’s 22.
So after the first three majors have been won and done, 2 Nadal, 1 Djokovic it’s the big two now not four, still dominating the field.
We are still waiting for the next generation to rise and defeat them regularly at the Majors, the pinnacle of this sport and these two are still the masters of the majors!