Friday 7 June 2013
Will either Rafael Nadal (in Paris) or Roger Federer (at Wimbledon) end up achieving the never-done-before with a title No.8? Wimbledon.com explores...
Through the tennis ages, from the Dinosaur-Ball Era to the modern day, no man has ever won the same grand slam tournament eight times. And yet over the next month or so, two men could do just that: if everything goes Rafa Nadal's way at Roland Garros he will become the champion for the eighth occasion in Paris on Sunday, and then Roger Federer has the opportunity at the All England Club to win an eighth Wimbledon title.
It is a moot point who has been a more dominant figure at 'his' grand slam, and what would be the greatest challenge, beating Federer at his peak on Wimbledon's Centre Court or Nadal, when he's at the top of his game, on Court Philippe Chatrier in Paris. Based purely on results - given that he's lost just once - you would pick Nadal on clay. And yet, culturally, you would probably pick Federer on a lawn - there is certainly greater warmth and affection between the Swiss and the Wimbledon tennis crowds than there is between the Majorcan and the Parisians. Whatever your thoughts, if Nadal and Federer were both to retain their respective titles in Paris and London, it would seriously undermine the theories put forward at the beginning of the year that we are now in the Djokovic-Murray era.
Nadal is the only man, in the amateur and professional eras, to have won seven titles on the scorched earth of Paris, while Federer shares the Wimbledon record with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw.
The way that Djokovic plays on the hard courts of the Australian Open - he already has four titles from Melbourne Park, including victories at the last three Opens - there has to be a chance that he could end up winning eight or more titles on the Rod Laver Arena. He currently shares the record for the most Australian Open titles in the Open era with Federer and Andre Agassi, while Roy Emerson has the most of all time, with six. The record for the most US Open titles across the amateur and modern eras is shared between Richard Sears, William Lamed and Bill Tilden, all of whom have seven wins each. In modern times, Jimmy Connors, Sampras and Federer have five titles each.
Mark Petchey, Andy Murray's former coach, is one of those who argues that "the ultimate challenge in tennis is taking Rafa on over five sets on clay". "Over five sets on clay, he's a nightmare. Let's be honest, Rafa is incomparable on clay. He is that good. Even if you take Borg and all those guys into account, he's the best ever on clay," Petchey told Wimbledon.com. "I think people lose sight of the fact that Rafa is an aggressive clay-court player. He's got amazing defence, don't get me wrong, but first and foremost he's an aggressive clay-courter. So he dominates you. Playing Rafa on clay is the ultimate challenge. Dominating that guy on a clay court is virtually impossible."
But there will be those who believe that there was no one to touch Federer on the Wimbledon grass when he was at the height of his powers.
And perhaps Djokovic could stop the pair of them, Nadal in Paris and Federer in London. If Djokovic can win a first French Open title, he would join Nadal and Federer in the elite club of players to have won all four majors at least once each. And British tennis fans will be keeping everything crossed that Murray can become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936.
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