In the present day realm of men’s tennis there are the BIG three who not only have double digit slams but have also won all four of them at least once, and then there is Andy Murray who has threatened to dismantle the power structure by daring to reach number one without carrying the resume of the “BIGS.” Does Murray even belong in the hallowed hall housing the wax statues of the BIG three? Probably NOT. However, Murray happens to be one of my favorites, he is also the current world number one and has multiple wins over the big three, and I’d personally go as far as to rank him just below Roger and above the other two on the talent scale. However, he does lack the achievements necessary to qualify him as “BIG” and I have therefore pandered to the Brits but not included him in that “BIG” count!
A potent mix of talent, mental fortitude, powerful weapons, swift movement and Usain Bolt like speed, and certain earth shattering intangibles and quite a bit of luck is a prerequisite to reign at the very highest level of tennis today. And, all of those ingredients when appropriately applied result in consistency, and consistency dear friends is the holy grail of tennis. I thought it’d be fun to analyze how our top tennis gladiators ranked or fared in each of those essential categories. So here we go ……
Federer – Djokovic, Nadal and Murray are exceptionally talented but Federer is truly the Maestro in this department. He is perhaps the only player who makes the game look easy enough to inspire many non-athletic, couch potatoes to pick up a racket for the very first time. He brazenly deceives them into believing that they’d be able to execute those shots too. After all how difficult could it be when this dude just executed them so easily and effortlessly. This ability to make the not so easy look easy enough to inspire others is truly remarkable and unparalleled. Federer can do anything with his racket and make it look effortless too.
Murray – When it comes to pure talent, Murray is second only to the Maestro himself. He has exceptionally good tennis hands and is as comfortable at the net as at baseline. If only he made more trips to the net and became more aggressive.
Nadal – Anyone who can switch to being a left hander from right and then develop that zillion revolutions per minute of a forehand has got to be talented and also bloody strong to pull off that feat. The bull also has soft touch at the net but he rarely makes a trip there.
Djokovic – The player who could best Nadal at hitting more balls in has got to have enough juice in all categories. If the name of the game is consistency then no one has been more consistent than Djokovic at prolonging rallies and sending practically every ball back into the court over the last 5 years.
The Mental Edge
Federer – Roger is a mental giant and his ability to bounce back from heart rending losses is exemplary. He sports an optimistic life view which has probably helped him survive the grind and extended periods with lackluster results. Even though his mental fortitude has wilted against Nadal’s onslaught in the past, he still has managed to continue on and take those beatings as best as he could.
Murray – His tendency to go down upon himself to a point that it begins to affect the outcome of the match makes Murray the weakest here. Lendl has kept him in line off late and that has helped Murray become the number one. However, this one shortcoming I believe has prevented Murray from truly exploiting his talent and winning more slams than he already has.
Nadal – He is the man when it comes to mental strength. Nadal plays every point with his heart and soul and that makes the opponent’s job so bloody tough. Nadal must always be beaten because there is no chance ever that he’ll beat himself like Murray does ever so often.
Djokovic – Comes close to Nadal in the mental strength category but once in a while has been known to pack it in without giving his very best in the battle.
Weapons in my “book of tennis” are point ending shots. Shots which depend more on the player for execution and allow the player to dictate terms. I do not consider return of serve as a weapon because the return of serve is dependent predominantly on the quality of serve and is therefore as dependent on the server as it is on returner. Similarly, amazing movement and speed aid in effective use of weapons but cannot by themselves be considered weapons.
Federer – Roger’s mindset is to employ his serve and forehand to finish points and he has been quite successful at achieving that for nearly a decade and a half now. His forehand is much feared and highly effective and his serve has become even more of a weapon than it was in the early part of his dominance. Moreover, I was quite inclined to adding his 2017 backhand as a weapon but decided to contain the urge in favor of a “let’s wait and watch until Wimbledon” attitude.
Nadal – His retrieving abilities, speed and movement have allowed him to reach unreachable balls and his lefty, top-spin forehand has then created enough winners to win him 14 slams. His forehand is indeed a deadly weapon when firing on all cylinders and with good length.
Both Murray and Djokovic have exceptional forehands, backhands and first serves but in my humble opinion they cannot be classified as weapons of destruction.
There are many compelling reasons why the BIG three have been able to achieve such amazing results which will be further explored over the next few days. In the meantime enjoy your Tennis.