Decoding the BIG three & Murray

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 ……

ComparisonChartBig3In this part I’ll analyze only the talent, mental strength, and weapons aspects of their games and the remaining aspects in the following parts over the next few days.

Talent
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.

NadalFistPump

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
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.

Roger_Federer_I_Call_it_Genius_HD

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.

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  • GOAT

    Roger’s BH is a weapon now

    • Frankie G

      It has been a weapon for ages now, maybe just not as consistently as it has been this year. Case in point: Master’s Cup 2006, Australian Open 2010, Dubai 2015, just to name a few.

  • Saroj k Mohanty

    The best thing about Roger is his longevity. At 35, he is 5 to 6 years older than Rafa & Novak. That way he belongs to earlier generation. He suffers from a mental block when he plays against Nadal on clay. Of late he is trying to overcome that.

    • Jenny Brushaber

      Fed is fewer than 5 years younger than Nadal

      • mschelsea91

        What is this? Maths class? Just look at the year they were born. Fed 1981, Rafa 1986 = 5 years. You want to be more specific, Fed was born in August and Nadal in June, so Fed is around 4 years 10 months older, which is as good as 5..

  • Ze Tristan

    Djokovic has the biggest weapon of all: the return of serve. In a game where players hold serve time and time again [&, at the extreme, Roger only broken once at IW 2017], it’s the magic of Djokovic that allowed him to bust thru everyone for years. (Murray can be as solid, but less amazing placement).

    It’s so wonderful to see reincarnated Roger playing the greatest tennis of all time. He created this era of sublime players

  • Abhishek Khandkar

    Fed is a perfect 10 in thebtalent zone. While I might have to disagree about Nole’s echelone. He is far more telented than rafa. He will be there at 8.5 nd rafa should be apt at 7. Nole has defence, way underrated than Rafa’s. Roger is an allrounder. He has everything. And right now? He is everything. (P.s. murray sucks big time, has 3 slams in 8 years of consistency, bitch please, stan made tantamounting in 3 years, what big 4?)

  • Abhishek Khandkar

    There is no big four in profound, it is just 3 legends, and one awesomely talented guy who just sucks when it reallt has to count.

  • Manish Nadir

    I really liked the analysis done over here. Practical and totally unbiased. Analysis is very accurate i would say.

    • Johny Boy Dialo

      same here.

  • Tommy Frederick

    Djoker and Murray definitely have weapons. To me they play very similarly with return of serve and court coverage as weapons. They both give away very few points and they can shrink the court with their speed which is greater than Fed’s and Nadal’s. Djoker is more aggressive thogh with a higher risk/reward — which is why he’s had more success than Murray. Murray for all his skill tends to just turtle and make you beat him (most can’t) rather than take some chances.

    Djoker, Murray and Nadal are all grinders in some form or fashion so they’ve had more injuries than Fed. Not terribly crazy to see Fed playing such a high level for so long because his game is always looking to attack and not running around defending.

    Great blog btw. Hope you keep adding articles.

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  • Uday76

    I think, beyond a point, it is very hard to objectively quantify strengths and weaknesses. Tennis, like most one-on-one sports, is a game of match-ups. For example, in late 90s and early 2000s, Andre Agassi’s return of serve was often hailed as the best in the game. But Agassi’s returns were useless when they came up against the Sampras first serve. On the other hand, when Sampras played Federer in 2001 Wimbledon (or Hewitt later in his career), Sampras served far bigger and far better than he ever did against Agassi. Yet, Federer’s phenomenal big-serve neutralizing skills helped him to put a lot of the Sampras first serves back into play in that match (although Sampras was serving huge). This was something that the greatest returner Andre Agassi could never do against Sampras as effectively as Federer did. When the best players play against each other, a player’s strengths/weaknesses really depend on who he is playing.

    • Johny Boy Dialo

      great point

  • Emmanuel Oluwagbemi

    In the talent section of the article, there’s 10 second video of Federer making some amazing shot. When was that? Why have I never seen it in his “best shots” clips? I really need to find a clearer video clip of that shot. Please help if you can!

    • FeeFiFoeFum

      It’s Federer vs Roddick at the Basel tourney in 2002. It’s in a lot of the Best Of compilations –

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=angbTaqDgaQ

      • Emmanuel Oluwagbemi

        Thanks a lot mate. I’m most grateful!

  • FeeFiFoeFum

    ITA that Murray is more talented than Djokovic and Nadal – but he really does NOT have a consistent kill shot. That’s part of the reason why he’s never won more than 3 Slams. He’s basically Djokovic Lite. The problem is – Djokovic is better than he is.

  • Anubhav Bansal

    You were biased in many cases, mental block of roger has to be at 8 or 7.5, he is so weak mentally such that if he wasn’t talented enough, he would’ve struggled to win slams, in slams if match becomes tight, federer most often gets lost, for example see the record of bog 3 in slams, Federer has the worst and he has lost 10 finals out of 28, thats not good for such a talented player, nadal and djokovic just took the game to the next level and they made the game more attractive and competitive. If there was no nadal and djokovic, nobody would’ve challenged Federer and we would know the winner of slams before it even starts and as I’ve seen there are too many Federer fans, who hates nadal so highly, please let go of your hater towards nadal.

    • If we’re comparing Federer’s mental fortitude to Nadal and Djokovic only then I’d say it’s 8.5 but when we’re comparing against the rest of the field then 9 is justifiable.

      Look at the break down below and you’ll see that it’s not that bad as you think for Federer when it comes to a major finals. In fact Federer is a close 2nd behind Nadal in terms of overall finals winning percentage but Federer has a winning record in 3 out of 4 majors compared to Nadal’s 2 out of 4.

      Major Finals Record (Winning Percentage):
      Federer: 19-10 (65.5%)
      – AO: 5-1 (83.3%)
      – FO: 1-4 (20%)

      – W: 8-3 (72.7%)

      – US: 5-2 (71.4%)

      – Lost to Nad: 1AO, 4FO, 1W = 6
      – Lost to Djo: 2W, 1US = 3
      – Lost to DelPo: 1US = 1
      – Has finals winning record in 3 out of 4 majors.
      – Best Major: AO

      – Worst Major: FO

      Nadal: 16-7 (69.5%)

      – AO: 1-3 (25%)

      – FO: 10-0 (100%)

      – W: 2-3 (40%)

      – US: 3-1 (75%)

      – Lost to Fed: 1AO, 2W = 3
      – Lost to Djo: 1AO, 1W, 1US = 3
      – Lost to Waw: 1AO = 1
      – Has finals winning record in 2 out of 4 majors.

      – Best Major: FO
      – Worst Major: AO

      Djokovic: 12-9 (57.1%)

      – AO: 6-0 (100%)

      – FO: 1-3 (25%)

      – W: 3-1 (75%)

      – US: 2-5 (28.5%)

      – Lost to Fed: 1US = 1
      – Lost to Nad: 2FO, 2US = 4
      – Lost to Mur: 1W, 1US = 2
      – Lost to Waw: 1FO, 1US = 2

      – Has finals winning record in 2 out of 4 majors.

      – Best Major: AO
      – Worst Major: FO

      Murrau: 3-8 (27.2%)

      – AO: 0-5 (0%)

      – FO: 0-1 (0%)

      – W: 2-1 (66.6%)

      – US: 1-1 (50%)

      – Lost to Fed: 1AO, 1W, 1US = 3
      – Lost to Djo: 4AO, 1FO = 5
      – Has finals winning record in 1 out of 4 majors.

      – Best Major: W
      – Worst Major: AO

    • If we’re comparing Federer’s mental fortitude to Nadal and Djokovic only then I’d say it’s 8.5 but when we’re comparing against the rest of the field (w/ includes Murray) then 9 is justifiable.

      Look at the break down below and you’ll see that it’s not that bad as you think for Federer when it comes to a major finals. In fact Federer is a close 2nd behind Nadal in terms of overall finals winning percentage but Federer has a winning record in 3 out of 4 majors compared to Nadal’s 2 out of 4.

      Major Finals Record (Winning Percentage):
      Federer: 19-10 (65.5%)
      – AO: 5-1 (83.3%)
      – FO: 1-4 (20%)
      – W: 8-3 (72.7%)
      – US: 5-2 (71.4%)
      – Lost to Nad: 1AO, 4FO, 1W = 6
      – Lost to Djo: 2W, 1US = 3
      – Lost to DelPo: 1US = 1
      – Has finals winning record in 3 out of 4 majors.
      – Best Major: AO
      – Worst Major: FO

      Nadal: 16-7 (69.5%)
      – AO: 1-3 (25%)
      – FO: 10-0 (100%)
      – W: 2-3 (40%)
      – US: 3-1 (75%)
      – Lost to Fed: 1AO, 2W = 3
      – Lost to Djo: 1AO, 1W, 1US = 3
      – Lost to Waw: 1AO = 1
      – Has finals winning record in 2 out of 4 majors.
      – Best Major: FO
      – Worst Major: AO

      Djokovic: 12-9 (57.1%)
      – AO: 6-0 (100%)
      – FO: 1-3 (25%)
      – W: 3-1 (75%)
      – US: 2-5 (28.5%)
      – Lost to Fed: 1US = 1
      – Lost to Nad: 2FO, 2US = 4
      – Lost to Mur: 1W, 1US = 2
      – Lost to Waw: 1FO, 1US = 2
      – Has finals winning record in 2 out of 4 majors.
      – Best Major: AO
      – Worst Major: FO

      Murrau: 3-8 (27.2%)
      – AO: 0-5 (0%)
      – FO: 0-1 (0%)
      – W: 2-1 (66.6%)
      – US: 1-1 (50%)
      – Lost to Fed: 1AO, 1W, 1US = 3
      – Lost to Djo: 4AO, 1FO = 5
      – Has finals winning record in 1 out of 4 majors.
      – Best Major: W
      – Worst Major: AO