Will Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray Survive through 2018?

The undisputed GOAT, Rod Laver believes that we could have a changing of the guard in 2018.

 

The ATP Tour is ripe for a changing of the guard.

Rod Laver couldn’t have been more prescient because it seems Andy Murray is done for 2018, and probably beyond, because of his recent hip surgery. Novak Djokovic’s elbow and head have had enough contortions and endless rallies from behind the baseline. One never knows when Rafael Nadal’s knees will give up on him for good, and for a pro tennis player, Roger Federer practically has one leg in the grave.

 

Andy Murray and the hip woes.

Andy Murray’s 2018 comeback never really materialized. He has just finished with his hip surgery and will miss a significant part of the 2018 season. Andy expects to be back for Wimbledon but it is not easy to come back from a hip surgery, and we all know what happened to Lleyton Hewitt after one.

I am a fan of Andy Murray and would love for him to be back in the top five if not at number one. However, Murray is 30 and with the recent hip surgery another year could just fly by and he’d then be or near, 32. Andy Murray is very talented but he is no Roger Federer who can reinvent himself at any age. Roger’s constant reinvention, as a tennis player, is a factor of both talent and, as well as his, ultra-aggressive mindset. Players with aggressive mindset tend to be proactive and therefore highly creative in their efforts to break through the defenses of retrievers, moon-ballers, and grinders. Andy can play aggressive tennis like he did against Roger in the 2012 Olympic’s finals, but he certainly doesn’t have an aggressive mindset and, therefore, like Nadal and Djokovic, he is usually the one retrieving instead of dictating and creating.

138 mph is highly doubtful of Andy’s return to number one. He may return and taste mediocre success and even reach the top ten but the prospects of winning a slam or becoming number one seem quite minuscule. There seems slim to no chance that Andy Murray will be a force either in or after 2018.

 

Rafael Nadal’s recurring knee problem.

Rafael Nadal’s physicality and fighting prowess can win tournaments, including majors, on any surface but his playing style is natural for the clay. Now, this may upset the hardcore Nadal fans but the numbers over the last thirteen years speak for themselves. Moreover, the clay is the only surface on which Nadal should play if he wishes to play at all in 2019. It is a miracle that he has lasted this long and if it weren’t for the long breaks that he takes every year, he’d be done and dusted as a pro by now.

Whether Rafael Nadal will survive the 2018 season and continue beyond will depend entirely on his ability to steer clear of the hard and grass courts.

 

Novak Djokovic’s elbow and the playing style.

Novak Djokovic has no real weapon in his arsenal of shots. He has an excellent backhand and forehand but they are not weapons-grade stuff. Only Roger’s, Rafa’s, and Del Potro’s forehands and Wawrinka’s backhand qualify as weapons. Novak’s serve is good but not of Karlovic’s, Isner’s, and Federer’s caliber.

Novak relies too much on his movement, and even more than Nadal on extending rallies. Someone whose game depends so much on extending rallies but doesn’t have the mental strength of a Nadal was bound to crack sooner or later. It seems Novak’s mind and will have given up more than his elbow. After all, who needs the incessant running around with nothing new to do on the court after winning twelve slams.

Novak Djokovic will have his last hurrah and may even come close to winning a slam this year before calling it quits sometime in 2019-20.

 

Can Roger Federer beat father time?

Roger Federer has that rare combination of talent and mindset which only one other player has on the ATP tour.  Can you guess who?

The combination of talent and mindset could have allowed Federer to play forever and continue to reinvent his game. However, time and age gets to us all and Roger’s age is beginning to show. His aggressive mindset supported by balance and grace kept him injury free and dominant for quite a while but with time and age even he had to undergo surgery and may need another if he doesn’t take it easy on his body. He shortens points at will but can still be lured into rallies by the likes by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who exist to prolong rallies. At Roger’s age, just a few matches with too many extended rallies could draw the curtains for good.

Roger may continue to play until 2020, but it’d be tough for him to stay on top of the rankings. He’d need to cut down his schedule to less than ten tournaments a year to avoid injuries. However, the fans will get to enjoy his inimitable brand of tennis for a couple more years.

  • Adrian

    Great article and agree 100%.I think of all those 4 (Novak, Federer, Nadal and Murray), Nadal and Federer have the best chance of lasting the longest. Nadal actually has a pretty darn good chance of not only catching but passing Federer in the Slam count – and I think Nadal will try his hardest to make it so. After all, the FO is still there waiting for him. Federer could realistically have a good 2-3 years at the elite level – after all, despite what the rankings say, Federer is the real #1 player at this very moment, having dominated Nadal for most of last year. But as far as Novak and Murray (and Nadal to a good extend), you are 100% right in that their defensive, movement-based style of game is a Hell of a stress to put a body through. The real demise of Novak though was started by none other than triple-weaponized attack at the hands of Wawrinka. Wawrinka has more that just his backhand for a weapon… you can count his forehand and serve along with that. And that was telling in the last Slam matches between Novak and Wawrinka, most specially at the French Open and US-Open finals. And as bad as the kick-ass Wawrinka gave Novak at the FO, it was the US Open Final that truly broke Novak. To the point that an unending defensive front put by Novak ended up in pretty much is one bloody mess of worn out feet. Bottom line, Novak didnt have any weapons to counter Wawrinka and he knows that. And to make things worse, today’s young crop are coming harder, bigger, faster and Novak’s lack of real weapons are becoming more apparent match after match, week after week.

    • remon ajib

      AdrTor.. You just come up with this after saw Murray and Novak out of injury, then suddenly judged them cant compete anymore against Federer and Nadal, i dont believe what you said. What would happen if Murray and Novak stays fits last year, do you think Federer and Nadal still manage to be top of rankings right now!!. You should know Novak’s lack of real weapons because he’s not play his best or suffering some injuries like in 2017 and that same goes for Murray. In case Novak and Wawrinka matches,, you just comparing when Novak lost against him, not counted in french ,Novak had to play 3 days in a row and at US Open, Novak had lacks of match and got trouble with his injury in the final.. i know Wawinka has a weapon but it not just make him better than Novak as Top Player.

    • Joy

      Thanks for your comments. It prompted us to post http://www.138mph.com/tennis-federers-and-wawrinkas-game-as-compared-to-djokovics-and-nadals/ Hope it addresses some of the points you mentioned.

  • Paris Iyer Chowdri

    Lovely article. Its good to read a nicely written analytic assessment of the players, their styles and the imminent change of guard.
    I dont know what or when i missed, but when did Novak suddenly become the player with the fragile mind? I thought that title was reserved for Federer. However, i think he will be back. He still has a good 2-3 years in the top 10. I would even throw in a couple of slams.
    IMHO Murray was out of it the moment he won wimbledon. He has lacked motivation since then and his run to no.1 was partly facilitated by having to compete against a novak out of form and Rafa and Fed effectively sidelined.
    WIth Zverev, Thiem and Kyrious finding their feet, Murray may not be able to get back into the top 5. And as the article points out, Fed and Rafa will also find it hard to stay there for too long.
    Its a sad predicament, and one every tennis fan would have dreaded; but am glad i was able to watch Roger and Rafa right from their earliest matches.

  • Dumbbells Matt

    Oh please. People were writing both Roger and Rafa off at the beginning of the AO last year. People have been predicting Rafa’s playing style would end his career for a decade now. Years ago so called EXPERTS predicted Rafa would never win the US open. Talent is talent, heart is heart. All the big 4 have it. These next generation players have shown none of that. No one can stay #1 forever. Players go up and down. That is life. Injuries happen. The strong over come them. I have a feeling we will see Novak Djokovic holding a slam trophy again along with Rafa and Roger. Andy with his drive may come close again and may succeed. Don’t ever underestimate talent combined with determination.