Tennis Betting: We're witnessing the strongest men's Top 10 ever
Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and Bjorn Bjorg may be true legends of the game but they didn't have to face the sort of oppponents Roger Federer has to.
"What this all means is that winning any title during the current era is extremely tough, as the draws don’t tend to open up like they would often do during previous eras. Would the likes of Pat Cash, Michael Stich, Petr Korda or Tomas Johansson, one-Slam wonders one and all, stand any chance of winning one of the majors in today’s game? Unlikely."
As the Top 8 in the ATP rankings all reached the quarter-finals in a Masters Series Event for the first time ever, Simon Mundie says it's time for us to sit back and appreciate just how strong collectively the likes of Murray, Federer, Nadal and Roddick really are.
Last week at the Rogers Cup in Montreal the top eight players all reached their allotted spot in the quarter finals for the first time since the official rankings were introduced way back in 1973. It was a seminal moment, although not altogether surprising as the current top 10 is possibly the strongest top 10 of all time. Winning a Grand Slam tournament has never been easy, but at present it is especially difficult; as is winning a Masters level tournament, or even an ATP tour 500 event. In short, men's tennis has never been in ruder health.
Sitting atop of the rankings is a man most people now consider to be the greatest player of all time, Roger Federer ([3.05] to win the US Open). His record in tennis' majors is what sets him apart: he has won a record 15 Grand Slam titles and reached the last 21 straight Grand Slam semi-finals, the latter record more than double the previous record held by Ivan Lendl. Federer also holds the record of having reached 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, and is now back ranked as number one, having previously held that position for a record 237 consecutive weeks. We are privileged to be able to enjoy one of the most gifted sportsmen the world has ever seen, and it is his example to his peers that has in all likelihood led to this golden period men's tennis is enjoying.
In many people's minds, there has been no greater rivalry than that between Federer and the now world number three Rafael Nadal ([6.4] to win the US Open). People talk about Laver v Rosewall, Borg v McEnroe, and Sampras v Agassi, but none of those quite hit the heights of Federer v Nadal. It was almost inconceivable that there would ever be a greater Wimbledon final than the Borg v McEnroe epic of 1980, yet Federer and Nadal managed it in the Wimbledon final of 2008, having been close to rivalling it the previous year. The pair then contested yet another classic at the start of this year in Australia. It is a crying shame that Nadal's knees are clearly such a problem; the Spaniard is already an all-time great and could challenge Federer's Grand Slam record, don't forget he is only just 23 years old and has already won 6 Grand Slam crowns on three different surfaces.
So we have two sporting legends casting their shadow over the sport, as has been the case during other eras, but what separates the class of 2009 from previous generations is the consistency of the supporting cast. The new world number 2 Andy Murray ([4.1] to win the US Open) has been superb week in, week out over the last year, reaching a Grand Slam final as well as the semi-finals at Wimbledon, and winning four Masters Series crowns. That is the form of a Grand Slam winner, and his variety and on-court skill could also make him a champion for the ages.
Little more than a year ago, Novak Djokovic [18.5] was the man who was all set to take over from Federer and Nadal, although he does seem to have gone backwards since then. Nevertheless, it's rare for Djokovic to lose to a player ranked outside of the top ten. While Djokovic does seem to be struggling, he is a Grand Slam Champion, who knows how to beat the very best in the game. Just behind the 'Big Four' is a player who has contested 5 Grand Slam finals during his career. Step forward Andy Roddick ([14.5]). The Nebraskan is in the form of his life, which speaks volumes for today's Tour when you remember that he was the year-end world number one in 2003.
Juan Martin Del Potro ([12.5]) is younger than Murray, and could well win a Grand Slam crown before the Scot. He is powerful off both wings, and moves well for a man with such a vast wingspan, and there seems little danger that he will flatter to deceive as his countrymen David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria did before him. Close on Del Potro's heels is the popular Frenchman Jo Wilfried Tsonga (), who can blow any of his peers away when his game is on; his destruction of Nadal in Australia in 2008 was one of the most impressive display of power tennis ever seen.
Nikolay Davydenko  is almost the odd one out in the top 10, in so far as you feel it unlikely that he could win a Grand Slam title in the future, unless things really fell into place for him, but again you can't fault his consistency. Rounding out the top 10 are Giles Simon ([410.0]), a fleet of foot Frenchman, and the man with one of the most powerful forehands ever seen, Fernando Verdasco ([110.0]).
The calibre of the top 10 is superb, but as already mentioned what separates them from previous generations is their consistency. It's as if they have all learnt how to win even when not at their best from the man who is the master of the art: Roger Federer. If you look back to the 1990s, the likes of Agassi, Becker, Ivanisevic and Rafter could produce superb performances, but none of them did it week in, week out as the top players seem to be doing at present. In the 1980s, the consistency of the top players like Lendl, Wilander and Connors was comparable, but the strength in depth was not as impressive.
What this all means is that winning any title during the current era is extremely tough, as the draws don't tend to open up like they would often do during previous eras. Would the likes of Pat Cash, Michael Stich, Petr Korda or Tomas Johansson, one-Slam wonders one and all, stand any chance of winning one of the majors in today's game? Unlikely. To be a Grand Slam champion nowadays takes something extra-special, which means if one of the young guns breaks the Nadal- Federer duopoly, you can be sure that here is another Champion who could be about to write himself into the record books. If that turns out to be a young man from Scotland, well that really would be an astounding achievement.
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