Grand Slam Tennis: Time out for Roger and Serena

Grand Slam Tennis
Roger and Serena will celebrate their 39th birthdays in August and September respectively.
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Will this indefinite break from competition signal the end of the 'Big Three,' as well as Serena's hopes of setting a new Grand Slam milestone? Andy Swales ponders the question...

"How will the unexpected interlude affect the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and some of the other older players whose careers have already lasted longer than normal?"

The on-going Coronavirus crisis is having a devastating effect on every sector of society, and in most major towns and cities around the globe.

In addition to the very real threat regarding the health of people in every continent; businesses and economies have been badly affected, bringing 'normal' day-to-day life to a standstill.

Sport, which so often appears to exist in its own little bubble, has not been immune to the terrible economic damage caused by Covid19.

When top level competitive sport finally gets underway again - most probably behind closed doors, although no one knows exactly when - what effect will the enforced break have had on the world's biggest stars?

It's never easy maintaining a high level of physical fitness when sportsmen and sportswomen down tools indefinitely, and especially when facilities such as gyms, training centres and playing fields have been closed or restricted.

But probably more important than this, how will the layoff affect the mental and psychological state of sport's leading performers?

Coping with an indefinite interruption

How quickly will Premier League teams and players rediscover their momentum, having seen their season stopped abruptly after completing over 75% of fixtures?

How difficult will it be for golfers to get up to speed on empty courses without any spectators to inspire them?

And what about the world of tennis! How will the unexpected interlude affect the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and some of the other older players whose careers have already lasted longer than normal?

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Even when the tennis season resumes, both Federer and Williams will know that the only two remaining Slams available to them during 2020 will be the French and US Opens.

Wimbledon, which is certainly Federer's best chance of adding to his list of 20 Slams, has been cancelled.

By the time the 2021 Championships at SW19 takes place, the Swiss maestro will be one month away from turning 40, with Williams just a few weeks younger than Federer.

Fed's missing medal

One of the few achievements to have eluded the Swiss ace during his illustrious career has been singles gold at The Olympics.

He won the doubles with Stan Wawrinka in Beijing, but had to accept a silver medal in London's men singles event four years later.

Winning the French Open, which may now take place in September, has always been the most difficult for Fed, while the most recent of his five US Open titles came 12 years ago.

In fact, Federer's 40th birthday will coincide with the final day of the delayed Tokyo Games.

Will the father of four hang about for another 14 months to contest another Wimbledon, maintaining his fitness and focus, or will his attention switch to family life?

Still awaiting 24th singles Slam

As for Serena, she has already enjoyed the feeling of winning Olympic singles gold, back in 2012, but is desperate to equal - and perhaps overtake - Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

She is currently on 23, having been stuck on this number since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 - eight months before the birth of her daughter.

Since then Williams has lost four Slam finals, all in straight sets, which include defeats to Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep at Wimbledon, which has always been considered her best Slam opportunity.

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Maintaining peak physical fitness is always more difficult for ageing sports stars, than their younger counterparts, and probably more so for those with young families.

Novak Djokovic also falls into this category and one of the few remaining targets for the Serbian is Olympic singles gold. His best finish to date was a bronze medal at Wimbledon eight years ago.

How quickly will Djokovic - who turns 33 in May - regain his touch and focus, as he goes in search of Grand Slam No 18?

Shortened clay court season

With regards to the other all-time great of the current generation, Rafa Nadal, his chances of winning yet again at Roland Garros will have been adversely affected by a change of dates for the French Open.

The Spaniard has won 12 times in Paris since 2005, with his victories arriving on the back of a strong clay court preparation during spring.

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But with this year's planned clay court event likely to be a complete one-off - during late September and early October - will Nadal be in the best possible shape to chase French title No 13?

Nadal has had to contend with more injuries than most during his career, and he'll be 34 by the time the tournament begins.

Incredible record

The 'Big Three' have shared the most recent 13 men's slams between them, as well as 52 of the last 60, but small cracks appeared during the past couple of majors.

Nadal needed five sets to close out Daniil Medvedev in last September's US Open final, while Djokovic was also taken the distance by Dominic Thiem in Melbourne four months later.

Perhaps the Coronavirus will end up slowing down the careers of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic more quickly than the on-court performances of today's young guns.

So when the ATP and WTA Tours resume, how swiftly will this trio and Serena Williams rediscover their fitness and touch and probably, more importantly, their determination and desire?

Will they still be up for the fight of trying to achieve even more success in the increasingly competitive world of tennis?

Andy Swales,

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