Now that the path for at least the next five years has been set with Nadal, Murray and Djokovic feuding for the booty, will there rise a ‘Nadal’ again to spice things up?
For as of today there’s nothing in the clowns aged 18 and above to suggest any major departure from what will unfold in the next decade or so.
At least there are three clowns and of the same age this time to launch a three-pronged attack at the peak. With Federer now being reduced to spoiler status, it’s now upto these three musketeers to hold the interest of the tennis and non tennis fans long enough for the next wave to hit the tour.
Can this turn into another Borg-McEnroe-Connors era, with no one emerging as a clear cut winner? If 30 is still the age for the road to end, there are eight solid years these jokers now have to fight for dominance and more.
If Djokovic and Murray live up to the expectations, Nadal may find himself fondly remembering the time when he had a five year senior to contend for the Slams. Those may turn into the happy times.
That five year difference with Federer seemed irrelevant given Federer’s immense talent and physical conservation programme. But now that the rug is nearly removed exposing the advantage Nadal had physically, it may again come down to clay for Nadal to pad his resume, Masters and Slam total.
That AO title may have come just when the window opened momentarily for Nadal to slip in for his hard court title. This year’s Wimbledon should provide the answer as to how much Nadal needs to retreat back to his clay den for any more juice on the tour.
With Nadal winning everything in sight and the prospect of that not changing at least til Roland Garros very real, endurance, knees and daggers from the outside may prove too much for Nadal to juggle other surfaces any more.
If it does happen, the fight outside clay will again land beyond Nadal’s domain but with just one change from the past: No chance of getting in that game again EVER.
You see, not only has the five year gap vanished, the same age situation is tilted against Nadal in view of the miles he has on his odometer compared to Djokovic, Murray and maybe others.
It now places Nadal at a disadvantage, at least physically. And as he gets deeper now, that difference is only going to get more pronounced to bring him to an equation very close if not the same as the one he had against Federer – just in reverse this time.
In real terms, realistically, Nadal can safely be categorised as a 25-year old – physically. While Djokovic and Murray have their own crosses to bear in that respect, they still have age, in real terms, on their side to make amends and improve.
It’s more a matter of Djokovic and Murray making the right moves to overcome their current physical problems than the reality of not having anything to build on – like Nadal.
In view of above, this season is more than critical for Nadal to realise his dream of overcoming Federer’s or Sampras’s Slam total. If he fails to reach No. 9 by year end, he will have to make up the difference at Roland Garros exclusively.
That means Nadal will have to end his career with at least ten FO titles. That, even today, doesn’t look like it’s happening.
It may again come down to that classic case of ‘one in hand and two in the bush’ BS – something that appeared to be easing with Federer’s decline. The learning curve Nadal has to ride to match what Djokovic and Murray will have very soon on surfaces not called clay, may on one hand not be enough and on the other detract what Nadal already has on his favorite surface.
Bottom line: 2009 season can significantly determine where Nadal will land on the GOAT totem pole.