Fred Perry's Shadow: The Search for the "Home Slam" Champion
Recent events on the ATP tour have got me thinking about a question that rarely gets asked in the country-agnostic world of professional tennis: Who among the current top players is most likely to win a "Home" Grand Slam?
Or at the very least, how likely is he to win the most prestigious tournament that his country hosts? (If said player's country doesn't host a Grand Slam)
Novak Djokovic won the inaugural Serbian Open earlier this month. While it is not a Masters level tournament by a long shot, it is the only ATP tennis tournament hosted by Nole's home country.
Notwithstanding the Serbian Open Conflict of Interest covered by fellow writer, Long John Silver in his article from a couple of weeks ago, one can argue that Novak did in fact, win it fair and square.
The Djoker's play on clay has been improving by leaps and bounds, and one suspects he will be winning this tournament on a regular basis in the coming few years.
The recently concluded Mutua Madrilena tournament is classified as an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, leading some to call it the "Fifth Grand Slam." In the weeks leading to the event, that included the Blue Clay controversy, Rafael Nadal was expected to win Spain's most prestigious tennis offering handily. A Nadal win on clay is Peseta in the banco, no?
As we know, atired Nadal lost to an inspired Federer in the finals rather tamely. Nadal last won this event in 2005 when it was played on hard courts.
The high altitude, combined with the faster surface means that Nadal will always have a tougher time winning here than French Open's slower courts, giving it the distinctive high-bounce and responsiveness to topspin that heavily favors Nadal's game. Next year, maybe.
Speaking of which, the top French players—Tsonga, Simon, and Monfils (excluding the unfortunate Mr. Gasquet)—form an exciting group of three musketeers, but their clay-court games are still work in progress. Their chances of lifting the trophy are blanc for the next few years at least.
Roger Federer has pretty much owned the US Open for the past five years, and the DecoTurf surface is so much to his liking that it provided the only salve to his "dismal" 2008.
Andy Roddick was the last American male to win this tournament and given recent history, a repeat looks highly unlikely in the near future. James Blake, Mardy Fish and Sam Querry, Andy's fellow countrymen are even less likely to make an impact.
That brings us to the big W. Wimbledon.
Despite his undeniable talent and multiple semi-final appearances at Wimbledon, Tim Henman never really had the X-factor that separates a Slam champion from a contender.
Starved of a champion, the British public always put enormous pressure on the shoulders of "Our Tim," and inevitably, he always succumbed at critical stages due to a combination of nerves, weather, and a guy called Pete Sampras, who's been known to win a match or two on grass.
But how things have changed.
Andy Murray's game is matched only by his chutzpah, and notwithstanding the usual hype by the British media, it appears that Britain may finally have its first male Grand Slam champion since Fred Perry.
There is one little problem though.
Murray's game is ideally suited to fast courts, and while it might have bode well for his chances at SW17 a few years ago, the ever-slowing courts mean that his percentage game is somewhat neutralized on the manicured lawns of the All England Club.
It's only a matter of time before Andy Murray picks up his first Grand Slam title and ends Britain's Grand Slam drought, but in an ultimate twist of irony, it won't be at Wimbledon.
Turns out, Fred Perry's shadow falls lengthier at Wimbledon than at other places.
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