A Tennis Golden Age: Why Are We so Quick to Pass The Torch?

Donald FincherAnalyst IJune 10, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09:  Lleyton Hewitt of Australia talks with Andy Murray of Great Britain during the men's doubles second round match against Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Oliver Marach of Austria during Day 2 of the the AEGON Championship at Queens Club on June 9, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

The above picture is of a former No. 1-ranked player and winner of a Grand Slam title talking to, what most believe, will be a future No. 1-ranked player and winner of a Grand Slam title.  

But we always seem to be so quick to anoint new players prematurely, and I just frankly don't understand that.

Whenever a society is living through a golden age (in the United States, most people consider those periods to be the "roaring 20's" or the World War II generation), we tend to not realize it at the time and wish for the next thing down the road, even though it's most likely an inferior experience.

I contend that, at least on the men's side of tennis, we are living in a golden age. It's not the first nor is it the best (in my humble opinion).  Many won't be old enough to remember the 70's but tennis then had not just two great rivals on the men's side, but three—Borg, Connors, and McEnroe.

And the ladies side was seeing Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova battling all over the globe. It was truly the best time to be a fan that I've known in my lifetime.

But this too is a golden age, only just not as golden.  

I believe that we are watching history being made and instead of appreciating what is unfolding in front of us, we are too much about the next great thing. Roger Federer has just completed the career slam, tied Pete Sampras, and in doing so, reached his record 20th straight semifinals or better (more than double the next best performance on that metric).

Also, Rafael Nadal was usurping clay status that long has been held to have been Borg's and Borg's forever. But, along with that, he's managed to win a slam on both grass and hard court. Depending on his health, he could win a few more, too.

What's great about this rivalry besides the drama and their friendship in spite of being rivals is that they are nearly polar opposites. Everything from their personalities to their playing styles to the surfaces they prefer is heads and tails apart.

Yet, it seems that many in the tennis media and on Bleacher Report are either really clamoring for an end to this or desperately want to be one of the ones that predicted who the new "flavor of the month" was going to be.

I remember before the Australian Open, we were all told that Murray would win it. Forget that his last hard court slam final (last year's US Open) ended miserably and that he had never been in any other slam final other than that one.

He was the one that everyone wanted to annoint.

Djokovic had won the Australian before, but he was being treated as an "also ran." Federer had won it three times and the US Open five times, making him the most experienced and successful at the hard court slam events. But he was being written off too.

And Nadal ended up winning the thing so he obviously was going to make some noise.

But we were all told it would be Murray. After Murray underperformed, he was ditched by the propogandists in time to pick up the Djokovic mantle come clay season.

As clay season rolled around, we were told it was Djokovic's turn. If Nadal didn't win, it would be Novak holding the trophy. This was supposedly established by the fact that he wouldn't have to meet Nadal in the semifinals for a change. Therefore, it was portrayed as a "gimme."

Nevermind that Roger has demonstrably better credentials on clay as I and others pointed out to no avail. Djokovic was this year's chosen one for clay.  

It was also pointed out by myself and others that Rafa wasn't going to win it forever.  I wasn't brave enough to face the wrath of picking against him this year specifically. Therefore, I just said that there would be a time that he would lose and that it would be a surprise.  

So, if it's going to be a surprise, it could as easily be this year as any other. That was the most I would stick my neck out.  But, others were finding the mountaintop and screaming Djokovic.

Alas, Roger won!

Now, we enter grass season. Now, everyone intent on turning the tennis world order on its head is hedging their bets. They've learned their lesson it would seem. Some are picking Djokovic and some Murray. No more putting our collective eggs in just one basket, I assume.

So what would the real outcome most likely be?  I'm going with Federer and, if not him, Nadal.

I had an economics professor in college that used to talk about business trends. He would say that "it is what it is until it isn't anymore."  Well, it's Federer or Nadal until it's not anymore.  

In other words, the time to intelligently pick one of the others would be after they've done it once or twice...not before.