From May of 2008 to May of 2009, Rafael Nadal had one of the best 12-month periods in history by any player.
Roger Federer has had several great 12-month periods from which to pick. For reasons of symmetry and convenience, let’s pick the 12-month period for him immediately following Rafa’s. So, that would begin in May 2009 up to May 2010. Of course, some of this history has not happened yet but, no matter, all four slams have been played.
Nadal’s 12 Months
In June of 2008, on his favorite surface, Rafa demolished Roger in Paris. He was very dominant in overwhelming one of the all-time great clay players. I think, top five, but maybe the reader will disagree.
Then in July, the greatest match of all time was played in London. After failing at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007, this time Rafa won in a five set final over Roger. Let’s give Rafa an imaginary asterisk for that one because the last few points were played under very dark conditions. It was 9:16 pm, local time. Of course, both players had to play under the same conditions, but the point is that it was too dark to continue.
In August, Rafa won a gold medal at the Olympics. Federer badly wanted that gold medal but had to settle for a gold medal in doubles.
In September, Rafa was eliminated in the semis at the U.S. Open. This loss to Andy Murray ended a 19-match winning streak at major tournaments. Federer went on to win that tournament.
In January of 2009, Nadal won again over Federer—this time on a hard court. As at Wimbledon, this also went five sets. Even though this was on a “slow” hard court, it was still on a hard court.
Rafa solidified his stellar play with a victory on the hard courts at Indian Wells leading into the clay season.
As expected, Nadal continued his supremacy at Monte Carlo and in Rome.
His 12-month reign would end in Madrid on May 10th only weeks before the 2009 French Open. Who else but Roger Federer beat him in the final. Not only was this match on clay, but it was in Spain.
Novak Djokovic was given much of the credit for this upset because of the four hour plus semifinal that Nadal had to endure before besting him. It is Djokovic, and not Juan Martin del Potro, who I think can contend at the 2010 French.
Federer’s 12 Months
We’ll begin Roger’s period with the Madrid Open.
On May 25th, he was in his fourth consecutive final in Paris. But, this time, Nadal was not across the net from him. Federer beat Nadal’s conqueror in straight sets.
Then, in London, Roger won his sixth Wimbledon title. He beat Andy Roddick in a final that has been called one of the best matches of all time.
In New York, Federer was in the finals again but succumbed in five sets to del Potro.
In January 2010, Roger won his 16th Grand Slam with a victory over Murray. Contrary to what I have read, I think Murray was in form for this match. Federer's win came only as a result of him performing at an extremely high level. For a three-setter, it was as tight as could be. How tight? At match point, Roger misread a Murray shot that landed just in. His thoughts were that that could very well haunt him in the fifth set.
A Glaring Statistic
In comparing the two periods, one thing literally jumps out at us.
In Nadal’s unbelievable 12-month period, Roger was in the finals of all four Grand Slams. Nadal? He was in only three, as Roger won the U.S. Open.
In Federer’s period, Roger was also in the finals of all four Grand Slams. Nadal was nowhere to be seen. His best was a semifinal appearance at the U.S. Open.
What Can We Conclude
I think the conclusion is obvious. But, I would appreciate any comments.