It’s a fact that Novak Djokovic has been playing the best tennis since the start of the year. In all seriousness he has become the model male tennis player; a perfect tennis player.
What has happened to those “other two” though? Although both Nadal and Federer have had a reasonable good year until now, their level does not seem to be as high as it can be.
The real questions that need to be asked are: Whatever happened to these two champions that once were...
They used to be concentration personified, especially Nadal. Nevertheless this year their concentration levels have been like a roller-coaster at times, especially in segments of their matches where things get a little tight.
Federer has been so use to cruising through early tournament matches, that he sometimes lifts his foot off the gas completely, causing a flurry of ridiculous unforced errors. The concentration is there only when he believes it should be; this is evident by the fact that the Swiss maestro can still deliver some beatings when he knows the opposition could pose a threat.
Nadal on the other hand is competing like he was back in 2009. It seems that his concentration wavers on something other than the tennis match. In a high percentage of the Spaniard's matches this year, he has broken his opponent in the first game only to have his advantage cut back by being broken himself, usually by his own errors.
A good example of this is was in the final of the Madrid Masters. Nadal was serving to stay in the set when he immediately found himself facing three break points.
Whether they were not playing well or their opposition was having a good day, Nadal and Federer always fought adversity with sheer commitment for one cause; to get the “W.”
There were times when you knew that even if these GOAT’s were down a set and a break they would eventually find a way to win. Against Djokovic they have not been able to do this since the Serb is just outplaying them with some ferocious swings off both sides.
However, it seems that something else is missing. Emotion seems to be missing from Federer these days. When the Swiss lost to Nadal in the semis of the Miami Masters it looked like he did not want to be there. His face looked blank with no purpose.
Nevertheless last week when he lost to Nadal at the same stage at the Madrid Masters, the “Fed Express” looked more intense and ready for battle. There was even the trademark “c’mon” that he belts when winning an important point.
Even so I believe these reactions should happen more often. His reactions will then intensify the crowd and get them going with him, therefore making his opponent less comfortable.
For Federer the issue of not having inspiration can be understandable. He is not the youngest player on tour anymore and he has won and accomplished so much that sometimes he may be thinking to himself:
“Why do I have to beat these guys again? Haven’t I proven that I can countless times?”
However what about Nadal? Since the Australian Open the Spaniard's reactions on the court have been visibly different. He talks to himself angrily a lot more frequently; he twitches, flaps his hands about and overall seems annoyed.
Furthermore the fist pumps are also not as evident as before. Is this because he is just getting older and more mature, or is it because he too is in search of some new inspiration?
We tend to forget that Nadal turned pro in 2001 and has been plying his trade for a very long time at a very young age. Hopefully the loss to the red hot Serb, Djokovic, on Sunday may have helped him to re-ignite his passion and battle with much more verve and authority.
This year has not been that good for the Spanish Bull and the Swiss Master. In all honesty I truly believe that they have not been playing their best tennis.
Federer has been too hesitant to pull the trigger and his serve has not been as potent as it was towards the end of last year, while Nadal has been too nervous when playing and has not been hitting hits shots deep enough to trouble the top players.
Although they have constantly been in the semis and finals of tournaments, their level has fallen short when it mattered the most. And now that the irrepressible Novak Djokovic has forcefully entered himself into their realm of conquering without remorse, the “other two” will have to contend with sharing the spoils.