2017 has been the year of injuries, retirements and renaissance.
Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych, each a contender for every major title, ended their seasons due to injuries. Roger Federer, who had prematurely ended his previous season started the year at No. 17 while Rafa Nadal who had barely managed to remain in the Top 10 started at No. 9. They will be finishing this season as the top two. Another player to have made an impactful comeback this year has been Juan Martin DelPotro. He was unfortunate to have missed out on the World Tour Finals by a narrow margin.
It will be unwise to put Nadal’s performance this season over Federer’s or vice versa as they have collectively achieved something that was unseen for. Together they won all the Grand Slams (two each), 5 ATP 1000s and 4 ATP 500s. Out of the 7 titles that Federer won this year, he had to beat Nadal in 3 which included the amazing Australian Open final that these two put up. As rivals they have been able to pull each other up and have pushed themselves to reach the level they are at today. Nadal won the French Open and Federer won Wimbledon without dropping a set. Their performance this year is an inspiration not only to the upcoming generation but also to the likes of Nishikori and Dimitrov who are yet to achieve their due. Players can finally hope of winning major titles beyond 30 or 32.
When Pete Sampras had won his 14th Grand Slam title, it was a record that everybody thought would stand the test of time. But not only was it broken by Federer in 2009, it has also been surpassed by Nadal this year. Federer’s tally of 19 Grand Slam titles, Nadal’s 16 and Djokovic’s 12 just highlights the dominance that these people have had over the past couple of years.
World Tour Finals
Rafa Nadal has been drawn alongside David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem and Federer has Sascha Zverev, Marin Cilic and Jack Sock in his group. Federer has beaten all three in his group this year, though he did lose to Zverev at Montreal and the Hopman Cup. Nadal too has beaten all three this year but he lost to Thiem in Rome. The World Tour Finals is one of the few major trophies that Nadal is yet to nibble. Nadal, Federer, Thiem, Zverev and Cilic were teammates at the inaugural Laver Cup. The two groups have been named after former champions Boris Becker and Pete Sampras and which could marks a tribute to their nail-biting final back in 1996.
Federer won the ATP Comeback Player of the year, Fans’ Favourite (for the 15th consecutive year) and the Stephen Edberg Sportsmanship Award (for the 13th time). Winning the most number of titles in a season at age 36 and when five of those coming at major levels, Roger Federer is definitely not the rule. He is the exception. He is the answer to every moment an athlete’s abilities have been questioned due to age. Roger Federer is no more breaking records or rules. He is setting them. He is the formula.