© Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
In almost all the majors stretching back to 2005, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been a constant presence, winning multiple Grand Slams in the process. Federer and Nadal initially triumphed on their beloved surfaces, grass and clay respectively, before establishing themselves as all-rounders with victories in Australia and the US. Fast forward to Wimbledon 2013, both former champions are out before the second week. This has come as a massive surprise, considering Federer won a grass-court lead up event and Nadal has just come off a prosperous clay court season.
For a long time, they were pitted to play one another in the final of a major tournament. Fans always expected them to produce matches of a high quality and intensity. They have always pushed each other on and off the court and thrive off each others success. But can one survive if the other falls early? Take for instance the 2009 French Open where Nadal succumbed to Soderling in the fourth round. This firmly placed the spotlight on Federer and put him in position to win the elusive Grand Slam. The pressure surely got to him as he was points from defeat in his fourth round clash against Tommy Haas.
Thankfully for Federer, he avoided catastrophe and went on to win the tournament. Wimbledon 2012 was another example. Nadal was knocked out in the second round by Lukas Rosol, a virtual unknown from the Czech Republic. Federer who was already through to the third round, uncharacteristically struggled throughout his next match, before winning in five sets. Was he getting too far ahead of himself? Did the media circus play on his mind? Or was it his playing form? In my mind, it wouldn’t be normal for any tennis player participating in a Grand Slam to not feel a sense of relief if one of the most feared tennis players in world was knocked out early.
The Swiss maestro could of easily lost those two matches but came through with renewed belief and confidence. But it was third time unlucky for Federer this year. He follows his rival out of the tournament pondering on what could of been. Wimbledon 2013, has been an unusual tournament thus far, with 13 players retiring mid-match and a number of top players out of the tournament. This is probably the best opportunity Andy Murray will ever get to winning Wimbledon. As of the fourth round, his half of the draw doesn’t feature any other top 10 players with Mikhail Youzhny being the highest seed left at 20. Can he do it?