For the first time in 9 years, the game of tennis is drawing parallels to golf. Four different winners hold aloft the four Grand Slams, each equally worthy of proclaiming themselves as champion. The last time tennis witnessed such contrasting winners was in 2003 - an aging Agassi won down under; then ATP No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero was victorious in Roland Garros; Federer stepped on the podium of greatness for the first time in SW19 and recent retiree Roddick promised America so much more with his win at Flushing Meadows.
Tennis lovers were looking forward to a competitive treat the following year. Little did they know that the Swiss from Basel had other intentions. Roddick, Hewitt and even Safin were forced to mere silhouettes, as Roger Federer went on a rampage for the next 4 and a bit years. The coveted No. 1 spot was propelled to illustrious heights; number 2 was certainly becoming the first loser. In stepped Nadal and challenged Federer for court supremacy. The clay was his fortress which then expanded to grass and then the concrete. The Swiss maestro was humbled, however brief it might have been. The pivotal triumvirate emerged just last year, when Novak Djokovic resembled more of a superhuman until Federer partially clipped his wings at the French Open. That didn’t stop the Serb from picking up three Majors and on the way, giving Nadal haunting nightmares: the kind Federer suffered from.
Andy Murray carried the expectations of 56 million Brits and the weight of his own disappointment on his shoulders. He had challenged to break the supremacy of the trio, but tennis for him was as an elusive Olympus. His coach Ivan Lendl had lost his first five Major finals, and the Scot’s career drew a strange parallel. Winning the US Open showed Murray that he was indeed capably qualified to join strides with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. There was a moment or two in the final though, where the darker shades of his frailties begun to spring up. He squandered a two set lead, and Djokovic was grinning with flashes of brilliance. The story would have been entirely different had Novak won the last set. Serbia would rejoice again, and Britain’s wait would extend – the ghost of Fred Perry still plaguing the isle. But the tale was scripted to be romantic.
So far, this year has been refreshing. Not that the years previous to it weren’t, but the fact that no player was able to dominate the ATP rooster completely, filled fans and followers of respective tennis camps with oodles of joy. Little could we fathom that the rankings in January, would determine the sequence of winners. Djokovic conquered Rod Laver arena and fizzed out as the year progressed. Nadal rightfully stepped up to master the clay before his unfortunate injuries finally took a toll on him. An aging Federer proved that there was tennis still left in his heart, showcasing class and fitness beyond his years on his way to reclaiming number one. Murray forced tears of happiness, giving his nation an Olympic Gold along with the US Open crown. Whose year has it been? Well, for the sheer surprises that they have provided us with, Roger Federer and Andy Murray would have to battle it out.
Tennis, like any other sport, exhilarates and forces us to watch it with a feeling that it is more than just a game. It defines life for these athletes who have perspired so much to inspire us all. Their victories ensure that the game itself wins. It helps lay down cornerstones which hold as foundations for many of our dreams and aspirations. Like George Orwell explains it, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.