I don’t know about you but I have always felt that Roger and Nadal’s destinies were intertwined. I remember at the Australian Open this year Roger was asked by journalists about him and Nadal’s dominance. Nadal had lost in the quarters and Roger in the semis. And it was Djokovic on that occasion who beat Roger in straight sets. It was a convincing loss at an event that he dominated for several years. Nadal on the other hand had won the last three majors, and it was a little unfair to talk about him being on the decline. On that occasion Roger answered that people are always looking to write him and Nadal off, and that they should give it 6 months to come to any real conclusions. Well we are 6 months down the line and both Roger and Nadal have suffered decisive losses at Wimbledon. Did we finally see a changing of the guard?
I think we might well have. Last year Roger lost in the quarters to Berdych at Wimbledon which was a big upset. There were talks of changing of the guard then, but it was a little early given that it was the first time Roger had not made the final in 8 years. It looked like Roger would set the record straight this year after coming off an inspired performance at the French Open. He was many people’s favorite to win the title. So the fact that he lost to Tsonga in the quarters was a big setback. You never want to admit to a changing of the guard as a fan, but you have to be honest too. I think it was a changing of the guard. It’s going to be hard for Roger to win Wimbledon from here on, or any slam for that matter. As far as Nadal goes, he was pretty lucky to escape Djokovic in the French Open final.
If Djokovic had beaten him there it would have been a very telling loss. But in the Wimbledon final it was once again Djokovic who overcame Nadal. I don’t think Nadal’s loss in the final was as telling as Roger’s loss to Tsonga, but it does signal another kind of changing of the guard to me. Nadal was in 5 straight Wimbledon finals, counting out 2009 when he didn’t play. He had won two straight finals until this year and looked like he could dominate Wimbledon for some time. Nadal is now completely owned by Djokovic after losing 5 straight finals to him, which in itself signals some kind of changing of the guard. Given that Nadal is closer to his prime still, one would expect that he can win more major titles than Roger still. I think there are similarities between Roger’s 2009 Oz Open loss to Nadal, and Nadal’s loss to Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon.
The ownage of Nadal over Roger became official in that match. It was a chaging of the guard as well. After that loss Roger went out to win 3 more slams, but Nadal wasn’t a factor in those slams. The question is how many slams Nadal can now add after being displaced by Djokovic as the dominant player. Some people are still uncertain as to whether Djokovic can keep up his recent level. Personally I feel like Djokovic had transformed as a player and there is no reason he should go back to Djokovic 1.0. He is now number one and is starting to win slams on a regular basis. He is also a more complete player than Nadal and less injury prone. Therefor he will challenge at every slam which means it will be hard for Nadal to avoid him. It will be interesting now to see if Nadal’s confidence will be really dented by all these losses to Djokovic, in which case other players could take advantage.
Once a player loses that air of invincibility the other players take notice and gets more belief themselves. On the other hand Nadal has hardly lost this year to anyone other than Djokovic. He has still been very consistent. I just think it will be hard for him to keep up his consistency with his Wimbledon loss to Djokovic. We saw how he struggled in the first round of Rome and Roland Garros after the final losses to Djokovic. The fact that he now lost in a slam final to Djokovic may have a deeper impact on his confidence. I am very much looking forward to the North American hard court season for that reason. I would’t be surprised if other players than Djokovic starts to beat Nadal on a more regular basis. Del Potro specifically will be a serious threat to Nadal on hard court. And of course you can’t count Roger and Murray out.
Having said that, I never count Nadal out. For that he has proved me wrong too many times in the past. I won’t rest in peace about Roger’s slam record until the day Nadal retires. I won’t even count him out for defending the US Open this year. But if I look at it optimistically, then I would say Nadal has 2-3 more slams left in him. He could win two more French Opens and perhaps a Wimbledon. I think hard court slams will be tough going for him from now on, with Djokovic, Del Potro, and Murray around. So in the end I would say we saw a changing of the guard at Wimbledon for Fedal, where Roger will perhaps win one more slam, and Nadal will only pick up a few slams if he avoids Djokovic. What do you think?