Sunday, 27 January 2013

Big 4 in Tennis

We’ve heard of the big 4 in Barclay’s Premier League, where the dominant big clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and years ago, Liverpool, used to rule and dominate the league. Right now you can also add in clubs like Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur into the mix. Getting into the top 4 also means qualification into the lucrative UEFA Champions League. It is lucrative as the money and sponsorship that goes along with it, can make a rich club even richer. Just look at the usual clubs participating in the competition, and you can always see them among the top 10 earners in terms of revenue.

Coming into the sport of tennis, they’ve also coined a new term of the Big 4 in recent years. And it used to be just Big 3 until Andy Murray won the Olympic Gold and US Open last year, cementing his spot as the number 4 in the world.

While being part of the big 4 does not mean more money or anything, but to belong to this group of elites, they are a cut above the rest in terms of skills and performance. But things are quite different just a few years back in the tennis circuit.

Since the retirements of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, the tennis circuit saw the emergence of Roger Federer. It seemed like no one could touch him when he was at his peak. With his graceful movements on court and gentleman behavior, he is simply the new face of tennis. For many years, a lot of people tried, but simply could not beat him, and he simply won and collected Grand Slams for fun, except for the French Open. 

Then came along a young matador named Rafael Nadal, who was simply unbeatable on clay. Federer tried to keep the young matador from usurping his throne of World Number 1, he simply could not beat him on clay. Nadal swiftly expanded his repertoire of skills to conquer all other court surface and won all 4 Grand Slams. Back then, you can also see Novak Djokovic, quietly fighting and struggling to make the top rungs of tennis. with Nadal as number 1 and Federer as number 2, Djokovic’s number 3 however did not put him in the same limelight as he had yet to won a Grand Slam yet.

With Nadal’s all conquering play, injuries soon caught up with him. With Nadal constant injuries concern, it opened up a spot for Djokovic to finally win a Grand Slam. Sidestepping Federer and together with a string of unbeatable performances, Djokovic soon reach the number 1 spot in the world, while it seems like Federer is fading fast into the background. All this time, Andy Murray was also silently struggling in the background. He being a British, is always carrying the hopes of the intense media and country to finally win the Wimbledon. Murray nearly succeeded a few times, but he simply could not beat Federer on grass, even though it seems like Federer is fading. If Nadal is the King of Clay, then Federer rules on grass.  

But things changed last year. Failure to beat Federer again on Wimbledon made Murray wonder what does it takes to win it. Then comes the Olympics which was again held on the grass court of Wimbledon. Murray once again faced Federer in the Finals and this time round, he simply swatted Federer aside to win the gold medal. Carrying the momentum into the US Open, Murray was unstoppable and finally won his first Grand Slam.

With the turn of the new year, finally the Big 4 of tennis were established. However with Nadal yet to recover from his injuries, it meant the Australian Open was simply a competition between Djokovic, Federer and Murray. This time round, you can see that Murray is getting better and he showed his mantle in beating Federer in the Semi-finals. With Nadal absence, Djokovic simply glided into the finals to face Murray. While it was an entertaining final, Djokovic showed more experience and composure to wear down Murray to become the first person to win 3 consecutive Australian Open.

With Nadal consistently plague by injuries and Federer seemingly unable to match up to the young guns, the big 4 to me seems more like a changing of guards. But rather than a single individual, this time it is Djokovic and Murray who will be flying the tennis flag.

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