Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will face each other tonight in the Australian Open final in a repeat of the US Open final last September which Murray won. The question now is are Djokovic and Murray replacing Federer and Nadal as the Big Two in Men’s Tennis?
This is the second Grand Slam final in a row to feature the Serb and the Scot. Djokovic has already shown he is worthy of number 1 status, winning 3 of the 4 Grand Slams in 2011. It is Murray who has to make the jump from being a number 3 or 4 player to a number 1 or 2 player to answer the question with a yes.
For the last number of years there has been a Top 4 in Men’s tennis. The semi finalists were predictable, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. For a time so were the finalists, it was usually Nadal and Federer. Federer was the undoubted number 1, Nadal could beat him on clay but on nothing else. In 2008 Nadal beat Federer on grass at Wimbledon and Federer’s dominance was then broken. When Nadal won Wimbledon in 2010 he was the undoubted number 1 with Federer Number 2.
Djokovic broke through and became the dominant player in 2011 beating Andy Murray in the Australian Open final and Nadal at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows. At the end of 2011 it was Djokovic and Nadal as the number 1 and 2 players in Men’s tennis. Murray was getting there but was always that little bit short of the Big 3, to qualify for the Big anything Murray would have to win a Grand Slam of his own.
In 2012 Murray would take a big step. He hired Ivan Lendl as a coach. He made the Wimbledon final for the first time, losing to Federer. He was getting closer. He beat Federer at Wimbldon to win Olympic Gold, it wasn’t a Grand Slam but it was significant. In September he won his first Grand Slam at the US Open. Murray the champion had arrived.
In 2012 each of the Big 4 had won a Grand Slam – Djokovic in Australia, Nadal in France, Federer at Wimbledon, Murray in the US. Add in the Olympic Gold and Murray had the best year of the Big 4. To me 2012 was a transitional year in Men’s Tennis with each Grand Slam being won by a different Big 4 member symbolizing this.
Murray’s semi final win over Federer was the first time he had beaten the Swiss at a Grand Slam, another sign of the changing of the guard at the top of Men’s Tennis. It is unfortunate that injury may have put an end to Rafael Nadal fighting back against those trying to take his spot at the top of the charts in tennis. Federer and Nadal will go down among the all time greats. Nadal is the most successful clay court player of all time, Federer is the joint most successful player at Wimbledon. They have not gone away and will battle the challengers to their thrones but for now it looks like a new era is about to start. Murray has made it into the top 2 of Men’s Tennis. The question now is can he take the next stop and be number 1? A win on the hard court of Melbourne tonight would go a long way towards answering that.