Roger Federer is considered by many to be the best tennis player of all time. But on what basis can that be determined? The easiest place to start is by comparing records, of which he has many - world number one for the longest period; winning the most grand slams, and reaching the wimbledon final the most times. So where's the argument. Some feel that he was very fortunate to meet some very poor players in his quest to amass all those titles. Although it is also true that you can only beat what is put in front of you. Another test for the best could be resilience in the face of adversity. To be successful you need confidence, and confidence comes from winning. So when you lose, and keep on losing for a long time, it becomes extremely difficult to come back. Federer won the 2012 wimbledon title against Murray after losing continuously for two years. That kind of mental strength has to be respected.
Nadal grew up playing tennis on clay in his native Spain, and he is justifiably regarded as the greatest player on clay. But he wanted more than that, and it is a testament to his mental strength that he was able to beat a peak-of-his-powers Federer on grass which was Federer's favourite surface in a Wimbledon final in 2008. So how did he manage that? The very short answer is - hard work, and humility and determination and a never-give-in approach. Success breeds success and this was never more true than in the case of Nadal as he dominated the men's game for several years after that victory in 2008. His game was based on power and strength rather than style and subtlety, and this comes with a price as his body struggled to maintain the levels of fitness and health required. The other sad thing is that although it may be possible to comeback from a loss of form, a comeback from injury is a different kettle of fish. The body can only take so much punishment, and once it breaks, there is no fixing it. The best of Nadal may be long gone leaving just a collection of fond old memories.
The king is dead, long live the king - meaning there is always someone ready to wear the crown once the old king is no more, and that man is Djokovic. This young Serb has demonstarted that he has the most complete game of any player today or of recent history. His win record is getting ever more impressive and he seems quite invincible. It was mentioned earlier that the best are measured by records, well Djokovic stands alone with 29 Masters 1000 series titles. There doesn't seem to be a surface he is weak on, and there doesn't seem to be a player he can't handle. Djokovic became the third man to hold all four major titles at once, and the first ever to do so on three different surfaces - hardcourt, clay, and grass. To give a balanced view, something negative should be said about him, but it's very difficult to identify anything. He is charming, attractive, intelligent and humble. Putting everything together, what can be said with any degree of certainty is that he is going to dominate proceedings for many years to come.
Luck can be very cruel. Andrew Murray by any measure is a superb tennis player and his level of excellence would normally merit enormous success. But Murray had the misfortune to be playing at the same time as three of the best players in the history of the game - Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. And given the competition, the fact that he has won anything at all is no mean achievement. What's worse, if the others lose, they can go home reflecting that tomorrow is another day. But Murray has the demands of nation to satisfy. Before the Wimbledon final of 2013, the last British winner had been Fred Perry 77 years previously. So when he plays, there is a different level of pressure on his shoulders than his opponents. For him then to beat Federer in three sets in 2013 to take the wimbledon crown, with his country demanding success, says a lot about courage, grit and strength of character. The match is widely believed to be one of the greatest performances by any athlete in history. It can be said without any fear of contradiction that he will never have the trophies and records his rivals will collect, but pound for pound, he is not less than any of the illustrious players he shares the court with.
1) had extra pressure compared to the players he was playing against?
2) could have health problems due to the way he played?
3) had a long period with no success?
4) has a unique record?
5) is unlikely to win many trophies?
6) often won against weak opposition?
7) had to dominate playing conditions which he was not used to?
8) earned a lot of patriotic respect?
9) is well-known for his humility?
10) is respected for being the best allround player?