Nadal, Federer and Djokovic: the 20-20 thing

Rafael Nadal

In the great but very cold at Roland Garros. Rafa Nadal smashed Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to win it again.

He is now 20 Grand Slams, on all surfaces, with an astronomical 13 on clay. He is tied with Roger Federer with the “20-20 thing,” and we do not really know whether they will win another major again, next year, or ever, or if they will continue to dominate.

With the 39-year-old Federer aging, Nadal, 34, and Djokovic, 33, are much more likely to pad their Slam count. They look fantastic, and they have improved a lot. But, when you are in the 30s, you can get seriously hurt, and then it will be very difficult to feel healthy and easily to go deep at the Slams. The great thing in Paris was seeing how Nadal’s and Djokovic’s forehands, backhands, serves, returns and play at the net have improved a lot when since when they started 15 years ago. They are, as people say, mind-boggling.

Yes, there are some very good young players but, except for Dominic Thiem at this year’s US Open, they haven’t won a Grand Slam. Very few men have won a major early on and then have gone on to win numerous big titles. The list of top 10 in the Open era includes Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander – all have at least seven Slams. Really, you have to win it at least those seven to make the top 10.

Over the next few years Andy Murray (three Slams) and Stan Wawrinka (three Slams) can win another Slam, but they are at least 30 years old, and fading. Plus, they haven’t played much in the past two years. To catch it up again, they have to find a new level – especially for Murray with a revived hip. At the US Open and RG, both Murray and Wawrinka lost pretty early. Neither have a very good chance to do it again.

Right now, Nadal and Djokovic are eager. Thiem has a strong chance to win a number of majors, but right now to eventually become the top-10er, he could have to win another six Slams. The would be somewhat surprising.

Nadal understands what it going on with the other players, and he is not only smart, but he really listening. When he retires, as he says, then he can talk about everyone. He just won Roland Garros for the 13th time, and clearly, he has the credentials to say anything.