Having already become the first British man since Fred Perry, in 1936, to win a Grand Slam final, with victory in the 2012 US Open, Andy Murray made even bigger headlines the following year by becoming the first British man since Perry to win the men’s singles at the Wimbledon Championships. Murray, 26, did so in some style, too, winning 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in three hours and 10 minutes.
Fresh from a straight-sets victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club, in West Kensington, second-seeded Murray was largely untroubled in the early rounds of the Wimbledon Championships. However, having progressed to the quarter-final stages without dropping a set, he had to recover from two sets down against the unseeded Fernando Verdasco and, again, from a set down against twenty-fourth seed Jerzy Janowicz to set up a clash with number one seed Novak Djokovic in the final.
Played in blazing sunshine and temperatures approaching 50ºC, the final was a high-octane, albeit uncharacteristically erratic, affair, strewn win unforced errors, particularly on the part of Djokovic. Murray took a two-set lead, courtesy of a love service game, and broke serve to lead 2-0 in the third set, before Djokovic reeled off four games in a row to lead 4-2. Murray led again, and served for the match, at 5-4, but squandered three Championship points before finally converting a fourth. Having finally laid the ghost of Fred Perry to rest, Murray said afterwards, ‘It was an unbelievably tough match, so many long games.’
NOVAK DJOKOVIC is the hot favourite to make it Australia Open No.10 in January, despite the tennis world still being unaware whether the Serb will actually be allowed to participate in the competition.
The 34-year-old is the most successful player in the history of the event, his haul of championship successes ahead of Roger Federer and Aussie tennis legend Roy Emerson, both winning six titles. However, the insistence that no unvaccinated players will be allowed to compete has thrown the defending champion’s presence into doubt.
Djokovic has been very guarded about whether he has had the jab or not, and had highlighted his belief in people being allowed the ‘freedom of choice’. However, if he wants to play at Melbourne Park then he will have to reveal his medical status, with no-one allowed entry unless they’ve been vaccinated against Covid 19.
With the chance to move ahead of both Federer and Nadal on to 21 grand slam titles, reaching double figures in Aussie Open wins in the process, there is a clear attraction to play, especially with Federer still injured and Nadal on the comeback trail after a foot injury ruled him out of the US Open. If Nadal comes through a three-day exhibition event in Abu Dhabi this month unscathed, he is likely to target a warm-up tournament in Australia before heading to Melbourne.
Bookies have decided that if Djokovic is there then he is the player to beat, installing him as 6/4 favourite – bet £6 on the Serb and get £10 back if he wins with bet365 current welcome bonus in a free bet deal. Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in the US Open Final in September, is second favourite at 11/4, with Alex Zverev at 11/2.
The value may be further down the betting with former champion Nadal at 14/1, and up and coming Canadian star Felix Auger Aliassime available at 40/1 – Aliassime was beaten by Medvedev in the semi-final at Flushing Meadows.
At even longer odds you can get 80/1 on Andy Murray to defy his metal hip and claim a first Australian Open title; the Scot has lost five finals at Melbourne, four of those to Djokovic.
The focus, however, is on world No.1 Djokovic, and the Aussies clearly want the defending champion to line up come January, with tournament director Craig Tiley talking up the chance of the Serb making history.
“I know he wants to be here, he’d like nothing more,” said Tiley. “He doesn’t want to start the year without the opportunity to win all four Grand Slams – that’s enough motivation. So, the question is going to be: where is he at with his vaccination status?
“At the end of the day, you want to give everyone the best possible chance to get in, and to do it within the parameters which we can.”
And Tiley admitted: “Time is running out, and obviously you can get one vaccination – the Johnson & Johnson shot – but if you need a double vaccination, that window between the two vaccines is really closing.”
If Djokovic doesn’t make the event, and at present that appears a very strong possibility, then the smart money will be on either Medvedev or Zverev to claim a first Australian Open.
Medvedev will be looking to make it back-to-back slams after lifting the US Open title in September, and the world No.2 is seen as heir apparent to Djokovic at Melbourne. But he was beaten by Zverev in the recent ATP Finals event – the German’s first win over the Russian in two years – and the German will go into the Australian Open full of confidence.
Zverev, 24, has won six titles this year and an Olympics gold, but the drawback for the 24-year-old is that he is yet to win a grand slam. His best result is a beaten finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2020, going down in five sets to Dominic Thiem.
All eyes turn to the 2021 French Open at the end of May, after the French public authorities threw a spanner in the works deciding to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by one week, which will now be held from 24 May to 13 June.
With an extra week to play with many tour players have planned their tennis calendar around the competition in Paris, avoiding competitions in the interim. Rafa Nadal is coming off a pulsating Barcelona Open title win, after dispatching a resilient Stefanos Tsitsipas saving a match point in a thrilling three-set victory.
Nadal, the undoubted “King of Clay” will turn 35 during this year’s French Open and is equal on Grand Slams as counterpart Rodger Federer. The build-up to the tournament has mainly been focused around Rodger Federer’s return and the veteran’s chances against a man that is acclaimed to be the best player ever to play on the red dirt.
With Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem occupying the three fixed odds favourite spots, it is hard to envision another Men’s Singles challenger. Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza are the top three women’s favourites with Serena Williams being priced at 14/1 to claim a 24th Grand Slam.
Men’s French Open
It’s common knowledge that Nadal is a clay court demon, with 13 French Open Grand Slams to his name. Nadal won the competition last year without dropping a single set, the Spaniard is the epitome of consistent on clay.
But the French Open journeyman is not without challengers, Novak Djokovic will, as always, be lurking in the background having made the final for the fifth time at Roland Garros last year. Djokovic drew first Grand Slam blood this year, beating Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open to start his 2021 off with a bang.
Dominic Thiem has broken into the top five of late, as the Austrian rallied to capture a maiden US Grand Slam last year. Many believe the 27-year-old to achieve great things, and undoubtedly the French Open is his best chance. The red dirt is the perfect conditions suited for Thiem, and his results at Roland Garros proved that.
Daniil Medvedev has managed to carve out a path to a top-three ranking through his consistent and unforgiving play style. The Russian’s form at Roland Garros does not reflect his third-seeded spot, in four appearances he has been knocked out in the first round every time. Stefanos Tsitsipas is another who could pose problems, he enters the tournament after a number two place finish against Rafa Nadal at the Barcelona Open and has also made the final four at the French Open last year.
The French Open delay has also enticed the great Rodger Federer to test out his strings at the Geneva Open from 16-22 May prior to the French Open.
Many believe Rodger Federer’s long-awaited Grand Slam return on his least favourite surface is a part of a plan to peak in time for his beloved Wimbledon. Federer has not competed on clay for the last four years and will be looking to shed the rust of his racket in Geneva.
Women’s French Open
The women’s competition is slightly more open, with the bookies finding it hard to separate the top 15 players. Iga Swiatek last year came from obscurity to become the youngest player since Monica Seles to win the tournament.
Included in the competition is the mighty Simona Halep, a three-time finalist and one-time winner at the French Open. Halep’s durable play style and elite court coverage make her a constant threat on the red dirt.
Further down the list is Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, who is always knocking on the door for another Grand Slam and she also currently occupies the world number one spot. Barty, a former French Open winner, has missed a number of Grand Slams, including this one last year.
One woman who has reached the upper echelons of the sport is that of Naomi Osaka. At just the young age of 23, Osaka has four Grand Slams attached to her résumé and seems to be destined to win a plethora of titles in the near future. The American, has, however, struggles on clay in her last four appearances at Roland Garros and has been knocked out in the first round twice.
There are a host of other chances in what seems to be an unpredictable Women’s French Open tournament. Serena Williams is on the cusp of her 40th birthday but her age doesn’t seem to matter to her, making it to the semi-finals of her last two Grand Slams and as a three-time winner her she’ll be expected to go into the later rounds.
Both the men and the women’s French Open could hardly look different. Nadal will be the man to conquer while the women’s draw is a difficult affair to predict. Despite the various differences, however, the tournament is shaping up to be an intriguing competition with some of the best tennis in the world on show.
The debate rumbles on about who is the greatest men’s singles player of all time in tennis. Three of the leading players in that discussion are still playing today: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
By the time those players retire from the sport, their numbers may be enough for them to stand out as the best in the men’s game to ever pick up a racquet. Here is a look at who is currently leading the way out of those trio of stars in the respective tallies.
Grand Slam Wins
This is the one that is the most important. The four Grand Slam events are the ones which tennis players focus on much more. When a player retires from tennis, their career is defined by how many Grand Slam titles they won.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are currently locked on 20 wins each. Nadal joined his great rival at the top of the tally when he claimed the 2020 French Open, his 13th success in the tournament at Roland-Garros.
Djokovic is two behind Federer and Nadal on 18 Grand Slam wins. The world number one is the most dominant player in the sport at the moment though, and at the age of just 33, he will fancy winning more than 20 before he ends his career.
The next opportunity for the three all-time greats to win a Grand Slam will come at the French Open in June. The King of Clay, Nadal, is the odds-on favourite at 5/6 in the tennis betting in Paris. A 14th win in the tournament could prove a big step towards separating himself from his two rivals.
World Number One Spot
Current number one Djokovic has held the top spot in the ATP rankings for the most time in history. The Serbian has been there for 317 weeks and that number should extend this year as he has some distance between himself and the pack in the list.
Federer has had the number one position for 300 weeks. He is now down to number eight in the current rankings and at the age of 39, it is hard to see the Swiss legend climbing back to the top again.
Nadal has been world number one for the least amount of time out of the three players. He has been there for 209 weeks. Injuries have hampered the Spaniard at various stages of his career, otherwise that number would most likely have been much bigger.
The other big event outside of the four Grand Slams in tennis is the Olympic Games. Tokyo is the chance of all the leading men’s and women’s players to experience stepping up on the podium receiving the gold medal.
Nadal is the only one of the trio of legends who has won singles gold in the Olympics. He achieved that feat in 2008 in Beijing, beating Fernando Gonzalez in the final. Federer does have a gold medal following doubles success. He partnered Stan Wawrinka in 2008 to victory in the event.
Federer and Djokovic will be desperate to prevail in the singles tournament in 2021. It will be played on a hard court at the Ariake Coliseum.
Although tennis fans may continue to have their own opinion around who is the best ever in the men’s game, there is no doubt we are unlikely to see an era like this one again any time soon.