Professional tennis is in many ways a game of hierarchies and hegemonies, wherein the best remain at the top and generally throttle the lesser ranked competition on every front. Some seasons bear testimony to unbroken stretches of dominance by the Top Ten players, who vie amongst themselves in the semifinals and finals of nearly every major tournament and championship. Occasionally, however, an upset or an unexpected injury will shatter the status quo and send the establishment reeling.
In many ways, 2014 has been a season full of such upsets and unprecedented challengers. The Australian Open was the first major championship of the year to bear testimony to such an upset, with Stan Wawrinka’s victory over former champion Rafael Nadal in the final, and his brutal defeat of defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
The French Open quarterfinals played host to a variety of new and upcoming contenders, as did the grass courts of Wimbledon. The enthralled audiences present at the Championships witnessed the defeat of defending champion Andy Murray to Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and the unexpected resurgence of finalist and seven-time champion Roger Federer. Other pundits marveled at Rafael Nadal’s defeat at the hands of the 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios of Australia in the fourth round.
Wimbledon and the Big Four
If Wimbledon 2014 has proven anything, it has shown that the Big Four are still a powerful entity in tennis. Though none have doubted the impact that these players have had upon the sport, some critics have prophesied that their end may be close at hand. Federer had his unsuccessful 2013 season, Djokovic had his 17 month Grand Slam drought, Nadal battled injuries and Murray’s mental consistency often faltered.
However, though the four men aren’t getting any younger, they continue to dominate the sport. In fact, Stan Wawrinka’s unprecedented victory over Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open was the first time a player outside of the Big Four had won a major since Juan Martín del Potro’s victory over Federer in the 2009 US Open.
The Gentlemen’s Singles final at Wimbledon further reinforced the notion that these men are the top athletes in the sport. Djokovic and Federer, meeting head-to-head in a Grand Slam singles final for the first time since the 2007 US Open, battled it out upon the grass of Centre Court for five sets in spectacular fashion.
Second week in review
The Wimbledon ryegrass has been the stomping ground of a number of dark horse contenders this week at the Championships, as the venue has played host to a variety of upsets and unexpected appearances by players outside of the ubiquitous “Big Four.” While many usual suspects booked their spots in the quarterfinals lineup without much of an issue, the crowds were stunned by the unexpected upset of World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, courtesy of 19-year-old Australian wonder boy, Nick Krygios. Seeded into the tournament as a wild card entry, the World No. 144 made ripples earlier in the Championships with a brilliant performance against Richard Gasquet in the second round, defeating the Frenchman in five sets despite dropping the first two sets. Against Nadal in the fourth round, Krygios worked magic, defeating his beleaguered opponent in four brutal sets. Continue reading