July 4, 2010

Time For Something Different?

Now I love Rafael Nadal, and I greatly admire the champion Roger Federer is. But after watching the 2008 Wimbledon titleist somersault his way to his second trophy at the All England Club I found myself wondering if it might be time for someone else to claim the honor.

In the past five years, we've only seen one Grand Slam where neither Roger nor Rafa played for the title. But we might be getting a little closer to seeing their historic streaks end -- though they've combined to win twenty of the last twenty-two Majors, it's been eighteen months since they've played each other in the final. And a little bit of new blood has come up just short of the ultimate prize.

I'm actually a bit surprised that Tomas Berdych wasn't able to get in a few more shots today against Nadal. The tall Czech has a powerful serve and smart ground strokes. Having beaten Roger Federer twice in a row and making at least the semis of two straight Slams, the twenty-four year old is clearly hitting his stride. By the time hardcourt season rolls around he could be a real contender for the U.S. Open.

Robin Soderling also has a good shot at a big title in the near future. He's been improving his performances steadily at the Majors, reaching the finals twice in a row in Paris and making the quarters in London this past week. He made the final eight in New York last year, and now at his highest career ranking, it looks like he might be able to get farther this year.

There are, of course, a couple stars I hope will have a chance to capture their second Major, either because their first was so long ago or because it is fairly easily forgotten. Novak Djokovic, you might remember, won his only Slam at the 2008 Australian Open -- not long ago, but it sure seems far away. He's had a couple of good runs recently, even making the semis this past week, so it's not yet time to write him off. And Andy Roddick, so close to achieving glory last year, has been upset early in recent tournaments, but the move to his best surface might be his best opportunity to step back up.

Of course, we're far from a time when we can count either Federer or Nadal out of contention -- the tide may be shifting, but it hasn't quite turned yet. But tiny windows may open here and there, and it's up to the next generation of tennis stars to jump on any chances they get.

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