Owen destroyed me in tennis today, 1-6, 1-6, 2-6 and I think that he has surpassed me too, in tennis as in most other physical activities. This is normal for a 54-year-old father and it brings me joy to watch the athletism of a 19-year-old young man. I can’t keep up with him and Oliver, but I am just happy that I am able to participate with them. I think with tennis we’ll have to move to “I get to play his doubles court and he plays my singles court” format and we’ll see if that gets us more competitive. I did beat him one set this Winter Break 7-6 (7-4) and if he is not playing well and I am playing at my best, I can stay with him.
We are excited for the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) 2022 season. It is an passion that Owen and I share. I wanted to write a 2022 tour preview and make some predictions. Our favorite player is Novak Djokovic. We lived in Belgrade from 2008 to 2014 and watched several Davis Cup matches and the Serbia Open, played in a clay-court tennis center named, Novak, on the banks of Sava River in Belgrade. Nadia and I also played on the courts Djokovic grew up on in the mountain resort town of Kapaonik adjacent to his family’s pizzeria. Being a fan of Djokovic, I am interested in what player is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and ultimately, who will win the most Grand Slams and how the 2022 season will change this. First I’ll address the GOAT debate.
Statistically, Djokovic is the GOAT. Ultimate Tennis Statistics.com is a fascinating website with many databases that give much insight into the sport. One of the Big Three, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic has been the dominant player in the game for the past 18 years. The Dominance Timeline shows during this stretch since the 2004 season, Nole (short form in Serbian for Novak) was the best player 7 times, Federer 6 times and Nadal 4 times. Andy Murray broke through in the 2016 season, but for three players to be the best for so long is unprecedented in tennis.
Ultimate Tennis Statistics has a formula that combines Grand Slam, Masters and other tournament with rankings, head-to-head and rankings in different aspects of tennis (serve, return, etc.). Nole is number one with 968, Federer second with 936 and Nadal 847. My quick analysis agrees with this in the table below. Djokovic is the only who has won all four Grand Slam titles twice, has the most Master Series titles and has the most weeks with the #1 ranking. Nadal is clearly the greatest ever on clay with 13 French Open tiels and 70% of his titles coming on clay and he has won an Olympic Gold medal, something the other two have not done. Nole does hold the head-to-head against both of them (30 to 28 versus Nadal) and (27-23 versus Federer) and I think that is another reason he is considered the GOAT.
|Category||Nole (age34)||Federer (age 40)||Nadal (age 35)|
|Career Total||989-199 (0.832)||1251-275 (0.82)||1029-209 (0.831)|
|Career Earnings||$154 million||$130 million||$124 million|
|Australian Open Titles||9||6||1|
|French Open Titles||2||1||13|
|US Open Titles||3 (6 runner-up)||5||4|
|Tour Finals Titles||5||6||0|
However, they are old for tennis, and one of the questions of the 2022 season will be; Can they continue this dominance? Watching last year, a cadre of younger players (Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Thiem) which I will call the “Next Generation Big Three +1” looked bigger, faster and stronger than the original Big Three. I could see the difference in generations and it reminded me of Agassi at the end of his career, using guile and strategy to win his last couple of Grand Slams. I think with Federer’s age and injury history, for him to win another Grand Slam is improbable. His only chance would be a favorable draw and some breaks at Wimbledon. Nadal has had a lot of injury problems too, but he always must be the favorite at the French Open. Nole defeating him in last year’s French Open might be his greatest victory ever. It was a monumental effort and an injury-free Nadal will be tough to beat there and in other tournaments. Nole was the dominant player last season, winning Australia, French, Wimbledon and losing in the US Open finals to Medvedev.
I think it depends more on the younger generation than Nadal or Djokovic. Medvedev must have gained a lot of confidence wiping out Nole in last year’s US Open. Zeverev also made strides, winning Olympic Gold and the Nitto ATP Finals titles last year. I think on the hard courts, Nole is facing a tough task to beat at least 2 of them. The Big Three has won 15 of the last 16 Australian Opens, 16 of the last 17 French Opens, 16 of the last 18 Wimbledons, and 12 of the last 18 US Opens. The last time none of the Big Three has one at least one of the 4 Grand Slams in a season was in 2002, 19 years ago. I don’t think 2022 will end the streak and here are my predictions for the Grand Slams.
- Australian Open – Danil Medvedev
- French Open – Dominic Thiem
- Wimbledon – Novak Djokovic
- US Open – Alexander Zverev
I think the changing of the guard has started and over the next three seasons, the Grand Slam of the Big Three will be broken, but Djokovic will win one of the three non-clay tourneys for the next two years and will finish with 22 Grand Slams. Nadal will win one more French Open to finish his career with 21. I also don’t think Nole will finish as the World’s Number One again, but of course, I hope I am wrong.
Some other things I will be watching this year are as follows:
- The USA has 12 players in the Top 100 but nobody in the Top 20. Taylor Fritz is the highest ranked man at #23. When will we have a breakout player again at the top of the tour? The last American to win a Grand Slam was Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi in 2003 (18 years!) and I would love to see a top American player again to support.
- What newer players will move into the Medvedev/Thiem/Zverev/Tsitsipas tier? Owen’s favorite player is Canadian #22 Denis Shapovalov has yet to win a Masters Series title but has shown promise. I think #10 Italian Jannik Sinner has the game of a top player and he is my pick to break through. Fellow countryman Matteo Berrentini is the reincarnation of Juan Martin Del Potro and has the potential to win a Grand Slam.
- I always support #13 Diego Schwartzmann from Argentina as he is bucking the trend of tall tennis players. He is 5-7 and looks like a dwarf compared to most modern players who are at least 6-2 and above. He hits the ball hard, moves well and being 5-8 myself, I love watching him beat players like 6-6 Zverev.
- There are no Uzbeks in the Top 100, but #36 Alexander Bublik is from neighboring Kazakhstan. With the world opening back up again for international travel, it would be nice to attend a live event. Tashkent usually hosts a Challenger tourney and I see there was an Astana Open as a 250-level event. Both were held in September. It might also be nice to see some matches in the USA in July in the lead-up to the US Open. It would be a nice trip to visit the Tennis Hall of Fame and watch the tournament in New Port, Rhode Island. It would also be a new state for me. The other option would be the Atlanta Open in late July. Perhaps even a summer family tennis camp for a few days would be awesome!