Remember when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer was the greatest matchup in tennis? Number one versus number two, seemingly vying back and forth for the #1 and #2 spots in the ATP. This was until Novak Djokovic sprinted past them both in 2011, claiming the #1 rank for himself. Djokovic has held a tight grip over the top spot while media outlets continue to erode the present-status of Nadal and Federer. While many may think Federer is too old to compete and Nadal is too beat up, this is not the case to me. That’s why in 2013, Nadal and Federer will reclaim their respective tournaments and thwart Djokovic from replicating Laver’s taking of all four Grand Slam tournaments in 1969.
Roger Federer limped down the stretch in 2012. After taking his 7th Wimbledon title and Federer only won a single tournament in the final five months of the year. He lost to Andy Murray in the men’s singles of the Olympic Games, lost to Tomoas Berdych in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Championships, lost to Murray again in the semifinals at Shanghai, lost in the final to Juan Martin del Potro at Basel, and finished 2012 losing to Novak Djokovic in two sets at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
If that wasn’t enough, Federer hasn’t won a tournament yet in 2013. At 31 years of age, Federer’s hold on the #3 ranking could be in serious jeopardy. Even more importantly, the quest for his 8th Wimbledon title is also garnering some doubt. One thing in Federer’s favor is that he hasn’t played since early March, which will give him enough rest and time to once again reach top form prior to the French Open in May/June and Wimbledon in June/July.
In contrast with Federer, Nadal has been stellar early on in 2013. He sits at 17-1 and has taken the cake in 3 different tournaments. His only loss came to Horacio Zeballos in final of the Chile Open, Nadal he hasn’t lost since early February. He destroyed #4-ranked player David Ferrer in the final at Acapulco and sequentially took down Federer, Berdych, and del Potro in the final three rounds at Indian Wells. Not only did he beat these three top-10 players, but he did so very convincingly and only lost one set in three matches. While many questioned whether Nadal could return to top form after losing to Lukas Rosol in the 2nd round of the Wimbledon Championships, pulling out of the Olympics, and recurrent knee problems and an injury bug later, Nadal has had plentiful time off to recover and will look to secure his record 8th title at Roland Garros.
While Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic seem to be ascending to the new Big Two in men’s singles these days, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will certainly have their say before it is all said and done. Both know what is at stake and each knows what it takes to win at their respective tournaments. Looming large on the horizon are Djokovic, Murray, and even some promising players from the field like Tsonga, del Potro, and Berdych. But as the world of tennis has taught us numerous times before we can never count out established greats. This should all culminate in an extraordinarily exciting remainder of the year and one that may prove to be the single most exciting year of men’s singles tennis, ever.