Rafael Nadal held off Alexander Zverev for the win
Many long-time tennis fans can remember back to a sunny day at the 2001 Wimbledon Championships. 13 time Grand Slam Champion Pete Sampras was scheduled to play a young teenager named Roger Federer. The epic 5 set match resulted in a victory for the teenager, and has since been viewed by many as the ushering in of a new era.
The era of the Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) has lasted for over a decade, but the star members will all be at least 30 by the end of 2017. In recent months Federer and Nadal have dropped in the rankings, succumbed to injuries. Djokovic exited early from the ongoing Australian Open.
So it’s for good reason many saw yesterday’s 3rd round Australian Open match in the same light. 14 time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal was scheduled to play a young teenager named Alexander Zverev. Many tennis experts predict Zverev to be a future world number 1. This match could signify the end of the Big Four era of tennis. It was the battle of the generations.
From the very first game, the skill of the two opponents was apparent, with Zverev capturing the set 6-4. It was looking as though this was going to mirror the Sampras-Federer match. But something clicked for Nadal. The second set was showcased by a wave of confidence and skill not seen from Nadal in years.
“Vintage Rafa!” exclaimed commentator John McEnroe.
The next few sets swung back and forth, each player discovering incredible shots, and digging deep for their best game. It ended up in a 5th set. This is where Nadal fans began to worry. The Spaniard had not won a 5 set match in over a year, even losing two after being in winning positions.
But again, something was different last night. Nadal was displaying a confidence that had been missing from his game for years. It was a confidence that brought him to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 65-77, 6-3, 6-2.
It was an epic victory from Rafa, who seemed almost giddy afterward.
“”I won by fighting and running a lot.” Nadal said. “I think everybody knows how good Alexander is. He’s the future of our sport.”
But the future isn’t here quite yet. The Big Four of tennis will reign at least a little while longer.