The defeat of Federer and Nadal in the semi-finals this Easter weekend at the Pacific Life Open 2008 (Indian Wells) has me thinking this year will be a wide open year in men’s tennis. Not only has Federer not won a tournament this year, but he is getting beaten by mere mortals. Mardy Fish (seeded 98th in the world ATP) produced the latest fine upset (see the BBC writeup). Federer, who won this tournament 3 of the last four years, is definitely facing a serious challenge to his authority. Kudos to Mardy’s run, where he posted consecutive wins on 5 seeds (Andreev #31, Davydenko #4 and Hewitt #24 and former two-time champion and before the Roger scalp, the unpredictably good David Nalbandian #7). Mardy Fish had lost his first four encounters against Federer, so this was truly a great performance on his part.
On the other side of the draw, Novak Djokovic’s (#3) defeat of Rafael Nadal (#2 and defending champion) is a little less surprising in itself, if it weren’t for the double whammy (i.e. Roger losing too). Djokovic is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Australian Open 2008 wunderkid Tsonga put in a good match against Nadal; we surely haven’t heard the last of him!
To make the weekend all the more surprising, both “upsets” were by the same score 6-3, 6-2.
So, it looks like this year, the men’s field is opening up and that the domination of the mighty Federer and the mighty-armed Nadal may be put into serious question. While equality makes the field wide open, the Game of Tennis will need to have some superstars in order to keep attracting a paying audience. Let’s see how 2008 shapes up then!
UPDATE on March 24th: The 20-year-old Serb, Novak Djokovic beat Mardy Fish 6-2 5-7 6-3, in a tight match with plenty of swings in momentum (BBC writeup). Djokovic’s win here means his third Masters Series title of his career. Great tournament by Mardy Fish all the same. On the women’s side, Ana Ivanovic (BBC writeup), another 20-year old Serb, won 6-4, 6-3, against Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Serbs keep marching on (see a recent post on Serbian tennis wave – Eastern Revolution).