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Defying the 'Big Four' at the majors

January 28, 2014 10:14 IST

Defying the 'Big Four' at the majors

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Bikash Mohapatra

The quartet of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray has kept the Grand Slams tournaments mostly to themselves. Bikash Mohapatra showcases the few others who have broken that trend in the last decade.

They have dominated tennis in the last decade.

They have given the ever ardent aficionados rivalries to cherish and match-ups to look up to.

They have broken records by the dozen.

However, the ‘Big Four’ have also ensured a monotony in the results, at least when it comes to the four major tournaments.

The quartet of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray has kept the Grand Slams tournaments mostly to themselves.

Statistics corroborate the above assumption.

Of the 43 Grand Slam tournaments since Wimbledon 2003, when Federer won his first major title, 38 have been won by one of the four names mentioned above.

The break-up being thus: Federer (17 in 24 finals), Nadal (13 from 19), Djokovic (6 from 12) and Murray (2 from 7)

Such has been the dominance of this quartet that few have managed to add a major success to their name in the period, the latest addition having happened this Sunday.

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Image: Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland
Photographs: Bobby Yip/Reuters

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Bikash Mohapatra

Stanislas Wawrinka’s four set triumph over top-ranked Rafael Nadal not just marked a personal high for someone who was for long considered a promising player, without ever fulfilling that promise, but also gave tennis a new major champion.

The Swiss, for years in the shadow of his illustrious compatriot – Federer -- finally managed to win a major title in what was his 36th Grand Slam appearance. Only Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 Wimbledon champion, had taken more attempts (48) to win a first major.

The fact that Wawrinka upset three-time defending champion and second seed Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals ensured him additional space in the record books.

Not since Sergi Bruguera at the 1993 French Open had a player beaten the top two seeds en route to a Grand Slam title.

Even as Wawrinka celebrates his triumph, let’s have a look at the other who defied the ‘Big Four’ in the last decade or so.


Image: Stanislas Wawrinka
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Defying the 'Big Four' at the majors

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Bikash Mohapatra

Had Andy Roddick been a player in another era he would surely have won a few more major titles.

The fact that he wasn’t, kept his major count down to just one.

Roddick’s lone major came at Flushing Meadows in 2003. The American had dominated the US Open series, winning back-to-back Masters Series events in Canada and Cincinnati, and took his chances on that occasion.

Federer, the Wimbledon champion and favourite coming into the event, suffered a shock quarter-final defeat at the hands of David Nalbandian.

The Argentine had Roddick on the mat in their semi-final. The American, however, rallied from two sets and a match point down, in the third, to win a final berth. In the decider, Roddick had it easy against Juan Carlos Ferrero, winning fairly comfortably.


Image: Andy Roddick
Photographs: Larry Marano/Getty Images for the Miami Tennis Cup

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Defying the 'Big Four' at the majors

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Bikash Mohapatra

Gaston Gaudio is probably one of the most unlikely Grand Slam champions ever.

With no credentials whatsoever (he was ranked 44) coming into the French Open in 2004, the Argentine probably had lady luck in his favour.

With Nadal withdrawing with an ankle fracture, Federer losing early and the draw opening up considerably, Gaudio survived two five-set encounters in the opening rounds before making it to the decider without much trouble.

He faced compatriot Guillermo Coria, a top clay court player in those days, in the final. Gaudio expectedly lost the first two sets (0-6, 3-6).

However, an injury hampered Coria thereafter. He dropped the third set (3-6), didn’t try in the fourth (1-6) to save energy for the fifth. Ridiculous, ain’t it?

Gaudio edged him 8-6 in the fifth to become the first player to win a major title having lost the first set at love and having saved match points in the decider.


Image: Gaston Gaudio of Argentina
Photographs: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Defying the 'Big Four' at the majors

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Bikash Mohapatra

Had it not been for his questionable temperament, Marat Safin would have won more major titles.

He ended up winning just two.

The second of them came at the Australian Open in 2005.

A year earlier, Safin had hired Peter Lundgren, the former coach of Federer, to help him in his bid to add to the US Open title he won in 2000.

The results were instant. Safin finished 2004 on a strong note, winning titles in Beijing and back-to-back Masters Series events in Madrid and Paris. The Russian came to Melbourne, a place where he had been denied the title twice before (2002 and 2004) as one of the favourites.

For once, Safin justified his status.

From winning his opening round match for the loss of just three games, against a Grand Slam debutant named Djokovic, to avenging his final defeat to Federer in the last four stage -- the match an all-time classic that Safin won 5–7, 6–4, 5–7, 7–6 (8–6), 9–7 -- the Russian did everything right.

Home favourite Lleyton Hewitt was no match in the final.

For the record, Safin never won another title, let alone a major.


Image: Marat Safin
Photographs: Victor Fraile/Getty Images

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Bikash Mohapatra

One of the most complete players of this generation, Juan Martin del Potro made an immediate impact.

From winning his first four finals in 2008 to winning a first major title on his first attempt, the Argentine did everything right early on in his career.

Del Potro’s triumph at the 2009 US Open was special considering he beat Nadal in the semi-final and five-time defending champion Federer in the final, the first player to beat them both in the same major tournament.

However, injury and lack of consistency has since prevented him from adding to that trophy.


Image: Juan Martin del Potro
Photographs: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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