It has become my (and probably everyone’s) hobby to figure out what it takes to win a Grand Slam.
And apparently its not just Talent and Hard work. In Federer’s own words (in one of his interviews, when he was asked the same question), “there are lot of people who are talented and there are lot of people who are working very hard..”. He stopped there and did not elaborate what is the missing ingredient, if not talent and hard work 🙁 .
While watching Wimbledon this year, I was pondering and looking for clues to figure out why there are almost always same people who end up in top 8 in every Grand slam. This is not the case with other tournaments. Why so many upcoming and highly talented (and hard working) athletes like Nick, Zverev, etc are not able to go further than 4th round !
So what is the difference between say Roger and Zverev OR Nick and Djokovic ! Zverev has beaten Roger in other tournaments. Nick has treated Djokovic like a kid in other tournaments. But in Grand slams, its different; Nick and Zverev have lost to players unknowns while Roger, Djokovic and Nadal just find a way to go further.
Looking at just those three:
So far I have not seen any one, past or present, who can play with same accuracy skills of Roger. His ability of placing the ball (whether its serve or ground stroke) where ever he wants/needs and in which ever way he wants/needs. Because of those skills, he can vary his game on the fly and makes it harder for opponents.
Djokovic at this year Wimbledon easily (unbelievably) got into Semifinal after missing a whole year of tournament ! While he lacks the same level of skills of Roger, and has a simple game, he compensates that with very high degree of discipline. He is like a “wall” and in his own words (while giving tips to young kids ), “..practice hitting shots against a wall because wall always returns, trust me 🙂 …..”. He is known for his strict regime in every part of his life and brings that same level of discipline on to court. When he is in trouble, he raises his level of “discipline” (in contrast, Roger raises level of his skills and Nadal starts running more, when they are in a difficult game).
Nadal has mastered the physical fitness side of things. Its amazing to see how he works on the ball in a fifth set with same intensity as he did in say second set. His style of game not only makes it harder for his opponent but also for himself. And that’s probably how he likes – its like saying to his opponent – lets tough it out and last standing player wins 🙂 ….and there is no other option. He does not let other style of game in his matches. Federer has commented many times that Nadal plays one dimension game but he plays it so well that he (Federer) had to change (or improve) his own game just to stay with him. When Nadal is on roll, even great Federer is not allowed to play otherwise.
Looking at those three masters, it appears next legend will (need to) have all three in one. He will need to master the skills, have great fitness and play his matches with very high level of discipline. We will explore each one of them in next blogs.