When Roger Federer lifted his first ever Grand Slam title in 2003, the tennis world didn’t realise what a monopoly on the sport’s top prizes the Swiss, and his three partners in crime in Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, would end up having.
15 years after the beginning of the big four’s dominance, 2018 looks like the year that they loosen their grip around the Grand Slams – Novak Djokovic is seeded 14th for this month’s Australian Open, whilst Andy Murray’s hip surgery has ruled the Brit out.
Tennis is heading towards its biggest shake-up in over a decade, and despite Roger Federer’s heroic ‘defying of age’ win at the Australian Open in 2017, history suggests that the 36-year-old won’t be making it 20 career Grand Slam titles in Melbourne, this month.
Federer gave the most complete Australian Open performance of any winner since 2004, when, in 2007, Fed lost just 72 games en route to the final, knocking out a joint-high five seeded appointments – sixth seed Andy Roddick being the biggest scalp of the lot.
But even more impressive than that, the Switzerland national did it all without dropping a set – Djokovic also only lost 72 games when winning the title in 2008, however, the Serbian favourite dropped one set.
On average, in the last 14 Men’s Singles Australian Open tournaments, the eventual winner has lost three sets – the highest in those was Roger Federer’s seven sets dropped in lifting the 2017 trophy.
In three of Roger Federer’s Aussie triumphs, he was seeded 1st. However, his first victory saw the Swiss seeded second, whilst last year’s success saw R Fed’s start at an unprecedented 17th seed en route to overcoming Rafael Nadal in the final.
So does the top dog usually win in Australia? Is it anything but a waste of money to back the top seed? After all, Nadal’s only victory in the continent of Oceania came as seed No.1, and four of Djokovic’s sixth triumphs saw him start top of the pile.
On average, the winner of the Australian Open is the third seed, meaning that despite the bookies favouring the top two seeds in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, your money is best spent on Grigor Dimitrov; a player in the peak of his tennis career at the age of 26, and coming off the back of a semi-final exit at Melbourne last year.
Seeded 15th last year, Dimitrov had dropped just two sets before his semi-final exit to Rafael Nadal, whilst exiting the semi-finals having dropped 84 games.
With the Australian Open coming at the start of the year, Dimitrov ended 2017 as the Men’s Singles ATP Tour Finals Champion – the next most prestigious award after the four Grand Slams.
With the Bulgarian having started 2017 with his most impressive performance at a Grand Slam, and ending it as cream of the crop – rising 12 places in 12 months in terms of seedings for Australian Opens, Dimitrov looks set to lead the way in replacing the dwindling ‘big four’.