I love the tennis. That’s all there is to it. What this means is that I take a slightly obsessive attitude towards it, especially the statistics. I can tell you who contested (and who won) the mens’ final at Wimbledon for every year 1988 to present. What’s that? 1993? Sampras def. Courier. The first of Sampras’s 7 titles. Sampras had lost the previous year’s semi-final to Goran Ivanisevic; Courier had been seeded 1 that year but lost in the first round. In that year’s (1992’s) final, Andre Agassi (having beaten Boris Becker in the semi) beat Ivanisevic in the final. He wouldn’t be back in the final until 1999, when he lost to Sampras. Looking back on it, I don’t think I appreciated how big an achievement Agassi came close to that year, having won the French Open (a five-setter against Andre Medvedev in the final; he wouldn’t have stood a chance against Nadal) only a few weeks before getting all the way to the Wimbledon final. Still, he had already completed his career slam. Ivanisevic, meanwhile, went on to lose two further finals (both to Sampras; 1994 and 1997) before finally beating Pat Rafter in the 2001 final to claim the only Grand Slam title of his career. I missed that final; people tell me it was one of the great ones. In fact I miss the final most years, for some reason.

OK, that was a ramble. The style will tighten up in future. The point of the post was: back in July, after Rafael Nadal had won Wimbledon to complete the job that Agassi just failed to do in 1999, it became clear that our present tennis era may just be featuring two of the very greatest players of all time. Roger Federer had risen into the pantheon a year previously, when he won his first (and surely only) French Open title, however’s Rafael Nadal’s dominance over Federer in Grand Slam finals and in their careers overall suggested that despite lagging 8 Grand Slam titles behind at the time, he might be the better player. Also, given he’s 5 years younger, there’s every chance he’ll close the statistical gap as well.

The question I posed to Facebook then was: How many grand slam titles will each of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray win by the ends of their careers? Including Murray is kind of mean on him; he doesn’t really belong in this discussion. But I am interested in whether he’ll win a Grand Slam; in my view he should be good for two or three of them. Anyway, here are my predictions as made then:

Federer: 18
Nadal: 15
Murray: 3

With Nadal having gone on to win the recent US Open, he’s moved up to 9. There is every chance now of him doing something unprecedented in the modern* tennis era, and holding all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously – would you bet against him at the Aussie Open? But I still think it’s realistic to keep him on 15, because with his knees I doubt he’ll have Federer’s longevity. Federer, I fear, may not get to 18. Tennis is more competitive than it was 5 years ago and he doesn’t win matches easily enough any more. But it’s more than feasible. Murray’s chances of getting to 3 are slimming but there is plenty of time. Getting one could open the floodgates. But anyway, I think the following is realistic now:

Federer: 17 (one last hurrah, in a Pete Sampras US Open 2002 kind of way. Man, it must have annoyed Agassi to lose that final)

Nadal: 15

Murray: 2

We’ll look at this again in January.

*as in, Grand Slams are played across three surfaces now; Laver only had to contend with grass and clay. I think that makes a difference.