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Bend It Like Bedi

Published: Sunday September 14, 2014 MYT 9:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday September 14, 2014 MYT 4:37:35 PM

Tennis Opens opening up

Croatia' Marin Cilic reacts after defeating Kei Nishikori of Japan in the 2014 US Open men's final. - AFP

Croatia' Marin Cilic reacts after defeating Kei Nishikori of Japan in the 2014 US Open men's final. - AFP

IT WAS a breath of fresh air when the men's final of the US Open tennis tournament last week's was not contested by Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

You would have to go back nine years to the Australian Open in 2005 when Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt contested in the final match - the last time one of the three did not feature in a Grand Slam final.

It was also refreshing to see Ken Nishikori of Japan compete - the first Asian to play in the final - but unfortunately, the 24-year-old lost the match to Croatian Marin Cilic.

While I wanted Nishikori to win, it wasn't a travesty that Cilic won his first-ever Grand Slam.

Men's tennis has been too predictable for quite a while. Andy Murray looked to have upset the balance when he won the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon tournament, but a run of bad form has seen him drop to ninth in the world standings.

This year, four different players won the Grand Slams – with Stanislas Wawrinka winning the Australian Open.

Just like last year, Federer did not win any Grand Slam title, but he has had his fair share of titles over the last decade.

Over the last 10 years, only eight different players have won the 40 Grand Slam titles.

Four of them won solitary titles, Murray won two while Federer, Nadal and Djokovic shared the other 34.

Men's tennis has always been like that, with a few dominant players in the different eras. But it hasn't been as pronounced as in the Federer, Nadal and Djokovic era.

In the 60s, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver won 23 of the 40 titles, while in the 70s, Bjorn Borg, John Newcombe and Jimmy Connors won 18 titles among themselves.

In the 80s, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, John McEnroe and Boris Becker won a total of 24 titles.

In the 90s, Pete Sampras led the way with 12 titles followed by Andre Agassi and Kim Courier with five and four titles respectively.

In all these eras, there were many players who won the odd solitary title, making it interesting to watch.

I recall following tennis in the mid 90s, where the battle between Sampras and Agassi always hogged the back pages. This extended a bit into the early 21st century where the likes of Gustavo Kuerten, Leyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick were involved in some interesting battles.

That all changed when Federer and Nadal arrived on the scene.

The duo won 21 out of 23 titles in a period from 2005 to 2010. While their tennis was out of this world, it became a bit boring after a while.

Djokovic claimed a share of the pie with a good year in 2011, winning three titles.

Women's tennis, meanwhile, is more unpredictable and there have been 14 players who have won the 40 titles from 2005 until present.

The Williams sisters – Serena and Venus have been the most dominant, but players such as Justine Henin Hardene, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova were regular names to win titles.  

Even Li Na of China has won two Grand Slams.

In a way, the women's game became more open after the dominance of Martina Navratilova in the 80s, Monica Seles and Steffi Graf in the early 90s and the Williams sisters in the early 2000s.

I hope that the men will see more winners now that the likes of Federer is slowing down. One can only hope that Cilic's win in US will herald the start of more open Opens!

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