In recent years I have watched tennis not so much because I am a massive fan of the sport but more so because I believe we are lucky enough to be witnessing a golden generation. Roger Federer (17), Rafa Nadal (14) and Novak Djokovic (7) have to date won 38 Grand Slams between them. Since Federer won his first Grand Slam in 2003 (Wimbledon) only seven others (excluding Nadal and Djokovic) have won a Grand Slam title. Between them the three have won nearly 87% of all Grand Slams since Wimbledon 2003. This covers a massive 45 Slams! While the three have dominated tennis for more than a decade, there is still uncertainty of outcome when it comes to them playing one another.
Many sports fans are often critical of champions that are 'too dominant' and suggest that they are beating a sub-standard level of opponent. World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Wladimir Klitschko comes to mind. The current WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring world champion is now unbeaten in his last twenty-one fights, with his last defeat coming way back in 2004. However, Dr. Steelhammer is often criticised unfairly for the standard of opponent he faces. Surely, this isn't his fault? All he can do it beat what's put in front of him. Great boxers are often remembered not because they won every fight but because they were part of a golden generation which fans of the sport were privileged to be part of. Sugar Ray Lenoard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns are still considered some of the greatest boxers ever to enter the ring. All were defeated. However each fought against one another in what many consider to be a golden generation of middleweight boxers.
Fans of equine sport will recall the titanic battles between Kauto Star and Denman from 2007 to 2010. The great Arkle, regarded by most and more importantly the national hunt handicapper, as the greatest national hunt horse of all time, had to overcome the almost equally great Mill House.
One could argue Messi and Ronaldo are locked in an equally great struggle to be crowned the greatest player of all time.
It seems sports stars become legends when they are faced with an equally great opponent and are not just defined by their own ability but also the ability of those around them. Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are very lucky in that regard. Each is surrounded by greatness on two sides. We are lucky enough to have front row seat.
We'll take a closer look at the data on this in Part 2.