Andy Murray ends the year as number one and with a first ATP World Tour Final title after beating Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena. The Scot was the sharper player and prevailed against a leaden Djokovic who produced 30 unforced errors. It’s been a poor year for the Serb after surrendering his number one spot to Murray and he appears to be suffering from burnout after such a dominant period in his career.
The so-called Big Four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have provided us with some great rivalries for over a decade now but is Murray versus Djokovic the next great tennis rivalry?
Djokovic – Nadal
Djokovic’s has already developed an enthralling rivalry with Rafael Nadal, which saw the man from Spain dominant for a large early period before Djokovic started to impose himself. It was the first rivalry to involve meetings at all 4 Grand Slam finals and a record 24 Masters Series matches. Their 2012 Australian Open final and the 2013 French Open semi-final are deemed to be two of the greatest matches of recent times and possibly of all time.
Federer – Djokovic
The rivalry between Roger Federer and Djokovic has also been captivating and highly unpredictable. They have faced each other 45 times with Djokovic ahead 23–22 and with each meeting, you would have been hard-pressed to pick a winner. Their rivalry has included a record 15 Grand Slam matches, 10 of which were semi-finals and 4 were finals. Such is the evenness of their rivalry that Federer is the only man to have beaten Djokovic in all four majors and similarly, Djokovic is the only man to have beaten Federer in all four majors.
Federer – Nadal
Federer and Nadal were the undisputed dominant players in world tennis and their rivalry has been riveting to watch. So dominant were they, that in the 26 Grand Slam events from the 2004 Wimbledon to the 2010 U.S. Open, Nadal or Federer won 23 of them. Federer became the No. 1 ranked player in 2004 and held it for 237 weeks until Nadal grappled it away from him. Nadal then was No. 1 for 46 weeks until Federer regained it, and Nadal took the top spot back from Federer 48 weeks later.
They’ve entertained us with some epic battles, particularly Federer’s Wimbledon victory in 2007 and Nadal’s Wimbledon Final win in 2008. That 2008 match of four hours and 48 minutes of immortal tennis was the longest ever Wimbledon Final and is considered to be the greatest match ever. The contrasting styles of Nadal and Federer are one of the reasons this rivalry was so good. Nadal relies on the consistency of his ground strokes and shows huge determination and power while Federer has a fluid and flowing all-court game.
Murray – Djokovic
Murray is just a week older than Djokovic and they have known each other since they went to training camps together. They have met 35 times, including 7 Grand Slams and 17 tour finals with Djokovic ahead 24–11. The rivalry has been highly competitive, but the Serb has been the domineering force in the Big Four since Murray won the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. This rivalry has yet to produce the type of enthralling matches we’ve seen from the other rivalries, but that could change in 2017. The Australian Open in January promises to be indicative of how this pairing will develop, with both players at odds of 6/4 to win with most tennis betting websites.
Murray has been the leading force on the tour in the last six months, yet his rivalries with the other members of the Big Four have been very one-sided up until now. Yet, Murray is now number one and on a 24-match winning streak. Whether Murray can continue his run and build a legacy or Djokovic, Nadal or Federer can rouse themselves to halt his current dominance will shape an exciting time for tennis and the final encounters of the Big Four.