Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Federer-Nadal Dominance Over? Not So Fast, Mac Says
NEW YORK — While some of their peers may believe the era of dominance for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is over, John McEnroe says not so fast.
“I’d be surprised if Roger doesn’t win another couple majors,” McEnroe said Monday. “And I’d be surprised if Nadal doesn’t win at least four or five more, depending on his physical health.
“It’s certainly the best rivalry since these two guys [Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi], and we hope that it lasts a couple more years.”
McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi and Ivan Lendl all appeared at a Manhattan press conference to promote Monday night’s BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.
McEnroe and Lendl will renew their 1980s rivalry at 7 p.m., followed by Sampras and Agassi turning back the clock to the ’90s at 9. The second match will be shown live on ESPN2.
Between them, the four tennis legends have won 295 titles and 37 Grand Slams.
Federer and Nadal have won 21 of the last 24 majors, but Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga recently declared their era of domination over.
“Federer and Nadal are not alone [at the top of the rankings] any more,” Tsonga said earlier this month in The Netherlands.
“Maybe on clay, things [Nadal’s victories] are still the same, but not on other surfaces.
“[Novak] Djokovic and [Andy] Murray are beating Nadal and Federer very often, all the players are improving their games. It’s not just about Nadal and Federer any more.”
After beating Federer in straight sets in the Australian Open semifinals in January, Djokovic won his second major by beating Murray in straight sets in the final.
On Saturday, Djokovic crushed Federer, 6-3, 6-3, to win his third consecutive Dubai Championships title in the United Arab Emirates. Djokovic is a perfect 12-0 in 2011.
“I’m happy that Djokovic has sort of stepped it up, that he’s sort of become part of the equation,” McEnroe said. “I think that makes it more interesting and makes it more unpredictable, which is good as well.”
Patrick McEnroe said Federer needs to continue to tweak his game in order to compete with Nadal and Djokovic, who he now considers the No. 2 player in the world.
“I actually think that the older Roger, which is more change the pace, slice, heavy topspin was actually what gave Djokovic trouble,” he said. “And the fact that Roger’s trying to play a little more aggressively, hit the ball earlier, come to net more — really to combat what Nadal has brought to the table against him — I actually think kind of played into Djokovic’s hands.
“So I think he’s in tough spot where he’s got to reassess what he needs to do against not now just Nadal, but Djokovic and some other players as well.
“I think part of the greatness in Federer’s game, much in the same way that maybe Pete played his game, was a lot of it was instincts and genius and athleticism and not so much about what I need to do against a certain opponent. And I think that’s starting to change a little bit.”
In addition to Djokovic and Murray, Lendl said Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champ, presented another serious challenge to Federer and Nadal.
“He’s certainly has the game to hurt the guys,” Lendl said. “If you look at what kind of game is going to hurt Nadal, it’s strong double-handed background, which Djokovic, del Potro and Murray all have.
“So I think you give del Potro another six months and he really gets enough matches in and his confidence back up, he’s going to have something to say.
“And I think Murray, if he gets mentally over a few humps he’s also going to be a big factor. And what’s going to be interesting then is that the draws are going to be extremely important because of certain matchups, in between the four, five and maybe six players, including [Robin] Soderling.”
Agassi said he was “out of the business of predicting Federer” after losing a dinner bet a year ago to Sampras.
‘That’s it,” Agassi told Sampras. “I don’t think he’s going to win another one.”
Sampras laughed, and Agassi lost (presumably after Federer won the 2010 Australian Open).
“Federer is 29 years old,” said Agassi, who was off by one year. Federer is 30. “I achieved more after 29 than I did before 29 so it’s really important to be quick to give people their time and their respect.
“I think it’s getting harder for them [Federer and Nadal], but they are still in my mind the ones that have to be kicked off the top of the hill because they’re not stepping down on their own.”
Sampras, too, said it was too early to write off Federer or Nadal.
“I still see those two guys as being really the guys to beat at the majors,” he said.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.