By Simon Cambers — The performances of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in reaching the final of this year’s Australian Open have served a timely reminder as to what men’s tennis was missing when both were sidelined last year. But the efforts of the 17-time and 14-time Grand Slam champions, at least one of whom featured in all but nine of the 44 Grand Slam finals from 2005 to 2015, have also shown just how much the game will miss them when they’re gone. “I was already prepared in the last couple of majors and I have to say... I didn’t miss them that much,” said former world number one Mats Wilander, now a commentator for Eurosport.
“Now they’re back I realise, wow, how much they add. Now it’s like going to see the (Rolling) Stones every night. For me it’s unbelievable.” Federer, who missed the second half of last year with a knee injury, is through to his 28th Grand Slam final and victory on Sunday would give him a record 18th Grand Slam title. Nadal, who pulled out of the French Open last summer with a left wrist injury which also forced him to miss Wimbledon, will be on the other side of the net. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, at 29 a year younger than Nadal, may be around for a while but Federer and Nadal, who have contested eight Grand Slam finals, are by far the most popular players.
The ATP’s chairman and chief executive, Chris Kermode, believes the tour is strong enough to cope. “Roger and Rafa are two of the most iconic stars to have ever played our sport,” he said by email. “But no player is bigger than the sport, and men’s tennis has an ability to consistently produce global stars that transcend the game.” Kermode pointed to the likes of German teenager Sascha Zverev, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori of Japan and the Australian, Nick Kyrgios, as players the tour can showcase in years to come. Mike Bryan, one half of the most successful doubles partnerships of all time with his twin brother Bob, believes it will be almost impossible for Federer and Nadal to be replaced.
“They are mega A-list celebrities anywhere they go in the world so it’s going to be tough for the game once they retire,” he said. The impact of their eventual departure is also likely to be felt by television companies, whose ratings soar when they are playing. “The global TV viewership for the ATP World Tour has grown by more than 100 per cent since 2008,” Kermode said. — Reuters