Did yesterday’s three set thrashing of Rafael Nadal by Novak Djokovic at the French Open mark the death knell of his career as a top flight tennis champion? Maybe.
Nadal just hasn’t been the same player for a while now, and losing so early in the French–his most dominant major tournament–definitely rings some alarm bells.
But: he did lose to Djokovic, who is the #1 player in the world. They met this early in the tournament as a function of Nadal’s seeding, which was low because of his recent problems. Slightly better pre-tournament results might have meant a higher seed and the loss to Djokovic coming in the final–and then everyone would be breathing a little easier.
I’m not ready to write off Nadal as others have; if he gets healthy, there might yet be another major or two left in him.
Federer, on the other hand, seems well and truly gone at this point. Nowadays he only makes it deep into a major when all the other players throw up on themselves. It appears there will be little left from Roger from here on out, excepting maybe a surprise run like the aging Jimmy Connors had in the U.S. Open back in the day.
Which means Djokovic’s two most dangerous opponents are–for the moment, at least–no longer dangerous. Who’s going to stop him now? From this perspective, nobody–it’s all his to lose, for however long it takes until some new talent bubbles up from below. Tennis may be in for a long, relatively boring slog of “Nobody but Novak” for a good long while.