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Ranking the Big Four rivalries

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The ATP Big Four of (from left) Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray (Getty Images)

The ATP Big Four of (from left) Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. (Getty Images)

In his SI.com mailbag this week, Jon Wertheim was asked to rank the best matchups among the ATP Big Four of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Here’s how I would answer the question:

1. Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer

Head-to-head: Nadal leads 23-10
First match: 2004
Number of finals: 20
Signature match: 2008 Wimbledon final; Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7

I still consider this to be tennis’ most compelling rivalry despite Nadal’s decided head-to-head advantage, which includes a five-match winning streak and 15 victories in the last 19 meetings. Nadal-Federer features the most distinct contrast of styles among the Big Four matchups, and they’ve contested 20 finals, including eight at Grand Slam tournaments, over the last 10 years. Just imagine how different their careers would be without the other serving as a roadblock. Nadal has won nine of their 11 matches at majors; it’s conceivable that Federer might have completed the Grand Slam — whether calendar or career — a few times over and pushed the Slam record from 17 to well over 20 without the presence of Nadal.

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  • Published On Mar 21, 2014
  • Juan Martin del Potro withdraws from Sony Open with wrist injury

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    Juan Martin del Potro

    An injured Juan Martin del Potro has dropped to No. 8 in the rankings. (Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

    No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro withdrew from the Sony Open with a left-wrist injury that has bothered him for weeks.

    Del Potro received treatment after pulling out of the BNP Paribas Open two weeks ago and flew to Miami to test the wrist in hopes of playing this week at the Masters 1000 tournament in Miami. But the 25-year-old Argentine decided that he wasn’t ready to return.

    “[I] still feel pain in my left wrist and I don’t feel competitive to go on court,” Del Potro wrote on Facebook. “It’s a pity because this is a special tournament for me since there are many Latin fans and Argentines in particular. In the next few days I will visit my doctor again to determine the following steps.”

    Th injury has forced Del Potro to either withdraw or retire from his last three tournaments. Del Potro was scheduled to play either Federico Delbonis or Ryan Harrison in the second round after a first-round bye. He will be replaced in the draw by lucky loser Benjamin Becker.


  • Published On Mar 19, 2014
  • Aces and Faults: Indian Wells recap

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    Flavia Pennetta

    Flavia Pennetta beat the top-two seeds en route to the Indian Wells title. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

    Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Here is our review of the BNP Paribas Open.

    Trophy Winners

    Novak Djokovic: He may not have been dominant, but this run to his first title of the year was precisely what Djokovic needed to jump-start his season. Djokovic wobbled in dropping a set to No. 91 Alejandro Gonzalez, getting blasted off the court for a set by Marin Cilic and being broken twice while serving for the match against John Isner. But Djokovic was battle-tested by the time he arrived in the final, as he showed in rebounding in the third-set tiebreaker after failing to serve it out against Roger Federer.

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  • Published On Mar 17, 2014
  • ATP rankings: Roger Federer up to No. 5

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    Roger Federer

    Roger Federer has made the semifinals or better at all four of his tournaments this year. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

    Roger Federer moved up to No. 5 in this week’s ATP Tour rankings after making the final of the BNP Paribas Open. Federer would have climbed to No. 4 if he had beaten Novak Djokovic on Sunday. Instead, the 32-year-old Swiss trails No. 4 David Ferrer by 105 points.

    Through three and a half months of the 2014 season, Federer has already matched last year’s totals for titles (one), runner-up finishes (two) and victories over top-10 players (four).

    “There is a sense of calmness to my game right now,” Federer said after his quarterfinal victory. “Also confidence. But also that grit and wanting-to-win-badly feeling is out there, which was hard to find at times last year. So now I got it all.”

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  • Published On Mar 17, 2014
  • Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic: Memorable moments from rivalry

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    Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

    Roger Federer (left) leads the head-to-head with Novak Djokovic 17-15. (Getty Images)

    No. 8 Roger Federer and No. 2 Novak Djokovic will renew their rivalry in the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

    Federer, a four-time champion at Indian Wells, booked his spot with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 31 Alexandr Dolgopolov in the semifinals on Saturday. The 32-year-old Swiss, who has won 11 consecutive matches, will jump to No. 4 if he wins the title and No. 5 if he loses to Djokovic.

    Djokovic, a two-time winner, reached the final by beating John Isner 7-5, 6-7 (2), 6-1. The 26-year-old Serb was broken twice when serving for the match in the second set, but he rebounded to break Isner at 2-1 in the third and pulled away. Djokovic is seeking his first title of the season.

    Federer leads the head-to-head 17-15 overall and 13-12 on hard courts, including a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory in the semifinals of the Dubai Championships last month. Djokovic has won their only match at Indian Wells, in the 2011 semifinals. The two have split eight matches in finals.

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  • Published On Mar 15, 2014
  • Roger Federer puzzled by lack of teen success on ATP Tour

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    (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

    Roger Federer wonders if potential tennis stars are choosing to play other sports as teenagers. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Tennis has turned into a veteran’s game in recent years, and Roger Federer has no answers as to why.

    No teenagers are in the ATP Tour’s top 100, and it may be some time before that statistic changes. The highest-ranked teen is 18-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios (you may remember his second-round match against Benoit Paire at the Australian Open), who tops out at No. 226. Compare that to Federer’s generation, which placed a number of teens in the top 100 — including Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian and Federer himself — and the drop-off is hard to ignore.

    “We need a podium talk here about why that is the case,” Federer said during his pre-tournament news conference at the BNP Paribas Open. “[Rafael Nadal] is maybe the best teenager we’ve ever had, with Bjorn Borg, in the game, and now we don’t have anyone anymore. So how can that happen in such a short period of time? And it’s not like when Rafa came about it was totally different. So maybe it’s a lack of quality to some degree. Maybe more kids are also playing other sports so we might lose some really great talents to other sports.”

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  • Published On Mar 07, 2014
  • Rafael Nadal: Australian Open loss hurt more than six-hour battle in 2012

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    (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

    Rafael Nadal is the defending champion at Indian Wells. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

    INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Last year, the challenge for Rafael Nadal after a seven-month injury layoff was to reel in then-No. 1 Novak Djokovic and reassert his dominance on the ATP Tour. Needless to say, he accomplished that mission, and his hard-court title at the BNP Paribas Open was the early-season result that made everyone sit up and take notice. He finished 75-7 with 10 titles, including the French Open and U.S. Open, and ended the season at No. 1. Piece of cake.

    Now the challenge is to stay there, and while climbing his way back to the top was an undoubtedly difficult task given the talent in today’s game, maintaining the consistency to stay there is far tougher.

    “What is more difficult in the end is to be in the top position for a long time,” Nadal said in his pre-tournament news conference on Thursday. “What’s more difficult, to win one tournament or play six finals? It’s more difficult to play six finals.

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  • Published On Mar 06, 2014
  • ATP rankings: Grigor Dimitrov climbs to career high after Mexican Open title

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    Grigor Dimitrov

    Grigor Dimitrov (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images)

    Grigor Dimitrov moved up to a career-high No. 16 in this week’s ATP Tour rankings after winning the Mexican Open.

    The 22-year-old Bulgarian climbed six spots with his title in Acapulco, where he cooled off Ernests Gulbis in the quarterfinals, upset Andy Murray in the semifinals and outlasted Kevin Anderson in the final. Dimitrov is 20-5 with two titles in his last seven tournaments dating to last October. He is the youngest player in the top 20.

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  • Published On Mar 03, 2014
  • Roger Federer defeats Tomas Berdych to win Dubai Championships title

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    Roger Federer

    Roger Federer won the Dubai Championships for the sixth time. (Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)

    No. 8 Roger Federer rallied from a set and break down to defeat No. 6 Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday to win the Dubai Championships for the sixth time.

    With his first hard-court title since the 2012 Western & Southern Open, Federer broke a third-place tie with John McEnroe for most ATP Tour titles in the Open era. Federer has 78 titles, trailing only Jimmy Connors (109) and Ivan Lendl (94). He’s won at least one title 14 years in a row, equaling Lendl’s record.

    The 32-year-old Swiss has already matched last season’s totals for titles (one) and victories against top-10 players (four). He also snapped a two-match losing streak to Berdych, who beat him in the Dubai semifinals last year.

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  • Published On Mar 01, 2014
  • Roger Federer defeats Novak Djokovic, advances to Dubai Championships final

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    Roger Federer snapped a three-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic.

    Roger Federer snapped a three-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic. (Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)

    No. 8 Roger Federer rallied to beat No. 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Friday to advance to the final of the Dubai Championships. Federer will play No. 6 Tomas Berdych in Saturday’s final as the Swiss seeks his first hard-court title since the Western & Southern Open in August 2012.

    After a slow start, Federer came back to earn his first victory against Djokovic when dropping the first set. The first two sets were decided by small margins, with some scintillating play from both men; they took advantage of the quick conditions to play some big-hitting, aggressive tennis.

    Federer earned a 0-30 lead on Djokovic’s serve in the sixth game of the second set before a brief rain delay. When play resumed, the match turned completely in Federer’s favor. He went on to break and won 10 of the last 13 games for the victory.

    Federer improved to 17-15 overall and 13-12 on hard courts against Djokovic. He also recorded his third top-10 victory of the season after beating Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Australian Open; Federer had four all of last season, including two at the ATP World Tour Finals. Djokovic, who lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, fell to 0-2 against top-10 players this year.

    Follow our game-by-game analysis after the jump:

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  • Published On Feb 27, 2014


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