A Big 3 Appreciation

A.S.

New User
Hello,

I’ve been lurking here a long time, and am quite astonished at the amount of negativity around these three amazing players. I wanted to share some entirely positive thoughts about them and about my experience of watching them over the years. May I please please request that, if you respond, there be no undermining/saracasm/hate, only positive appreciation, even—in fact, especially!—for the one(s) you root against? Please?

Needless to say, everything below is entirely subjective and based only on what I have watched (and there have been several gaps in my periods of watching). These are just my own impressions of these players and what they mean to me.


Federer

The flair. I think Roger played tennis the way everyone would secretly like to play. The word ‘elegant’ is overused for him, it doesn’t quite do him justice. He was somehow cool and red-hot at the same time, somehow the epitome of fluid, effortless movement and of overwhelming attack at the same time. For those who know chess: I imagine him as a master of the romantic style: a clear, simple opening of lines of attack, and then a flood of dazzling combinations leading to an inevitable checkmate; the opponent left wrongfooted and silly behind the baseline of the ad court, the Federer forehand dismissing the ball to a corner of the deuce court, or the volley caressed just over the net. And then that disdainful look, the lack of sweat, the bandana, the wave of his hair, even the casual adjustment of the shirt at the shoulder—everything seemed to say: I’m better than you. And he was. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that everything else—the crowds, the fawning media, the brand—only grew because of that magic on the court. The raquet was a wand, and the ball, the surface, the opponent, the crowd, the whole tennis world was under its spell. Yes, no one is bigger than the sport…but for a while, he was.

Most memorable moment: AO 2017 final (RG 2011 SF a close second). The Federer story would have felt incomplete without this comeback and this particular victory. My most vivid memory of this is not an image but my own feelings at the time of the match. Like any rational person, I laugh at the absurd idea that some random person somewhere else can influence what happens in a match; and yet, like any sports tragic, I fervently believe it, and so I maintain that I contributed to Federer’s victory by switching off the TV at just the right moment in the 5th set, when he was a break down and could have done with some help.


Nadal

The intensity. Depending on who you are rooting for, there is no more thrilling or terrifying sight in tennis than a Rafa fightback. All of a sudden, something shifts in the atmosphere, the tennis stadium is momentarily transformed into a coliseum. The racquet swings like a club and finishes like a lasso, and then comes the fist-pumping foot-stomping roar, magnified ten thousand times by the crowd’s own roar. It gives me goosebumps. Young Rafa was the fastest tennis player one can imagine, but old Rafa doesn’t even seem to need speed, the very geometry of the court bends to his will in these moments. Suddenly, no winner hit by the opponent ends up a winner, Rafa can always reach it; no approach shot is good enough, we all know the fizzing passing shot is coming, piercing the air and curving past netpost and opponent, who is now both a spectator and a sacrificial offering to the tennis gods.

Sustained dominance is of course what makes the Big 3 ‘big’, but his French Open records stand out even compared to all the other accomplishments. I was 22 when he first won at RG, and I think of everything that has happened in my own life since then—studies, jobs, living in different countries, so many friends made and lost, love, heartbreak, marriage, separation, my youth gone…and all this time later the same guy is still winning the tournament, are you freaking kidding me??? Also, it’s not spoken of as much, but I find the 17/18 consecutive years in the top 10 equally (if not more) impressive.

Most memorable moment: for quality of play, drama, and its significance in the tennis narrative over the past two decades, it’s hard to look past the Wimbledon 2008 final. I imagine that for his fans, the AO 2022 final would be as cathartic as the AO 2017 final for Roger fans.


Djokovic

The precision. I am always very surprised when people say they find his tennis boring. That accuracy, that movement, the way the court is carved up in clean sharp lines, that depth, those returns, my God! It is enthralling, breathtaking. The highest level of tennis I have seen was his in the AO 2019 final. I said above that everyone would like to play like Roger, but everyone should want to play like Novak. If tennis is essentially about getting to the ball and hitting it back into the opponent’s court in a way that makes it difficult for them to do the same, no one does it better. This is why his opponents say he makes them play bad. Time for a metaphor: he is like a surgeon, so precisely slicing through skin, separating muscle, tendon, bone, to unerringly reach the target. But that’s where the metaphor ends, because after the careful operation, the opponent is now ready to be finished off with one swift, sharp stab.

And all this is just gameplay; in addition, we have that indomitable will, which is combined with the fact that we (and the opponent) always know that there is a higher gear available. This is why it often seems like his victory is inevitable, no matter how badly he starts, no matter how well the opponent plays and how much of a lead he gets, we always have the feeling that it doesn’t matter, Novak has the secret codes to the higher levels, sooner or later he will access them and the game will be over.

Most memorable moment: Unlike the others, Novak gets not a match but a shot. That return in the 2011 US Open SF. It broke my heart at the time (I was rooting for Federer), but when I look at it now I cannot get over what a spectacular shot it was. No ordinary player could hit that shot, at that moment, against that opponent. It is a shot that said so much at the time, foreshadowed so much of what was to come.


Some closing thoughts

At different times I have been rooting for Roger or for Novak, but I think Rafa is the one who really makes the trivalry. Roger-Rafa and Rafa-Novak are in themselves worthy stories, but while Roger-Novak matches often had the highest quality, as a contrast of styles and personalities and given the trajectory of their careers, the rivalry would have been a less compelling narrative without Rafa there to bind them together.

I want to end this very self-indulgent post with the thought that we tennis fans often make the mistake of speaking of these players as if they are superhuman, gods of some kind. But in reality, the body still weakens and suffers, the heart still falters, the nerves still tingle. Each tournament, each match, each point is still a new challenge. They are not gods or superhuman, they are human. That’s what makes them so great.

Thanks for reading.
 

itrium84

Hall of Fame
Hello,

I’ve been lurking here a long time, and am quite astonished at the amount of negativity around these three amazing players. I wanted to share some entirely positive thoughts about them and about my experience of watching them over the years. May I please please request that, if you respond, there be no undermining/saracasm/hate, only positive appreciation, even—in fact, especially!—for the one(s) you root against? Please?

Needless to say, everything below is entirely subjective and based only on what I have watched (and there have been several gaps in my periods of watching). These are just my own impressions of these players and what they mean to me.


Federer

The flair. I think Roger played tennis the way everyone would secretly like to play. The word ‘elegant’ is overused for him, it doesn’t quite do him justice. He was somehow cool and red-hot at the same time, somehow the epitome of fluid, effortless movement and of overwhelming attack at the same time. For those who know chess: I imagine him as a master of the romantic style: a clear, simple opening of lines of attack, and then a flood of dazzling combinations leading to an inevitable checkmate; the opponent left wrongfooted and silly behind the baseline of the ad court, the Federer forehand dismissing the ball to a corner of the deuce court, or the volley caressed just over the net. And then that disdainful look, the lack of sweat, the bandana, the wave of his hair, even the casual adjustment of the shirt at the shoulder—everything seemed to say: I’m better than you. And he was. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that everything else—the crowds, the fawning media, the brand—only grew because of that magic on the court. The raquet was a wand, and the ball, the surface, the opponent, the crowd, the whole tennis world was under its spell. Yes, no one is bigger than the sport…but for a while, he was.

Most memorable moment: AO 2017 final (RG 2011 SF a close second). The Federer story would have felt incomplete without this comeback and this particular victory. My most vivid memory of this is not an image but my own feelings at the time of the match. Like any rational person, I laugh at the absurd idea that some random person somewhere else can influence what happens in a match; and yet, like any sports tragic, I fervently believe it, and so I maintain that I contributed to Federer’s victory by switching off the TV at just the right moment in the 5th set, when he was a break down and could have done with some help.


Nadal

The intensity. Depending on who you are rooting for, there is no more thrilling or terrifying sight in tennis than a Rafa fightback. All of a sudden, something shifts in the atmosphere, the tennis stadium is momentarily transformed into a coliseum. The racquet swings like a club and finishes like a lasso, and then comes the fist-pumping foot-stomping roar, magnified ten thousand times by the crowd’s own roar. It gives me goosebumps. Young Rafa was the fastest tennis player one can imagine, but old Rafa doesn’t even seem to need speed, the very geometry of the court bends to his will in these moments. Suddenly, no winner hit by the opponent ends up a winner, Rafa can always reach it; no approach shot is good enough, we all know the fizzing passing shot is coming, piercing the air and curving past netpost and opponent, who is now both a spectator and a sacrificial offering to the tennis gods.

Sustained dominance is of course what makes the Big 3 ‘big’, but his French Open records stand out even compared to all the other accomplishments. I was 22 when he first won at RG, and I think of everything that has happened in my own life since then—studies, jobs, living in different countries, so many friends made and lost, love, heartbreak, marriage, separation, my youth gone…and all this time later the same guy is still winning the tournament, are you freaking kidding me??? Also, it’s not spoken of as much, but I find the 17/18 consecutive years in the top 10 equally (if not more) impressive.

Most memorable moment: for quality of play, drama, and its significance in the tennis narrative over the past two decades, it’s hard to look past the Wimbledon 2008 final. I imagine that for his fans, the AO 2022 final would be as cathartic as the AO 2017 final for Roger fans.


Djokovic

The precision. I am always very surprised when people say they find his tennis boring. That accuracy, that movement, the way the court is carved up in clean sharp lines, that depth, those returns, my God! It is enthralling, breathtaking. The highest level of tennis I have seen was his in the AO 2019 final. I said above that everyone would like to play like Roger, but everyone should want to play like Novak. If tennis is essentially about getting to the ball and hitting it back into the opponent’s court in a way that makes it difficult for them to do the same, no one does it better. This is why his opponents say he makes them play bad. Time for a metaphor: he is like a surgeon, so precisely slicing through skin, separating muscle, tendon, bone, to unerringly reach the target. But that’s where the metaphor ends, because after the careful operation, the opponent is now ready to be finished off with one swift, sharp stab.

And all this is just gameplay; in addition, we have that indomitable will, which is combined with the fact that we (and the opponent) always know that there is a higher gear available. This is why it often seems like his victory is inevitable, no matter how badly he starts, no matter how well the opponent plays and how much of a lead he gets, we always have the feeling that it doesn’t matter, Novak has the secret codes to the higher levels, sooner or later he will access them and the game will be over.

Most memorable moment: Unlike the others, Novak gets not a match but a shot. That return in the 2011 US Open SF. It broke my heart at the time (I was rooting for Federer), but when I look at it now I cannot get over what a spectacular shot it was. No ordinary player could hit that shot, at that moment, against that opponent. It is a shot that said so much at the time, foreshadowed so much of what was to come.


Some closing thoughts

At different times I have been rooting for Roger or for Novak, but I think Rafa is the one who really makes the trivalry. Roger-Rafa and Rafa-Novak are in themselves worthy stories, but while Roger-Novak matches often had the highest quality, as a contrast of styles and personalities and given the trajectory of their careers, the rivalry would have been a less compelling narrative without Rafa there to bind them together.

I want to end this very self-indulgent post with the thought that we tennis fans often make the mistake of speaking of these players as if they are superhuman, gods of some kind. But in reality, the body still weakens and suffers, the heart still falters, the nerves still tingle. Each tournament, each match, each point is still a new challenge. They are not gods or superhuman, they are human. That’s what makes them so great.

Thanks for reading.
Thank you for the kind effort, and thank you for such a captivating description of big3. I share the huge appreciation for all 3 of them, as (I believe) 95% of this community does. Good job, A.S.!

Ps - Congratulations for winning AO woman finals few days ago! ;)
 

DIMI_D

Hall of Fame
Hello,

I’ve been lurking here a long time, and am quite astonished at the amount of negativity around these three amazing players. I wanted to share some entirely positive thoughts about them and about my experience of watching them over the years. May I please please request that, if you respond, there be no undermining/saracasm/hate, only positive appreciation, even—in fact, especially!—for the one(s) you root against? Please?

Needless to say, everything below is entirely subjective and based only on what I have watched (and there have been several gaps in my periods of watching). These are just my own impressions of these players and what they mean to me.


Federer

The flair. I think Roger played tennis the way everyone would secretly like to play. The word ‘elegant’ is overused for him, it doesn’t quite do him justice. He was somehow cool and red-hot at the same time, somehow the epitome of fluid, effortless movement and of overwhelming attack at the same time. For those who know chess: I imagine him as a master of the romantic style: a clear, simple opening of lines of attack, and then a flood of dazzling combinations leading to an inevitable checkmate; the opponent left wrongfooted and silly behind the baseline of the ad court, the Federer forehand dismissing the ball to a corner of the deuce court, or the volley caressed just over the net. And then that disdainful look, the lack of sweat, the bandana, the wave of his hair, even the casual adjustment of the shirt at the shoulder—everything seemed to say: I’m better than you. And he was. Indeed, it’s easy to forget that everything else—the crowds, the fawning media, the brand—only grew because of that magic on the court. The raquet was a wand, and the ball, the surface, the opponent, the crowd, the whole tennis world was under its spell. Yes, no one is bigger than the sport…but for a while, he was.

Most memorable moment: AO 2017 final (RG 2011 SF a close second). The Federer story would have felt incomplete without this comeback and this particular victory. My most vivid memory of this is not an image but my own feelings at the time of the match. Like any rational person, I laugh at the absurd idea that some random person somewhere else can influence what happens in a match; and yet, like any sports tragic, I fervently believe it, and so I maintain that I contributed to Federer’s victory by switching off the TV at just the right moment in the 5th set, when he was a break down and could have done with some help.


Nadal

The intensity. Depending on who you are rooting for, there is no more thrilling or terrifying sight in tennis than a Rafa fightback. All of a sudden, something shifts in the atmosphere, the tennis stadium is momentarily transformed into a coliseum. The racquet swings like a club and finishes like a lasso, and then comes the fist-pumping foot-stomping roar, magnified ten thousand times by the crowd’s own roar. It gives me goosebumps. Young Rafa was the fastest tennis player one can imagine, but old Rafa doesn’t even seem to need speed, the very geometry of the court bends to his will in these moments. Suddenly, no winner hit by the opponent ends up a winner, Rafa can always reach it; no approach shot is good enough, we all know the fizzing passing shot is coming, piercing the air and curving past netpost and opponent, who is now both a spectator and a sacrificial offering to the tennis gods.

Sustained dominance is of course what makes the Big 3 ‘big’, but his French Open records stand out even compared to all the other accomplishments. I was 22 when he first won at RG, and I think of everything that has happened in my own life since then—studies, jobs, living in different countries, so many friends made and lost, love, heartbreak, marriage, separation, my youth gone…and all this time later the same guy is still winning the tournament, are you freaking kidding me??? Also, it’s not spoken of as much, but I find the 17/18 consecutive years in the top 10 equally (if not more) impressive.

Most memorable moment: for quality of play, drama, and its significance in the tennis narrative over the past two decades, it’s hard to look past the Wimbledon 2008 final. I imagine that for his fans, the AO 2022 final would be as cathartic as the AO 2017 final for Roger fans.


Djokovic

The precision. I am always very surprised when people say they find his tennis boring. That accuracy, that movement, the way the court is carved up in clean sharp lines, that depth, those returns, my God! It is enthralling, breathtaking. The highest level of tennis I have seen was his in the AO 2019 final. I said above that everyone would like to play like Roger, but everyone should want to play like Novak. If tennis is essentially about getting to the ball and hitting it back into the opponent’s court in a way that makes it difficult for them to do the same, no one does it better. This is why his opponents say he makes them play bad. Time for a metaphor: he is like a surgeon, so precisely slicing through skin, separating muscle, tendon, bone, to unerringly reach the target. But that’s where the metaphor ends, because after the careful operation, the opponent is now ready to be finished off with one swift, sharp stab.

And all this is just gameplay; in addition, we have that indomitable will, which is combined with the fact that we (and the opponent) always know that there is a higher gear available. This is why it often seems like his victory is inevitable, no matter how badly he starts, no matter how well the opponent plays and how much of a lead he gets, we always have the feeling that it doesn’t matter, Novak has the secret codes to the higher levels, sooner or later he will access them and the game will be over.

Most memorable moment: Unlike the others, Novak gets not a match but a shot. That return in the 2011 US Open SF. It broke my heart at the time (I was rooting for Federer), but when I look at it now I cannot get over what a spectacular shot it was. No ordinary player could hit that shot, at that moment, against that opponent. It is a shot that said so much at the time, foreshadowed so much of what was to come.


Some closing thoughts

At different times I have been rooting for Roger or for Novak, but I think Rafa is the one who really makes the trivalry. Roger-Rafa and Rafa-Novak are in themselves worthy stories, but while Roger-Novak matches often had the highest quality, as a contrast of styles and personalities and given the trajectory of their careers, the rivalry would have been a less compelling narrative without Rafa there to bind them together.

I want to end this very self-indulgent post with the thought that we tennis fans often make the mistake of speaking of these players as if they are superhuman, gods of some kind. But in reality, the body still weakens and suffers, the heart still falters, the nerves still tingle. Each tournament, each match, each point is still a new challenge. They are not gods or superhuman, they are human. That’s what makes them so great.

Thanks for reading.
Great post and welcome you encapsulated so much of what the big 3 encompass in terms of game play, style and personality.
 
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