The figures of yesterday, better than those of today | Sports


A few weeks ago, during the Canadian Masters 1000, my children and I were commenting during lunch how strange the premature elimination of many seeded heads was, and the even more unprecedented fact that this has been the usual trend for a while to this part in all the tournaments that are disputed.

It was my daughter who opened the debate. She showed us a photo of the quarterfinal pairings of the same tournament in 2009, held on that occasion in Montreal (it is played in simultaneous years between this city and Toronto). Federer number one against Tsonga, number seven; Murray of three against Davydenko, the eight; Roddick as five against Djokovic as 4; and del Potro number six against Rafael, number two. That is to say, the first eight playing the last four matches, confirming the logic a few years ago: that the best reached the final rounds, the tennis players who led the world rankings.

This fact, as I said, has passed away and one might think that in the Grand Slams the situation is somewhat different and that the fact of playing five sets gives a certain advantage to the leaders of the ranking. But the truth is that in this US Open, half of the 32 seeded teams have been defeated in the first two rounds, and of the first eight, three have failed to get past the second.

This has led me, a few weeks later, to continue debating with my children during lunch and to reach a first conclusion that the top tennis players of a few years ago were better than those of today. I think that it is most likely so. That before the players were noticeably better and much more competitive than those of the present moment.

There are those who say that today’s second-rate tennis players have increased their level compared to those who lead the ranking. And the reality is that, indeed, the panorama is now much more even than before. The speed at which it is played today encourages many mistakes to be made, leads to losing the thread much more easily, making it much more difficult to chain together different tournaments playing well -only Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz succeed- and Too often they give these surprising casualties.

Current tennis is much more focused on hitting the ball very hard to the detriment of giving it control and this, of course, makes it very difficult to make a difference, but also to see beautiful matches. Last week, to give an example that was as devastating as it was real, I saw a match at the Cincinnati tournament in which 135 unforced errors had been committed in three sets. This seems like a real barbarity to me.

And now I will share the comparison exercise that, between bites, my children and I have made between the best of the current era and the previous one that I mentioned at the beginning.

We have placed Roger Federer and Alcaraz as the two leaders of yesteryear and today. The rest of the panorama that has been revealed to us has given a fairly clear advantage in favor of those of the previous decade. The current Djokovic is well below that of five or ten years ago. Without a doubt, Rafael would surpass Daniil Medvedev. Andy Murray would be better than Alexander Zverev and Stanislas Wawrinka would be better than Casper Ruud. Juan Martín del Potro would pass Andrei Rublev and I think it is clear that David Ferrer would do the same with Holger Rune.

An impossible exercise, of course, but it may be enlightening when it comes to understanding tennis today a little better and those unexpected and undesirable defeats for the good of our sport in the initial rounds of the big tournaments.

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