Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nadal Cruises Through U.S. Open to Complete Career Grand Slam

Rafael Nadal dropped just one set in the entire tournament en route to claiming his first U.S. Open title with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over Novak Djokovic in the championship match. Pundits had eagerly anticipated a showdown between Nadal and Roger Federer but Djokovic wore down an error-prone Federer in a five set semifinal match. Federer has been so frequently referred to as the greatest player of all-time that it seems like that is part of his name--"Greatest Player of All-Time Roger Federer"--but that designation was always premature and now it simply looks fraudulent: Nadal has dominated Federer head to head right from the start of their rivalry and the scope of that dominance has markedly increased in the past few years as Nadal added grass and hard court mastery to his peerless clay court play.

Tennis has changed so much over the years that it is very difficult to fairly compare players from different eras; "Greatest Tennis Player of All-Time" is a mythical title but even if we confine the discussion to the Open Era it is not easy to choose from among Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Borg is the prodigy, setting numerous records (some of which have been broken but many of which still stand) for being the youngest player to accomplish various impressive feats, and he established an incredible simultaneous dominance at the French Open and Wimbledon: Borg won a record six French Open titles plus five straight Wimbledon titles and for an unprecedented three straight years (1978-80) he conquered both events. When he retired he held the modern record for titles won at both events; Federer and Sampras subsequently surpasssed Borg's Wimbledon mark but Sampras never even reached the French Open Final while Federer has managed to win that event just once (and only by avoiding a showdown with Nadal, who has bested Federer in three French Open Finals). Even after Nadal's most recent triumph, Borg is still the youngest player to win nine Grand Slam singles titles and he also did so in the fewest number of events (22). Borg won at least one Grand Slam for a record eight straight years (1974-81), a mark later tied by Sampras. He retired at just 25 years of age, after a year in which he won the French Open and made it to the Finals at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Borg finished with 11 Grand Slam singles titles but he played in an era when the Australian Open was hardly treated like a major by most of the top non-Australian players: Borg competed in that event just once. If Borg had played more frequently in the Australian Open and/or not retired in his prime he likely would have added several Grand Slam titles to his resume. The only significant accomplishment that he failed to attain is winning the U.S. Open crown; he reached the Finals there four times without success. Borg won 11 of the 27 Grand Slams that he entered (41%) and he won 141 of his 157 Grand Slam singles matches (89.8%); both of those percentages are all-time records. Borg made the Finals 16 times in those 27 Grand Slams, he never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam and he only lost in the second round once. Borg was renowned for his phenomenal conditioning and his emotional steadiness; he did not get rattled if his opponent hit a great shot because he figured that his opponent would have to hit many such shots to beat him, a task that most players were not mentally and/or physically equipped to do.

Sampras broke Borg's Wimbledon record by capturing seven titles there and he set records for most weeks holding the number one ranking (286) and most years finishing as the number one ranked player (six, 1993-98). Sampras broke Roy Emerson's career record by winning 14 Grand Slam singles titles but he played in 51 Grand Slam events so he was much less dominant than Borg; comparing Sampras' Grand Slam career to Borg's is like comparing Emmitt Smith's rushing statistics with Jim Brown's: Smith set the all-time NFL career rushing record but he played for many more seasons and had many more rushing attempts than Brown, so few if any football experts consider Smith to be the greatest running back of all-time. Also, while Sampras' powerful serve proved to be very effective at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open the slow clay at Roland Garros made Sampras look very ordinary: in 13 French Open appearances Sampras made it to the semifinals just once while suffering three first round losses and five second round defeats.

Federer is the artist; even casual fans marvel at the way that he seems to effortlessly glide around the court. He started out his Grand Slam career slowly--amassing six first round losses before winning his first title (2003 Wimbledon)--but he made up for lost time by reaching the semifinals in a record 23 straight Grand Slam events and tallying a record 16 Grand Slam wins, including the career Grand Slam that eluded both Borg and Sampras. Federer dominated Wimbledon and the U.S. Open while padding his Grand Slam totals with four Australian Open titles in 11 tries; Federer has played in the Australian Open each year of his career but, as noted above, Borg--like most of the best players in his era--generally bypassed this tournament, while Sampras won there twice in 11 attempts but also skipped the event three times. Federer won each of the other Grand Slams at least once before he even reached the French Open Finals--and then he lost three straight times to Nadal in those Finals before winning there in 2009 after an injury-plagued Nadal lost in the fourth round. Federer's Grand Slam percentages are 16 titles in 46 appearances (34.8%) and a 208-30 match record (87.4%). Federer held the number one ranking for a record 237 straight weeks and he has been number one for a total of 285 weeks, just one week short of Sampras' record.

Nadal is the grinder; his physical conditioning and mental toughness are very reminiscent of Borg. Like Borg, Nadal started out as a clay court specialist but eventually developed his game to the point that he could win on any surface--and, like Borg, Nadal was a prodigy, tying Borg's record by winning 16 professional singles titles as a teenager. Nadal is the second youngest player to win nine Grand Slam titles, trailing Borg by three months and requiring four more appearances than Borg did. Nadal owns a sparkling 9-2 record in Grand Slam Finals, he has won nine of the 26 Grand Slams that he has entered (34.6%) and he has a 120-17 career record in Grand Slam matches (87.6%).

Borg never faced Sampras or Federer, while Federer played Sampras just once, beating him at Wimbledon in 2001 to end Sampras' streak of four straight titles (and seven wins in eight years)--but Nadal enjoys a 14-7 head to head advantage over Federer and he has beaten Federer five times out of seven in Grand Slam Finals with victories at three different events (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon). At first, "experts" dismissed Nadal's head to head dominance over Federer because many of those matches took place on clay--a distinction which never made sense, because if Federer is truly the greatest player then that should not matter--but now Nadal has proven that he can beat Federer on any surface at any time. If Federer had beaten Djokovic there is every reason to believe that Nadal would have added yet another win to his Federer ledger, so it is ironic that the criticism lobbed at Nadal early in his career--that his record versus Federer was padded because he usually lost at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open before running into Federer--could be directed at Federer regarding this year's U.S. Open.

Maybe Federer will finish his career with a flourish, winning a few more Grand Slams and narrowing the head to head gap with Nadal--but that seems doubtful. It is more likely that in the next three to five years Nadal will break Federer's career Grand Slam record--but let's forget about speculation for the moment and look at the facts as they stand now. Sampras had a great career but his ineptitude at the French Open means that he simply cannot be ranked ahead of Borg, Nadal or Federer. Borg had the shortest career of this quartet but he was the most dominant (in terms of his winning percentages) and he had to battle two of the 10 greatest players ever (Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe) while Federer won many of his Grand Slams before Nadal really hit his stride and without having to deal with another all-time great player at or near his prime. If Borg had captured just one U.S. Open title then his resume would have no gaps but the absence of that jewel from his collection stands in contrast to the career Grand Slams owned by Federer and Nadal.

Federer's artistry is very appealing to the eye and he broke Sampras' Grand Slam singles titles record just seven years after Sampras had set it, a surprising development considering that Sampras' predecessor Roy Emerson held the mark for 35 years, but Federer's overall Grand Slam record is not as dominant as Borg's nor has Federer simultaneously mastered Wimbledon and the French Open the way that Borg did.

After his victory over Djokovic, Nadal modestly deflected comparisons with Federer but the reality is that at this point there is no compelling reason to rank Federer ahead of Nadal on the all-time list: Nadal has accomplished more than Federer did at a comparable age, he has demonstrated that he can win a Grand Slam on any surface and there is that "little" matter of Nadal owning a decisive head to head advantage versus Federer, a statistic that simply cannot be diminished or ignored in light of how well Nadal has now filled out the rest of his resume.

Anyone who felt justified in calling Federer the greatest player of all-time circa 2006--when he was 25, had won eight Grand Slam singles titles and had yet to complete the career Grand Slam--must now accord the same deference to a 24 year old Nadal who owns nine Grand Slam singles titles and a career Grand Slam. Failing that, the "experts" could follow the path that I have recommended all along and refrain from crowning a mythical greatest player until the Federer-Nadal rivalry has completely run its course and we can examine each player's complete body of work.


Anonymous said...


i still rank federer best of open era. bjorg never won aus or us open. he dominated french and wimbledon. fed won all 4 and better clay court player than bjorg hard court. he got too 3 other french open finals if nadal wasnt there he got 4 or 5 french open nadal maybe the greatest clay court player all time. the winning percentage is because he played less tournaments and grand slams then fed has in his career so that is scude. fed was more dominant in prime head to head fed wins hard court french bjorg wimbledon toss up.

nadal was better at 24 then roger been was at same age he could pass roger if he keep on winning unlike bjorg he was great on all surfaces. he has not had better career right now then fed or bjorg he has to do it longer for me and pass fed grandslams. he has a couple years to do it.

David Friedman said...


How can you rank Federer as the best when Nadal has the better head to head record, including a better head to head record in Grand Slam Finals? That makes no sense; it's like saying that Karl Malone was a better NBA champion than Michael Jordan.

It is more difficult to simultaneously dominate Wimbledon and the French Open than to do anything else in tennis because the surfaces at those events are so different, necessitating a radically different style of game to be successful.

Borg did not have a weakness for a particular surface; he won on grass and clay and there were just not that many events on hard courts at that time but he won titles on hard courts, too.

Borg only played the Australian once because it was just not that important during his era. He made the U.S. Open Final four times and, unlike Federer at the 2009 French Open, he did not have the advantage of not facing the best player in that round.

Borg's winning percentage is not skewed; it covers an eight year time period with 27 Slams, one more Slam than Nadal has currently played. Federer won seven Slams in his first 27 appearances. Borg's Grand Slam record matches up well with anyone's even without a U.S. Open title.

People were already calling Federer the greatest of all-time when he had accomplished less than Nadal has accomplished now. I will not overreact and say that Nadal is the greatest of all-time; all I am saying is that anyone who said in 2006 that Federer is the greatest has to be consistent and now say that Nadal is the greatest.

Arindam said...

First, let me state that I fully agree that Nadal is currently on his way to being the greatest of all time and if he can stay fit for 3-4 more years, he should be there sooner than later.
However, as of now, I do not understand why should not Federer be considered as the greatest ever at least in the open era. Sampras never won the French Open & so should not be considered as the greatest ever. Borg won in only 2 different grand slams. Agreed that Australian Open was not considered important during his playing days, however he could not win the US Open too. If you say that he reached the US Open finals 4 times and that is good enough, why should Federer's French Open performance be considered "bad"?
Federer has reached the finals of each of the 4 grand slams at least 4 times, a feat that will be really tough for Nadal to emulate because after 8 years, he has reached the finals of 2 opens (US & Australian) only once.
Another count that can give us an idea about the all-round greatness of a player is the number of grand slams won in the surfaces other than his most favorite one. In this count, Federer has 10 (5U+4A+1F), Borg has 5(5W), Sampras has 7 (5U+2A) and Nadal has only 4 (2W+1A+1U) so far.
True, Nadal has the Olympic singles goal to his credit, but Federer has won 4 ATP World Tour Finals.

David Friedman said...


You are completely ignoring the "inconvenient" fact that Nadal has dominated Federer head to head 14-7, including 5-2 in Grand Slam Finals--and those Grand Slam Finals victories took place at three different events, so it cannot be said that Nadal can only beat Federer on clay.

The number one problem with calling Federer the greatest has been the same for years and is only becoming a bigger and bigger issue as Nadal's dominance has expanded to all venues and surfaces: we have seen the so-called greatest repeatedly beaten by the same player--and this is not a situation where a mediocre player simply matches up well with Federer but does not accomplish anything else, because Nadal has outpaced Federer's accomplishments across the board (Grand Slam wins by age 24, achieving the career Grand Slam by that age, etc.).

Federer's body of work necessitates that his name be included in greatest player discussions but, ultimately, Nadal's dominance of Federer means that whatever rank one assigns to Federer has to be at least one below the rank assigned to Nadal.

Regarding comparisons to Borg, I don't consider Federer's French Open record to be "bad"--objectively speaking, it is about the same as Borg's U.S. Open record. Borg had the misfortune of having to deal with Connors and then McEnroe--who combined to win nine U.S. Opens in a 10 year period--while Federer snuck in one French Open title when Nadal was clearly operating at less than 100%.

Federer has played in 12 French Opens, reaching the Finals four times and losing in the first round three times. Federer's career match record at the French Open is 43-11 (79.6%). Borg played in nine U.S. Opens, reaching the Finals four times, never losing in the first round and reaching the quarterfinals seven times. Borg's career match record at the U.S. Open was 40-9 (81.6%), with five of those losses coming at the hands of Connors and McEnroe and one loss happening after he retired in the third set of a 1-1 match due to injury.

Anonymous said...


of nadal 14 wins 10 was on clay his fav surface he is 4-7 vs fed everywhere else. he dominates him on clay mainly, bjorg percentage is skewed its going to be higher than feds because he played less grand slams. fed 2003-2009 was better than any of the other three guys best 6 year run. fed wasnt dominate his first couple years which bring down his percentage but his prime was more dominant than all 3 guys. well see what nadal does and how many he has at end of career.

David Friedman said...


Nadal has beaten Federer on every conceivable surface now and owns a 5-2 edge in Grand Slam Finals, with wins at the Australian, French and Wimbledon. What else does Nadal have to do to prove to you that he owns Federer head to head?

No other alleged claimant to the title of greatest ever has been so soundly beaten by his main rival.

Regarding Borg, did you not read my answer? Borg won 11 out of 27. Federer won seven out of his first 27. Borg's percentage is not "skewed"; Borg's percentage reflects that he dominated Grand Slams during his era more than Federer has dominated Grand Slams during his era and, indeed, more than any other player has dominated Grand Slams during the Open Era: no one matches Borg's percentage.

The main difference between Borg's run and Federer's run is that Federer inflated his total with four Australian Open titles while Borg--and the other top players of his era--skipped that event.

David Friedman said...


Another way to look at the Borg-Federer comparison is that not only did Borg win 11 Grand Slams in his first (and only) 27 events while Federer only won seven Grand Slams in his first 27 events but Borg's closing kick was better than Federer's. You keep alluding to how Federer picked up steam in the second part of his career and you are right: he won nine Grand Slams in his next 19 events after going seven for 27--but Borg won nine Grand Slams in his final 16 events! During that span Borg skipped the 1977 French Open due to the bizarre organizational politics going on in tennis at that time, so considering that Borg had already won that title twice and would go on to win in the next (and final) four times that he entered it Borg could easily have gone 10 for 17!

Your suggestion that Federer at his peak was a more dominant Grand Slam performer than Borg is incorrect.

Anonymous said...


from fed first grand slam he won 16 of last 29 at one point from 04-06 9 of 12. how was bjorg more dominant makes no sense? he was 0-17 from 98-02 so first 27 grand slams he wasnt really at his peak so that will favor bjorg. really they peaked at 2 diffrent times, they hard to compare bjorg had a slow start then dominant fed slow start then exploded for a 4 yeat stretch. but fed third stage of career is something that bjorg never had. he retired at 25 where fed is 29 been doing it for 12 years where he did it 7 years only. i dont know why bjorg retired but many felt mcenroe was fina dominant him and he left.

nadal beat him mainly on clay numbers back that up and nadal one of the all time great clay court players. nadal has to catch fed in majors before he better than him in career it makes no sense to say he is now.

David Friedman said...


I don't know how else to explain "dominance" to you. Borg won 11 Slams in 27 appearances, which is the best such percentage in the sport's history. Borg went 9/16 in his final Grand Slam appearances. Federer has not been as dominant, nor has Federer demonstrated the kind of simultaneous Wimbledon/French Open mastery that Borg did.

Nadal is winning Grand Slams at a faster pace than Federer has and Nadal has shown that he can beat Federer on any surface and at any venue. I am not saying that Nadal must be called the greatest ever but I am saying that anyone who called Federer the greatest circa 2006 must say the same thing now about Nadal or he is being hypocritical, because Nadal has accomplished a lot more now than Federer had by that time.

Anonymous said...

Hey David. Great article!

But one question: what's wrong with having a nickname? Are you opposed to "The Great One" for Gretzky or "The Greatest" for Ali as well? Those have lasted for many years now and tennis is no less of a sport.


David Friedman said...


"Greatest Player of All-Time" is not a nickname--it is a title that was prematurely bestowed on Federer several years ago. Ali called himself "The Greatest" but he backed up that boast many times, beating the "unbeatable" Sonny Liston and George Foreman and taking two of his three bouts with Joe Frazier. In contrast, Federer was falsely labeled the greatest player at a time when he had neither surpassed Borg's simultaneous Wimbledon/French dominance nor had he found a way to consistently beat his top rival (Nadal). Nadal has proven that he can beat Federer at any venue and on any kind of surface. I'm not sure if Nadal is the greatest player of all-time but I don't understand how anyone can call Federer the greatest when he has a lopsided losing record against a contemporary player. We'll never know for sure what would have happened if Borg and Federer had played but we know exactly what has happened 14 out of 21 times that Federer played Nadal--Nadal beat him.

Anonymous said...

Best article (and follow up comments) ever, David!

Elvis said...


in tennis, you don't have to use the head to head records in order to rank someone. You have to look at the stats. In a grandlsam, we have 128 players that are competing. Howm many times Federer reached a slam final without facing Nadal? is it Federer's fault if Nadal haven't reached the final? I think that consistency should be the key when judging someone's career....23 semis in a row, 10 slams finals in a row,etc...If Nadal was to tie Federer's record for the most grand slams, i'm ready to anoint him as the greatest of all time.

David Friedman said...


You are not considering the entire picture. Federer holds the record for Grand Slam singles titles but this is equivalent to Emmitt Smith being the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards; few, if any, NFL experts consider Smith to be the greatest running back ever because Jim Brown was much more dominant in terms of rushing titles, yards per attempt, yards per game, etc. As I noted in this and other articles, Borg was more dominant than Federer in terms of Grand Slam winning percentage. Furthermore, Nadal has won more Slams than Federer at a comparable age. Nadal has already accomplished more than Federer had accomplished when people began anointing Federer the greatest of all-time, so it is hard to understand why Nadal would not now be granted similar consideration--especially when Nadal has dominated Federer in a way that no one has ever dominated Nadal.

No one has refuted the very simple premise that I have offered for several years: how can Federer legitimately be called the greatest ever when he is not even clearly the greatest player of his own era?

tennis said...

did you watch the atp masters in london, great tournament. the finals was a good match.

David Friedman said...


No, I did not watch that event but I know that Federer had a very good performance versus Nadal in the championship match.

DanielSong39 said...

You have to look at the bigger picture, David. Nadal's career is not defined by the 22 matches he played against Federer (with a 14-8 record). All his other matches against all the other players count, as well.

And that's were Nadal falls just a little short. From 2004-6, Federer had a record of 277-15, won 8 of 12 Grand Slams, 13 of 21 Masters Series events and 34 of 49 tournaments. Nadal cannot come close to these numbers in any of these categories.

In addition, Nadal had a number of wipeout losses in Grand Slams to a number of lesser players in the middle of his prime - enduring beatdowns at the hands of Murray, Del Potro, Soderling, Gonzalez, Tsonga, Ferrer, Youzhny, etc. Federer just didn't suffer these bad losses in his prime.

Nadal may eventually become the more accomplished player and eclipse Federer's total of Grand Slam wins, but he will most likely fall short of the form Federer showed at his very best.

David Friedman said...


My articles about Borg, Sampras, Federer and Nadal "looked at the bigger picture"--and that picture shows that Nadal has accomplished more at a younger age than Federer did and that Nadal enjoys a decisive head to head advantage over Federer, including Grand Slam victories on multiple surfaces.

Can you name one other sport or endeavor in which one top level competitor regularly bests another but the latter is widely termed to be the greatest ever? We are not talking about Federer having a matchup problem on one surface in a small sample size of matches versus an otherwise undistinguished player; that kind of circumstance could be dismissed as a fluke. Nadal has dominated Federer and Nadal has backed up that dominance by becoming the number one player in the world while winning each Grand Slam at least once, in addition to many other tournament victories.

I did not agree with those who prematurely crowned Federer the greatest of all-time several years ago and I will not make the same mistake of crowning Nadal now but I do insist that all those people who lauded Federer back then should be consistent and thus offer similar praise to Nadal.

"The bigger picture" actually indicates that Borg, in the context of his era (when players did not regularly play in the Australian Open and other conditions were different as well), has at least as good of a claim to be considered the greatest of all-time (or at least the greatest of the Open Era) as Federer or Nadal.

DanielSong39 said...

I don't think Sampras is even in the conversation as he never won more than 2 slams in a year, finished with fewer slams than Federer and never came close to approaching the level of dominance that we've seen from either Federer or Nadal.

Borg is one of the great "what if" stories, but the fact is that he quit when he was still young - that has to be held against him. He finished his career with at least a handful of majors behind Federer. I don't think he's ever won 95% of his matches over a 3-year period either.

Nadal does have the chance to surpass Federer in the number of Grand Slams, and become the most accomplished player of all time. He'll never match Federer's 3-year run of brilliance but he's provided his own special brand of tennis.

Federer peaked late. Nadal peaked early, and it remains to be seen if he can maintain his form for a few more years. But if he is to surpass Federer's count in Grand Slams, he'll have to avoid those losses to lesser players that's plagued him throughout his career, until a breakthrough 2010.

David Friedman said...


As I have repeatedly mentioned, I just do not understand why some people place so much emphasis on total Grand Slams won. Do you think that Emmitt Smith is the greatest running back ever just because he has the most career rushing yards? You have to consider the context of a player's career plus his dominance relative to his era.

Borg won at least one Grand Slam in eight straight years (1974-81). He pulled off the Wimbledon-French double an unprecedented three years in a row (1978-80) and when he retired he was the modern career leader in both Wimbledon singles titles (five) and French Open singles titles (six, a mark he still holds). Borg won 11 of the 27 Grand Slams he entered, the best such percentage ever. Borg also owns the best career winning percentage for Grand Slam matches. An important part of Borg's career that is rarely mentioned is his great success in Davis Cup play. Borg is hardly merely a "what if" story; he has bona fide credentials as arguably the greatest Open Era male tennis player, while the "what if" only consists of speculation about how much more he could have added to his legacy had he played another four or five years: it is certainly reasonable to speculate that he would have won at least three more French Opens, one more Wimbledon and very possibly the U.S. Open title that he had narrowly missed on several occasions (including back to back Finals losses in his last two appearances in that event).

It is very difficult to place into proper context the accomplishments of players who competed in different eras under different conditions but Borg's accomplishments in his era stack up very well against any other Open Era tennis player's feats.

The interesting thing about Federer and Nadal is that we can compare them because they are contemporaries who have faced each other nearly two dozen times in addition to competing under the same rules and against similar common opponents. Nadal has exceeded what Federer achieved by the same age while amassing a decisive head to head advantage, so it is baffling that anyone would insist that Federer must be ranked ahead of Nadal at this point.

dsong said...

Man, what happened to Nadal? Disappointing loss. Alas, the ability to stay healthy is part of the game and it will ultimately decide whether Nadal will catch Federer's record total in Grand Slams.

Nadal, when he's healthy, is almost unbeatable. Unfortunately he's had constant health issues throughout his career and it reared its ugly head once again. It's the injuries and the frequent wipeout losses at Grand Slams - the one vs. Ferrer being the latest - that will keep the Federer vs. Nadal debate alive for another day.

Let's hope Nadal will return to health soon.

David Friedman said...


Nadal has been healthy enough to win more Grand Slams by the age of 25 than anyone in tennis history except for Borg, to win three Grand Slams in a row on three different surfaces (no one has won four in a row since Laver won a calendar year Grand Slam in 1969) and to build a huge lead over Federer in the ATP rankings.

DanielSong39 said...

Now that Federer is out as well, I wonder when we'll be seeing the articles: "Federer and Nadal are washed-up has-beens" and "Djokovic and Murray headline the new era in tennis".

It's sad to see how short-sighted journalism has become, but that's a sign of the era that we live in.

If Murray or Djokovic (or someone else) wins a handful of majors over the next 2-3 years, people will be quick to proclaim theat player as the "greatest player of all time". And I'm sure the head-to-head vs. Nadal and Federer during that period will be used as "evidence" that the player is the "best ever".

Of course it would be ridiculous and premature, just like it was premature to crown Federer as the "best ever" after he won 6 slams and just like it is to crown Nadal as the "best ever" after he won 9 slams. But it will happen, and legends of yesteryear will be quickly forgotten.

As for Nadal and Federer, let's see if they have something left in their tanks. Age and health are the big concerns and it would be a shame if the Australian Open was indeed the beginning of the end.