A three-man club

Nadal,Federer and Djokovich have won 28 of the past 29 Grand Slam titles.

Written by Associated Press | London | Published: June 23, 2012 12:37:13 am

As Novak Djokovic,Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer step on the grass at Wimbledon,each has reason to believe he’ll be hoisting the trophy overhead in two weeks’ time. None of the other 125 men in the field can honestly say the same.

Indeed,it’s tough to imagine anyone outside that trio winning this year’s championship at the All England Club beginning Monday. “They’ve,you know,been pretty selfish about Grand Slam titles for a little bit,” said 2003 US Open champion and three-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick.

Either Nadal or Djokovic has won each of the past nine major tournaments,and they’ve met in the last four finals. Add Federer,owner of a record 16 Grand Slam titles,and the totals rise: Those three men have combined to win 28 of the past 29 majors,a seven-year run of dominance that began with Nadal’s victory at the 2005 French Open (the lone exception being the 2009 US Open,where Federer lost to Juan Martin del Potro).

The top-seeded Djokovic is the defending champion,and while it’s the only grass-court title on his resume,it’s a rather significant one. “I mean,this is what I’m born for,” he said after beating Nadal in four sets in the 2011 final. “You know,I want to be a tennis champion. I want to win more Grand Slams. I will not definitely stop here.”

He moved to No. 1 in the ATP rankings the next day and has remained there,compiling a 27-match Grand Slam winning streak that included titles at the US Open in September and Australian Open in January,before ending with a loss to Nadal in the rain-interrupted,two-day French Open final two weeks ago.

Nadal once was thought to be a clay-court expert but has shown that he can adapt to,and excel on,other surfaces,joining Federer among the seven men who have completed a career Grand Slam. At Wimbledon,the Spaniard has reached the final each of the last five times he’s entered the tournament,winning twice and finishing runner-up to Djokovic or Federer in the other three.

And Federer? Well,all he’s done is win six championships plus make one final at the All England Club in a seven-year span from 2003-09. “I would just like to get another Wimbledon crown. It would be amazing to get No. 7,” said Federer,who lost in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych in 2010 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011.

Long drought

He’s gone about 2-1/2 years without winning a Grand Slam,his longest drought since he won his first nine years ago. But Federer’s mastery of surfaces such as the grass at Wimbledon and the hard courts at the US Open makes it tough to rule him out,even if he’s approaching his 31st birthday on August 8. Asked to size up his prospects for adding to his Grand Slam total,Federer said,“I think the upcoming two,” referring to Wimbledon and the US Open,“those will be my best chances to win.”

While players such as Berdych or Tsonga or Roddick or del Potro have shown they can compete with the best on their best days — and No. 4 Andy Murray,a three-time major finalist,gets plenty of home-crowd — the expectation is that Djokovic,Nadal or Federer will extend their hard-to-believe rule at Grand Slam tournaments.

Why has tennis’s top trio won major after major? “Because they are too good,” Tsonga said. “That’s it. They’re just too good.”

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