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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Tennis rewind 2017: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal rekindle old rivalry

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal turned the clock back in 2017; with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray set to return, 2018 will also be a fan’s delight

tennis Updated: Dec 29, 2017 09:49 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Roger Federer (L) and Rafael Nadal won two grand slam titles each as they turned back the clock in 2017.
Roger Federer (L) and Rafael Nadal won two grand slam titles each as they turned back the clock in 2017.(Getty Images)

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal seemed to roll back the years in 2017, winning almost everything the sport had to offer. While Federer won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Nadal took the honours at the French and US Open.

Rewinding to mid-2016, Spaniard Nadal had pulled out of Wimbledon after almost ‘destroying his wrist’ at Roland Garros. Then Federer decided to skip the US Open and subsequent tournaments, seeking rehabilitation after a knee surgery.

Naysayers said their time was up. They had a point. The Swiss had previously won a Major in 2012, while Nadal — who ended 2017 as world No 1 — had last tasted success in a Grand Slam in 2014. Injuries posed a major threat to their careers.

But miraculously these two were back on the circuit in 2017. What’s more, tennis aficionados got their dream match on January 29 when Federer took on Nadal in the Australian Open final , resuming their iconic rivalry. It did not matter who won that day as it was their first meeting in a Grand Slam final since the 2011 French Open.

And, what a final it was! Federer, 35, won the five-setter to clinch his first Major in five years. Their famed rivalry and age made the match even more engrossing. To add to that, the form of the other two in the ‘Big Four’, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, dipped. The Scot’s hip injury and Djokovic’s right elbow trouble made them skip the US Open. However, 2018 could spice things up as Djokovic and Murray return.

Women’s tennis soared with Serena Williams winning a record 23rd Major at the Australian Open, later revealing she was already pregnant. She looks on course for a comeback to defend her title in January.

Jelena Ostapenko became the first player from Latvia to win a Grand Slam, and the first unseeded player to win the French Open since 1933. Spaniard Garbine Muguruza won Wimbledon while Sloane Stephens stunned all to claim the final Major of the year in New York.

But what caused turbulence in the tennis world was the return of the dope-tainted Maria Sharapova after a 15-month suspension. Controversy arose when fellow players questioned her return. Nevertheless, the Russian played at the US Open — her first Major since the 2016 Australian Open.

‘Swiss Miss’ Martina Hingis announced her retirement aged 37, and this time she says it is “for good”.

The United States defeated Belarus in the final to win the Fed Cup, their 18th crown but first since 2000. France clinched the Davis Cup, edging Belgium in the summit clash to win their 10th title, and first since 2001.

India failed to reach the Davis Cup World Group for the fourth year in a row and will return to Group 1 Asia/Oceania Round 1 next year. The Mahesh Bhupathi-captained team is seeded No 1 and hence has got a first-round bye. It will play the winner of the China-New Zealand tie in Round 2 in April.

Bopanna’s first slam

For individual Indian tennis players, the highlight of the year was Rohan Bopanna winning the French Open mixed doubles title, his first Major, partnering Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski.

He also won the Chennai Open, Monte Carlo Masters and Vienna Open (the last two with Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas) and finished runners-up at the Dubai Tennis Championships, Eastbourne International and Rogers Cup with separate men’s doubles partners.

Sania Mirza, on the other hand, started the year as No 1 and also reached the mixed doubles final of the Australian Open with Croatian Ivan Dodig. She won the Brisbane International with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and reached the Sydney International and Miami Open summit clashes with Czech Barbora Strycova.

However, the tennis ace suffered a knee injury late in the year and is contemplating surgery.

First Published: Dec 27, 2017 10:20 IST