Shortly after Rafa pulled out in the French Open 2016 in the 2nd round due to injuries and Federer taking the second half of 2016 season off due to back injury, people wondered whether their days were over. Rafa haven’t won a slam since the 2014 French Open and Roger haven’t won a slam since 2012 Wimbledon, all talks were on when Roger is retiring and the next Gen X winning slams. Surely it was over for them?
And then 2017 happened, the Australian Open. Roger flew through to the final. Nadal had a tough semi against Dimitrov that finished in 5 set, but we got it. We got a Roger / Rafa final. Roger took that one out, then took a break for the clay season. Rafa dominated the clay season. Winning his 10th Barcelona title, and then at the French, he came up against another clay court specialist Dominic Thiem, who destroyed defending champion Djokovic in the quarters. His domination over Thiem was impressive, vintage Nadal. He then went on to beat Wawrinka, the 2015 champion, with no issues to capture his 10th French Open. And then Roger came back again for the grass season. And boy, what a come back it was, taking out Wimbledon and capturing his 19th GS title.
Then we have the weirdest grand slam in a while in the US open 2017. No Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Raonic etc. The second half of the draw was opened up after Murray pulled out after the draw was released. Whilst the top half saw Del Potro, a former champion made his way to the semis after taking down Thiem, in the best match of the tournament after a ridiculous comeback, and Federer in the quarters. He ran out of gas against the raging bull Nadal, who beat him in 4 sets and then easily took out the US Open. So in 2017 we have Roger winning 2 slams and Rafa winning 2 slams. Unbelievable, its like 10 years ago. “Not yet”, they would say to the next Gens.
Djokovic will take note, he is after all a champion of multiple slams. In 2015/2016 he was in legendary form, to count him out after his horrid 2017 season (winning only 2 non GS titles that year), would be foolish. Indeed it was foolish for many pundits who thought, after Djokovic suffering an elbow injury in 2017 was toast and his best was past him. But like the champions that was Rafa and Roger before him, Djokovic started his comeback, and he came back with a vengeance in the second half of 2018. First, he made the Quarters in French Open, then winning back to back grand slams of Wimbledon and US Open. In fact, he is playing so well now (as I’m writing this, he just destroyed Nadal in the 2019 Aus Open final to win back to back to back slams) you would think he is back to peak performance.
Never count out a champion. Form is temporary, class is permanent. Because when champions fall, they know how to get back up.