Predicting the future is a hazardly tricky business. You foretell the exact thing that will happen, and when it would, but there are trends in the present which point towards a particular something being highly probable, within some time span in the future. I had such predictions of what would have happened by 2018, in the year 2010 (yes, a very long way back) and let's see how such predictions held up.
I certainly did not think Federer was going to last this long, less still his ability to perform at such a level at such an advanced age! The risk of a much earlier retirement was particularly acute at the point in time (the year 2010). Federer despite winning the first grand slam of the year, was starting to lose his hold on any of the grand slams. He lost in the quarterfinals of the French Open and Wimbledon championships (in fact, the 2010 French Open quarterfinal loss to Solderling was his first quarterfinal defeat since the 2004 French open!), and he lost to Djokovic at the US Open 2010 semi-finals (to lose to one he has traditionally beaten would no doubt be seen as extremely portentous during that time). The age of Nadal would come (Nadal won 3 of the other grand slams that year) and Federer would be so fed with not being able to achieve as much as he used to, and just quit. 2013 was the year he would be gone, I thought at the time. I mean 32 is quite a good age to retire at by the standards of that very different time. I was clearly very wrong for not factoring in the immense amount of passion Federer has for the professional game, that disregards his comparative ability to perform. Also, he survived 2013.
I thought the same for Nadal too, except that Nadal would retire before he turned 30. This may seem weird or naive as of now, but it would not be all too surprising for tennis watchers to think that way back then. Nadal's game was unprecedentedly physically intense, particularly the arm-around-the-head motion which no doubt puts an amount of stress on the arm tendons that no other player has been used to. Thus, the assumption that he would burn physically in Bjorn Borg fashion, except that thanks to the comparatively more effective medicine of today such burnout would be delayed by just a few more years. His numerous injuries and resultant pull-outs or suboptimal performances in grand slams (the 2009 Wimbledon championships and the 2010 Australian Open championship for instance) only consolidates such an assumption that we now know is mistaken. What kind of a miracle is this? That of sports medicine technology or a pure miracle in and of itself?
Nadal becoming GOAT
This was certainly a very probable happening. To understand what went on in my mind when I thought of this let's do some calculations of the grand slam wins of Nadal and Federer. In 2010, Federer has 16 grand slam titles to his name while Nadal would have 9 (by the time he won the US Open of that year). It is very likely, from the way things were, that Federer would not win a match against Nadal on the grand slam stage ever again, so the only possibility for Nadal to not win a grand slam is to suffer an upset by a player.. who is not Federer. So estimating not too conservatively that Nadal suffers one such grand slam upset per year, for the next 4-5 years, he would have won 24 grand slams to Federer's 21. But of course that would be a highly improbable theoretical gauge so we factored in the non-winning of slams by either due to injury or more upsets, and the numbers get toned down to 20 to 18 in Nadal's favour. Of course, there was the black swan event of the sudden emergence of Novak Djokovic which overturned the model completely.
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