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Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal: Men for all seasons?

  Few people have looked better playing tennis than Roger Federer (seen here at the Australian Open last year in a photograph by Peter Myers). But photogenic and graceful isn’t necessarily synonymous with good-looking.0

Few people have looked better playing tennis than Roger Federer (seen here at the Australian Open last year in a photograph by Peter Myers). But photogenic and graceful isn’t necessarily synonymous with good-looking.0

Novak Djokovic’s dominance of men’s tennis in 2015 reminds Tennis magazine’s Steve Tignor of Roger Federer in his prime (2006), which has brought out all the Federinas, Nadalistas, Djokovicians and – what do we call Andy Murray’s fans ? Murrayans? – in a favorite game of My Guy is Better Than Your Guy. Honestly, some posters even accuse Tennis mag of finding the ugliest pictures of Nole, Rafa and Andy to make the naturally graceful Fed look even more elegant. Hey,some people are more photogenic than others. Doesn’t make them better-looking. (Perfect example – Marilyn Monroe, a genius in front of a camera, particularly a still camera, but not a great beauty.)

To the more material argument: Who’s had the greatest season in tennis? Who’s the GOAT (greatest of all time)? Mirror, mirror….

Wait, has time ended? No? So who’s the greatest to date? The greatest player I ever saw was Rod Laver, hands down. He won the Grand Slam not once but twice. No man has done it since and I doubt any man ever will. Yes, Laver may have benefited from remaining an amateur while others turned pro, but you know what? There’s a certain amount of luck in all greatness.

Which brings us to Feddy: His prime coincided with men who were his opponents and competitors but not his rivals. Lleyton Hewitt had the passion to beat Fed but not the talent. Marat Safin had the talent but not the passion. Andy Roddick never quite materialized, despite being a former world No. 1 and US Open champ.

Fed’s real rivals – Rafa, Nole and Andy, who are five, six years younger – arrived in the late 2000s, early 2010s, by which time Fed had already established his supremacy.

Nole, on the other hand, has had to beat two of the greatest players ever (Fed and Rafa), often back-to-back. That will always be the third paragraph of his obituary.

Nole reminds me of what John McEnroe – no slouch in the great seasons department (1984) – said in his pursuit of Bjorn Borg: “It’s not important to be the best, only to beat the best.”

You have to love those interviews, though, like the one right before the US Open final, in which Nole praised Fed as the greatest player ever.

What was he really saying?

You’re the greatest player ever, Roger – and I own you.