Sixteen out of the last twenty winners of a Grand Slam Final in men’s tennis have come from only four men, with one man, Novak Djokovic, accounting for seven of those victories. What marks these four, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray as being so far ahead of their fellow players? Hand eye coordination to match that of a fighter pilot. Skill, mental and physical strength no doubt also. But the margins at top level sport are slight, so advantages must lie elsewhere as well.
The four men mentioned above have excelled in their sport and financially reap the rewards. Sponsors provide them with the most hi-tech equipment. Wins in major tournaments lessens the need to be constantly be on the move from one faraway location to another in search of ranking points. Talent attracts talent, so the best coaches, sports scientists and nutritionists can all be found at the sides of the best players.
Which is not to take anything away from the achievements of these men. Federer’s grace and Nadal’s desire are things of wonder. Yet there are benefits to being at the top of professional sport, which means it is perhaps easier in the modern era to maintain that position once it has been reached.
I thought about this as I watched Wainuiomata punch holes in the Whiti Te Ra defence last Saturday. It was sad to see but, the world of (high level) amateur sport means games will be missed due to injury, economic opportunities and day to day life. No mapped out plans for returning from injury. No luxury travel to games. No perfect playing surfaces. Which means it is even more remarkable to think how long Whiti went without losing a game. What an achievement. Four years.