Any poster (or journalist) prematurely jumping to conclusions about Roger should look at the big picture and keep some perspective. Every great tennis player has had to overcome blips or slumps while they were the No. 1 player, and so will Roger soon.
Let’s look at the record of all year-end No. 1 players in the open era who have won at least 8 Grand Slam titles.
- Pete Sampras lost a minimum of 11 to 17 matches during each year he was No. 1, which was from 1993 to 1998 (in comparison, Federer lost only 4 to 9 matches each year he was No. 1). In 1995, Sampras ‘failed’ to win a title in 6 tournaments in a row (including four 1st round losses!). It was worse in 1997: Sampras ‘failed’ to reach a final in seven straight events, from Indian Wells hard court to Queens Club grass court (including three 1st round losses!). In his eight event, Sampras won Wimbledon and ended the year with 8 titles, 2 Slams, and remained No. 1 every week that year.
- In 1969, Rod Laver was No. 1 and won the Grand Slam of all four major championships. That year five of his Grand Slam matches went to five sets, and in two matches he was down two sets to love. During that year Laver also lost 16 matches and 14 tournaments outside the Slam events.
- While No. 1, Bjorn Borg lost twice in the 1st round to low-ranked players. In 1979, while at his peak, Borg lost in three tournaments in a row, including in the 1st round to No 105 Bruce Manson. Borg rebounded and won 9 more titles (for a total of 12 titles and 2 Slams as well as the Masters championship) and lost only 4 more matches in 1979. Borg remained No. 1 in 1980 and won 2 Slams as well as the Masters championship.
- While No. 1, Ivan Lendl failed to win a single title in the early part of 1987. He even lost in the second round of Tokyo to a No. 42 player and the semifinals of the Australian Open to a No. 24 player. Lendl’s first title finally came on Hamburg clay and he went on to finish the year with 7 titles, including two Grand Slam titles and one Grand Slam finals. He remained No. 1 throughout the year, despite the pressure from the other top 5 players in the world -- Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors. Lendl slipped to No. 2 in 1988 to Wilander before regaining the No. 1 ranking again in 1989 at age 29. Lendl is second only to Roger Federer in having the best three-year and four-year match and tournament winning percentages since the ATP rankings started.
- Andre Agassi was No. 1 only in 1999. That year he went four tournaments in a row without winning a title, not once, but twice in different parts of the year. Of course, Agassi went through many other periods of ups and downs.
- Even Jimmy Connors had minor blips while he was No. 1, even though in the 1970s he benefitted by playing a lot of small tournaments (promoted by his own manager) which did not include most of the world’s top 30 players.
- John McEnroe won 7 Slam titles, but in 1983 the No. 1 McEnroe lost in four straight tournaments (Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open and San Francisco). In 1984, McEnroe remained No. 1 and set a single season record of losing only three matches. McEnroe was No. 1 in 1981, 1983 and 1984. In 1982, McEnroe did not win a title in 9 straight tournaments; from February to September (he did not win a Grand Slam title that year) and temporarily lost the No. 1 ranking to Jimmy Connors, before McEnroe rebounded the following year. So McEnroe’s blips in 1982 and 1983 basically did not affect him the following seasons.
Roger is just 26. There is no magical age when a top tennis players suddenly loses his effectiveness. Lendl finally became No. 1 at age 25 and remained No. 1 for four of the five years until he was 29 years old. The age of the No. 1 tennis player has been going up and down over the last 40 years. In 1968, Laver was 31 years; 1974, Connor 22 yrs; 1975, Ashe 32 yrs; 1977, Borg 21 yrs; 1982, Connors 30 yrs; 1987, Lendl 27 yrs (in 1989, Lendl was 29 yrs; 1993, Sampras 22 yrs; 1998, Sampras: 28 yrs; 1999, Agassi 29 yrs; 2001, Hewitt 20 yrs; 2007, Federer 26 yrs. There is not much age difference between 29-year Agassi in 1999 and 30-year Laver in 1968, or 20-year Hewitt in 2001 and 21-year Borg in 1977.
Info on mononucleosis from the Merck Manual and other sources.
Any RF.com member is welcome to repeat this info as needed. If I had not been distracted by the dripping of all that Swiss chocolate, I might have included the blips of more No. 1 players.