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I want to coin that extra level that the very best have access to as "All Time Great" mode. As it is the tennis that can only be produced by legends and makes history and or could make history when it happens!

The difference is that some players only experience this once a tournament or maybe only one time in their life. Doing this day in and day is out what wins slams and makes the history books but it is so hard to do.

I'd like MTF to lists players and matches where a non Big 3 guy , post 2000 (if you want to go back further , then do so) showed they could play outrageous tennis and be a big contender if they played like that everyime... This could be a match where someone lost and or won.

First one that comes to mind for me was


Verdasco has always been an amazing player but this night he looked actually invincible , seeming to have the best forehand in tennis and serving like he was Pete Sampras. You should tune into the 4th set tiebreaker if you want to see the best tennis Verdasco has ever played.


There is a reality out there where Verdasco took this same energy and game and played it week in , week out... becoming part of the Big 5 :coffee::coffee:
 

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Del of the Potro beating Federer US Open 2009, stopping him winning 6 in a row and ending his 41 match winning run at the tournament, Federer never won the US Open again. Delpo's first and last slam, if not for injury there would have clearly been a big 5 the past decade, alas, not to be.

Won Bronze in 2012 however, silver in 2016.....Gold in 2021?:cool:
 

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Del of the Potro beating Federer US Open 2009, stopping him winning 6 in a row and ending his 41 match winning run at the tournament, Federer never won the US Open again. Delpo's first and last slam, if not for injury there would have clearly been a big 5 the past decade, alas, not to be.

Won Bronze in 2012 however, silver in 2016.....Gold in 2021?:cool:
Hey we can only dream!

He most certainly played out of his mind in US Open 2009.

The closest match he came to that level again was 2013 Wimbledon
 

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Tsonga vs Rafa AO 2008 Semi Final. Tsonga with Djokovic's backhand, Gonzo's forehand and McEnroe's volleys.


 

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We had a lot of mind-boggling performances in AO semis those days, I think Gonzalez had 3 UEs the entire match against Haas in 2007 while Tsonga probably played the match of his career against Nadal in 2008, crazy forehands and crazy netgame as well.
 

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We had a lot of mind-boggling performances in AO semis those days, I think Gonzalez had 3 UEs the entire match against Haas in 2007 while Tsonga probably played the match of his career against Nadal in 2008, crazy forehands and crazy netgame as well.
I forgot about Gonzalez 2007, what a brilliant match.

Tsonga in 2008 looked like he was going to be an all time great and contend for all big titles.
 

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Gonzalez in Masters Cup Shanghai 2007 Vs Federer, 2nd and 3rd sets.

Safin in AO 2004 Vs Roddick and Agassi. Left him gassed for the finals though.

Soderling at RG 2009 ofc.

Some of what Coria played in 2004 and 2005 clay seasons. Match Vs Agassi at Rome 2005.

Roddick Vs Murray at Wimby 2009 semi. Simply unplayable.

All of those are examples of beautiful/high level play which is above of what the player was otherwise capable of. But the one I'm really sure about in terms of unbeatable and total dominance of ATGs - is Nalbandian in Paris and Madrid Masters 2007. Stepbrother of the Big 3 level performance.
 

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I have always compared Gonzo 2007, Tsonga 2008, Verdasco 2009 and Wawrinka 2013 in terms of beautiful offensive tennis. Some observations on what it took to conquer those beasts:

1. Wawrinka arguably had the more complete game without any major weakness. Djokovic could only have won by outlasting him which he did.

2. Gonzo had the highest unplayablility factor IF opponent couldn't target his weakness. He felt like a God Vs Haas. But Rogie did just that - target his weakness with the slice and dice play.

3. Tsonga would be the most difficult to get into a rhythm against with the serve and forehand combo working well. That's where Novak's heroics were first seen.

4. Verdasco had some of what all others had, Forehand, serve and errorless quality - to a lesser degree. But his determination was some other level. Had beaten Murray AND Tsonga prior to facing Rafa. Only Nadal could survive that barrage and come out alive.
 

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I know people speak so highly of Tsonga 2008 SF but I was underwhelmed by Nadal. That said, Tsonga's execution and volleying was top notch, but Nadal could have played better.

I want to mention that James Blake Olympics match against Federer.


or that match against Agassi he narrowly lost in 5.

 

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I know people speak so highly of Tsonga 2008 SF but I was underwhelmed by Nadal. That said, Tsonga's execution and volleying was top notch, but Nadal could have played better.

I want to mention that James Blake Olympics match against Federer.


or that match against Agassi he narrowly lost in 5.

Nadal was not very good on HC back then, I think it was his first HC slam semifinal, he also got destroyed by Gonzalez the previous year. It's really strange how Tsonga never found that level of volleying again, his volleys were average at best for most of his career.
 
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Nadal was not very good on HC back then, I think it was his first HC slam semifinal, he also got destroyed by Gonzalez the previous year. It's really strange how Tsonga never found that level of volleying again, his volleys were average at best for most of his career.
his anticipation was pretty good on those. I think his fearlessness coupled with Nadal being a bit timid on the passing shot attempts (Tsonga was blitzing those FHs and maybe surprising Nadal with the timing/frequency of the approach) made it easier to pull off.

Some other players:

I guess for @IBM that Kevin Anderson Wimbledon comeback against Federer or the US Open 15 upset over Murray must have been special.

Querrey also deserves a mention for that Djokovic Wimbledon upset in 2016 and his Acapulco 2017 title run topping off Thiem, Goffin, Nadal and Kyrgios among players.

Kyrgios - Marseille 2016 - beating Pospisil, Gasquet (dishing a bagel), Berdych and Cilic. I honestly wonder why he doesn't play like this more often. Female commentator rightfully excited by this play in the final:

 

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Talking about ATG level for more than a single match, Davydenko late 2009-early 2010 deserves a mention too. He beat Djokovic and Nadal b2b to win Shanghai, beat Federer, Nadal, Soderling and Delpo to win WTF, and then beat Fedal b2b again to win Doha.
 
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Talking about ATG level for more than a single match, Davydenko late 2009-early 2010 deserves a mention too. He beat Djokovic and Nadal b2b to win Shanghai, beat Federer, Nadal, Soderling and Delpo to win WTF, and then beat Fedal b2b again to win Doha.
yeah that Doha one, I think Nadal thought he finally solved the denko puzzle when he won the first set in a bagel. But not to be!

Just for fun, that Suzuki Federer match in Tokyo, gotta love the old school play.

 

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Marat Sain A0 05.

Berdych Wimbledon 10 level.

Ferrer was peaking in 12/13. He could've actually won USO 12, if he managed to win the SF which was hampered by the wind delay after the first set.
 

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yeah that Doha one, I think Nadal thought he finally solved the denko puzzle when he won the first set in a bagel. But not to be!

Just for fun, that Suzuki Federer match in Tokyo, gotta love the old school play.

Just did a quick stats check and found that Davydenko was 20-11 against top 10 players from the start of 2008 to Doha 2010, including a 10-2 run in the period that I mentioned, really remarkable stuff :D He was only ranked 6-10 for most of this time though, I've said it before but 2008-2009 was incredibly strong competition converging 2 great generations of players, everyone was 21-32 years old and in their prime, not many injuries and many of the players are still playing now.
 
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Only in slams in recent years:

Soderling RG 2009 - only subpar in the final but until it he was in a god mode, beating the Great Rafa Nadal, Davydenko, Ferrer and Gonzales in progress
Verdasco AO 2009 - incredible run and level, lost only in the fifth to a peaking Rafa who went on to win the event in a 5 hour SF battle - in one of the best AO matches ever
Del Potro USO 2009 - beat Cilic, Nadal and Federer in QF, SF, F
Cilic USO 2014 - unplayable in the last 3 rounds
Wawrinka RG 2015 - practically unplayable since QF beating Federer, Tsonga and Djokovic in the final who would have won calendar grand slam if not for that loss
Nishikori USO 2014 - beat Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic back-to-back, was only gassed for the final
Gonzales AO 2007 - beat Del Potro, Hewitt, Blake, Nadal, Haas, only to lose to a peak Federer in the final, incredible run
Tsonga AO 2008 - beat Murray, Gasquet, Nadal and narrowly lost to Djokovic in the final (was a TB away from pushing it to 5)

It also shows how great as a year 2009 was with so many epic runs and great play by non-BIG3 players.
 

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Del of the Potro beating Federer US Open 2009, stopping him winning 6 in a row and ending his 41 match winning run at the tournament, Federer never won the US Open again. Delpo's first and last slam, if not for injury there would have clearly been a big 5 the past decade, alas, not to be.

Won Bronze in 2012 however, silver in 2016.....Gold in 2021?:cool:
The thing about Del Potro is though, he never had the physically superior joints and body composition of the top guys. People talk like it is NID that he'd be one of the goats without realising that having genetically strong symmetry and bone structure is crucial to being a top calibre athlete. Even to this day it hasn't been well implemented in sports science but I suspect in 100 years from now an abundance of tools and diagnostics will be available to assess the differential, and thus detrimental stress that will be placed on one's body parts due to deficiencies in their structural make-up and we will be able to tell early on if someone really has what it takes to endure a life of constant activity at the pinnacle of what is expected of a professional athlete.

We will then be able to analyze Del Potro's career without the oft-qualified phrase "what could have been?". This obviously doesn't take into account freak injuries not associated with gradual decline of one's athleticism due to the aforementioned deficiencies in composition.

The one thing the big 3 have in common is crazy good joints and bone structure coupled with decent height.
 
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