Players keep the faith despite Roger-Rafa dominance

The Nadal-Federer era has seen slim pickings for the rest of men’s tennis when it comes to Grand Slams but the chasing pack say the margins remain small as they battle to break the duopoly.

In an unprecedented streak, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have won 25 of the past 30 majors — setting a blistering pace that the rest of men’s tennis has failed to match.

The Swiss maestro has won 16 Grand Slams, a record for the men’s game, with Spain’s world number one Nadal now on nine majors after a stellar year in which he won the French Open for the fifth time, plus Wimbledon and the US Open.

But as the season enters its final stretch with the race to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London hotting up, the top men are trying to figure out ways to break the dominance.

“Everybody’s trying to chase them as close as possible as we can,” said world number seven Tomas Berdych, who shocked the tennis world when he dethroned six-time Wimbledon champion Federer in this year’s quarter-finals.

The Czech player, who lost to Nadal in the final, insisted: “I think the gap is really small.”

Berdych, speaking in Macau ahead of an exhibition tournament at the weekend, said despite the limited opportunities, he was grateful to be playing the game at the same time as two all-time greats.

“For me, it’s a good time to be in this era that you can be competing against these two great players.

“Of course, you can see it from the other point of view that maybe if these two guys wouldn’t be in the draw, in the tournament, then maybe it could be a bigger chance to win a Grand Slam.”

Soderling, appearing alongside Berdych, Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer in Macau, has cause to rue the Rafa-Roger dominance, having been beaten in consecutive years by each player in the final of the French Open.

But the Swede, with a miserable 13-1 losing record against Federer, says men’s tennis has strength in depth.

“In any tournament when Roger and Rafa are playing they will be the favourites but there’s a lot of guys who can actually do well and compete and have a chance to win the bigger tournaments,” he said.

“Maybe there’s 10 or even 15 guys. The top is really, really tough.

Anyone on a good day can beat anyone,” added the world number five.

“You need to be ready for the first round. It’s not easy but I wish it was a lot easier.”

World number six Davydenko, who has a rare 5-4 winning record against Nadal, said men’s tennis boasted great strength in depth, joking about his record against the Spaniard.

Spain’s 11th-ranked Ferrer said: “I think now it’s very difficult to win Grand Slams but I think it’s a good time,” also highlighting the threat posed by world number two Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray, ranked four.

Nadal, headlining this week’s Thailand Open, became only the seventh man in history to achieve a career Grand Slam when he earned his first US Open title with victory over Djokovic in this month’s final at Flushing Meadows.

But despite his phenomenal year, Soderling, top seed at this week’s Malaysian Open, where his other three competitors in Macau are also playing, believes third-ranked Federer remains the yardstick.

“He’s (Nadal) won so many Grand Slams already, so many titles but to me, Roger is still the best.

“But Rafa is still very young so if he’s going to be healthy, he has a lot more years to play and he could definitely give it a shot.

“He has the chance to be known as the world’s best player ever,” added Soderling.