Usual suspects dominate in dream decade for Djokovic, Serena stuck on 23

By Sports Desk December 27, 2019

Novak Djokovic led the way in a decade of dominance in men's tennis but it was a very different story in the women's game, as 20 different players claimed grand slam titles.

Djokovic won all but one of his 16 majors in the previous 10 years, with Rafael Nadal adding 13 to his tally to move just one adrift of Roger Federer's record haul of 20.

Only six men were grand slam champions in the past decade; Federer on five occasions, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray securing three apiece and Marin Cilic winning the 2014 US Open.

It has been much more difficult to predict which women will land the big prizes in the game, summed up by the fact there were four different winners in 2019.

Ash Barty and Bianca Andreescu claimed maiden major titles, while Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep won their second to prevent Serena Williams from matching Margaret Court's record total of 24.

We look back at how the leading lights have measured up in the 2010s and take a glimpse at what might unfold in the next 10 years.

 

RAFA CLOSING IN, SWEET 16 FOR DJOKOVIC

Nadal won three of the four majors in 2010 and added another two this year, further trimming Federer's advantage.

World number one Nadal only failed to win the French Open twice in the decade, while Djokovic was a six-time Australian Open champion and scooped a quintet of Wimbledon crowns.

Federer has been stuck on 20 grand slam triumphs since going back-to-back in Australia in 2018, with the most recent seven won by either Djokovic or Nadal.

Not since Wawrinka's success at Flushing Meadows in 2016 has a player other than Nadal, Djokovic or Federer won a men's grand slam singles title. 

 

SERENA WINS A DOZEN, BUT SHORT OF COURT

Williams confirmed her status as one of the all-time greats by winning a further 12 major singles titles since the turn of the decade.

The 38-year-old has remained on 23 since defeating her sister, Venus, when she was pregnant in the 2017 Australian Open final.

Williams has lost all four major finals since the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, including the past two against Halep and Andreescu at Wimbledon and in New York respectively.

Angelique Kerber claimed three grand slams in the 2010s, while Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova, Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Osaka won two apiece.

 

ONUS ON NEXT GEN MEN TO STEP UP

While there had been concerns over what was to come with so many legends heading towards, or already in, the twilight of their careers, exciting talent has emerged in both the men

While there were concerns over what was to come with so many legends heading towards, or already in, the twilight of their careers, exciting talent has emerged in both the men's and women's game.  

Canadian teenager Andreescu capped a breakthrough season by winning the US Open, while world number one Barty is only 23 and the likes of Halep still have plenty of time on their side.

With Federer aged 38, Nadal 33, Djokovic 32 and Murray - hoping to work his way back up the rankings after recovering from hip surgery - also in his 30s, there will be a changing of the guard in the next decade.

Stefanos Tsitsipas gave another example of his huge potential by winning the ATP Finals title, while Dominic Thiem has been beaten by Nadal in the past two French Open finals.

Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov will also be hoping to come of age in the 2020s.

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    Garcia has established himself as Pep Guardiola's first-choice central defensive partner for Aymeric Laporte since the Premier League resumed.

    However, the 19-year-old has been heavily linked with a return to boyhood club Barcelona and Camp Nou looks increasingly likely to be his next destination following Guardiola's shock disclosure on Thursday.

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    Garcia's defection feels like it will cut Guardiola deep – the City boss having lavished praise upon "a guy who doesn't make mistakes", making for a pointed contrast with the out-of-favour Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones. Plenty of City youngsters have had a strong argument in terms of having no obvious pathway to the first team but, even allowing for the arrival of Nathan Ake and further reinforcements being sought at centre-back, this in not really a case Garcia can make.

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    Brahim is back in Manchester this week with Real Madrid, meaning his reasons for departing have common ground with the Garcia situation. The forward was similarly offered fresh terms at the Etihad Stadium but, despite 15 appearances and two goals across all competitions, the plethora of attacking options at Guardiola's disposal undoubtedly came into his thinking. Madrid paid €17million for Brahim last January and have not shown a great deal more inclination to give him a run at the highest level.

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    Another attacking player who assessed the star-studded cast ahead of him and decided he would be better off elsewhere. The curious thing about Matondo's €9m move to Schalke in the same month Brahim left is he had not troubled Guardiola's first-team squad, even if he had made the breakthrough with Wales at international level. Eighteen months on, he has 27 Bundesliga appearances and two goals to his name. It is nevertheless difficult to imagine Matondo taking the course of action he did without another man blazing a trail...

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    Sancho sensed his career would be allowed to flourish at Borussia Dortmund and, as he reportedly moves towards a return to England at Manchester United having established himself as one of the most lethal attackers in Europe, it is impossible to argue he was proved anything other than emphatically correct. If he steps out at Old Trafford next season, it will sting on the blue side of Manchester.

    JASON DENAYER

    Denayer's tale is arguably one that came into the thinking of Sancho and others when considering their future prospects at the Etihad Stadium. Having impressed on loan at Celtic in 2014-15, City gave the Belgium defender a five-year contract. They then signed Nicolas Otamendi for £32m and loaned the youngster to Galatasaray, where he returned in 2017-18 after a season with Sunderland. Denayer will also play in the Champions League last-16 this week with Lyon, who he joined in 2018 for €10m having never managed a competitive appearance for City.

    MARCOS 'RONY' LOPES

    In the same month Denayer received wildly mixed messages about his future, Portuguese winger Lopes moved to Monaco for €12m after spending the previous season in Ligue 1 at Lille. He produced a handful of exciting cameos while on the fringes of Manuel Pellegrini's City squad, having become the club's youngest ever goalscorer at 17 years and eight days in a January 2013 FA Cup win over Watford. Even then, Lopes – who recently joined Nice on loan from Sevilla – saw the writing on the wall.

    "I knew it wouldn't change anything because I knew the players at City at the time, I knew the money involved," he told The Athletic earlier this year. "I knew in my head that to play more, I would have to leave."

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    He might have a winners' medal in his pocket at the end of his first LaLiga season, but Eden Hazard is in no mood to spare himself.

    Long touted as a potential marquee signing for Real Madrid, the Belgium star made the move to the Santiago Bernabeu for an initial €100million last June.

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  • David Silva's legacy secure as he begins 'Last Dance' for Man City against Real Madrid David Silva's legacy secure as he begins 'Last Dance' for Man City against Real Madrid

    Joleon Lescott remembers the time he tried to imitate one of David Silva's signature moves on the Manchester City training ground with a rueful chuckle.

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    Friday's Champions League last-16 match with Real Madrid could be his last for City. If Pep Guardiola's side are able to capitalise upon their 2-1 first-leg advantage, it will be on to Lisbon and the mini-tournament to conclude the closing stages of this season's competition.

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    That victory made it three major tournament triumphs in succession for Spain, following Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Since leaving Valencia for City in the latter year, Silva has won it all apart from the Champions League.

    The coming weeks could still amount to a beautifully scripted ending to the story. A 'Last Dance', perhaps. Just don't expect Silva to be the outspoken star of his own Netflix documentary a couple of decades from now.

    "As difficult as this time is for everyone, he's probably in the back of his head thinking he's happy he's not receiving the attention when he leaves," Lescott said, with City poised to announce farewell plans after Silva's final game.

    "He's so humble and down to earth, it's crazy. It's ridiculous to think that he lives a lifestyle that's so simple considering what he's achieved. He's a credit to everyone who was around him growing up - his parents, his family, who I've been lucky enough to meet on numerous occasions.

    "I can't speak highly enough of him. There's never a time when I've asked him something – a favour or text him or contacted him – and he's not got back to me.

    "Not that many people have been lucky enough to be in his presence outside of football and I can confirm that he speaks English very well!"

    CHANGING THE GAME

    Despite that reluctance to speak publicly too often, Silva has received plenty of warm words over recent weeks. Players and pundits alike have queued up to declare him a great of the Premier League era.

    It is a situation few envisaged 10 years ago, with Lescott initially among the doubters.

    "I remember me and Shaun Wright-Phillips having a discussion about the physical demands of the Premier League and would he be able to cope," he said. "It was due to the fact we were playing 4-4-2 then. We didn't play 4-3-3.

    "David was going to have to play as a winger. If you look back then and think of David coming up against someone like a Micah Richards at right-back, it was going to be difficult physically.

    "But with his football IQ, he was able to create a role in the team that only he was able to adopt. He'd come off the line – full-backs didn't want to be that high up the pitch and wingers didn't want to drop that deep to pick him up.

    "He was able to just be free, but not shirk his defensive responsibilities. In those areas, knowing where to pick up the ball, his intelligence for that is second to none.

    "His football IQ is as good as you'll see. If you think, there are not many times David Silva gets tackled."

    When he arrived, players of Silva's ilk were cast somewhere between a curiosity and a luxury in the English game. Glance through top-flight squads today and most feature someone trying their hand at the art he mastered.

    Elite games in England today are frequently won between the lines and in the half-spaces, as much if not more often than by a ball over the top or via a conventional winger hitting the byline. This shift and expansion in the Premier League's stylistic palate owes much to Silva and feels like his lasting gift, threaded through the division as quietly and subtly as one of his passes.

    "He definitely changed the way people view the Premier League and that role," Lescott added.

    "I spoke to Steven Gerrard about him and he said to play against David was unreal. So that's the ultimate kind of praise.

    "Robert Pires was similar but was more direct than David. In terms of that role, David made it okay for you not to always go on the outside. That's not something he was taught at City, he just understood the game well enough in order to do it.

    "He's definitely, definitely one of the all-time greats for Man City and the Premier League."

    CITY'S GREATEST?

    Having shared an era with Toure, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne and the club's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero at City, it is Silva who is most often suggested the successor to Colin Bell – the ex-England midfielder widely viewed as the club's finest ever player for the best part of half a century.

    While those celebrated team-mates have dealt in huge moments, Silva was there for all of them, astutely pulling the strings and knitting the whole tapestry together. Gerrard is far from alone in his admiration. He is the players' player.

    Now 34, Silva's diminished capacity for the physical work he has always relished has given City an insight into a future without him. He is not a guaranteed starter against Madrid, Guardiola having carefully managed his workload in the most demanding games this season.

    De Bruyne has proved a statistical marvel this season, Phil Foden is blossoming and Guardiola can also call upon the lavish gifts of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva in his creative department. And yet, as Silva adopted a bit-part role, a yawning gap to Liverpool has opened up quickly.

    Seeing him depart a European champion would be the perfect fuel to begin the task of bridging it. But even in that best-case scenario, City will soon have confirmation Silva is impossible to imitate – just as Lescott learnt all those years ago.

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