With the Tokyo Olympics right around the corner, the three faces of men’s tennis, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, are gearing up for what could be their final chances to compete against one another on the world’s stage. For Federer, in particular, it could be his last opportunity to earn the coveted career Golden Slam, a feat only achieved twice.
The Golden Slam
Nadal and retired legend Andre Agassi are the only men’s tennis players to accomplish the “Golden Slam,” a name for winning all four Grand Slam tournaments on top of an Olympic gold medal. On the women’s side, Steffi Graf, who won all five events in 1988, and Serena Wiliams are the only ones to accomplish this feat.
With the rarity of the Olympics compared to the other events, the Golden Slam is a rare feat that Federer may still want to pull off.
Andre Agassi’s Golden Slam
The face of men’s tennis for over two decades Agassi delighted fans with his charisma and flashy play. He showed he could compete against the biggest names in tennis during the ’80s, but he failed to win a single Grand Slam until 1992.
Agassi won Wimbledon in 1992, defeating Croatian Goran Ivanišević. Then, he won the U.S. Open as an unseeded player in 1994, the Australian Open over Pete Sampras in 1995, and a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Finally, in 1999, Agassi secured his fifth and final piece of the Golden Slam with a victory over Andrei Medvedev.
Rafael Nadal’s Golden Slam
A winner from an early age, reports Tennis X, Nadal had the most success at the French Open, where he won his first four Grand Slams, three of them over Federer, from 2005 to 2008. It wasn’t until his victory at Wimbledon, where he defeated Federer in 2008, that Nadal showed he could win elsewhere.
He wasted no time earning Olympic gold. He defeated Chilean sensation Fernando González. Nadal responded to his Olympic gold with yet another victory over Federer at the 2009 Australian Open.
By 2010, the Spaniard had his final Golden Slam victory, defeating Fernando Verdasco for the 2010 U.S. Open. As a relatively short seven-year journey, Nadal’s historical feat was even more impressive. Federer, however, hopes to join the party late when he takes the Olympic stage in Tokyo.
Will Roger Federer join them at the 2020 Olympics?
Emerging as a Grand Slam winner the same year as Nadal, reports Tennis X, Federer got his first taste of major victory when he defeated Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon in 2003. He followed it up with a win at the Australian Open in 2004, defeating Marat Safin. He won the U.S. Open that same year, besting Lleyton Hewitt.
After losing three straight French Opens in the final round to Nadal, Federer finally completed his Grand Slam in 2009 with a victory over Robin Soderling. He’s since won eight more Grand Slams. But the Olympics have evaded him. We should note that Federer has won a gold medal in doubles with Stan Wawrinka in 2008.
For a true Golden Slam, however, Federer needs to win in singles at the Olympics. The closest he got was in 2012 when he lost to Andy Murray. The Swiss tennis star did not compete in 2016. Now, at 39 years old when the games kick off, Federer’s last chance to join Agassi and Nadal will likely be the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Is Federer almost done?
Although Federer is still dominating much of the tennis world, it isn’t controversial to assume he’s in the twilight of his career. He would be well into his forties by the time the next Olympic opportunity comes around — in Paris in 2024 — and few tennis players can compete at that age. Still, Federer won’t commit to retirement any time soon.
He has dismissed the notion that retirement comes with age. “My retirement is going to depend on my health,” he said according to Fox News. “At this moment, I see no reason to stop.”