Everyone has heard of Roger Federer, the Swiss tennis player who has dominated tennis for the past 15 years. He has won more Grand Slams (the four major tennis tournaments, Australia, France, Wimbledon and the US Open) than anyone else and at the age of 37, very advanced for a tennis player, he is still a force to be reckoned with. Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon titles, a joint-record six Australian Open titles, a record five consecutive US Open titles, and one French Open title. Federer has reached a record 30 men’s singles Grand Slam finals, including 10 in a row from the 2005 Wimbledon to the 2007 US Open.
Not as many people have heard of Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is Roger’s equivalent in the less popular sport of snooker. Likewise, Ronnie has won more major tournaments than anyone else, and has dominated the sport for the past 20 or so years, and he is 43 years old. Although this is old for a snooker player, nevertheless they last longer than tennis players, because they don’t need to be so athletic. But, the best snooker players take exercise very seriously, because the matches can last for days with actual plying time of 5 or more hours, requiring great stamina. Since turning professional in 1992, Ronnie has won five World Championships, a record seven Masters titles, and a record seven UK Championships, setting a record total of 19 titles in the top three tournaments.
I personally have greatly enjoyed watching R & R play their respective sports for many years, they are the Rolls Royce of sport. One of the reasons I decided to write this paean to these superlative players is that surprisingly both of them were beaten within days of each other. Roger was defeated today in the fourth round of the Australian Open, by the young (20) Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas. And Ronnie was defeated 10-4 by Judd Trump (no relative) in the final of the London Master’s tournament yesterday.
These recent defeats by no means indicate that the careers of these two icons are over. But, the win by Tsitsipas can be considered a move by one of the new young breed of players making their move to take over. Judd Trump is himself considered to be a younger version of Ronnie, having won several tournaments and is a brilliant natural player. Like Ronnie he spends less time between shots because he seems to instinctively know what ball to strike next. Both, of them have colleagues who have challenged and beaten the two masters, in tennis there are Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (unfortunately Andy Murray must retire due to injury), and in snooker there are Mark Selby (currently no 1), John Higgins and Mark Williams. Long may the two R’s continue to win and delight us.