Tennis: The forgotten sport of the century

In 2016, sports fans were treated to some incredible stories. The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. The Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors to capture the NBA title. Villanova won the NCAA championship on a three-pointer as time expired against the University of North Carolina.

As a sports culture, we equate excellence with certain programs and organizations like the University of Alabama, the New England Patriots, the Golden State Warriors and, in recent years, the San Francisco Giants.

Despite the dominance of certain teams over the last decade and the storylines sports writers salivated over in 2016, is it possible that perhaps the sports world has overlooked the most impressive performance in sports in the last decade?

I believe that most of the world has slept on the dominance of “the Big Four,” that is Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, in tennis. Each is leaving his legacy in the sport, and it’s time we acknowledged it.

Since 2007, these four players have been as dominant in tennis as any we have ever seen. Of the 40 grand slam tournaments played — the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open — they have won 35 of them. These four tournaments are the biggest of the tennis season and their trophies the most coveted in the sport. Besides them, the only players to have won grand slams this decade are Juan Martin Del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

In this span, Federer has claimed eight of his 17 career grand slam titles, Nadal 12 of his 14 grand slam titles, Djokovic has won all 12 of his, and Murray has claimed all three of his, including two at Wimbledon, where he became the first player from Great Britain to win since Fred Perry in 1935. Murray also struck gold in singles, claiming the gold medal in the 2012 London games and the 2016 Rio games.

Pretty impressive, but how many people actually knew this?

Maybe some did, but the majority probably did not. Tennis seems to strike a global chord more than a domestic one. Perhaps this is because an American man hasn’t won a major since Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open back in 2003 (he also finished runner-up four times), or maybe this is because most of the American headlines in tennis belong to Serena Williams, who adds to her legacy every year by winning more majors.

Regardless, as a sports-obsessed culture, we have been negligent to the sheer beauty and brilliance of these four players over the last decade. To the detriment of tennis fans worldwide, this window is quickly closing, and if we don’t wake up and start paying attention, we might just miss the last of this golden age of tennis.

Age and health have become major factors for these players. Their time is limited. Without them, tennis may never be as great as it has been over the last decade. It would be a disservice to their accomplishments if we continue to ignore what they’ve done. It’s time that they get their due and the rest of the world begins to tune in.

So when you come home from class, take a nap, grab some coffee and stay up late for the beauty of tennis at the Australian Open. Enjoy the era of the “Big Four” while is still lasts.

The Australian Open runs through Sunday and can be viewed on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app.