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2003-2006 The Early Federer Era

Federer was born in 1981 and his era of peer tennis players is often derided as subpar. If you look at his players born between 1980-1983 I believe it was a hell of a crop historically with many winning slams, getting to #1, and going to major finals. Most of Federer’s peers were shining brighter before he even reached a semi-finals. Hewitt had won his first tournament in 1997 at the age of 16 and Safin had won his first Grand Slam by 2000. Both were the two youngest world number 1 ever at 20 years old prior to Carlos Alcaraz. Federer by contrast was a somewhat late bloomer in tennis relative to many other all-time greats.

It was only after Federer’s ascent and then the emergence of Nadal at 19 years old as his chief rival did you stop hearing about many of these players. Injuries and the writing on the wall they had surpassed retired most of them. Federer had eclipsed the rest of his generational peers by that point, and Nadal finished their chances at slams off by 2005/2006. That doesn’t mean they weren’t a quality group of players Federer arrived with. There is also really no shame in giving way to two of the three greatest players ever in Federer or Nadal, especially when you made your mark.

Players born between 1980-83

Hewitt- 2 majors, 4 Finals, 10th All Time in weeks at #1

Safin – 2 majors, 4 Finals, former #1

Roddick-1 major, 5 Finals,  former #1

Ferrero- 1 major, 3 Finals, former #1

Nalbaindian- Major Finalist, #2 peak

Ferrer- Major Finalist, #3 peak

Davydenko- 4 Semi Finals, #3 Peak

F. Gonzalez-Major Finalist #5 Peak 

G. Coria- Major Finalist, #3 Peak

Some of those finals or rankings came after Federer broke through and won in 2003 as well. Andre Agassi was still around and a top 5 player. He won the Australian Open in 2003 and was in the US Open finals in 2005. Nadal won his first slam and reached #2 by 2005. It may have happened by 2004 if he didn’t break his ankle. Djokovic was a top 5 player shortly after winning the Australian in January 2008 as well.

Federer, Hewitt, Safin, Roddick and Ferrero were all former #1 players and won Slams. All but Roddick won slams before Federer even won his first. Hewitt was the youngest #1 player in the world until Alcaraz this week, but even Alcaraz needed the vaccine and Russian bans to disqualify others. I’ve often disagreed with people that 2003-2006 was a weak era. Hewitt is still Top 10 all-time in weeks at #1.He won 2 slams and beat a prime Sampras in the finals at the age of 21, as Saffin had done to win a Slam at 20 years old the season before. They took it from Sampras and Agassi. While it’s not the big 3 eras it is pretty representative of most of history had the three greatest players ever showed up and blocked the later part of their prime. These players were all still a big part of tennis history.

In 2003-2006 an all time great like Agassi was still around winning slams and going to finals and ranked around the top 5. Major Champions like Hewitt, Roddick, Ferrio and Saffin were still there to go through.? They looked like great generations on the rise but were completely eclipsed by Federer’s and Nadal

That’s even before we get to other age peers to Federer like  Davydenko, Nalbandian, Corria, etc that had great careers.  They were also going to grand Slam Finals or Semi finals as well. It’s underrated how many good players there were born in the early 80s were that pretty much had all the air sucked out of their careers and who were beating Fed early on and ahead of him. Fed didn’t even win his first slam until a month before his 22nd birthday and barely in the Top 10 at 21 years old.

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