Sport is obsessed with gold.
Golden eras, golden generations, golden boots. In recent years it’s become a shortcut for anything that’s good.
In football, most teams can point to a golden generation where a group of players are at the peak of their powers at the same time. Think Iniesta, Messi, Xavi at Barcelona or Silva, De Bruyne, Aguero at Manchester City.
In tennis, we are frequently told that we are living in a golden era. The giants of the sport - Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic - have dominated the titles won in the past 15 years with Andy Murray also making a strong case to be included in tennis’ answer to The Avengers.
Like those flawed superheroes, each of those players have good days and bad days. They’ve all got their particular strengths and favourite tournaments and surfaces, and are prone to the occasional meltdown.
Brirish fans will always take a special interest in the fortunes of Murray and everyone hopes he will be able to make a successful recovery from hip surgery. The signs are that Murray won’t be able to slug it out with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic with the same kind of intensity and it’s making us get nostalgic because this particular Golden Era is coming to an end.
Soon this Golden Era will be filed away with those of 1978-1984 when Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominated the game with a similar swagger and no less style.
The emergence of tennis punk Andre Agassi in 1990 in his neon Nikes signalled the last great period for the sport when 80s icons such as Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker were giving way to the likes of Pete Sampras.
The rise of Federer, a silky smooth player who has such elegance and grace on court, can be traced back to 2003 when he ended the year as number two in the world - second to Andy Roddick.
Nadal’s arrival on the scene was just as exciting. With his sleeveless vests, flowing hair and good looks, he was very much the pin-up of the circuit. Almost an anti-Federer, Nadal was a powder keg on the court - especially on his favourite surface, clay.
As the pair dominated the major tournaments, both Murray and Djokovic enjoyed the odd success against the big two but they were locked in their own battle, seemingly resigned to be labeled the best of the rest.
One is reminded of a quote from Tony Bennett when asked about Frank Sinatra. “The voice of a lifetime but why did it have to be mine.” In any other era, Murray and Djokovic would have been the dominant players but they’ve been left hanging onto the coat-tails of Nadal and Federer.