Tennis Elbow: The race to No. 1
October 15, 2012 · Print This Article
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks at Novak Djokovic’s title at the 2012 Shanghai Rolex Masters.
Novak Djokovic is probably a cat. He’s probably a cat, because he so obviously has nine lives on the tennis court.
(By now, most of his opponents probably think of Djokovic as a black cat. Because he’s been that great, and he spells bad luck for them.)
That’s what Andy Murray learned the hard way, on Sunday, for the 2012 Shanghai Rolex Masters final–though it’s not like Murray needed any reminder. Since Djokovic has started his assertion, Murray has fallen victim to Djokovic’s superhuman will more often than is healthy for one man. This match was only the latest instance in a long series.
Five times on Sunday, Murray had a match point over Djokovic, and five times the Serb pulled through. And after three hours and 21 minutes of play, Djokovic was the one holding the trophy that had been Murray’s in the previous two seasons. The key was a tough and long tiebreaker in the second set, where Djokovic used four of his nine lives before outlasting Murray to take it 13-11. It was eerily reminiscent of the tiebreak in the first set of the US Open final, only this time Djokovic won.
At different times in the 2011 season, different players have dominated–and the race for player of the year might depend on who finishes the season as the alpha male on Tour.
Though it’s Djokovic who captured the Shanghai Masters 1000, it’s Roger Federer who wakes up ranked No. 1. But King Roger is probably not the favourite to end the year on top of the ATP World Tour rankings. The upcoming BNP Paribas Masters and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will be key for the 31-year-old, as they’re two titles he needs to defend from last season. But if the summer is any indication, it looks like Federer might be a bit tired. He’s worked extremely hard this year to overtake Djokovic and capture another Wimbledon title, and maybe he doesn’t have enough energy left.
Could it be Murray? The 25-year-old finally has a Grand Slam title under his belt, and he looks poised to…continue pretty much exactly what he has been doing for a few years now–capture many Masters titles and, just maybe, a little bit more. He probably will get a few more Grand Slam titles if only because he’s still young. At some point, Federer will retire and uncertainty surrounds Rafael Nadal and his return–Murray and Djokovic could be 1a and 1b on Tour for quite some time.
For those reasons, the favourite to finish the season ranked No. 1 might just be the same man who entered it as the then-alpha male: Novak Djokovic.
In Shanghai, he served notice to anyone who might have forgotten about him that he can still beat anybody on Tour. Most importantly, he stopped an ugly four-match losing streak against other members of the top 4–the cat Djokovic has never been one to hurt for self-belief, but this will erase any remaining doubts. He now has 13 career Masters 1000 titles for his career at 7 different events, and no one has won as many matches as him in 2012. Simply put, he just might be the best player on Tour. Again.
In the end, while the Serb had set the bar so, so high after a classic 2011 season, and while his fall this season was inevitable, Djokovic is all right–and really, we should have known. He’s all right, because he’s a cat. And cats always land on their two feet.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG