November 29, 2013
With the Australian Open ready to kick start the new calender year in about six weeks, there’s no better time than to turn on that crystal ball and throw our hands into the prediction pot for the 2014 year-end rankings.
In a fascinating season that featured Rafa Nadal storm back from injury to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, Roger Federer by contrast had his worst season in a decade, falling to No. 6 and winning only one smaller-tier title. Stan Wawrinka made himself a name to remember over the holidays as he finished a proud member in the top 10 for the second time in his career; so to did Richard Gasquet, who chalked up three titles and squeaked by Milos Raonic to claim the 10th position on the computer.
With that said, where will we be in a year from now? Will Nadal have equaled or nearly caught up to Federer’s mark of 17 majors? Will Novak Djokovic grab his elusive title at Roland Garros and join Rafa and Roger with all four slams? How will Andy Murray fit into the sport’s dominated rivalry that Rafa-Nole have captured? Will the Scot rebound after minor back surgery to reclaim his Wimbledon title, while imposing himself at the other majors? Finally, could we see Jerzy Janowicz or Grigor Dimitrov finally make that push into the elite top 10 and live up to their much-hyped potential?
The world of tennis is certainly a wacky place and trying to predict what will happen in a year’s time is never easy. Nevertheless, we’ll give it another shot and see how high we can hold our heads come mid-November in 2014.
For the Projected 2013 ATP top 10 rankings piece, click here.
Projected 2014 year-end ATP World Tour Rankings:
1. Rafael Nadal: The Mallorcan could very well seal the year-end ranking in January if he can win the Aussie Open. Why? Because he has zero points to defend Down Under and showed over the course of 2013 that no pressure usually means a win by week’s end. Oh, did I mention that he has zero points to defend at Wimbledon and Miami as well? Although Nadal has a ton of points to defend between March-September (and we mean a ton), he should clean up again on the clay and do well enough on grass and asphalt to roll to another No. 1 finish.
2. Novak Djokovic: Nole won’t be happy to finish No. 2 again for the second straight year, but it’s hard to see him claiming his fifth title in Oz, especially after everything he put into his post US Open run. Yes, Djokovic is one heck of a player, and yes, he can go on long winning streaks throughout important parts of the year. But, the Serb still hasn’t claimed the title in France and the clay season has such great implications on the rankings come year’s end.
3. Juan Martin del Potro: This is where it starts getting interesting. At 25, Delpo is certainly coming into his own. Defeating all Big Four members throughout ‘13, the Argentine used his wrecking ball forehand to showcase his elite talent on court. Coupled with the fact that he knows his way around a clay-court and proved that he can play on grass (see Wimbledon semifinal run), Juan Martin could very well win his second slam and his first Masters title in 2014.
4. Andy Murray: Still in the prime of his career, one wonders how Murray will perform the first half of the season? He has finals points to defend at the Oz Open and he won the tune up event in Brisbane. The Scot did little to nothing on the clay in ‘13 and that could once again dent his chances of finishing higher. Still, Murray is a tough out at any event and he will continue to be solid—and a slam threat—throughout 2014.
5. David Ferrer: I wrote off Ferrer from a top 10 position at the end of 2013 and boy was I wrong. Not only did the Spaniard finish in the top three, he also made his first slam final at the French Open and reached eight other finals. Ferrer will have a tough task in reaching the RG final in ‘14, but he will continue to beat the players that he should.
6. Stanislas Wawrinka: I like what I’ve seen from Stan the man in the past 12 months and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t hungrier for more success. Magnus Norman has done wonders for his career and the decision to stick with him is a great one. Wawrinka will have to continue to work on his forehand for better use in pressure situations and his transition game could also be stronger. However, Stan looks like he’s enjoying himself out there and that will only lend to more success on Tour.
7. Tomas Berdych: Always a Bird and never a champion? Tomas played well throughout 2013 but with no singles titles in his pocket, it will certainly be difficult to break the top five and challenge for the majors. However, the Czech is still good enough to reach the quarters or semis in most events and that will aid him in finishing in the top 10 once again.
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: I hate to say it but Tsonga’s best days are behind him. His coaching situation has never been great, he’s injury prone, his backhand continues to be weak, he’s dabbling with different rackets and his return of serve is one of the worst in the top 10. With that said, Tsonga’s forehand, serve and athleticism are top notch and that should enable him to stick around the elite 10 for at least one more season.
9. Milos Raonic: Finishing near the top for yet another year, it appears Raonic has finally embraced his innate attacking style courtesy of Ivan Ljubicic. Raonic has the desire and professionalism to be a top tenner, but his movement and backhand still need fine tuning in order for him to break into the top five and become a perennial slam candidate.
10. Jerzy Janowicz: Why not show some love for Jerzy? The man can smoke his forehand, rain down serves and his competitiveness amongst his piers is second to none. The Pole believes that he belongs with the big boys and his foot speed and deft touch at net are more than good enough for a place at the top. However, for Janowicz to make that leap into the top five and challenge for the slams, he’ll have to understand his game a tad more and learn to control his temperament on the big points.
Notice the lack of a high profile name missing from the year-end predictions for 2014? Even though Federer will continue to gather the most fan and media attention around the globe, the Swiss legend simply doesn’t have the same movement and consistency as he once did. Can we really see him taking out Djokovic, Murray and Nadal in consecutive slam matches? Can we really see a season where his back is not a problem? Does Federer himself want to grind and get his socks dirty for the first time in his career? It’s really a shame when the greats fade from glory but if 2013 was any indication as to what the future holds for Roger Federer, his follow up season could produce even poorer results. My guess is that he finishes somewhere between 11-15.
Agree with my picks? Have your own top 10 for 2014? Kindly share them below in the comments section.
October 21, 2013
Life is good for Richard Gasquet this week.
While he’s an extremely gifted tennis player in the grand scheme of things, in the minuscule sample size and 99.999999th percentile of the general population that is the ATP World Tour, Gasquet is not all great.
Throughout 2013, he had tried and tried but had kept hitting a wall and, despite his best efforts, it had seemed like he would fall short of receiving an invite to London—until about two weeks ago, when Andy Murray announced he was withdrawing from the 2013 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. That’s when Gasquet at last realized that he didn’t need to be that good. He just needed to get lucky.
There will be a lucky loser this year in London for the World Tour Finals, and Frenchman Gasquet is hoping to be that player who, if that’s what it needs, will be more lucky than good. (Of course, let’s not totally dismiss Gasquet’s efforts—there’s a new opportunity for a handful of players with Murray’s absence, and he might be the one who’s making the most of it.)
Murray’s withdrawal from the grand finale has opened the door for whoever finishes at No. 9 in the rankings. That’s exactly where Gasquet is waking up this morning after defeating Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6, 6-4 and 6-4 to win the 2013 Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow title. The whopping 160 points that he has gained at the event are enough to build a cushion 65 over fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
This means that unless our Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic, or Tommy Haas, goes on a rampage over the next two weeks, then the final chapter of the race to London will likely be played in Paris between two Frenchmen. Weird how it works out, right?
It’s a weird time of the year, indeed, when relatively minor tournaments in late October attract many of the top players, but that’s what we have this year. If the race to London is still very much open, Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer will all look for a strong result this week when they travel to the King’s Court in Switzerland to play in the Swiss Indoors Basel tournament. For Federer, it would be a fitting end to a disappointing season that an early loss in his hometown cost him a place at the year-end event.
But just before the World Tour Finals, there’s the final Masters 1000 event, in Paris. Because it’s held so late in the season, and so close to the Barclays conclusion, I don’t know that it’s as important as the other eight Masters of the kind for top players.
No one player would probably say so, but I’m thinking that the top players would rather have their ticket to London booked well in advance so that they can show up in Paris, shop a little, play a little tennis without trying too, too hard, drink a little wine and then move on to London and the rain.
But it’s not like I would know anyway. I’m not a tennis player, not even a lucky loser.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
October 14, 2013
The end of the U.S. Open feels a little like the end of the tennis season, though that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s because it’s the last Grand Slam of the season and, with apologies to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, there’s no bigger tournament than the four major ones.
Still, now that the Tour went on an Asian swing in the latter half of this month, it seems like there are still things to learn if you happened to have been watching.
Chief among them is the fact that Asia looks to be Novak Djokovic country. The Djoker captured the 2013 China Open and 2013 Shanghai Rolex Masters in back-to-back weeks, having somehow put behind him a disappointing turn of events against Rafael Nadal in the final at Flushing Meadows. And as it turns out, while the Spaniard may have took his World No. 1 ranking, he couldn’t take his fight.
One of the things that I loved most about Djokovic’s invincible run in 2011 was that he wore the timeless Sergio Tacchini brand (i.e. I even bought myself the shirt). The Serb is confident in who he is and isn’t afraid to show it on the tennis courts, and this choice of sponsor said exactly that. But he has since moved on to Uniqlo, and this choice may be even better for the 26-year-old. Uniqlo is a Chinese retail giant, and it’s telling that the best player of the previous three seasons is with it. Djokovic’s gift, apparently, is to pay the Asian community with the gift of winning, as he’s been dominant this season in Asia.
I wrote that this 2013 season was going to become the marquee Nadal season. And 2013 even sticking to the script of the last timeless season that the tennis community has known. Just like Djokovic in 2011, Nadal is experiencing a little post-New York blues. It’s now two losses in five matches—nothing alarming, but not up to par with his 2013 standards. If Nadal is done with this season, there’s really no shame.
The player who beat Nadal for his latest loss is Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentine, though he hasn’t reached the promised land since his 2009 U.S. Open title, continues to prove that he may be the most destructive force on Tour. If nothing else, he’s definitely the most likely to make the top group of Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray a four-headed monster.
Because Roger Federer is fading, yes, and fast. King Roger is now 32 years old and showing every last bit of it. He broke up with his coach (read: consultant) Paul Annacone this past week, after having lost in the third round in Shanghai. He’s played with a Wilson prototype as a tennis racquet for a few months in 2013, a curious decision. One might have expected the Swiss to keep risks to a minimum as his career winds down, but choosing the prototype was the opposite. It couldn’t have paid off big dividends, but instead it seems like it might have cost him dearly.
The last thing that this has shown is that everyone has forgotten about Murray. Sure, he won the 2013 Wimbledon on home soil, but what has he done for us lately? He’s had an injured back that has forced him to retire from the season-ending Barclays finals. We’ve forgotten about Andy Murray, but it’s not because we’re in the lull of the tennis season. It’s just Andy Murray.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
October 9, 2013
Reigning Wimbledon winner Andy Murray has officially withdrawn from the ATP World Tour finals next month to recover from back surgery. The Brit had this to say to the ATP in a statement: “I’m really disappointed not to be playing this year, I love playing in front of my home crowd, it’s a great atmosphere,” said Murray. “All the players look forward to competing in London and I’ll be doing my best to qualify again for the tournament next year.”
The 8 man field will include Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer thus far. Five spots are still up for grabs during the fall season.
September 19, 2013
The British press is reporting that current world No. 3 Andy Murray will have minor back surgery and will likely miss the rest of the 2013 season. Murray, who lost in the quarterfinals of the US Open, won his maiden Wimbledon title over the summer but has experienced poor results since. The Scot has currently withdrew from three upcoming tournaments in Asia and will release further information on his European indoor schedule.
September 10, 2013
LONDON – Andy Murray will look to maintain his unbeaten record on home soil this year with victory at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The Scot has become the third player to qualify for the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 4-11 November. Murray, who reached the quarter-finals at the US Open, secured his place at the season finale for the sixth straight year.
“I’ve played some of my best tennis in front of my home crowd at Queen’s and Wimbledon this year so hopefully I can keep up that run of form at The O2 in November,” said Murray. “It will be great to compete in London again for the first time since winning Wimbledon. It’s a key focus for me for the rest of the season and I’ll do everything I can to give myself the best chances of winning it. The atmosphere there is always special – to win it would be the perfect way to finish the season.”
The 26-year-old Murray joins Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic as the first singles players to qualify for the elite eight-man event. The trio currently leads the Emirates ATP Race To London standings.
Dunblane-born Murray has a 12-0 record on home soil this season, preceding his historic Wimbledon triumph with victory at the Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club. The Scot was also a finalist at the Australian Open and collected titles at the Brisbane International and the Sony Open in Miami.
Murray is a three-time semi-finalist at the season finale, reaching the last four in Shanghai in 2008 (l. to Davydenko) and London in 2010 (l. to Nadal) and 2012 (l. to Federer). He is bidding to become the first British player to win the season finale.
US Open doubles champions Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek and runners-up Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares have also secured their berths at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, qualifying behind three-time former champions Bob and Mike Bryan.
Stepanek, who along with Paes reached the semi-finals last year at The O2, stated it was their goal to win the title. “That’s the trophy which is missing in Leander’s showcase. That’s what I’m very focused on, that’s what I would like to deliver,” he said.
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals has welcomed more than a million fans to The O2 arena over the past four years, establishing itself as the biggest indoor tennis tournament in the world since moving to London in 2009. Tickets to the tournament, which takes place from 4-11 November, can be purchased at: http://www.BarclaysATPWorldTourFinals.com.
September 5, 2013
US Open—New York
Defending champion Andy Murray saw his run at the US Open come to an abrupt end on Wednesday after he fell in easy fashion to Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Needing six set points to win the first set, Wawrinka continued to hit his heavy groundstrokes better than his British opponent. Wawrinka, who has never reached the semifinals of a major, will next face top seed Novak Djokovic for a place in the finals. Djokovic continued his efficiency in the event by dispatching Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0. Djokovic has won 11 straight matches against Wawrinka on Tour.
Friday’s action at the US Open will feature the women’s semifinals, which will be followed by the men’s semifinals on Saturday.
September 4, 2013
Flamboyant Frenchman Richard Gasquet is through to his first ever US Open semi-final, the eighth seed upsetting fourth seed David Ferrer in a 5 set epic on Day 10.
Day 10 Recap
Gasquet came out swinging against Ferrer, using his majestic one-handed backhand to maximum effect as he took a commanding 2 sets to love lead. But the tenacious Ferrer fought back, taking the next 2 sets as Gasquet struggled to maintain his level.
There were concerns that the Frenchman would run out of steam in the deciding set after his 5 set win over Milos Raonic in the round of 16, but the eighth seed stayed aggressive in the fifth set, breaking Ferrer’s serve and maintaining the advantage to claim a 6-3 6-1 4-6 2-6 6-3 win in 3 hours and 23 minutes.
Gasquet will play world number 2 Rafael Nadal for a place in Sunday’s final after the Spaniard demolished his countryman Tommy Robredo in straight sets in the night session. Robredo, who had upset Roger Federer in the fourth round, was no match for the second seed, who struck 28 winners and won 15 of his 16 trips to the net. It was all over after 1 hour and 40 minutes, Nadal claiming an emphatic 6-0 6-2 6-2 victory.
In the women’s tournament, second seed Victoria Azarenka moved a step closer to returning to the women’s final after scoring a comfortable 6-2 6-3 victory over Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova. The world number 48 managed to break Azarenka’s serve early in each set, but Hantuchova immediately handed back the advantage on both occasions as Azarenka controlled the majority of the baseline rallies.
Azarenka faces Flavia Pennetta in the semi-finals after the 31 year old Italian beat fellow Italian Roberta Vinci to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final. Pennetta, who overcame another Italian, Sara Errani, in the second round, claimed a tense opening set, 6-4, before racing away with the second set, taking it for the loss of just one game.
Matches of the Day – Day 11
1. Andy Murray vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
Having claimed a workmanlike victory over Denis Istomin in the round of 16, defending champion Andy Murray will need to lift his game in this quarter-final clash against the dangerous Stanislas Wawrinka. These players know each other’s game extremely well, having played against one another as juniors and being frequent practice partners. Murray leads 8-5 in their career meetings, although Wawrinka won their most recent match, on clay in Monte Carlo earlier this year.
As Murray acknowledged after his fourth round win, Wawrinka has always been an extremely good player technically, but his success this year has given the Swiss star renewed confidence. Wawrinka pushed Novak Djokovic to the absolute limit at the Australian Open earlier this year and I would not be surprised if he does the same to Murray in this clash.
With all of his big match experience, Murray has to enter this match as the favourite, but Wawrinka will come out swinging and knows that he is capable of winning the match, especially if he plays like he did against Berdych in the round of 16. Murray in 5.
2. Novak Djokovic vs. Mikhail Youzhny
Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny faces an almighty task to defeat world number one and top seed Novak Djokovic and reach his third career semi-final at Flushing Meadows. Youzhny had a gruelling 5-set match against Lleyton Hewitt in the round of 16, whereas Djokovic blitzed Marcel Granollers, losing just 3 games for the entire match.
Youzhny obviously enjoys playing in New York, as his strong record at the US Open suggests, but Djokovic looks to be in stellar form and has yet to be challenged at this year’s tournament. Youzhny has beaten Djokovic in 3 of their 8 career meetings, but the last of those wins came back in 2010, before Djokovic had established himself as the world’s best player.
I think Youzhny will compete strongly and should make at least one or two of the sets very close, but look for the top seeded Serb, who has made the US Open final in each of the last 3 years, to raise his game on the big points. Djokovic in 3.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.
September 3, 2013
US Open—New York
Top seed Novak Djokovic stayed on course for his second career US Open title on Tuesday in New York, defeating Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-0, 6-0. Provided with an excellent draw during the early rounds, the Serb will next seek a semifinal spot on Thursday against Mikhail Youzhny. The Russian got passed former winner Lleyton Hewitt in five thrilling sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5.
Elsewhere, Andy Murray will look to join Djokovic and Youzhny in the final eight when he faces Denis Istomin during the night session. The final men’s fourth-round match of the day will be highlighted by Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Tomas Berdych.
Wednesday’s quarterfinal men’s matches will feature Rafael Nadal vs. Tommy Robredo and David Ferrer vs. Richard Gasquet.
September 1, 2013
US Open—New York
Defending champion Andy Murray persevered through a hot and muggy day at the US Open on Sunday to reach the fourth-round of the event, defeating Florian Mayer 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-2. The reigning Wimbledon champion, who used his fitness to prevail, will next face either Andreas Seppi or Denis Istomin.
Elsewhere, last year’s semifinalist Tomas Berdych reached the round of 16 after blowing past Julian Bennteau 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. The Czech will next take on Stanislas Wawrinka in a blockbuster encounter on Tuesday after the Swiss eliminated Marcos Baghdatis, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(1), 7-6(7).
The night match on Sunday will feature Novak Djokovic vs. Joao Sousa. Monday’s Labour Day events will include Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.