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.
November 25, 2013
For the second year in a row, a year-end edition of this column will serve as a de facto awards ceremony. Just like for the 2012 season, these categories are absolutely arbitrary and reflect nothing but my own subjective experience of the 2013 tennis season as a fan and columnist.
The Alpha Male of the Year Elbow
…To Rafael Nadal. Just about any- and everything that could be said of Nadal’s prowess this year has already been said, but still let’s pile on. After seven months away from the ATP World Tour, he finally came back this year and warned us not to call this a comeback. No one knew, really, what to expect, and maybe that’s why we got exactly what no one could have foreseen—the best season of his career. The Spaniard concluded 2013 with 75 wins in 82 matches, over $ 14 million in prize money and no fewer than 10 titles. The 27-year-old added a Coupe des Mousquetaire and a U.S. Open trophy to his mantle, the 12th and 13th Grand Slam titles of his career. And suddenly, Federer’s haul doesn’t seem so out of reach.
The Who’s That Girl Elbow
…To Serena Williams. The younger of the two Williams sisters had herself quite the 2013 season and was equally as impressive on the WTA Tour as Nadal was on the men’s circuit—78 wins in 82 matches, 11 titles and over $ 12 million in prize money. What’s perhaps most remarkable is that this season came just on the heels of an equally great 2012 season. After two such great seasons at her age, Serena Williams is more than just the best player of her generation—she’s now in the same class as Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as the best player ever.
The Kleenex Moment Elbow
…To Andy Murray after the 2013 Wimbledon final. Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, since Fred Perry did so if we’re to believe the record books—though I hear the jury remains out on these. The 26-year-old gave an entire country what poor lad Tim Henman could never give them, and nobody was unhappy to see him celebrate with the members of his team and, really, just about everyone else. Nobody, and that includes the mighty Novak Djokovic fan that I am, despite the fact that it’s Djokovic who Murray defeated in three little sets in the final.
The Phenom Elbow
…To Eugenie Bouchard. In a season where the young 19-year-old gained more than 100 spots on the WTA Tour rankings to end the season at No. 32, Bouchard was deservedly named the WTA’s newcomer of the year. She reached at least the quarterfinals of five events, and defeated top 10 mainstays Jelena Jankovic and Samantha Stosur on her way to 39 wins in 63 matches. Her breakout season was not unlike Milos Raonic’s own, in 2011—and, oh by the way, Raonic himself was named the ATP newcomer of the year when he finished that year ranked No. 31. There are a lot of similarities between Bouchard and Raonic, including this one—let’s give the young Eugenie all the time that she needs to become a star. She’s not that, not yet.
The We Like Our Apples With Maple Syrup, Thanks For Asking Elbow
…To Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil. The two Canadians dazzled the Montreal public this summer, as they served and aced their way—apologizing for every win, because they’re Canadians—to an all-Canadian Rogers Cup semifinal. If Raonic couldn’t eat his cake in the final against Nadal, losing 6-2 and 6-2, by then Montrealers didn’t mind because the 2013 Rogers Cup had been perfect, already. Not only that, but the two musketeers joined forces with the ageless wonder Daniel Nestor to bring their country to within one rubber of a spot in the 2013 Davis Cup final. So while many are gonzo over the potential of Eugenie Bouchard, they would be wise not to overlook the actual results of these two great players.
The Candy Cane Elbow
…To Maria Sharapova. The resident diva of the WTA Tour had a seemingly difficult 2013 season, though she still only lost 7 of 44 matches played. Sharapova is still a great champion, and this year she showed that she had business acumen too—though that was probably never really in doubt—when she released her first line of candy, the incredibly tacky-named Sugarpova. I’ve yet to try it, and I’ve made righting this wrong my No. 1 resolution for 2014.
The Andy Murray Elbow
…To Andy Murray himself. Incredibly, Murray gets a second Elbow for the 2013 season, this time taking home the one named after him. Meant in no way to diminish what a player accomplished in the previous 12 months, this award recognizes the person for whom it seems like 2013 was nothing but a year-long walk on the treadmill. Of course, Murray thrilled everyone with a major win at Wimbledon…and then, he pretty much packed it in the rest of the way. With the win, Murray was supposed to have turned a corner—and maybe he has, but he’s still looking up to Nadal and Djokovic. How very Andy Murray of him.
The Hello, Old Sport Elbow
…To Stanislas Wawrinka. At age 28, he enjoyed his finest year to date on the ATP World Tour and reached a career-high ranking of No. 8 in October—where he’s been entrenched since. Stan the Man even momentarily lived down his nickname of “the other Swiss,” as Roger Federer enjoyed one of his most frustrating seasons in recent memory (i.e. more on that later). But for all his excellence this season, he didn’t quite break through—twice he had Djokovic on the ropes and twice he lost in agonizing fashion. And Wawrinka remains “that other Swiss,” even on the Tour rankings.
The Foot In My Mouth Elbow
…To Serena Williams. Williams shined on the court in 2013, but not necessarily off of it. In a lengthy Rolling Stone feature—which wasn’t without its problems itself, as the lede compared the tennis player to the leader of North Korea—the great champion had a bit of a faux pas. When she decided to voice her opinion on the Steubenville rape case, what she said came across almost as victim blaming. It wasn’t that, and those who read the entire quote will understand—but a “I’m not blaming the girl, but…” doesn’t look good.
The Tonight We Die In Hell Elbow
…To Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro, for their epic battle in Wimbledon—a match that wins my choice as match of the year. Sure, that match probably cost Djokovic a much better shot at the title against Murray, but boy it was a thrill. Watching the Djoker and DelPo exchange haymaker after haymaker after haymaker after haymaker over five sets and four hours and 40 minutes—the longest Wimbledon semifinal in history—was unlike anything ever. Well, actually, that’s not true. It reminded me of watching that incredible Australian Open in 2012—and thankfully, it all unfolded a tad later during the day.
The My name is my name Elbow
…To myself. While covering the 2012 Rogers Cup in my native Montreal was an exercise in overcoming giddiness and maintaining professionalism, covering the tournament in Toronto this year also had its challenges—but mostly its perks. In the past two years, I’ve been lucky to have the freedom to file only once a day and write on the matches, and players, that I personally want to write about. Another perk was attending a great second round match between Sorana Cirstea and Caroline Wozniacki and afterward finding a Tennis TV link to it on YouTube. That’s how I saw myself on TV.
The 60-degree day Elbow
…To Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman was among the unlikeliest winners of the sport’s biggest prize at Wimbledon, riding a streak of good fortune where she didn’t face a single player ranked higher than her all the way to the top. Always a bit of a character, Bartoli won the prize of a career on the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club—and six weeks after her Wimbledon title, she decided to retire. Somehow, it all was the perfect ending.
The 1a Elbow
…To Novak Djokovic. In any other year, the Serb would have been the undisputed King on Tour—and despite Nadal’s signature season, Djokovic really was this close of finishing on top for a third straight year. With 74 wins in 83 matches, over $12 million in prize money and 7 titles, including his third Australian Open in a row, Djokovic did just about everything possible this season. Except that he lost a fifth-set lead against Nadal in the semifinal of Roland Garros. The 26-year-old will have another shot at completing the career Slam this season, and something tells me he may do just that. Until then, he and Jelena Ristic got engaged. #DjokovicWins.
The One Last Kiss Elbow
…To King Roger. By most accounts, 2013 wasn’t kind to Roger Federer, as he finished with as many as 17 losses (against 45 wins). That total was his highest in 10 years but unlike during his breakout 2003 season, this year the King only had one crown—that of the Gerry Weber Open, a Masters 250 event. Beyond the losses, it’s the quality of them that shocked: seeing the great champion lose to Gael Monfils, Tommy Robredo or, gulp, Federico Delbonis is not a pretty sight. He’s currently ranked No. 6 and he’s just about hopeless against Nadal these days. More and more, the 2014 season feels like a swan song for King Roger. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
November 10, 2013
BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS, London, England
Top seed Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer for 22nd time in their storied rivalry on Sunday in London, recording a 7-5, 6-3 victory in 80 minutes. Dominating the baseline rallies and attacking the Swiss’ second serve, Nadal will next face either Novak Djokovic for the only major title that has eluded him in his career. Djokovic dismissed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-3 during the night session. Nadal currently leads the pair’s head-to-head 22-16.
November 9, 2013
BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS, London, England
Number six seed Roger Federer advanced to the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals by defeating No. (4) Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 on Saturday. Federer joins Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka in the final four. Also on Sunday, defending champion Djokovic took out Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3.
November 7, 2013
Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, London, England
(6) Roger Federer defeats (8) Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3; (2) Novak Djokovic defeats (4) Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
November 4, 2013
These guys made me look like a complete fool, as it turns out that professional tennis players will remain professional even as the season winds down.
They made me look like a fool, but I’m glad that they did because the 2013 BNP Paribas Masters turned out to be quite the tournament. Last week, I wrote that we may see a few surprises in Paris, because some of the top players had already qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals the following week and may have been more interested in wine-tasting than actual tennis.
What happened? The top 8 players, the ones who participate in this year’s Finals event at the O2 Arena, all qualified for the quarterfinals in Paris. Oops. (Then again, I correctly predicted that seven of those eight players would make it, and three of four semifinalists, two of two finalists and one of one title winner. I got Rafael Nadal wrong only because I decided to be cute.)
And when that happens, we all win.
This season, the ATP World Tour closes the books on yet another season. Here, I will preview the final event, and I promise not to get cute with it.
-The “We come in peace and we are happy to be here”: Richard Gasquet, David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka
I don’t see any of these three making much noise. David Ferrer may technically make it to the knockout stage, and possibly beyond, as all he does is win (and lose to players ranked higher than he is). Meanwhile, Richard Gasquet is enjoying a late career renaissance and, at age 27, enjoyed his best season in six years. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that the musketeer celebrated his qualification to the event a little hard in his native France this week, especially after seeing that he’s been drawn to the stronger of the two groups in Group B. Stanislas Wawrinka, for all his excellence this year, remains behind King Roger both in their homeland and in the ATP rankings.
-The Tomas Berdych: Tomas Berdych
I have no clue how Tomas Berdych will fare this week. I would literally expect anything from him, from losing in a double bagel in his first match and convincing everyone watching that they could take him out, to winning the entire event. The mercurial one hasn’t exactly enjoyed a great season, but that’s never stopped him before. (It’s always the rest that’s always stopped him.) He’ll tease us and probably make it to the semifinal against Novak Djokovic, but he will lose 6-1 and 6-3.
-The wild card: Roger Federer
What will Roger Federer do? (That really should be a hashtag: #WWRFD) After he’s been left for dead for the better part of the 2013 season, here he is again. He’s proof to all of us that Grace Sampson was right in Season 4 of The Wire. “Wherever you go, there you are.” Could Federer salvage his season with a title? It’s not like he’s never conquered the English crowd. Rather, just because it’s his luck, I see a certain Spaniard taking him out.
-The contenders: Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic
In any other season, Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Djokovic would enter the event as co-favourites of sorts and current co-alpha males. To say nothing else, these two are the players I’m most confident in to reach the latter stages and maybe, just maybe, win the whole thing. Unfortunately, they’re in the group of death along with Federer (and Gasquet). They can beat anyone on Tour, and that includes the favourite. Djokovic, especially, is clinging to a very, very (very!) slim bid to finish the year ranked No. 1.
-The favourite: Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has conquered just about everything else in his path in 2013 on his way to the very best season of his illustrious career. I don’t see why the Barclays title wouldn’t be his either. We’re all living in Nadal’s world and we should be happy about it!
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
November 2, 2013
BNP PARIBAS MASTERS, Paris, France
(2) Novak Djokovic defeats (5) Roger Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; (3) David Ferrer defeats (1) Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-5.
November 1, 2013
BNP Paribas Masters, Paris, France
(5) Roger Federer defeats (4) Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 4-6, 6-3; (2) Novak Djokovic defeats (7) Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1, 6-4; (1) Rafael Nadal defeats (9) Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-1.
October 30, 2013
BNP PARIBAS MASTERS, Paris, France
(5) Roger Federer defeats Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4; (1) Rafael Nadal defeats Marcel Granollers 7-5, 7-5; (3) David Ferrer defeats Lukas Rosol 6-0, 2-6, 6-3; (4) Juan Martin Del Potro defeats Marin Cilic 6-4, 7-6(3); (15) Gilles Simon defeats Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3); (10) Milos Raonic defeats Robin Haase 6-3, 6-4; (12) Nicolas Almagro defeats Ivan Dodig 6-4, 6-3; (13) John Isner defeats Michal Przysiezny 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3; Philipp Kohlschreiber defeats (11) Tommy Haas 6-2, 6-2; (7) Stanislas Wawrinka defeats Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 6-3; (6) Tomas Berdych defeats Pablo Andujar 6-2, 7-5; Grigor Dimitrov defeats (16) Fabio Fognini 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.
October 30, 2013
FEDERER SET FOR 12TH CONSECUTIVE APPEARANCE AT BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS
LONDON – Roger Federer will look to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for a record seventh time after securing his place in the eight-man field at the season finale, to be held at The O2 in London from 4-11 November. The Swiss was guaranteed a place on Wednesday after beating Kevin Anderson in the BNP Paribas Masters second round in Paris.
The 32-year-old Federer is the most successful player to compete at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, compiling a 42-9 record and winning the title in 2003-04, 2006-07 and 2010-11. He finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in last year’s final. The Basel native has qualified for the 12th consecutive year, tying Ivan Lendl for the most successive appearances at the season finale. Andre Agassi holds the record for most non-consecutive appearances (14).
Federer joins Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych in the elite eight-man field. Home favourite Andy Murray also qualified, but was forced to withdraw from the event after undergoing back surgery.
“[It's] the absolute pinnacle of our sport,” Federer recently said of the tournament. “You want to be able to showcase your talents against the best, with the biggest rivalries, in one of the coolest arenas in the world in front of amazing fans. For me it’s always been an honour to play there and I look forward to returning this year.”
Federer opened his 2013 campaign with a semi-final showing at the Australian Open and in doing so became the first man to record 250 Grand Slam match wins. At Roland Garros he became just the fourth player in ATP World Tour history to record 900 match wins en route to reaching his 36th successive Grand Slam quarter-final.
Having finished runner-up to Nadal in the Internazional BNL d’Italia final in Rome in May, Federer won his first title of the season in June at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, defeating Mikhail Youzhny. Federer also finished runner-up to del Potro in the Swiss Indoors Basel final on Sunday.
Tournament Director, Andre Silva, said, “As a six-time champion Roger stands alone as the most decorated player in the history of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. He is enormously popular here in London, where he has also won seven Wimbledon titles, and we’re delighted to welcome him back to The O2.”
The Emirates ATP Race To London comes to a thrilling climax at this week’s BNP Paribas Masters in Paris-Bercy. Two singles and three doubles team berths remain up for grabs. Stanislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet currently hold the last two spots, but Milos Raonic is still in contention.
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: www.BarclaysATPWorldTourFinals.com.