Prospects for the top quartet in 2013
The 2012 tennis year ended with Novak Djokovic atop the world rankings after his victory against Andy Murray at the ATP Masters at Greenwich in November. Nadal was incapacitated through injury and Federer’s star was seen to be on the wane. Most of the pundits at the time were painting a scenario of a professional tour dominated by an ongoing struggle between Djokovic and Murray, a new order in the game to replace the four-way competition that preceded it.
Then in the early weeks of 2013, Nadal confounds those very pundits by surging back with impressive wins at Sao Paulo and in Mexico, signalling his return to top form. Roger Federer, it must be remembered, is only 31 years of age and for anyone at this stage to write off a player of his calibre and pedigree is clearly foolhardy. In this light, the suggestion that the top of the ATP Tour is set to be a two-horse race for the foreseeable future may be a miscalculation.
Hierarchies have a habit of being assailed and collapsing, so there is nothing sacrosanct about the makeup of the Top Quartet or the Top Two. At the top of the Men’s tour are the likes of Tsonga, Berdych, Tomic, Ferrer, del Potro and a few others who could in time give the top elite a run for their money and eventually succeed them. There is no ‘supernova’ currently in evidence or on the horizon yet to shake up the top of the game and the challenge to Djokovic et al is only likely to come from those aforementioned players already embedded in the Tour. As Nadal proved some years ago, ‘supernovas’ come out of the blue without warning. Maybe there is some raw, unnoticed talent in some US collegiate programme at the moment plotting his assault on the citadels of power. Those who write off the US do so at their peril (despite the current dearth of top talent emerging there).
The first big test of 2013, the Australian in January which saw Djokovic seeing off Murray, tended to reinforce the view that the struggle at the top in 2013 was likely to be two-way. There is a neat similarity between Djokovic and Murray which is further reinforced by their similar age (25), the fact that both emerged from the shadows of Federer and Nadal and that the tennis world likes to see things in head-to-head gladiatorial terms. This scenario, however, was pre-Sao Paolo/Mexico and of course, we still have the series of events running up to the next major at Roland Garros in May and the subsequent big tests at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow which will define the balance sheet for the year. Grand Slams have their own dynamic and logic which can either make or break reputations.
One cannot deny the fact that Djokovic stands aloft at the top of the game, particularly after his several impressive victories over Murray and Federer. On present form, this dominance is most likely to continue. Djokovic’s game is so overpowering and razor-sharp that it would take a monumental effort of any of his of adversaries to topple him from his perch at the moment. As the ‘top dog’, however, he is the player they all want to beat and this must provide its own pressures (not just for Djokovic, but also for his adversaries). He may not have the charisma of Federer or Nadal, but he is the man in pole position at the moment. That said, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the next two Grand Slams – Roland Garros which Rafa has made his own and Wimbledon which in the past has provided the platform for Federer at his most majestic and which is now also Murray’s home turf. The rest of 2013 should be very interesting.
Paul McElhinney March 2013
Date published :
05 Mar 2013 - 10:08:57