Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Change of Momentum?

Men's tennis is in a major transition period due to the unexpected but well deserved rise of Novak Djokovic to the top of the rankings. No one would have expected Novak to win 3 Grandslams at the start of this year. In 2010, Nadal won 3 Grand slams and Federer won 1 Grand slam and the ATP tour finals. I was among those who felt that the Federer-Nadal rivalry will continue in 2011.  This Djokovic era has certainly made following tennis even more exciting.

Djokovic has raised his level of tennis from the Australian open and has never reduced the intensity. This probably took both Federer and Nadal off guard. Djokovic's winning run made them rethink their strategy as both used to dismiss of Djokovic quite easily over the past 4 years or so. The only major loss in a completed match for Djokovic was against Federer in the French open semi finals. It was more due to the exceedingly better performance of Federer that day than anything else. I never thought Djokovic would perform this well in clay even though he lost the match.

Apart from that, Djokovic has dismissed Nadal in all the matches of 2011 including the finals in Wimbledon and US open (on all surfaces). Nadal probably does not have any answer at present to the constantly improving tennis of Djokovic. Even Federer was never beaten by Nadal this consistently over the years. Only man to come close to challenging Djokovic this year was Federer. Federer should have won the US open semi final match having held 2 match points on his own serve. However, Djokovic has slowly imbibed the habit of rising from any position to win matches which is the hallmark of any true champion. Unfortunately, Federer and Nadal are at the receiving end now.

ATP tour finals is just about two months away. Top 4 (Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Murray) have already qualified. Djokovic goes in as a clear favorite in spite of his recent injury woes which made him retire against Murray and Del Potro. Federer has always been a man to beat at ATP tour finals having won the year end tournament five times. Further, he is a defending champion this year. I expect a strong battle between Djokovic and Federer in this year's event. Nadal can never been discounted as he has simply been outplayed by Djokovic. Nadal beat Federer in French open finals and is surely a worthy contender for the title.

The real test for Djokovic will start from Australian open next year as he will have considerable points to defend over the entire year. Federer and Nadal have done it consistently in the past and are therefore hailed as all time greats of tennis. One needs to wait and see if Djokovic also has that extra will power to thump others consistently to stick to his top ranking. Early signs show that he indeed has that capability to raise to the occasion.

The arrival of Djokovic as world number one is a welcome sign for Tennis. We will be treated with some more exciting matches in ATP tour finals and Grand slams in 2012 with Djokovic-Federer-Nadal trio trying to outperform each other. Murray might also spring a few surprises if he plays up to his full capacity. Even though I am a Federer fan, my heart says that Djokovic will most probably keep others at bay to continue his reign at the top in 2012 as well.