Saturday, 26 November 2011

ATP Silly Season

It's as if November has decided to ignore all that happened before it in 2011, and serve up a series of results in Mens tennis which are not fulfilling the script for a fitting finale, especially for Novak Djokovic, who should only be remembered for his outstanding year.

Yes it is cool that the Swiss maestro is wielding his wand with vintage precision and power, effectively turning back the clock to his days of dominance.  However, Novak came out of the US Open with 3 Grand Slam titles for the year and only 2 match losses.  After losing a Davis Cup match to Del Potro, he has lost a semi final in Basel, and now gone down to Ferrer and Tipsarevic in successive round robin matches at the season ending Masters Cup in London.

Hopefully, the lasting memory of London will be the Wimbledon triumph and not this unfortunate postscript to a stellar period in the career of a great champion.

The brave but vanquished opponent in the terrific Wimbledon final was of course Rafa Nadal, who captured the only Grand Slam title of 2011 missed by Djokovic on the clay of Roland Garros.

His part in the Barclays circus has been embarrassing by the Spaniard's lofty standards - a struggling win against Mardy Fish followed by a thrashing at the hands of Federer, and another loss, this time to Tsonga.
Rafa has clearly been the second best player in the world this year but has failed to make the semis of what should be a show piece of the best in mens' tennis to finish off the year.

Andy Murray has put in some wonderful work and finally achieved some consistent results to overtake Roger Federer in the rankings - his injury during the Barclays forced him to retire from the event and now will seemingly be destined to slip back to 4 in the world.

I am happy that David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Janko Tipsarevic are playing some top tennis - it potentially adds some badly needed depth to the elite level of the game.
Unless Ferrer beats Berdych, we will have the top 3 players in the world not even in the last 4 of the Masters Cup.

However I question how real that increased depth actually is.   Murray being injured is an unfortunate outcome and uncontrollable.  And the top 2 - Rafa and Novak - are far and away the best players of 2011, and all things being equal would be fighting off either for this title or at least comfortably at the semi final stage.

I am unhappy that this season seems to have taken its toll on Nadal and Djokovic - the demands of the schedule may have something to do with it, but I think the players themselves should take responsibility for their own welfare, and be smarter about working to the calendar.  Federer is a good example - he is firing better at the very end of the year.  Instead of throwing around threats of possible player strikes and other protest action, all players should just plan better and reduce the risk of wear and tear on their bodies.

I am prepared to dismiss any failures recorded against Nadal and Djokovic in the last part of this season as exceptions in a year which both players have given us tennis of a standard rarely seen by our generation, and if we are to believe older and wiser scribes, generations past.