Sunday, 6 April 2014

How are the top men travelling since Melbourne?

The first Grand Slam tournament of each year potentially can catch some players relatively underprepared, and results from the two weeks in Melbourne and indeed the lead in events, may not necessarily represent a true indication of where things will be a few months down the track.
So it is useful to trace the results of the top ranked players as at the conclusion of the Australian Open, now that we have reached April.  Let's start with the Top 3 which has remained the same since the party left Australia.

Starting at the top, Rafa Nadal has won in Rio, not having to play anyone ranked higher than 40 in so doing.  His other two starts were in the US hard court Masters events at Indian Wells where he lost in the third round to the man he beat in the Rio final (Dolgopolov) and Miami where Djokovic had his measure in the final.  So 10-2 since losing the Aus Open final is reasonable form, enough to comfortably retain the number one ranking coming into the clay season, which he owns.

Novak Djokovic lost in the quarters in Melbourne, the earliest exit from a major for him since he lost the 2010 quarter final at Roland Garros.  Roger Federer defeated him in the Dubai semis in three sets, but the two big events have both been pocketed by Djokovic, first avenging the Dubai loss by knocking over Federer in the Indian Wells final, and then taking Nadal to the cleaners in Miami.  12-1 since Melbourne, and despite the disappointment in Australia, Djokovic leads the years points race from Nadal, and most expect him to be Rafa's only serious challenger at Roland Garros this year.

The winner of the first major for 2014 was Stanislas Wawrinka, and that shot him to number three in the world.  The expected momentum from that success has not occurred, with only a 5-2 record in matches since - one in a Davis Cup tie.  Wawrinka has lost in the fourth round of both Masters tournaments, in Indian Wells to Kevin Anderson and in Miami to Alexander Dolgopolov, who has made a mark himself with wins over Nadal, Wawrinka and Ferrer post Melbourne to jump from 53 to 22 in the world.

With the top two doing as one would expect, and the number three faltering somewhat,  it looks again a match in two for much of 2014.  The only possible spoiler currently appears to be Federer but the gap is very large.