Unpredictability in Men’s Tennis despite Dominant Big Four
No matter what the results, March is a great month for tennis fans. With only one big event (Australian Open) in the first two months of the year, March is a real treat with the two biggest Masters events back to back. Barely half a week has passed since Ivan Ljubicic clinched the biggest title of his career and someone else may have began their journey for a glorious victory.
I made a bunch of, what now look like, wild predictions for Indian Wells. Rather than looking like a fool again, I want to discuss the unpredictability that has become a common trend on the ATP Tour.
That’s right, the ATP is in a state of unpredictability. That isn’t to say it’s in utter chaos, but the order isn’t as established as it was two or three years ago. Another important thing to note is that the slams are a true exception to this whole idea. For the last 7 years, Roger Federer has utterly dominated the majors. And Rafael Nadal has been a close second, even usurping the Swiss for roughly a year in dominance. But their reign outside the slams has slowly but surely diminished. To say that they’ll never win another Masters would be just plain dumb. They’ve won a combined 31 Masters and are second and third behind Andre Agassi on the all-time number of Masters list.
Nowadays, a large number of Federer fans claim that Federer only cares about the slams and the Masters mean nothing to him. I don’t agree with that at all but it’s not a far fetched thought and Federer has done a pretty good job of convincing people with the results he’s posted. And it all started way back in 2007. From 2005-06, Federer accomplished one of the hardest feats in tennis, he won Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back. In 07, he lost to Guillermo Canas in both events. Then he lost to Filippo Volandri in Rome the same year. He was always losing to Nadal on the clay events but then on hard courts he lost to Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian. That same year, he won three of the four majors and reached the final at the French Open. Overall, it was still a Federer-dominated year.
So what does that leave us? Djokovic and Andy Murray look like they’re picking up the left overs, but they only have five and four respectively. That’s more than three times less than the Federer and Nadal total. US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro has one Masters final in his career. Just one. And it was a loss, too.
I did say this began in 07 so let’s look at the champions from 07-09. There were 27 Masters events. Federer and Nadal won 13 of them, Djokovic and Murray won nine, and there were three other champions: Nalbandian(2), Nikolay Davydenko(2), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(1). Like I said before, the tour isn’t in any kind of chaos, but things are unpredictable. So far it’s been mainly a tussle between the top four players, hence the term the “Big Four.”
But all of the sudden, in 2010, Ljubicic cranks out his first Masters at the age of 31. Who saw that one coming? Not even Ljubicic. Marin Cilic, the next great and much younger Croat, fell in the second round when many pegged him to win the whole thing. I picked a tired Djokovic, others picked a resurgent Nadal, some even thought the recently-sick Federer would win.
My point in all of this is that it seems like, more and more, people are simply picking their favorites to win these events because there is almost no other way of picking a legitimate winner. Federer fans pick Federer for obvious reasons. Djokovic fans pick him because he’s “due for a big one”. Nadal fans are waiting for a return to “08 form”. Everyone has something. But for all we know, Taylor Dent’s about to have the greatest tournament of his life. And I think occurrences like that will become more and more possible for the lower tiers. But if we were to end up with a Federer-Nadal final, would predicting the outcome become any easier than it is now?
As a Djokovic fan, I picked him to win in my challenge bracket. However, if I have to make a legitimate pick, I think the defending champ, Murray, will win his fifth Masters title and fuel the argument against me.
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