Year-End Review – The First Quarter: Djokovic Still Reigns
by Ben Pronin | November 22nd, 2012, 12:58 am

At the end of 2011, Novak Djokovic reigned supreme. While a fatigue-plagued fall saw little of Djokovic and a lot of Roger Federer, there was no overwhelming question as to who the best player in the world was. How quickly things change.

The biggest questions coming out of 2011 were “will Djokovic be able to repeat,” “will Rafael Nadal ever stop losing to him,” and “is Roger Federer finished winning slams?” All three of these questions were answered in the first half of the year. While retaining his world number 1 ranking, Djokovic fell far short of repeating his magnificent 2011. While Nadal lost their first encounter of 2012, he went on to beat him three straight times after. And Federer extended his slam record (and even smashed the weeks at number 1 record as a nice bonus). But when 2012 started, it looked like little had changed from the previous year.

The Australian Open featured some of the best matches of the year. And Djokovic was a part of two of them. He beat Andy Murray in just under 5 hours in the semifinals before defending his title against Nadal in the longest slam final ever. So it really seemed like this was the new normal: Djokovic beating Nadal in every big final everywhere. After all, this was the third straight major final featuring the two and all three were won by Djokovic. But in hindsight, there were certainly some hints of Federer’s comeback and Murray’s rise.

Following the Australian Open, Murray avenged himself against Djokovic by handing the Serb his first loss of the year in Dubai. So going 41-0 to start the year for the second straight time was out of the equation immediately. But then Murray fell to Federer in the final. Insignificant at the time, but it turns out that this was only the beginning of the Federer-Murray show. Djokovic suffered his second loss of the year in Indian Wells, now 1/3 for title defenses. Meanwhile, Federer claimed his second straight Masters title and first in California since his best year, 2006. Not only did Federer win the title, but he beat Nadal rather handedly in a match few expected him to win.

In Miami, Federer was upset by Andy Roddick for only the third (and last) time. Meanwhile Nadal’s knee problems resurfaced and Djokovic became 2/4 in title defenses following a straight forward win over Murray in the final.

By this first portion of the year, the Big 4 each managed to feature in at least one big tournament final. Djokovic had the first slam of the year and a Masters title while Federer had Indian Wells and two smaller titles under his belt. But for the most part, there was still no question of who the number 1 was. Djokovic’s level, though not as high as in 2011, was still higher than everyone else’s. And yet looking back, we see that this parity in titles and finals made was a serious precursor. Djokovic retained his Australian Open title by grinding harder than probably anyone has ever had to grind before. And he ended up retaining his world number 1 by grinding away throughout the entire year. And while Nadal failed to win a title in the first few months, he made tremendous strides during the Australian Open final (which he really choked away).

The slams remained the Djokovic-Nadal show. But Murray and Federer were slowly nudging their way into the picture. Unfortunately, they would have to wait until after the clay season, during which the Djokovic-Nadal show took center stage for what may be the last time.

Also Check Out:
Federer, Serena Headed for Australian Open Titles Again?
Serena Williams, Azarenka, Yawn: US Open Women’s Preview
Murray Lands in Nadal Quarter; Federer v. Djokovic Possible Australian Open SF
Australian Open Women’s Preview: Serena, Sharapova, Yawn.
Roger Federer Was Training With Stefan Edberg Last Week In Dubai!

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61 Comments for Year-End Review – The First Quarter: Djokovic Still Reigns

Nims Says:

I believe different players peaked at different part of the season. On HC, it was Novak who was the best. Rafa was best on clay and Roger on Grass. Murry played great in the period between Wimby and USO.

Novak played his best post Olympics. Since the HC’s are the dominating surface, Novak ended the year as No 1, because of his supremacy on HC.

But Novak had shown clearly, that when he plays his best on HC, it’s almost impossible to beat him. His result on HC may not be similar to Nadal on clay, but his quality of tennis in HC is as good as Nadal’s on clay.

madmax Says:

Well Nims, it was very, very close at the WTF, final hard court tournament of the year, and when you look at the statistics, it could have gone either way. Like I said, 96 points to 95 points with two very close fought sets.

Of course, if Roger had pulled it off, would your opinion have changed? Roger has done exceptionally well regarding hard court tournaments throughout his career, and please correct me if I am wrong, but the hard court success that fed has had results in more wins than losses against Novak, so think that Roger should hold that “award”. Novak is my second favourite player as people will know and I think he is just brilliant. Love Novak. He certainly earned his place as world number one this year, but I do think he had a little help with Roger withdrawing from Paris. If he hadn’t, then the fight would have been on until the end of the WTF, at which point, it could have been fed with yet another WTF, 7 in total, Novak with 1 WTF in total, yet he has a whole host of other tournaments to his name for this year.

Of course, this is speculation but the facts were that Novak DID win the WTF, making it two hard court wins at this event, and Roger DID withdraw from Paris, therefore securing Novak’s number 1 position.

So, I can’t argue there.

The win loss ratio for hard courts though is:

Hard Court

R.Federer ) 10
N. Djokovic) 9
Hard Court (
N. Djokovic ) 9 10
Indoor Hard Court ( R. Federer ) 1 1
Indoor Hard Court ( N. Djokovic ) 1 1

I think overall though Nims, it’s pretty equal between them, but Novak certainly is the man of the moment and he has earned it.

Here is a link for you to check the hard court stats which will save me writing things out for you.

I think the best thing about this rivalry is that both Roger and Novak have played the same, if not 1 more match each than the fed/rafa rivalry. I will need to check this, but this is what is in my mind right now.

Tennis is great isn’t it? and the rivalries are just brilliant. Even the close rivalry which is emerging more between murray and novak has kept me and is keeping me on the edge of my seat!

Love tennis!

jamie Says:

Nims wrote:

“But Novak had shown clearly, that when he plays his best on HC, it’s almost impossible to beat him. His result on HC may not be similar to Nadal on clay, but his quality of tennis in HC is as good as Nadal’s on clay.”


Nole will end up with as many hardcourt slams as Nadal’s clay slams.


Nole 5 AO and 3 USO = 8 hardcourt slams

Nadal 8 RG

Nole will be as great at hc slams as Nadal on clay slams.

jamie Says:

Nole is going to win two more AO and two more USO.

Nadal will win one more RG.

Wog boy Says:

I just read on the other blog that Shanghai final has been declared best ATP match of the year.

Best GS match is yet to be declared.

Wog boy Says:


Very nice post indeed.
There is one thing that is confusing me with indoor stats. If YEC is considered indoor, then stats should be 2:1 in favour of Nole. They played two finals in Basel taking one each but where do we put YEC in London then?

mat4 Says:

I am usually a fan of Ben, but this post, once again, shows that numbers are the only things that remains, even of such dramatic season.

Everything is already forgotten: the impact of the AO final, who almost, just like the USO final a few months earlier, destroyed the finalists. The semi, where one lob on the line decided the winner. Fed’s ace on match point in the semi of Indian Wells. The human drama in the final of Roland Garros, when an overexcited Rafa shot the arbiter, and the match was interrupted despite Novak’s reasonable protests. The little roof game at Wimbledon, that gave a title to Roger, a left him without the other, perhaps more important. Andy’s tragedy with the English public, who appreciate him only when he wins for England, but booes him for being genuine and honest with himself. And there is much, much more — Isner’s rise and fall, Tsonga’s wanderings, Berdych’s feats and lost hopes…

In a situation where just of few points decided most of the important matches, the human drama, the emotions, the intangibles, everything is already forgotten.

volley Says:

this is a review of the first quarter of the year, RG and Wimbledon wouldn’t be in the picture yet.

Wog boy Says:


It must be very late or early morning where ever you are (2am?) :) you are forgiven!

mat4 Says:


It is not the first review that I read, and not the first year. It is “deja vu all over again”.

Why should I be forgiven? Because I write that the fight, the wrong calculations, the broken ambitions, the fulfilled dreams will be forgotten?

OK, let’s write only about the AO.

For me, there were many very important moments that revealed, in retrospection, the real state among the very top.

The first one was perhaps (but I write only about the matches I watched) the Djokovic Hewitt encounter. Djokovic, to quote Wilander, “threw a bone” to Hewitt, but suddenly, Leyton started to play much better and we could see that Djokovic confidence was just a mere mask hiding his deeply rotten self-doubts. He won, but revealed his inner fragility, and suddenly lost the consistency that made him unbeatable.

Then, the semis, so revealing: Roger finally playing the right plan against Rafa. But the beginning, so masterful, flamboyant, gave him the false impression that his usual risky game could pay off. So he played intermittently va banque and patience, and even then was just one step away of victory, one lob on the line, one inside out FH played too early.

The other semi was a roller-coaster between doubts, trepidation and self-belief. I wasn’t a question of tennis, but of emotions, of fear especially: when victory was imminent, Murray was assailed by his old daemons and once again started to play not to lose, when defeat was like a precipice in front of him, Djokovic finally left all prudence a went for his shots. A scenario that will repeat itself time and time again, except at the OG, with different results each time.

Many pundits wrote that the final was just a long match. But it was a great match, also, with a terrible drama unveiling with every shot, it was mostly a clash a will, of characters, just like the Wimbledon ’08 final. It was a defeat and a hidden victory for Rafa: he lost that final, but Djokovic, after so many fights, after another Pyrrhic victory, realized that it doesn’t matter how many times you knocked down the Spaniard, he will get up on his feet, and be resolved for another struggle.

madmax Says:

Wog boy Says:

Very nice post indeed.
There is one thing that is confusing me with indoor stats. If YEC is considered indoor, then stats should be 2:1 in favour of Nole. They played two finals in Basel taking one each but where do we put YEC in London then?

November 22nd, 2012 at 4:35 pm

The YEC, I take it you mean the WTF? I suppose what the statiticians are doing is differentiating between INDOOR hard courts and OUTDOOR hardcourts, so I would have to agree with you (I think?), that YEC is hard court, and therefore for this year, would give novak the edge? Right? But to be truthful, he has had the edge on a more consistent basis, this year, than anyone. I don’t think anyone can argue that. Even Roger has said that Novak is the best! I loved it, showing no hard feelings.

I think the way the rankings are right now reflect the two best players in the world, for real, if you see what I mean? Novak and Roger. The tournament wins don’t lie.

2013 should be a fight to the death I would think, true gladiator style. I know we have been spoilt with lots of tennis this year, with the addition of davis cup matches but moreso, the olympics, but already I have tennis withdrawal.

How can this be?

Wog boy Says:


“Forgiven” because I thought you didn’t realise it is about first quarter of the year and not entire year, not a big deal, fon’t get upset with me, please.

BTW, nice review and good insight, if I am allowed to say👍


Thanks for responding.

Yea, I meant WTF, but since English is my second language I am always worried to say something that dound like a bad word and WTF can sound like that. You are right I have withdrawal symptoms, but not for along, first tournament is coming very begining of January (Sydney) and then AO, I will be watching both:)

Wog boy Says:

“don’t” not “fon’t”

“sound” not “dound”

alison Says:

Tennis season is officialy closed,and what a great year its been,if your a fan of any one of the top 4,then you have every reason to be delighted with your favorites achievements this year,ive enjoyed posting on here,for the most part the comments have been great,the nasty trolls not so much,maybe these people can make a new years resolution to be a bit more pleasant,but personally i wont hold my breath,as i think the moderation could be better at times,and i very much doubt that i will ever agree with a certain lady poster but hell you cant have everything,maybe we should just duke it out and arm wrestle or mud wrestle,but never the less tennis is a fantastic sport,i love it and like everyone else im suffering withdrawal symptoms already,roll on the exos.

madmax Says:

Yep, Alison!

Don’t change. I suspect some of the ones who have had contratemps with you, won’t either. Their loss.

Exhos: I wonder whether there will be a link somewhere for Roger’s exho in South America? I think it might be a tricky one with tv companies getting the rights. Oh to be a fly on the wall at one of his appearances there!

If there is anyone from South America here who is going, perhaps they can be a roving reporter> Would be cool.

andrea Says:

i’m looking forward to 2013….i’d like to see roger and rafa play again off clay (cos we all know what happens there).

alison Says:

Thanks Madmax.

alison Says:

To all the nasty trolls who post on this forum during the year,please remember that it is only a game,by all means have your favorites,but its nice to respect and admire the achievements of other players however large or small,its a tennis forum not a war zone for goodness sake,theres enough hatred in the world without bringing it into sport.

mat4 Says:


Although I am myself a troll, it has been a tough year: almost everybody has been… how could I say… “trolled” a few times. It is very unpleasant, to say the least. I even thought not to post any more.

I remember I advised you not to react, and I did the opposite just a few days later. Can you believe that I was provoked by Jamie? Should revert to Trig — there’s no upgrade for my stupidity.

Wog boy Says:

As I thought, the best GS match is officially AO final, second best SF (Andy/Nole) and third best USO final, where ever you turn Nole is poping out, even from the fridge:)

jane Says:’s round table is a good read, for anyone interested.

alison Says:

Mat4 please dont ever stop posting,we need fair fans like you,i dont recall you saying anything nasty about any person or player,the only thing you ever are is objective,i even thought of doing a sabatical myself,but thanks to your good self,Wogboy and Harry i decided against it,why should we let people drive us away?you are right best just to ignore them,i suppose we all lose our tempers at times and say things we shouldnt,nobodys perfect eh.

courbon Says:

@jane-Thanks for a link

alison Says:

Yeah great link,sums everything up perfectly.

andrea Says:

jane – that is a great link.

i’m very curious about nadal and how much longer he will be around. about 18 months ago i posted that he seemed, of all the top players, the one who would get out of the game prematurely.

and it’s not just his playing style. his disposition towards tennis has always felt a little like a mental prison…which sounds very ominous, but i don’t mean it that way. he’s someone who comes from a storied sporting family, with high expectations, and he’s become the top of his sport. but unlike federer, the day in, day out life on tour isn’t something that he can slip into and be comfortable with it. he does it, but it doesn’t feel as effortless for him.

andrea Says:

for fun, here are my top 6 matches of 2012. not only are all of them great matches, but to me, symbolic; foreshadowing of things to come.

1) AO Final – i didn’t watch the entire thing (who has that much time?), but when nadal broke novak in the fifth set, everyone assumed he was the winner. that novak broke back and sealed the deal was unbelievable. nadal needed to prove something big time during this final and he came up short. funny moment: seeing both players fighting to stay standing during post match speeches that seemed to take forever. finally, someone had a heart and brought them both two chairs to sit in. i’ve never seen two players so exhausted.

2) Indian wells semi – fed and nadal have played so many times and the odds on fed winning this match were low, with most critics claiming that nadal was the superior outdoor player whose game could handle varying weather conditions better. so what happened? the conditions put nadal on his back foot and fed came out stronger than ever. this match makes my list not only cos it was a mentally strong performance that us fed fans always want to see from him against nadal but that they called a rain delay on match point! que the histrionics.

3) Roland Garros Final – with so much on the line, this match was appointment television. If novak won, he’d become the 7th male player to hold all grand slam titles but the first man in years to hold all four slams simultaneously…something neither roger or nadal could claim. if nadal won, a record breaking 7th title. the subtext that made it much more compelling: the nasty loss ratio nadal had against novak in finals. there was an air of ‘if nadal loses this, what does it all mean?’ we all know what happened, but it was an incredible fight for history.

4) 2nd Round Wimbledon – Rosol and Nadal. It’s already being called one of the major tennis upsets in history and with good cause. Watching this guy blow nadal off the court with never ending power shots was unreal. nadal has had his share of 5th set scares at wimbledon against big servers, but, unlike previous opponents, Rosol didn’t blink. but no one predicted this loss would mean no Nadal until 2013.

5) Wimbledon Final – with nadal out of the picture, murray made it to his first final with of course, no pressure. (ha, ha). it was going to be a 50/50 crowd – roger is revered at wimbledon, but andy was the home town hero with the first chance to win in decades. again, another historic match – first win by a brit in forever, or a 7th title for roger, along with the #1 ranking. despite a strong first set from murray, roger sealed the second set with a jaw dropping drop volley to end an epic rally and then broke andy in a very tight 20 minute service guy in the third set. that break became the match. andy showed some tear inducing emotion during the ceremony, while roger didn’t seem to know what emotion to show right after winning. after this win, it doesn’t really matter to me what roger does in the rest of his career. it always rankled me that he lost to soderling at the french open which put him 1 week shy of tying pete’s most weeks at #1. of all the records, this is the one i wanted him to beat. nicely done!

6) US Open Final – After a wrenching loss at wimbledon, murray came back to handily take out fed and win gold at the olympics. riding that wave, he made his way back to a GS final. Another long, windy match that had him and novak playing cautious extended rallies. when novak rallied to win the third set, i erroneously thought that murray was done and felt bad. after two sets up, to go on and lose in 5 would be mentally crushing. but he kept it together and finally won his first grand slam. yay for murray!

would love to hear everyone else’s faves…..

jane Says:

andrea, I love your list and reasoning too; those were all great matches for reasons you’ve identified. I found the Nadal/Fed semi to be a bit of a letdown as it was more one-sided than expected, but it definitely was a reversal in that, as you say, usually Rafa deals well with conditions. I remember him beating Andy M soundly in an IW windy final. But this year, the conditions got to him a little more than usual. Nole and Rafa had to deal with rain at both the Rome final and then the FO final.

Indeed “conditions” were a factor all year. In the AO final, there was a rain delay and a roof. In the FO final rain caused 2 delays, one overnight. At Wimbledon, the roof was a factor throughout, and everyone probably thought that the roof going up over Rafa and Rosol might’ve helped, but indeed it may’ve hindered, slowing Rafa’s momentum. And then at the USO it was both rain and wind. So yeah – tennis proves the environmental issues are real.

There were a few for me not on your list: the Andy/Nole semi at AO; the Nole/Fed WTF final; and the Andy/Nole final in Shanghai. LOL, that Nole won all of them, BUT these were all really close matched decided by a point here/point there, and all close enough to have gone either way – so nail-biting and exciting. I like how Andy, Nole and Fed stayed as consistent as ever to the very end of this year. That’s not always the case. Often that last stretch of the year, post-USO, is a period when one or two players stand out but the rest fade. This year those top guys were fighting. Not to mention that Delpo, Berdych, Tsonga and Ferrer all won titles too. So in the build up to WTF the top 8 looked strong.

I think my favourite set of the year was the second set of Nole/Delpo at the USO. It was so very tense! I mean, the crowd were standing and cheering at the end of that set, and J-Mac called it one of the great sets of tennis that he’s watched. It featured Delpo just rising to his best on the court where he won his biggest title, and blasting winners, while Nole just absorbing and fighting, refusing to buckle under all that power. It was fascinating in contrast and effort from both. I was pacing and jumping. It felt like if Delpo had won that set the match could’ve turned and who knows how long it would have gone. And then Delpo continued to build on that momentum through the rest of the year.

andrea you make interesting points about Rafa; he seemed a little jaded about tennis last year. But in a weird way this break might be just what he needed. It must have been renewing, and his ranking was secure enough that he’s fallen only to #4. So the draws won’t be too drastically affected on his return.

I am interested to see how the Lendl /Murray partnership continues. I think I agree with the bold prediction on – Andy will win Wimbledon. If I could wish for 2 things to happen for sure it would be that and Nole winning the FO – completing the career slam, and being the 3rd guy to do it in less than 5 years.

Bring on 2013 indeed!

jane Says:

Oh, and the Murray/Raonic match at the USO was fascinating in how Andy dismantled and taught Milos a lesson that even he, on the losing end, was amazed by. That was probably, imo, some of Andy’s best tennis in the year, aside from during the Olympics.

alison Says:

Thanks Giles nice link,if i had a wish for Rafa next season it would be that he has a year like in 2010,i dont mean winning 3 GS,i just mean an injury free year thats all,no unrealistic expectations im just greatfull for the small things,would love a WTF at some point before he hangs up his racket just to complete the set.

alison Says:

I dont know why Rafas passion for tennis keeps getting held into question,it gets tiresome at times,are these players expected to play at a superhuman level all the time?They have a tough loss at a tourney and the next thing people want to do is pack them off to retirement,let the players themselves choose when they wish to retire,honestly im begining to get an idea of how the Fed fans feel,Rafa has said many times on his website how much he loves tennis,and cannot wait to start playing again.

alison Says:

Andrea Rafa might not be as effortlessly talented as Roger,but he does the best he can with what hes got,none of us know how long either will be around,but for now let their fans enjoy them while they are still here,whatever our feelings our about them,no harm or foul just saying.

jane Says:

alison, I personally don’t question Rafa’s love of tennis, and don’t see him retiring soon, but last year he did say a few things that got people buzzing. One was that he was tired and thus was playing with a little less passion because of it. That’s why I think this injury break can be seen as a kind of silver lining in that he will have had the time to recharge his batteries, plus all that stuff about absence making the heart grow fonder. Like Wog boy, I think Rafa is going to come back stronger than ever in 2013. Just a hunch.

alison Says:

My top matches of the year,for what its worth,
1)USO Final,Murray/Nole.
2)FO Final,Rafa/Nole.
3)Wimbledon Final Murray/Roger.
4)WTF Semi Delpo/Roger.
5)Olymics Gold Medal Match Murray/Roger.All in no particular order.
Also loved the AO final but it was a bit too long imo,as well as Noles match,and Rogers matches at the Olympics,just my take.

alison Says:

Jane thanks i see what your saying,i dont know where Rafa goes from here only time will tell,thats not my issue really,i just get a bit a bit annoyed when people want to pack them off to retirement,when i just think its for the players themselves to decide when they want to retire,i will just be happy to see him playing again,my expectations dont exceed any furthur than that at the moment.

alison Says:

Have to say i loved Ferrer claiming his 1st masters title at Paris against Jersy Janowitz,likewise the JJmatch against Murray at the same tourney,to add to my favorite matches this year.

Wog boy Says:

One question, does anybody else has a problem with a format of TX in a last week or so or it is only my mobile, not talking about PC or iPad only mobile phones? Sometimes it can fit sometimes it cannot fit on the screen.

skeezer Says:

#2 and #5 by far re; matches. Remember vividly the hype of Rafa had “ownership” of Fed by Rafa fans on any court. After that match is was a “in your face” moment. Wimby solidified the GOAT status, and #1 again for Mr Roger Federer. A year to be remembered.

Now, individual sets? Mmmm….

Wog boy Says:


Let me guess … you are Federer fan?;)

Michael Says:

Novak is deservingly the No.1 player. I do not think there must be any doubt about it. He started the year well and ended it well. Also his consistency in the middle on all courts was awesome. Ofcourse he lost in many Clay court finals to Nadal but he did give him a fright of his life. I do not think Nadal was so desperate against any other play on Clay as he was against Novak. It was a dog’s fight there and Nadal proved that he was the better Clay court player. But this is reserved for Clay where Nadal has already proved he is the GREATEST. In the hard courts which is pre-dominant in Tennis, Novak was supreme. His tremendous fight back against Murray in the US Open finals was a revelation when he was fighting back to the wall with two sets down. Also, he made many finals in Masters series events and he lost some and won many. So, this is as far as Novak is concerned. For Roger, at 31, he is doing what he should not be doing at his age. He is still No.2 in the supposedly strongest era of Men’s Tennis and if there is any further testimony to his greatness, this is it. The icing on the cake for him was to beat Novak and Murray back to back at the premier event of Tennis. With this win, he proved his detractors wrong that he may not win another major in his career and he is still going strong. Coming to Murray, he had this breakthrough year which will always remain the highlight of his career. Winning US and Olympic Gold is an achievement to be treasured in your career and not many do it. The year 2012 however was a big disappointment to Nadal who yet again proved his supremacy on Clay, but in a shocking manner he lost to a stranger in Wimbledon and that too in five sets. After that loss, he is yet to arrive at the scene. All in all, it was a remarkable year for the creamy layer at the top except Nadal. 2013 is bound to get interesting with the arrival of Nadal and we do not know what is in store. If Novak continues his supremacy then he is on the verge of becoming a legend and equated with the likes of Roger and Nadal.

tennisfansince76 Says:

@Mat4 a poetic summing up of the tennis season that was.

Margot Says:

mat4 @6.57 on 22nd
Loved your summing up :)
For Andy fans this is a year to relish and won’t be forgotten any time soon.
For Nole fans the WHOLE of 2011 will be similarily remembered, I guess.
But yes, you are right, us tennis fans are already salivating at the thought of 2013, as memories of 2012 fade, especially the bad ones…. ;)

Dave Says:

Djokovic did not “still reign” by the end of the first quarter. At the end of first quarter 2012 (March 31), the ATP’s Race To London site ranked the following players according to year-to-date points:

1. Federer: 2,855 ytd points, three titles

2. Djokovic: 2,540 ytd points, one title

3. Nadal: 1,650 ytd points, zero title

4. Ferrer: 1,405 ytd points, three titles

5. Del Potro: 1,315 ytd points, one title

6. Murray: 1,280 ytd points, one title

Federer finished the points leader at the end of the first quarter (January 1 to March 31). In the first quarter, Djokovic and Nadal each reached only one final, which Djokovic won – the Australian Open 2000. Federer reached and won three finals (Indian Wells 1000, Dubai 500, Rotterdam 500). Murray reached three finals (won Brisbane 250).

Djokovic did not win Miami in the first quarter, which ended on March 31 — contrary to revisionist claims to inflate Djokovic’s results in the first quarter. Djokovic actually won the Miami final in April and his ranking points for Miami were awarded in April – in the second quarter.

What was impressive about Federer finishing leader in year-to-date points for the first quarter was that his focus was divided between the ATP Tour, Davis Cup and his ‘union leader’ duties. In February, Federer was the only Big Four player who played Davis Cup. Djokovic, Nadal and Murray all skipped Davis Cup ties in February (and the entire year) to focus on their ATP Tour goals. Furthermore, Federer devoted significant amount of time to performing his Player Council president duties (including negotiating increased Grand Slam prize money for all players) during major tournaments such as the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami.

By Dubai I had stated that “one thing is certain: Djokovic and Nadal now have more challengers who can threaten them moving forward” and explained that Federer could reclaim the No. 1 ranking even with one grand slam (see Sean’s article “Near Flawless Federer Masters Murray To Win Fifth Dubai Title).

“Nadal’s knee problems” did not resurface in Miami (end March) since he claimed four months later (August) that the supposed injury had resurfaced since February. But obviously Nadal’s knee injury was not serious in Indian Wells and Miami – Rafa played hardcourt doubles in both events, winning Indian Wells without dropping a set and playing two rounds in Miami (see link). If Nadal’s knee was really injured, it’s unlikely he would have risked further injury by playing so much hardcourt doubles. The “knee injury” became a convenient excuse to avoid a potential loss to Murray at the Miami semifinal, after a drubbing by Federer and near loss to Nalbandian at Indian Wells.

At the end of 2011, 24-year old Djokovic was hardly fatigue-plagued from playing only 76 matches the entire year (including just 11 matches after US Open). When Djokovic woke up the day after 2011 US Open final, he was already the year end No. 1 and laughed as he saw the latest rankings gap (Djokovic 14,720 and Nadal 10, 620). Thus, in fall 2011, Djokovic took his foot off the gas, trained less and became vulnerable to losses. And it’s probably not a coincidence that he lost matches whenever he was headed to a showdown with the hot Federer, as it preserved Novak’s head to head record with Roger. [In 2012, Federer returned the favor as he took his foot off the gas after winning Wimbledon and regaining the No. 1 ranking].

jane Says:

Perhaps Ben included Miami because it is hard court, too, and then the players and tour move to bigger clay-grass events thereafter? Just a thought…

alison Says:

Michael why is 2012 concidered a great year for all and a crappy year for Rafa?he lost to a journey man at Wimbledon yeah,so what it happens?and he wont be the 1st,Along side Roger he made history by winning a slam for a record 7th time,add to that he should have won the AO at the begining of the year,although granted Novak was the better player,or is it only concidered a sucessfull year because you dominate from start to finish?Bearing in mind that he has been injured for the second half of the year too,why is so hard for you to give him credit,you seem to always find a way of bringing whatever he does down,im sure Rafa fans are delighted with his achievements this year,and why shouldnt they be?

alison Says:

I dont know whats in store for Rafa next year,as a fan it will be great to just see him playing again,im not expecting instant immediate success,one step at a time,Andy made a breakthrough this year and i hope he can go on a build on from there,and Delpo has beaten Roger at the WTF,and Novak at the olympics so hopefully he is now back to his best,and can go on a make a run in a GS,the more the competition the better it is for the game.

Giles Says:

@Dave. Yaaaaawn!! #SameOld

Polo Says:

Each one of the top 4 had a good year. I will even add Ferrer who had so many wins and del Potro who started to show good form similar to his pre-surgery year. The ATP ranking looks just fine and very fair to me. I would not change the order. Djokovic did come out on top again. Congratulations to all of them.

alison Says:

Polo thanks great post,i dont agree it was a dissapointing year just because any one player had a dissapointing run at one point,the thing is they all had success at different points of the season in different ways,i just dont see why its so difficult for people to realize this,and to give them all credit?and as you say the rankings reflect that.

alison Says:

Actually David would have been the best player this year,as he won the most titles,just a shame that one of them was not a GS,as it stands hes the best player this year without winning a GS,shame really because of that he will not get the credit he so richly deserves(sigh),this guy has also had an amazing year,he won titles on all surfaces i believe?and people call all spaniards one dimensional CC specialists aswell,who knew?

Tootie Says:

I’m glad Novak is the World Number One; he is more likeable than the other high contenders even though he is still living in sin with his girlfriend. I pray for him. He will be a fine Christian one day.

skeezer Says:

Wog boy,

Who me, a Fed fan? Nahhhhh ;)


Fed posted on facebook doing ab work in the gym during his vacation. Whats this? Fed trying to get six pack? Maybe a statement for next year?

andrea Says:

alison, i don’t think roger is more effortlessly talented than nadal. my comment was about the tour not be being as effortless for nadal and his psyche….it seems to be more of a grind for him as opposed to someone like federer who seems to thrive travelling all over the world year in, year out. but that doesn’t call into question nadal’s love of the sport. i love playing tennis, but i don’t know if i’d want to spend 15 years travelling around the world playing it.

and my armchair psychology on how i think he views tennis life is based on observation only. as a tv producer, i am always fascinated by multi layered, complex characters and nadal is an interesting study.

andrea Says:

jane – yeah, i hope the break is what nadal needed. he definitely was bordering on burn out based on many of his comments in the past year.

alison Says:

Andrea fair enough sorry,no hard feelings,i get hold of the wrong end of the stick sometimes,i just find it tiresome when people just assume he should be packed off to retirement everytime the going gets a little tough,anyway hes stated on his website that he cant wait to start playing again,i dont know what will happen when he does return,the only thing i know is Rafas Rafa and will deffinetly give it his best shot,and thats all he can do,and the best of luck to him,apologies again.

Dave Says:

Jane: If Ben included Miami because it is hardcourt, then he is using the concept of surface season (not the concept of quarter – you can’t have it both ways). I have seen analysts use the loose concept of winter hardcourt-spring softcourt-summer hardcourt-fall hardcourt, though there are clay events in winter hardcourt and summer hardcourt.

ESPN also ran into the same problem when Greg Garber made the mistake of using the quarter concept in early April. If Ben uses the concept of quarters, then it is period based like fiscal quarters and should include only results officially achieved and awarded within that period. You can’t change the fixed dimensions of a quarter’s period just to fit in Djokovic’s ranking results from outside the quarter awarded on April 2. YTD rankings leaders: end of first quarter (Federer); end of second quarter (Nadal); end of third quarter (Djokovic); end of fourth quarter (Djokovic).


alison: The other way of looking at Nadal’s year is that he had the best first-half results based on 11 events played: he finished the first half of the season in the clear lead with year-to-date ranking points, won four titles from five finals, has best winning percentage (87%). Murray played 19 events yet has only about $700,000 more prize money and only about 1,200 points more than Nadal – yet several tennis tried to claim that Murray is player of the year. All things considered, Nadal did very well even though he took a break for half the season.

Several players did very well, in and outside of the Big Four.


Giles: You need to stop looking into a mirror before you yaaaaawn.

alison Says:

Thanks Dave for really proving my point,thats all i wanted and needed to hear.

alison Says:

Michael 11.29pm November 24th if you think Rafas year was a dissapointment then fair enough,your entitled to your opinion,but with all due respect you said that last year,even though he made all those finals,only losing to one player who was having a lights out type of year,and this year making 5 finals 2 of them slams,and beating his nemisis from last year 3 times,i just wonder why that you seem to use such distain when talking about his achievements?lucky in this match,lucky in that match,yet your two favorites are always unlucky,how about giving him credit for a change for actually been the better player,or is that too much to ask?Rafa fans get gentle reminders all the time about how one dimensional he is,yet clay is as much part of the season,as any other surface,yet his achievements get dismissed out of hand,which is rather unfair IMO,it was the same when Andy won the USO,you said he was lucky not to face Federer in the semis even though Federer lost to Berdych,im sorry your two favorites didnt dominate the full season winning the 4 slams between them,no harm or foul,but it would be nice to see all the players be given credit for their successes,however large or small,whatever your feelings are about them.

Polo Says:

How can a year where you have established the record for the most French Open singles titles, defended your title and beat a player who had beaten you the last 3 times you contested a slam finals be called a disappointing year?

Dave Says:

alison: And don’t forget that Rafa is the only top player with a positive H2H against Novak this year.

alison Says:

Thanks Dave and Polo,some others dont seem to see it that way though hmm.

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1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Roger Federer2 Maria Sharapova
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