2008 – What’s in store? More Federer Domination?
by Abe Kuijl | December 31st, 2007, 5:46 pm

Before we’ve even headed into the new year, the ATP and WTA Tour have already begun the 2008 tennis season. The men are spread out over 3 events (Doha, Chennai, Adelaide) and the women feature in two small tourneys down under (Auckland, Gold Coast). Five tournaments have gone underway before we’ve officially hit 2008. Where else than in tennis?

I got an automated e-mail from Eurosport this morning alerting me about their first tennis broadcast of the new season. December 31, 12:30 CET: ATP Doha (Day 1). I feel a slight rush. A brand new tennis year is about to start. I turned on my TV during lunch and there it was: live tennis. The first match of the season? Igor Andreev vs Thomas Johansson. Hardly an encounter to get excited about, but after a one-month drought of watching tennis, the mere sight of seeing that little yellow ball fly over the net again becomes a treat. We all know that tennis has too short an off-season, but for me, a month is all it takes to get my batteries reloaded. I am refreshed. Now we’ll see if the players can say the same thing.

Roger Federer is still enjoying some time off, but Rafael Nadal is already back in action, playing in Chennai. In 2007, he lost in the semifinal to Xavier Malisse, who went on to win the tournament before running into a long-term injury. The X-man returns to India trying to get back to the Top 30 in 2008. Novak Djokovic is not defending his title in Adelaide, the Serb is playing the Hopman Cup alongside Jelena Jankovic. Serena Williams is also playing the team event. The other elite women are laying low for opening week.

So with the new season now officially on its way, what can we expect from the Olympic year? Here’s a look at the men’s game. I’ll have a post on the ladies tomorrow.

The top dogs
Federer, Nadal, Djokovic

All eyes will be on Roger Federer again in 2008, as he aims to complete his career Grand Slam at Roland Garros, win a record sixth-straight Wimbledon and claim his first Olympic Gold medal. Oh, and there’s that record Pete owns. Federer needs two Slams in ’08 to tie Sampras’ 14 majors, and will surpass him if he equals the performance of his last two years, in which he won 3 big ones each. I think at the end of the year, we’ll have a tie between Fed and the Pistol. Then there’s Rafael Nadal. Does he, or does he not have a chronic foot injury? He does have at least a couple other chronic problems: failing to win a major outside of clay and flunking the second half of the season. 2008 will be make or break time for Rafa, as he needs to find a way to beat Federer at a Slam outside of Paris and meanwhile has to fend off the challenges of players coming up behind him.

That brings us to Novak Djokovic. The Djoker was seriously burned out at the end of ’07 after a career year and now starts a season where people will expect big results at every event from the No. 3 player. Can Djokovic cope with the pressure of having to defend his performances from last season, and become a true contender for the top spot? Nole has a great desire to be the best and always believes he can win, no matter who he plays. This is a champion’s attitude, and it’ll win him big trophies in the future. It just might start in 2008.

Young ones to watch
Murray, Monfils, Del Potro, Gulbis

Andy Murray finished 2007 ranked No. 11 without winning a single match on clay and missing Wimbledon. Whether or not his split with Brad Gilbert was a good move remains to be seen, but if he stays injury-free, Murray should be a lock for a Top 5 position. The Scot has a similar belief in his game as Djokovic has, but he has to learn how to control his anger and not let matches slip away too easily. Sometimes he doesn’t focus enough. When he does, he’ll be a threat to the Top 3.

Gael Monfils will be 22 years old in September. He reached a career high ranking of 23 last year, but has the potential to become a Top 5 player. I’ve always considered Monfils to be more talented than his countryman Richard Gasquet, but injuries and a lack of smartness on court have held the crowd-pleaser back.

Juan Martin Del Potro ended 2006 as No. 92 and moved up almost 50 spots to No. 44. The 19-year-old Argentine needs to learn how to play the big points and get more out of his monster serve and he’ll be a lock for the Top 20.

Best remembered for his 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 trouncing of Tommy Robredo at the US Open, Ernests Gulbis moved up nearly 100 positions in 2007 to No. 46 before falling back to his current No. 61. The Latvian has the ability to completely outhit an opponent, which he did against Robredo, but he hasn’t won too many matches at the big events yet. Will have to follow up his US Open run in 2008 and reach a consistent level.

The veterans

Roddick, Davydenko, Gonzalez, Haas, Ljubicic, …

Believe it or not, Andy Roddick has become a veteran at the age of 25. He has now won a Grand Slam, reached two Wimbledon finals and brought the Davis Cup back to the States. He actually finished as year-end No.1 once. That’s a very respectable record, though we all know he will never become an all-time American great. Or it would have to be because of his Davis Cup performances if he wins it a few more times. Roddick has gotten the most out of his career so far. He just doesn’t come close to matching Federer for talent and that is why he gets slapped in the face every time he faces the Swiss. Credit the Rod for trying though, he always fires himself up before facing Federer and says he believes he can win.

Roddick will probably never win another Slam. I don’t see him returning to the Top 3, either. Comparing Roddick to these other veterans, it’s actually quite unfair to list Andy among the Davydenkos, Gonzalezes and Ljubicices of this world. Neither of them owns a single major. However, Roddick is not much more of a threat at the Slams these days than Davydenko, Gonzalez or Blake. Sure he might be a dark horse at Wimbledon, but to win the event? Roddick has been surpassed by Djokovic and Andy Murray will probably be next. Neither of the veterans will be Grand Slam favorites in 2008. Most of them will decline.

The wild cards
Nalbandian, Hewitt, Ferrer

Everybody loves David Nalbandian. Everybody hates him too. His jawdropping backhands, his inexplicable losses. The Argentine is like a South-American version of Marat Safin, but where the Russian is no longer a potential Top-5 player, Nalbandian could still rank among the best. After his whopping end to 2007, all eyes will be on Nalby to see if he can finally win his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne. It just might be that for Nalbandian his best years are still ahead of him.

The latter can definitely not be said for Lleyton Hewitt. Rusty will never be the No. 1 player in the world again, and his chances of winning another major are almost non-existent, too. However, I do believe that if Hewitt doesn’t run into more injury problems, he’ll return to the Top 10 this year.

To round off this post, let’s not forget about David Ferrer. Were it not for his excellent year-end performances, the Spaniard would hover in the veterans group. However, with his semifinal showing at the US Open and of course his first big final at the Masters Cup, Ferrer has become a player to watch for 2008. How far can this grinding warrior go? I find it hard to believe that Ferrer will end the year as high as his current No. 5 ranking. But he has suddenly proven to himself that he can beat the top players and his confidence level is now higher than ever. Who knows, we may be in for two dazzling David’s this coming year.

Happy new year everyone. And here’s to a great tennis season.

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23 Comments for 2008 – What’s in store? More Federer Domination?

Voicemale Says:

Happy New Year all!

I predict Federer will not dominate like he has in the last 4 years, based on how he accomplished what he did last year. The Australian Open was Dominant Federer, winning all 21 sets. The other three Grand Slams were not Federer dominance but more accurately described as Federer Escapes. When you add in the losses to Canas, Volandri (that one still mystifies), Nalbandian, etc., the Dominant Federer will have a tougher time being Dominant (having said that, he’ll still win and dazzle – just not as often).

Federer was lucky to even BE in the ’07 French Open Final. Davydenko had his foot on Fed’s throat in their Semi, but as often happens with Kolya – he doesn’t truly believe he belongs on the biggest stages of tennis at the biggest moments. He choked away what should have been a straight set win & made it a straight set loss. Wimbledon ’07 will be remembered more as the match Nadal lost, squandering important opportunities in the 3rd, and then finally the knee blowing out in the 5th. Likewise the US Open – it’ll will be more remembered for the 7 Set Points squandered by Djokovic to lead by 2 sets, forcing Federer to look at winning in five (not Fed’s best stat – he’s a mere 10 for 20 in the fifth set). My gut says Federer can’t count on these guy’s mental & physical maladies again in 2008. Fed gets one Major in 2008, not three, and I predict further it won’t be either the French or Wimbledon (I doubt he’ll even get to the Final of the French).

Predict Nadal will hit #1 for a brief time in 2008. Agree about Djokovic – he’ll face the pressure of defending the points he spent time racking up last year, and have to do so over a LONG calendar period. Nole has Semi Final or better points to defend from January – October (most on hard courts where many more guys can threaten him). Thats’ a LONG haul of Deep Showings to keep what he’s got. If he was burned out at the end of ’07, then he’ll need to find spots to make up for what he’d lose along the way. Nalbandian was sublime, but no more excuses. He MUST show us something wonderful at this years Australian.

RaaR Says:


Djokovic didn’t have set points to lead by 2 sets in the US Open final because he actually lost all three sets. The match ended 7-6(4) 7-6(2) 6-4.

Skorocel Says:

Voicemale, Roger wasn’t lucky to be in the FO final at all! The biggest problem for Davydenko was (and still is) that he simply CAN’T beat the Swiss… He’s 0:11 vs Fed if I remember – and that’s not a fluke! Don’t even think it would’ve been a STRAIGHT SET WIN! The same about the US Open final vs Djoker… Let’s be honest, had Roger lost the 1st set, the most likely scenario would be that he would go on to win the next 3. Of course, that’s only a theory, since Roger WON IN 3…

angel Says:

voicemale hahaha you are really funny please come on Federer is the greatest of all times I don’t know how many times I’ve listen to stupid people like you saying that the end of Federer is close well after so many time waiting for that to happen I guess the only thing I can tell you is ‘we’ll have to see about that’ ah and other thing leave the envy away it’s very bad for your health you know take care

Harlock Says:

So – who’s number 3?

pete Says:

Federer may break. Four years at #1, 13 Slam finals out of 16, winning 11 of those, is a tremendous drain. The proof of that is that Nadal crumbles after 3 Slam titles and one final, Nalbandian crumbles most of the time and has never gotten to a final, Djokovic falls apart at the end of the year, not having won a Slam. Bets remain on Federer because he is the only player with the skill, mental and physical toughness to endure. If he breaks, as he well may, the other guys will share the spoils.

Richard Says:

Other than Gulbis, most of the “young guns” are pretty crap. Seriously, Monfils and Del Potro? Russia’s Korolev is better than the both of them combined. I’ll take Sam Querrey over Monfils as well.

I also take it that Gasquet will finish the year ahead of Murray, and of course Monfils, who will have trouble winning back to back matches.

Gulbis is impressive. I like his Top 5 chances.

JCF Says:

I can’t wait to see what Nalbandian does this year. Injury not-withstanding, the end of 2007 looked very promising for him. If he can maintain his form, he’s going to be a very exciting one to look forward to. Let’s just hope the off season hasn’t mellowed the momentum he built at the end of 07. You’ve got to think he just might have won Shanghai if only he’d qualified for it. If he was in the group with Nadal and Djokovic, I think he would have finished first place in that group.

JCF Says:

“The proof of that is that Nadal crumbles after 3 Slam titles and one final, Nalbandian crumbles most of the time and has never gotten to a final”

Your stats are a bit iffy. Nadal made 2 runner ups at Wimbledon in the last 2 years. Nalbandian himself made a Wimbledon final in 2002.

Von Says:

Nalbandian won the TMC in ’05.

Had it not been for the crummy weather at Wimbledon,rain every day, Nadal probably would have won Wimbledon ’07. Due to the scheduling of the matches Federer did not have to play for one week. He was very rested for the final. Nadal, meanwhile, had to prepare to play nearly everyday. I remember when Nadal came out one day after the rainout of his match the previous day, Mary Carillo was laughing and said “these guys are going to lose it.” Some days he had to be at the site all day, which means that he did not have every other day off. As a result of that problem, he was drained when he got to the final. It seems that Federer has more lives than a cat.

In view of what happened to both Nadal and Novak (the burn out at the end of the year)they need to do better with the scheduling of the tournaments they play, or else,the bottom will fall out and the Nos. 2 and 3 spots in the ranking will be up for grabs.

Djokovic is playing Hopman cup this week, and already had an injury timeout, added to the fact that he was having breathing problems. I don’t think Ferrer will be at the No. 5 spot for very long, like Nadal, his game is too physical. He is like a pit bull. The top 5 now has a raging bull and a pit bull. Ole’.

Henin Says:

“Gael Monfils will be 22 years old in September. He reached a career high ranking of 23 last year, but has the potential to become a Top 5 player. I’ve always considered Monfils to be more talented than his countryman Richard Gasquet, but injuries and a lack of smartness on court have held the crowd-pleaser back.”

Are we talking about the same Gael Monfils? Mr. Kuijl, saying Monfils is more talented than Gasquet will bring into question your knowledge about the game of tennis… That must be a joke !

Monfils is rubbish,this no: 23 is the highest he can get… But for Gasquet, i expect a breakthru year, i expect a GS final from him and that can well be in Aussie Open.

Could you explain why do you consider Monfils is more talented than Gasquet?

Gasquet and Monfils are of the same age and let’s compare what they have achieved so far.

Gasquet reached Wimbledon SF, has won tournaments in each surface, once took down the Great Fed and, joined the top 10, qualified for the TMC and he’s still heavily critisized…Do you think why? Cuz of his enormous talent. He’s featured in a tennis mag’s cover in France when he was just 9 years old as the wonderkid and people,espically French tennis expect him to bulldoze everyone he plays and these expectations are so high on him for ages, the young man ” underperformed” so far mostly because of the gigantic pressure on his shoulders.

Gasquet has all the shots, he can play in all surfaces, he’s so fluid in his strokes in both wings and esthetic, he has maybe the best backhand of all times in men’s tennis and yet he’s dubbed as “less talented” than an ordinary Monfils? Don’t make me laugh…

Abe Kuijl Says:

Henin. Gasquet’s backhand is one of the best in the game, but I rate Monfils’ serve and forehand a lot better.

Gasquet has always been a very talented player, but time and time again he has shown he is not a great match player. He has been insanely hyped, which is of course a big burden, but that’s no reason not to show any heart in your matches. I considered his win over Roddick at Wimbledon a breakthrough performance, but so far, I have been wrong in that assumption. He didn’t follow it up.

Of course there are a million things you can say about Monfils, but there is not a shot this guy doesn’t possess. He is as athletic a player as they come by and has massive potential. It’s a matter of whether he truly wants it. With Monfils, it seems he’d rather lose a match but please the crowd, than win it ugly. Monfils needs to start thinking about how to win a match, not how to hit the most insane winner of a tournament. He’s also getting tons of injuries from all those crazy moves he makes.

There’s still time to set it straight, but he’ll have to start making some transitions in his head soon.

jane Says:

I think Abe’s right about Gasquet – not in that he’s less talented than Monfils, but in the sense that talent alone won’t make a champion out of him. Peter Bodo wrote an interesting piece on “Will vs Skill” players in last month’s Tennis magazine, in which he pointed out Gasquet’s lame exit from the USO. Sure Gasquet broke through at Wimbledon, but I think he’s got to demonstrate more desire or will to win a slam.

I have high hopes for Murray this year; although he’s another guy whose head sometimes gets in the way (but which also helps him a lot too – a very smart player on the court), he’s got the desire to win. I wonder if parting with Gilbert will have been a good thing though?

Nadal and Djok are a bit of a mystery to me. Obviously both are excellent players, but they were weary at TMC. Nadal swears his foot is fine and that, contrary to what most pundits think, his game is not “only physical,” but that he’s changed his style to shorten points. I’ll be watching at the AO to see if this is true. He’ll need to play his aggressive tennis to do well, no? Djokovic will also need to shorten his matches to have another successful season and defend points, as Voicemail points out.

I don’t know what to expect from Roddick, except that he’ll be there giving it his all. Will Jimmy be with him though? There seems to be speculation about this. And as for Americans in general, what about Donald Young? Although he’s not T-A-L-L like Querry or Isner (and other non-Americans), he’s got a nice all-round game: good off both wings, able to come in, fast around the court, & a decent serve. Maybe he’ll climb even further this year.

There’s definitely lots to look forward to.

Henin Says:

Well, first i have to say it’s a totally different subject if we swtich to matchplay from talent. I’d not protest if you were to say that for example Murray is a “better” player than Gasquet… I don’t think there are many out there to match the potential that Gasquet has but obviously there are better players on the circuit ( not Monfils in millions of worlds) cuz in sports, tennis in particular, there are tons of other factors that come into play in the equation of success. Being a talented player and being a good player is totally different and that’s not a big invention to say that. But claiming Monfils a more talented player than Gasquet, you need a bit more than saying he has a better serve and forehand…

Here are the year end serve stats of Gasquet (185 cm) and Monfils (193 cm)


1st serve : %57
1st serve pts won : %75
2nd serve pts won : %52
Service games won : %81
Service points won: %65


1st serve : %62
1st serve pts won : %74
2nd serve pts won : %54
Service games won : %82
Service points won: %66

Gasquet got these stats in 73 matches, participating in bigger tournies, facing better opponents as well. Monfils got that numbers in his 42 matches, equally won and lost…

Monfils is injury prone cuz he hates training. He’s rather athletic that’s true but in tennis, you need different qualities to be succesful, not the athletisism of a basketball player. You must be light on your feet, quick, balanced etc and Monfils doesn’t have any of the above.

I can write down millions of other facts but i guess it’s enough for now.

Von Says:

Without a doubt Gasquet has more talent than Monfils and Murray. But, and there’s a huge “but” his execution of points and playing the big matches is questionable. He did well at Wimbledon this year, beating Roddick (and I am still hearbroken about that) but has not done much after that. He more or less bombed out at the TMC. There’s no question about his backhand, which is world-class and he does have good net play, but it’s just a matter of it all coming together for him. This year should be a stellar year for him, if not, time will be running out for him to win the “big ones.” When it all comes together, he’ll be winning the big ones.

Murray, is too mercurial. Have you ever seen such a court display, not to mention the foul-mouthed vocabulary. His game is good, and he is a good tactician, but without a sound mind,which is lacking, it’s very difficult for it to come together in the big arena. He has to change his mind-set and make a 360 degree turnaround or else he will be another(sad to say,I really like this guy) Marat Safin.

Roddick, is my favorite present day tennis player, unfortunately, for him he has been in Federer’s shadow for the past 4 years. Will he ever win another slam? I think so. He has the resilience to bounce back, but as in most humans, each year becomes harder. He tries very hard, but it seems that he has lost that fire that was once so visible. If he could get over his psychological doubts, he’ll win. So many, many, times he was wintin 1 or 2 match points against Federer and he ended up losing. That’s not a person who can’t do it. It’s a person who does not believe he can.

Connors at the beginning of their union had Roddick believing in himself, but for some reason, it did come to fruition. Andy just cannot put those ghosts to sleep. I believe in him, as well as many others, and I still think he has enough willpower to supply the autonomy that’s needed. It’s just a matter of time! An athlete does not get to No.1, win a slam, Davis cup, and be in the top 10 for 6 years in a row by chance, he had to have something going for him, I think Andy still has what it takes.

Tejuz Says:

Well.. No way is Monfils more talented than Gasquet and no way is he a better match player than Gasquet. Monfils doesnt have anything to show for it.. whereas Gasquet has reached Slam semis and Masters finals in last few years. Serve & big forehand alone doesnt win you matches.. There are many players who have that combination. Backhand is different, cuz most people tend to attack and exploit the weak backhand.. but in case of Gasquet he could hit winners of that wing consistently.

Murray is different.. he probably is a better match player than Gasquet and equally talented.

Roddick winning a major… he could .. if he doesnt meet Fed on his way. There is something in his game which suits Fed a lot.. Fed is so very comfortable playing Andy .. and even Andy acknowledged that when he was thrashed in the Masters Cup.

Regarding US Open and French Final being named as ‘Fed escapes’ .. thats bull.. It cant be an excape when you are winning straight sets…These tournaments were easier for Fed this year than his previous victories there.
Even the wimbledon finals wasnt an escape.. cuz Fed was never trailing Nadal the whole match.

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joanne Says:

I’ll be suprised if fed doesnt win the grand slam this year.
Who is going to stop him?
He’s all ready to go with a few extra learning experiences under his belt from 2007:
He can focus on the slams and not worry about masters tournaments;he can play more agressivly and volley more,he can come through when he’s really struggling or nervous,he can win anything when he’s serving well.He can win on clay.

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