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Rafael Nadal Tops the Men’s Tennis Power Rankings

Posted on June 08, 2011 by JA Allen

Rafael Nada wins French Open championship number six.

The 2011 French Open is history, one for the books. It proved to be an exciting two weeks of action with plenty of surprises as the world tuned in to watch players battle it out on the courts of Stade Roland Garros.

It is rare that the ATP top-ranked players are also the top four in our power rankings. Understandably, that does not happen often. But this was a year for the unusual. A case in point––in 2011 the men’s top four seeds reached the French Open semifinals.

It was the first time since since the 2006 French Open that the top four men’s seeds reached the semifinals at any Grand Slam tournament. At that tournament those final four were Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal,  David Nalbandian and Ivan Ljubicic.

The men’s tour has already moved onto grass with the crisp white tradition of historical Wimbledon––the most prestigious of all the grand slam tournaments. While French crowds booed and hissed at players, the exact opposite will unfold under the pristine umbrella of proper British behavior.

So as we shake the red dust off our tennies and cross the channel to London, a new brand of tennis awaits. The question is––who will win the next grand slam tournament held at the All-England Club.

Grass changes the complexity of the game. The slow grind of clay speeds up on the grass courts and low bounces at your ankles becomes the norm.

Change is good and Wimbledon promises another great tournament.

The men’s current power rankings are based on a player’s results in his last four tournaments. In this entry, ranking points come primarily from the ATP points awarded at the French Open.

For the list on the women’s side, please check out the complementary article authored by Feng Rong (Ronger Fengerer). This season-long series contains contributions from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong.

10. Richard Gasquet: Last Power Ranking: 4; ATP Ranking: 13

Frenchman Gasquet lost to Djokovic in the fourth round.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [R16]; Rome [Semifinalist]; Madrid [R64]; Barcelona [R16].

Power Ranking Points: 278

Frenchman Richard Gasquet carried the weight of expectation into Roland Garros as a hometown favorite. The French have been waiting since Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983 for a native to win in Paris. Gasquet, however, lost in the fourth round to the No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic.

For the most part, the Frenchman did not enjoy much success on clay before Rome where he managed two surprise victories at the expense of Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych, before losing to Nadal.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Richard Gasquet has the game to succeed at the All England Club. In the past the Frenchman has advanced as far the semifinals in 2007 where he lost to Roger Federer. Gasquet had an epic match against Andy Murray in 2008. It turned into a 5-set thriller as Murray came back after losing the first two sets.  No doubt, Gasquet can be a real dark horse in this year’s campaign at Wimbledon.

9. David Ferrer: Last Power Ranking: 7; ATP Ranking: 6

David Ferrer of Spain was a favorite to win coming into the French Open.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [R16]; Madrid [Quarterfinalist]; Barcelona [Finalist]; Monte-Carlo [Finalist].

Power Ranking Points: 334

David Ferrer had to be disappointed not to advance beyond the round of sixteen at the 2011 French Open, losing to the ever-unpredictable Frenchman Gael Monfils in a five set marathon.

The Spaniard is a terrier on court, hard to shake loose; but Monfils, feeding off the support of the pro-French crowd was able to extend his natural talent for a win.

Coming into the French, Ferrer was probably the third hottest player on tour, behind, of course, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard made it to consecutive finals in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, where he was defeated by the No. 1 seed, Nadal, on both occasions.

Ferrer made it to the quarterfinals in Madrid, but lost to Novak Djokovic.  No getting by those two men on clay, as most players discovered.

Ferrer found disappointment once again at Roland Garros in 2011.

In his career, the Spaniard’s two best performances came in 2005 and 2008 when he advanced to the French Open quarterfinals. Ferrer who is known for his tenacity on the clay courts, has won more than half of his career titles on the red dirt.

The fact that the Spaniard plays a great many clay tournaments coming into Roland Garros may explain why he has not advanced further during the French Open. Ferrer has no legs left by the time the he hits the big show at Stade Roland Garros.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Ferrer has played at the All England Club eight times and the furthest he has advanced has been the fourth round.  Ferrer was dismissed in that round by Lleyton Hewitt in 2006 and by Robin Soderling in 2010. The Spaniard is more at home on clay and hardcourts so do not expect to find him standing in week two at Wimbledon.

8. Fabio Fognini: Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 35

Fabio Fognini won on one leg, literally.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Quarterfinalist]; Nice [R32]; Rome [R64]; Madrid [R64].

Power Ranking Points: 360

24-year old Fabio Fognini played the leading role in a most interesting storyline at this year’s French Open. In one of the most scintillating matches of the tournament, Italian Fabio Fognini met Spaniard Alberto Montanes for the right to advance to the quarterfinals.

Dueling on Court Suzanne Lenglen Fognini was left standing literally with one good leg and still managed to win a match he should have lost. To do so, the Italian had to save five match points.

When the Italian called for a trainer suffering from pain in his left leg, down 6-7, 15-30, in the fifth set, the French crowd voiced their displeasure loudly.  Was it a leg cramp or not? That was the question.

The trainer said it was not and the player was allowed treatment. Had it been a cramp, the Italian would not have been allowed to continue. But on he went hobbling between points, eventually winning the match.

Ultimately Fognini withdrew unable to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals. His results at the French Open, however, propelled Fognini into our current power rankings.  There is not much else in his play to grant him many accolades except his never-say-die fighting spirit.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: The Italian Fognini has not progressed beyond the third round at Wimbledon since his first try in 2008. The chance of his making the semifinals or beyond are as remote as Pete Sampras winning again in 2011.

7. Gael Monfils: Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 8

The French crowd tried to will Monfils to the finish line.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Quarterfinalist]; Madrid [R32]; Barcelona [Quarterfinalist]; Monte-Carlo [R16].

Power Ranking Points: 393

Although the Frenchman Gael Monfils has not played many tournaments of late due to a constant and perplexing spate of injuries, in 2011 Monfils did well at Stade Roland Garrosonce again.

The crowd-pleasing Frenchman found himself a favorite of the boisterous French partisans and spurred by their entreaties advanced to the quarterfinals.

There, however, Monfils met the man who usually spoils his fun, Roger Federer. The Swiss upended the Frenchman in the quarterfinals.  Monfils, as the last Frenchman alive in the tournament, ended up sad and alone in the locker room, packing his gear to move on to London.

In 2009 Monfils made it to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, losing to Federer. In 2008, Monfils once again faced Federer but this time it was in the semifinals.  He lost in four sets to the Swiss.

Coming into the French Open, Monfils fell to Frederico Gil in the second round at Monte Carlo, to Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals at Barcelona, and to Juan Monaco in the second round at Madrid.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: The Frenchman Monfils has never done well on the grass, which is surprising with his natural speed and athletic ability.  Surprisingly, Monfils has never advanced beyond the third round at the All England Club. There is nothing so far that would indicate the Frenchman has ambitions to do any better.

6. Juan Ignacio Chela: Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 20

Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina had a great run at this year's French Open.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Quarterfinalist]; Rome [R16]; Madrid [R64]; Barcelona [R64].

Power Ranking Points: 426

Juan Ignacio Chela played some great tennis on clay coming into the French Open with major wins at the World Team Championship at Dusseldorf as well as wins over John Isner and Gilles Simon in Rome before the Argentine fell to Florian Mayer in the round of 16.

Chela’s run at the French Open, however, was remarkable. The Argentine defeated Tim Smyczek of the United States in round one, Kevin Anderson of South Africa in round two, Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic in the third round and Alejandro Falla in Columbia in the fourth round.

In the quarterfinals Chela faced Andy Murray battling for a spot in the next round.

The Argentine lost to the Scot in straight sets 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a match tougher than the scored indicated.  Chela had once before reached the quarterfinals in 2004, losing to Brit Tim Henman.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Chela has never advanced beyond the second round of Wimbledon. Obviously, the Argentine has no proclivity for the grass.  He is a clay courter who finds the green landscape not to his liking.  The Argentine would be another longest of long shots to make it to the second week at the All England Club.

5. Robin Soderling: Last Power Ranking: 8; ATP Ranking: 5

Robin Soderling did not return to the finals of the French Open in 2011.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Quarterfinalist]; Rome [Quarterfinalist]; Madrid [Quarterfinalist]; Estoril [Quarterfinalist]

Power Ranking Points: 449

It was not “third time, the charm” for Robin Soderling at this year’s French Open. For the past two years Soderling made back-to-back-finals at Roland Garros, defeated by Roger Federer in 2009 and Rafael Nadal in 2010.

The Swede remains the only man ever to defeat the remarkable Nadal at the French Open. In 2011 Soderling hoped it would be his turn to kiss the Coupe de Mousquetaires.

Soderling, however, continued to be stuck in a quarterfinal rut. That was as far as he could advance in Paris where he met and was turned back by Rafael Nadal.

The Majorcan, driven to succeed, found his form in his quarterfinal match against the Swede. Until that encounter, the No. 1 seed had not been playing unbeatable tennis.

Soderling has certainly left his mark on this Grand Slam tournament. The Swede’s victory over Nadal undoubtedly remains one of the greatest upsets in French Open history.

The following year, Soderling’s defeat of Federer in the quarterfinals ended the Swiss’ remarkable streak of 23 consecutive semifinals at grand slams.

While all these triumphs are special, for Soderling, nothing means as much was winning his own title at Roland Garros.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Soderling, playing in eight Wimbledon Championships, has advanced as far as the quarterfinals. He accomplished that in 2010 where he met and was defeated by Rafael Nadal in four sets.

But Soderling is a far more stable and competent player than he was at the beginning of his career. He is always a dangerous player and has a chance to win any tournament he enters as the World No. 5.  Grass has never been his surface of choice, so far. But he has the game to get there. Undoubtedly, the Swede will make the second week.

4. Andy Murray: Last Power Ranking: 3; ATP Ranking: 4

Andy Murray advance to the French Open semifinals for the first time in his career.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Semifinalist]; Rome [Semifinalist]; Madrid [R16]; Monte-Carlo [Semifinalist].

Power Ranking Points: 873

Andy Murray has never had such a great clay court season as the one he enjoyed in 2011. He came alive in Rome after a prolonged failure to produce, suffering from the smack-down Novak Djokovic gave him in the finals of the 2011 Australian Open.

The Scot finally became one with the red dirt when Murray stood two points short of victory in the Rome semifinals. Murray also stepped up to the plate in Monte Carlo, making the semifinals.

Unfortunately, during this year’s French Open, Murray rolled his ankle in his third round match with German Michael Berrer.  Although the Scot continued on to the semifinals, his matches were longer and more difficult because the ankle injury impeded Murray’s movement on the court.

The Scot simply did not possess the necessary edge to defeat Rafael Nadal in their semifinal encounter.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Murray is always under great pressure at the All England Club. The load of great expectations by the Brits for one of their own to win the tournament at Wimbledon is mammoth. The specter of Fred Perry, dressed in his 1930s garb, haunts the Brits.

The last two seasons Murray has advanced to the semifinals where he lost to Nadal in 2010 and to Andy Roddick in 2009.   Murray will be one of the favorites again this year to advance to the 2011 finals at Wimbledon.

3. Novak Djokovic: Last Power Ranking: 1; ATP Ranking: 2

Novak Djokovic lost his first match of 2011 during the French Open semifinals.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Semifinalist]; Rome [Winner]; Madrid [Winner]; Belgrade [Winner].

Power Ranking Points: 1212

Novak Djokovic flew into Paris on the wings of a tremendous winning streak. The Serb had captured his second major championship––the 2011 Australian Open. After Melbourne, Djokovic continued on his winning ways.

There were not superlatives grand enough to properly describe the scope of the Serb’s wins. He had defeated Rafael Nadal in three of the Serb’s last four finals, with the last two on clay. The tennis world was abuzz.

Everyone was sure that Djokovic would face the No. 1 seed Nadal in the 2011 French Open final. On the line was the World No. 1 ranking.

But first Djokovic had to make it through a number of roadblocks including Juan Martin del Potro in the third round and Roger Federer in the semifinals. The Serb made it through del Potro but not Federer.

The World No. 3 bent the bulldozer’s blade and defeated Djokovic in four sets.

After the 2011 French Open ended, Djokovic trailed Nadal by only 45 ATP ranking points.

The Majorcan has two major titles to defend––Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Djokovic still sits within striking distance of taking over the top spot in men’s tennis.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: There is no reason to think that Djokovic is any less capable of winning at Wimbledon than any of the top seeds. The Serb advanced to the semifinals in 2010, losing to Tomas Berdych. Djokovic also made the semifinals in 2007, losing to Rafael Nadal, retiring in the third set. The Serb’s improved game, in fact, should translate well onto the grass.  Djokovic will be one of the favorites going in.

2. Roger Federer: Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 3

Roger Federer made the French Open finals for the fifth time in 2011.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Finalist]; Rome [R16]; Madrid [Semifinalist]; Monte-Carlo [Quarterfinalist].

Power Ranking Points: 1317

Tennis pundits continually described Roger Federer as flying “under the radar” during the 2011 French Open in Paris. With everyone focused on red-hot Novak Djokovic, the Swiss went about his task of making his way through the draw, dispatching one opponent after another.

Federer did that all the way to the semifinals where he faced the World No. 2 Djokovic in the second match of the day.

Regardless of his losses on clay earlier to Jurgen Melzer in Monte-Carlo and Richard Gasquet in Rome, Federer continued to tighten his game and work on his serve. The extra work paid dividends in his match against the Serb.

Federer constructed a brilliant match against Djokovic, coming away with a win in four sets.

That propelled the Swiss into the final where he would face Rafael Nadal for the fifth time at Roland Garros, four of them for French Open championship. The two played three very competitive sets, with the Swiss winning one. But as Federer’s strength seemed to ebb, Nadal won the match in four.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Federer has won the Wimbledon title six times in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. As No. 3 in the world, Federer appears more than ready to return to the storied grounds of the All England Club to tie Pete Sampras, who holds seven Wimbledon titles.

Of all of the venues, most give Federer his best chance of winning a major at Wimbledon.  Probably, the Swiss will not be flying “under the radar” coming into this major.

1. Rafael Nadal: Last Power Ranking: 2; ATP Ranking: 1

Rafael tied Bjorn Borg by winning his sixth French Open title.

Last Four Tournaments: Roland Garros [Winner]; Rome [Finalist]; Madrid [Finalist]; Barcelona [Winner]; Monte-Carlo [Winner]

Power Ranking Points: 2341

Rafael Nadal found something very new in 2011––a player who beat him consistently, even on clay.

That had never happened before. For three Masters finals in Miami, Madrid and Rome, the No. 2 seed, Novak Djokovic, continued to amaze everyone by defeating Nadal on his beloved clay.

Without Djokovic in the field, Nadal began as usual winning his record-setting seventh straight Monte-Carlo title plus a sixth title in Barcelona––a tournament the world No. 1 skipped in 2010.

Before Barcelona, however, Nadal remarked that it was very important to win that tournament to keep his No. 1 ranking. Without the Barcelona title, Nadal would have entered the French Open as the No. 2 seed behind Djokovic.

As it turned out, Nadal did not have to defend his title against the Serb. Roger Federer upset the No. 2 seed, Djokovic, in the semifinals.

Nadal faced Federer for the fourth time in a French Open final, defeating the Swiss in a tough four-setter for the championship.

The Majorcan escaped Paris with his sixth French Open title and his Number One ranking intact.  Nadal led Djokovic by 45 points as the two left Paris.

Grass Expectations at Wimbledon: Nadal is the defending champion, having won the title for the second time in his career in 2010.  His chances are equally as good for winning it a third time.

Nadal has appeared in the finals of every Wimbledon Championship he has entered since 2006.  The Majorcan did not play in 2009.

Nadal has been playing a great deal of tennis but is still scheduled to play at the Queen’s Club ‘s in London. Nadal along with Andy Murray, face competition on Wednesday.

Injuries may play a role in determining the outcome at Wimbledon as Federer and Djokovic rest and recover. But we will not know for sure until play actually gets underway at the All England Club.

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