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Novak Djokovic Rules the Men’s Tennis Power Rankings After Dominating in Miami 5

Posted on April 06, 2011 by Marianne Bevis

Novak Djokovic has fulfilled the early promise of greatness so far in 2011.

The first three months of the tennis season pose some of the players’ biggest challenges.

With barely a fortnight to get their hard-court games into fine working order, the first Major of the year is upon them. Yet the Australian Open is just the beginning; ahead lie two months of hard-court rigor, all geared towards a second distant climax at the end of March.

Along the way are choices between indoor and outdoor, cool northern Europe and the hot Gulf states, even between hard courts and the points-rich Golden Swing on the clay of Latin America.

It is a topsy-turvy phase, where two of the most prestigious Masters events in the calendar close a season rather than building towards a concluding Major, and therefore, is often full of intrigue, unpredictable winners and surprising losers.

During the two months between Melbourne and Miami—where this edition of the Power Rankings is focused—there have been 10 different champions from 14 tournaments.

Kevin Anderson won his first tour title in Johannesburg, went on to reach the quarterfinals in the Miami Masters and now sits at an all-time ranking of 33.

Ivan Dodig won his maiden title in Zagreb and there was an even more significant first for the surging Milos Raonic, who started the year at 156 and now sits at 35. He announced his arrival big time by winning San Jose and then reaching the final of Memphis. Although he does not feature in this month’s rankings, he will surely join the party when the next hard-court season comes around.

One multiple winner, Nicolas Almagro, took titles in Brazil and Argentina and reached the final in Acapulco and, while he did not impress in the subsequent Masters, his form may impact on the clay road towards Roland Garros.

For each story of success, though, there has been one of ill fortune. Andy Roddick arrived in Miami on the back of his 30th career title in Memphis and with a 16-3 winning record for the year—and his record in Miami was second to none. But it soon became clear that Roddick was unwell during his opening match, and he made his earliest Miami exit since 2002. Now at No. 14 in the rankings, it is also his lowest position since 2002.

The biggest shock of this entire period, though, was the performance of Andy Murray, who replayed his post-Australian slump of 2010 with a vengeance.

Murray loves the North American Masters and was aiming to improve on last year’s quarterfinal finish in Indian Wells and his first-round exit in Miami. However, he lost in his first match at both as well as at the only other event he played, Rotterdam.

He is said to be reviewing his coaching setup ahead of the clay season and, with few points to defend before Wimbledon, that choice will have some time to bed in. One thing’s for sure: He needs to change something, and soon.

But while there have been surprises at almost every turn of the hard-court road that culminated in Miami, there has also been a clutch of constants. At every tournament they have played, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have stayed the course at least as far as the semifinals.

One of them has been as constant as the North Star—the winner of every match in every tournament he has played since the start of the year and he, of course, tops the latest Power Rankings.

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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Novak Djokovic Triumphs Down Under 1

Posted on February 10, 2011 by Marianne Bevis

Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open for the second time.

It lasts just a fortnight. But the first Major of the year, the Australian Open, has shown just how much water can flow under the bridge in two short weeks.

With the draws made, the pundits placed their bets, the journos made their predictions and the fans prepared their banners. Everyone had a view on who would take to the court on the final day.

There were column inches on whether home favorite Lleyton Hewitt could make one last assault on the tournament. There was high excitement surrounding the return of former world No. 4, Juan Martin Del Potro. And there was the newly-promoted world No. 4 Robin Soderling to assess: was he really on a par with ‘the top four’?

Possible upsets were, as usual, eagerly sought. Gilles Simon, the proud owner of the most recent ATP title in Sydney, met Roger Federer in round two. It was tough, but the reigning Australian champion forged onward and upwards, and the odds on his retaining the title shortened with each successive win.

Then there was Tomas Berdych rediscovering his Wimbledon form at just the right time. He made it effortlessly into the quarterfinals, as did the long-life-battery-driven David Ferrer and the new-Swiss-on-the-block, Stanislas Wawrinka: dangerous dark horses, all of them.

And, as with every Major tournament, a new talent strode into the limelight to thrill the lovers of the underdog. Take a bow, Alexandr Dologopolov.

But few really doubted that the dominant four of men’s tennis would eventually take their allotted semi-final places: Federer and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

And, tough call though it was, the final was almost certainly destined to be Roger-and-Rafa. After all, one or the other had featured in every Major bar one for the last six years and they had won all but two of the last 23.

But 14 days proved to be a mighty long time in the unfolding story of 2011’s first Major and, in the end, the Earth seemed to pause on its axis while it adjusted to the prospect of a final without either top seed in attendance.

Instead it came down to the two men widely regarded as the second pair in the tennis hierarchy.

They have been bracketed together for years, yoked by their ages (they were born in the same week), the weight of expectation, their struggles to keep emotions in check and with sparkling talent at their disposal.

And they are, in the first Power Rankings of 2011, yoked together in the two top spots. More significantly, there’s a real sense that the duopoly of the last six years is under threat.

The Nos. 1 and 2 in the world may have to get used to some company in their tennis stratosphere.

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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Soderling Tops Them All After Paris… 2

Posted on November 15, 2010 by JA Allen

Robin Soderling of Sweden won this week's Paris Masters.

Robin Soderling, whose total tennis repertoire stole the show at the Masters in Paris, tops our Power Rankings for the very first time.

The Swede’s 2010 indoor season proved to be the best of his career, ending with his first ATP Master’s 1000 win.

Soderling, along with many of the world’s top players, fought hard throughout the Fall in order to qualify for the season-ending championships.

As the culminating event of a very long year in tennis, the eight top-ranked men in 2010 will begin play at the World Tour Finals in London on Sunday, November 21.

The eight who have qualified: (1) Rafael Nadal (2) Roger Federer, (3) Novak Djokovic, (4) Robin Soderling, (5) Andy Murray, (6) Thomas Berdych, (7) David Ferrer, and (8) Andy Roddick are almost all featured in our Power Pankings.

Only Berdych failed to make the list, suffering a bit of a slump at the end of this year.

The next question facing the tennis-loving public is—who will win the World Tour Finals (WTF) in London?

Much will depend, of course, on the draw. But with the top eight doing combat, no opponent will be easy.

Judge for yourself as you consider the following candidates:

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Roger Federer and Other Tops Seeds Advance In Paris 2

Posted on November 10, 2010 by JA Allen

Roger Federer faced crowd favorite Frenchman Richard Gasquet in Paris.

Will Paris continue to sizzle? Unveiled in France this week is the last Masters event of 2010 before the year-end finals begin in London.

A few players are hanging onto the hope that they can make the final field of eight for the Barclays WTF. One is Fernando Verdasco who must make the semifinals in Paris in order to chance booking a flight to London.

Jurgen Melzer only has a prayer to make the field by winning this Masters event in Paris. That makes Melzer’s chances as one of the longest of long shots.

In the third day of action, the biggest names in the draw were on court for the first time.  Several of the contests on this day offered interesting and even inspiring performances by the top seeds.

No. 1 Roger Federer vs. Richard Gasquet

Federer faced crowd favorite Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the first evening match.

The No. 1 seed broke the Frenchman early during Gasquet’s first service game. Then Federer held on to win the opening set never allowing Gasquet a peek at a break opportunity.

Federer continued to dominate by breaking Gasquet during the Frenchman’s first game of the second set. That one break of serve was again all the Swiss needed.  The Frenchman never earned a break point on the Federer serve during the entire match as the Swiss won 6-4, 6-4.

One of the announcers described Federer’s play as poetry in motion.

In the end the commentator admitted that Gasquet did not play a bad match but was powerless against the Swiss.  It was indeed, a master class conducted by Federer in his opening match of this tournament.

The Masters in Paris remains one of the few that the Swiss has never won. Will this be the year?

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Rafael Nadal Heads The Field Into The French Open 0

Posted on May 18, 2010 by Marianne Bevis
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Roger Federer of Switzerland at the end of their Madrid Open final tennis match

Who would have thought it would be a year to the day before the tennis world saw another Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer face-off? And who could have predicted that it would, as it was 12 months ago, be in the final of the last clay Masters of the year, in Madrid?

The balance of power as they entered the home straight this year has, though, looked a little different.

2009 began with Nadal as world No. 1, winner of the Australian Slam, and dominant through the clay season. But by the time he reached Madrid, his months without a break had wreaked havoc with his knees and he was soon forced off the tour to recuperate.

This year, he was short of his best form in Melbourne. But with the clay came the Rafa of old. He won every tournament he entered, and this time he paced himself so that he looked, if anything, stronger and fitter with each passing week.

So the Nadal in Madrid 2010 was a stronger animal than the one Federer dominated in 2009, while the Federer on the other side of the net was only just getting into his stride following a month off the tour with illness.

Add in the extra factors of Andre Agassi’s Masters record, and the imminent French Open title to fight over, and this was destined to be a great occasion. It saw Nadal avenge his loss of 2009, and take the outright record for Masters titles: 18. And he is still just 23.

Looking beyond the Rafa-and-Roger showdown, the Spanish armada once more laid down its marker, as it has done throughout the spring.

Three of the four finalists in Madrid were Spanish, as were six of the last 16. And that’s without their fourth man Juan Carlos Ferrero and their fifth Tommy Robredo, both missing with injury.

So, not surprisingly, Federer is the only non-Spaniard in the top five this week. Who’ll give me odds against the Spanish reign continuing in Paris? I thought not. Read the rest of this entry →

Roundup: What the Rome Masters Means for … 3

Posted on May 04, 2010 by Rob York

Rafael Nadal: In Monte Carlo we saw Nadal at performing at his peak, as he didn’t drop a set and allowed three of his opponents just one game each. That was a sign that he was still capable of dominance.

In Rome, with his level not quite as high, the courts playing faster and the competition playing tougher, Nadal dropped one set and staved off a pair of tough challengers in the last two rounds. This is a sign that he’s still capable of competing like he did at his best, something that his three-set losses in Miami and Indian Wells had put in doubt.

That ability to compete will be critical in Madrid, where Nadal has voiced discomfort with the altitude and the speed of the court, and where back-to-back encounters with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer last year ruined his whole season. Madrid occupies the position once held by Hamburg on the schedule, finishing just one week before Roland Garros.

And like Hamburg’s clay, where the ball didn’t bounce as high as in Paris or Monte Carlo, Madrid’s slicker dirt levels the playing field for Roger Federer. In 2008 Nadal was able to defeat Federer (and Djokovic) at Hamburg, setting the stage for his most dominant RG performance.

In 2007 he lost at Hamburg to The Great Swiss but was able to prevail once the theater of their conflict switched to Paris. Some of us expected the same last season, but the years of defending and grinding had exacted a price on Nadal’s knees.

In Rome the Spaniard tied Andre Agassi’s record of 17 Master’s Series titles. In Madrid he’ll seek to set a new record, but needs be careful that he not sacrifice the greater glory that an RG title would bring. Read the rest of this entry →

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