Tuesday, 9 June 2015

What Now for Tennis' Big Five?

It's hard to know what to do with yourself on the days after a weekend of sports like that. French Open finals, Champions League final, Women's World Cup, NBA finals, Ireland - England friendly, Canadian Grand Prix, Gemili running sub 10 seconds and the Epsom Derby, as well as the ongoing FIFA and Salazar/Farah controversies. You get to the Monday and the only consolation is that we don't have to endure any more England friendlies until November. 

With so much sport, we might have hoped for a few upsets to keep us on the edge of our seats but instead of a few little ones, we got just one big hit. Sunday's blistering performance from Stan Wawrinka has shaken up the tennis hierarchy. He has of course shown his capability before but this was something new. Beating an injured Nadal on hardcourt is nothing compared to toppling Djokovic on a 28 game unbeaten run in a Slam final. So where does it leave the big 5 of the men's game?

Djokovic - unquestionably the dominant player of the tennis world and clearly ahead of anyone else. His consistency and quality will see him atop the rankings for a long time yet and most likely favourite for every major for the next two years. Still some mental frailties when things are against him but he's so good that it rarely matters in the end. Currently on 8 Slams, it's hard to see him getting to Federer's mark of 17, especially as he's so far only ever once (2011) won more than one in a season.

Federer - appears to be in a strange place now in his career. Retains the class and style of his younger years but lacks the consistency to genuinely threaten at the business end of slams. Losses to the likes of Seppi, Cilic, Gulbis, Robredo and Stakhovsky in the last 2 years suggest that he is likely to have to settle for 17 Slams. With nothing more to prove or achieve, but still world number 2 for now and still capable of beating anyone, he does genuinely appear to just enjoy being on the tour and playing tennis. Of course he'd love to win another big one but he's content enough making a mockery of those who say he should retire just because he's no longer the best.

Murray - what could prove to be a very significant spring for Murray, with a breakout claycourt season. Winning two clay titles, beating Nadal in Madrid and looking thoroughly comfortable on the dirt. In significant tournaments (Slams/1000 series) this year he has only lost to Djokovic. Likely to overtake Federer for No 2 in the world later in the summer and almost a certainty to add to his 2 Grand Slams at some point in the next year or so. Definitely worth a flutter on him to build on a high level of confidence with a second Wimbledon title in a month's time. Probably won't have quite enough to overhaul Djokovic to top the rankings but he may well run him close soon enough. 

Wawrinka - simply one of the best individual performances I've ever seen. Devastating striking of the ball on such a regular basis. We've seen success from the likes of Del Potro and Soderling in the past just thumping it as hard as possible but nothing like what Stan produced. He will continue to be a threat, particularly at Slams where he turns it up a notch but such high risk tennis will never lead to a very top ranking. 

Nadal - ah Rafa, what are we going to do with you? One of the most physical, powerful and dominant players in history is something of a shell of his former self. So often throughout his career he has been held back by injuries and at some point it might need to be considered that he's not going to recover fully. Few players define competitiveness as much as Nadal but does he have it in him to beat Djokovic and Murray, especially from a current ranking of 10th? I hope so, but I fear not.