As the 2011 tennis season draws to a close,
we look back over the men’s game, in the year that saw Novak Djokovic rise to
the very top. Will the Serb be able to take the momentum into 2012, or will Federer and Nadal rise again?
It was a fascinating year for the big four
in the men’s game and with the Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray, monopolising all the big events, it
was certainly a good year to be betting on tennis.
After a solid end to the 2010 season, which
included a Davis Cup win, it’s fair to say that most tennis experts expected
Novak Djokovic to continue making it deep into events and possibly go on to
claim his second Slam. Few could have expected the Serb to go on an astounding
42-match unbeaten run, which saw him win the Australian Open, along with the
Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Rome Masters events.
It was the type of run which only comes
around once in a generation and there’s little question that Novak Djokovic
will look back on 2011 as the best year of his career.
Rafa reached three Grand Slam finals in
2011 and won the French Open, along with the Monte Carlo Masters, but by his
own high standards, the Spaniard will be bitterly disappointed with his year.
Six defeats in six at the hands of Djokovic, all in finals, seem to have
severely dented the World No.2s confidence. In the latter part of 2011, Nadal
was a shadow of the player he’d been just 12 months earlier and some awful end
of season results culminated in a highly disappointing campaign at the World
Without any tournament victories by the
time we reached June, 2011 was the year we all expected Roger Federer to slowly
move into the shadows and allow the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray to take
his mantle at the top of the Men’s game. Not Roger! After ending Djokovic’s
unbeaten run in the Paris
semi-finals, Federer came storming back in the latter half of the year and was
a whisker away from defeating the Serb in the US Open semis too. The Swiss
looked back to his awesome best in November, taking back-to-back titles in Basel, Paris and London. He’ll have his
sights firmly set on the World No.1 spot in 2012, and you wouldn’t want to bet
The long wait for Grand Slam success
continues for the Scot and despite reaching the final in Australia and
semi-finals in all the other Slams, Murray knows he was comprehensively beaten
by one of his nearest rivals in every event, and he’ll feel as far away from
Slam success as he ever has done. An impressive unbeaten record towards the end
of the season saw Murray pick up a handful of
titles, but a defeat to Berdych in Paris
and a withdrawal through injury from the Tour Finals, ensured the Scot’s year
ended on a low.
Best of the Rest
Whilst the big events have been completely
dominated by the top four players in the world, there has been plenty to
encourage some of the players a little further down the rankings. Jo-Wilfried
Tsonga has finally started to show some real consistency in his tennis and
reached the finals in Paris and London at the end of the year. If Tsonga can
keep the momentum going into 2012, he could pose a real threat to the top four.
Similar things can be said about Czech
26-year-old, Tomas Berdych. He recorded some big victories across the year and
wins over Murray in Paris and Ferrer in London, have left him in
a position to really push on in 2012.
Mardy Fish had a stand-out year for the US and finally
managed to overtake his great friend Andy Roddick to become the US No.1. Now
30-years-old, it may be difficult for Fish to stay at the same levels
throughout 2012 and a bet on John Isner to become the US No.1, at some
point in the next 12 months, could well be a wise investment.
Match of the Year
There have been several fantastic matches
at the top of the men’s game in 2011. The Djokovic v Nadal encounters have all
been fantastic, with the Wimbledon final
standing out as a real high in Novak’s year. Federer v Djokovic at Roland
Garros and Federer v Tsonga at Wimbledon were
also high up the list.
For me though it would have to be Novak
Djokovic v Roger Federer in the US Open semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, back
Having won the first two sets against
Djokovic, it looked like Federer would take his place in the final against
Nadal, but some impressive serving from the Serb saw him level things up and
take the match to a deciding set. Djokovic was the first to crack in the fifth
and Federer found himself at 40-15 with two match points on his own serve. A
good looking serve from Federer was met with a swing of the racket from
Djokovic. The ball could have gone anywhere. It flew across the net skimming
across the edge of the line for a dramatic winner. There may have been some
luck about it, but courage favours the brave and after hitting the shot of the
season, Novak came back to save another match point, break Federer twice and
win the match, followed by the Championship against Nadal two days later.