2013 has seen a decrease in competitiveness at the top

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2013 has seen a decrease in competitiveness at the top

2013 has seen a decrease in competitiveness at the top

It's been a great year for Rafael Nadal, as the ATP recognise him today as the world number 1, a position which he has finally regained from Djokovic after losing it in Wimbledon 2011.
But apart from the magical story of Rafael Nadal, coming back from injury to win a chain of tournaments as he has, I think the overall competitiveness at the top in 2013 has been markedly down from the 2008-2012 period.

I say that 5 year period, although of course trying to pigeon-hole any passage of tennis in fixed dates is difficult, and it is this period which some analysts have called the golden era.
Well anyone calling the current state of tennis golden is either delusional, or lying to themselves.

In-fact I argue that even during those 5 years (I'm talking about 2008-2012) there was quite a superficial situation. There was huge strength at the top of the game, as 3 (+1) world class all time greats all found their grooves at different times with periods of overlaps- giving us some great matches in the latter stages of slams. However below the top 4, there was a real lack in strength in depth- Del Potro threatened but could not really establish himself.
An analysis for a new player's prospects (who somehow happens to be seeded number 8)before a slam sums it up:
-How hard is it to get to the quarter finals? Relatively easy
-How hard is it to actually win a slam? Very very difficult, may have to get past 2/3 world class players to win one.

But now in 2013, even this 'cover up' of the lack in strength in depth below the top 4 is starting to be erased.

Apart from Novak Djokovic, no one has really launched a sustained challenge against the Spaniard this year

Roger Federer has been at the top of the game for the last decade or so, but this year his game has significantly declined. He started off the year with a good performance in Australia, where he brought Murray to 5 sets, but from there his level has gone downhill. In terms of competitiveness at the top (which is normally the way I judge how hard it is to win a slam at a specific time) it does not matter whether Federer is reaching R2 or R4, he is not competing well at the latter end of the tournaments anymore.
So then we are left with 3 world class players, with Murray having stepped up to the plate under Lendl.
But in 2012/2013 injury problems have affected both Murray and Nadal. Nadal's knee for late 2012 and early 2013, while Murray's back for significant periods of 2013. This has meant some slams where there are only really 2 world class contenders competing, meaning the challenge for the likes of Djokovic of beating 2 world class players back to back in the semis and finals simply isn't there.
Ferrer is a useful 'metronome' in this way to analyse affairs, and the fact he has gone from clear number 5 to breaking in the top 3/4 exposes this perfectly. Just like Ljubicic reaching number 3 in 2006, alarm bells should be ringing when Ferrer reaches world number 4.

On the other side, no young player has really come forward and shown themselves to be exceptional. In a way this doesn't make a huge difference now, because we do have players in their mid-twenties at the top who are playing near their prime- but in a few years this lack of talent could mean a seriously bad state for tennis.
Yes at the moment things aren't bad as they were in 2006, when Federer was literally facing unseeded players in Grand Slam finals (AO 2006) and we had to go through Federer-Roddick Grand Slam Finals where simply getting back Andy's serve meant the game was basically up; but I fear we are approaching that point.

The Golden Era, if it existed, is over

The next few years will need Djokovic, Nadal, Murray to stay healthy and fit, or a young player breaking through. None of these things are guarenteed in the slightest, and thus there the prospects for tennis are beginning to look more and more perilous.



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2013 has seen a decrease in competitiveness at the top :: Comments

Post on Tue 15 Oct 2013 - 19:08 by Jubbahey

I think it was Golden from the way in which we were given such a great number of matches that were stunning in their content. as an era, short as it was, there hasn't been a time in my memory where the top 4 players were competing for all the slams and leaving almost all other players in their dust.

But I agree that it was a cliff fall from that period to now. Apart from Wimbledon this year, I have noticed a slight change in nerves as a viewer. I am now more conservative during matches, even when Murray won SW19, I was surprised how calm I was.

Looking back, it may be down to the fact that I got a little complacent with the great tennis that I had been watching and knew what to expect at the slams. But with Nadal out in 2012, Federer slipping off the radar, it was the common theme of the Murray- Djoko slugfest that we were given most of the time that may have tempered my enthusiasm.

But even with Federer in the tramlines, 2014 should be a great year for tennis fans.

I'd say there is going to be a number of players that will challenge the likes of the top 3, in the knowledge that any of them is beatable on a good day. It could be just a few Masters that start this trend, and confidence is a huge booster when it comes to playing the top 3, jujst look at Janko as an example.

I can't wait for Andy to get back, and next year, if his back really is in the past, he could be a formidable opponent and could have a better 12 months than previously. We've yet to see the new Nadal take on a fully fit Murray.

So all in all, I think the next 3/4 years are going to be worth watching, and hopefully a few youngsters will take up the mantle and bring about a few upsets. its up to them to put the work in and get the rewards and with mentors like Murray et al, they have no excuse not to.

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