ATP: The US Hard-Court Season 2014

The Toronto Masters (Rogers Cup) saw the beginning of the gruelling North-American hardcourt season. This tournament, followed by the Cincinnati Masters (currently in progress), forms the back-to-back Masters event swing leading upto the last Grand Slam of the year—The US Open, in the last week of August. The Rogers Cup was more than mere warmup for most Slam-hopefuls, and is usually where the likes of Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and Federer begin to crank it up towards the end of the season.

 

It wasn’t surprising to see mercurial Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga sweep past opposition at the Toronto Masters 2014. He always finds his groove on the fast courts here, and is a player most capable of causing consecutive upsets.

Not many players can defeat Djokovic, Murray and Federer in the same event and win it (except Nadal), and Tsonga showed why he still remains a contender despite a lukewarm season till now. He annihilated Djokovic 6-2 6-2, scrapped past Murray in the quarterfinals, and also defeated rising star Dimitrov in the semis, before defeating Federer in two close sets in the Final. This must have taken a lot out of the Frenchman, who then went on to lose in the second round at Cincinnati a few days later—where presumably Djokovic must be fresh enough after his wedding, and Murray’s tune-up must be complete.

The winner of the American hardcourt series (2 Masters+US Open points) gets a massive bonus in addition to the US Open cheque.

Novak Djokovic
He looks rusty after his Wimbledon win, and his wedding, and looked completely out of sorts against the power of Tsonga at Toronto. He will be looking to hit back hard at Cincinnati where he looks to create history by adding it to his Masters cabinet—the only Masters tournament out of the calendar he hasn’t won yet. He will remain a favourite and no. 1 seed entering the US Open, irrespective of his Cincinnati performance. Moreover, he MAY not have his biggest rival Nadal to contend with…

Rafael Nadal
He has been out of action (once again) post his early Wimbledon exit, and needs to be careful because this was the exact time in 2012 where he found himself out of action for 7 months. Winning the French Open seems to be taking more and more out of him in his later years, with an injury invariably cropping up afterwards. He will miss the two Masters events and is struggling to get fit for the US Open—which he is defending from 2013. He sits pretty on 14 Grand Slams, only 3 behind Federer…

Roger Federer
His new racket seems to be working for him finally, because he has already reached 7 finals in the year (winning only at Halle). Nevertheless, he looks good enough to dispose with anybody out of the top 5—which is good news for the man who looked lost at this stage last year. He is rejuvenated, and though he has just turned 33, he is still better than the majority of contenders in the field. Ask Djokovic, who had to really suffer through 5 sets to win Wimbledon in July. He looks good to reach the semis, but he will have to contend with one out of Djokovic, Murray, Tsonga and Nadal after that—and that could be his biggest test.

Andy Murray
He has struggled this year after parting with Lendl, and hasn’t looked close to the form that won him his first US Open (and first Slam) back in 2012. His new coach Mauresmo seems to be working hard on him, but he just hasn’t been able to find the rhythm after his surgery during the claycourt season, which also saw him crash out in Wimbledon where he failed to defend his crown. He needs to be fitter and more consistent in order to end up anywhere near the legacies of the three players above him.

Stan Wawrinka
The Swiss no. 2 has not been consistent after his Australian Open win, but still remains a threat on these faster courts. Results haven’t favoured him (lost first round in French Open), and he needs to find the form that pulled off the biggest upset of the year (defeating Nadal in a final).
 

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