Another tennis season comes to a close, with Switzerland ending it in style after winning their first-ever Davis Cup.
However, the Men’s tour in 2014 was a bit more open, threw up many surprises, and only reconfirmed the greatness and grit of some. Djokovic ended the year as a married man and a father as well as a World no. 1 again. Federer, who ended last year as no. 6, is now the second best player in the world, and some would say, better than Djokovic on his day. But clearly, the year belonged to the Best of the Rest.
Wawrinka won his first Grand Slam in Melbourne, defeating Djokovic and Nadal on the way. He inspired Marin Cilic to win his first Major in New York; he defeated Federer, Berdych and Ferrer on the way to his title. Nishikori reached the US Open Final too after defeating favorite Djokovic, while Murray had a less than stellar year, finishing as the World no. 6. His worst moment came when he won just 1 game against Federer at London in the season-ending World Tour Finals.
2015, therefore, has a lot in store for tennis fans.
The era of the ‘big 4’ is nearing its end.
Though we’ve said this before, 2014 was perhaps the weakest year for them put together. However, with Nadal on his way back and Murray looking to start afresh, it will be hard for Djokovic and Federer to hold onto their spots.
- The return of Juan Martin Del Potro, after he missed most of 2014 to yet another injury, will be interesting. He will take time to his form, but when he is at his top, he can destroy anybody. Tennis needs him, now more than ever.
- Stanislas Wawrinka will be pumped, determined to assert him as the best of the rest. He is at no. 4 right now, and his claycourt form will determine where he finishes the year. Could be 2, or even 1? Maybe.
- Nadal has been recuperating since his shock loss to Nick Krygios in Wimbledon. He will be back for the Australian Open, and will soar during the French Open as usual. But it’s only a matter of time before his injuries get the better of him again. Will he last the clay season? If he doesn’t, this could be the beginning of the end. He is on 14 to Federer’s 17 Slams.
- Will this FINALLY be the year for talented Bulgarian Dimitrov ‘Baby Federer’ to assert his credentials? He has been lurking at the fringes for too long, and just a few shock wins won’t do the job anymore. He must last long enough to win 5 in a row, or even 7, and must win something to earn the privilege of being called ‘Baby Federer’. It’s time to convert his fluid style and grace into solid temperament.
- Will Marin Cilic prove to be more than a One-Slam Wonder? He struggled after his US Open win, but towards the end of any season, most players struggle with fitness and consistency except the top 2. Hitting the hot hard courts of Melbourne, Cilic will be one of the dark horses though.
- Nishikori is one of the most consistent players on tour, and 2014 was his breakthrough year. He doesn’t have standout shots, but doesn’t have many weaknesses either—like a more effective version of Spaniard David Ferrer. His backhand, however, is very tricky to pick up, and he can work more on his serve to be a challenger more often.
- The French trio of Gasquet, Tsonga and Monfils has just a few years left at the top to make a mark. Monfils looks most likely right now, with some newfound aggression and a few victories over Federer. Tsonga is inconsistent, and Gasquet is fading.
- This could be the beginning of the end for David Ferrer, who has toiled long and hard to be in the top 10 for years.
- Will eternal bridesmaid Tomas Berdych do more than just reach the last 8 of most tournaments? He must find a way to defeat Djokovic and Nadal, who he is clearly intimidated of.
- Will Milos Raonic improve his return-game to add to his monstrous serve and tie-break dependencies?
Will there be any more breakouts or young guns in 2015? I’m yet to see a new Nadal, Federer or even Djokovic in the horizon, aching to make a mark.
Tennis is now an immensely physical game, which makes it harder for teenagers to pull off upsets. Nadal was the last of them, and perhaps a freak player that comes along once in a lifetime. We’re spoilt for choice right now among the top 3, and we should savour it for as long as it lasts. Maybe a year more.