With the 2012 tennis season coming to an end, it’s time to take a look at the ATP Men’s Champions that have dominated the year and shared the spoils. The period after the US Open (in August) has been an interesting one, and has opened doors for plenty of possibilities as we head into 2013. With the London Olympics an added attraction this year, the tables at the top have turned- but oddly enough, the ATP Men’s rankings do not seem to suggest the same. Yet.
Following Roger Federer’s withdrawal from the ATP Paris Masters- the last Masters event of the year before the season ending World Tour Finals (at London), Novak Djokovic will retain the world no. 1 ranking once again- for the first time after his Wimbledon defeat. He will end the year as World No. 1 for the second consecutive year in a row- the first time a player has done so since Federer did it four times in a row from 2004-07. It is indeed surprising that Rafael Nadal, despite all his dominance over the years- has finished the year on top only twice (2008 and 2010), thanks to his top-heavy title-winning streaks.
Novak Djokovic (1)
As we speak, the mighty Serb has crashed out of the Paris Masters in the second round- falling to the fighting Sam Querrey, his earliest exit from a Masters event in two years. Djokovic seemed to be ending 2012 on a high, after a record-shattering 2011, winning the China Open and Shanghai Masters- the Asian stretch that had enabled Murray to displace Federer at no. 3 last year. Nevertheless, the long season seems to have taken its toll on Djokovic’s body, and he is unsure about his participation in London. This, after a relatively successful year, which he could look back on and be proud of- reaching the Final of 3 out of 4 Slams, winning one of them and winning 3 Masters Cup titles (Miami, Rogers Cup and Shanghai). To many, it may sound like a failure- because he lost the no. 1 ranking for 5 months in between and failed to win a medal at the Olympics. But the Serb will take the end-of-the-year ranking, and will be satisfied with the fact that when he was on a roll, he was near-unbeatable. The budding rivalry between Murray and him is good for the game, with Nadal on a long path back to recovery.
Roger Federer (2)
Enjoying his most successful year since 2010, Roger Federer broke his 2.5 year barren run by winning his 7th Wimbledon title in June. After a lukewarm first half of the season, he changed gears and went on to win a Silver medal at the Olympics- all this after turning 31. The Swiss superstar even managed to become the only player this year to win titles on all 3 surfaces- with his Masters title win at Madrid. He won at Indian Wells and Cincinnati too, equaling Djokovic 3 Masters title wins this year. His performance at the Slams left a bit to be desired, only once reaching the Final (and winning it). But 2012 will remain the year where Federer enjoyed a resurgence, and broke the barrier of 300 weeks at no. 1 (ends on 302). His Wimbledon semi-final against Djokovic will remain one of the most memorable and clinical wins of his career, as will his fighting win in the Final against Murray. His Olympic loss to Murray may have deflated him, after which he has struggled to fight off an exhausting schedule- and failed to defend his hometown Basel title. His participation in London, though, will guarantee him yet another shot at a Championship he has dominated so successfully over the years. His 4.5 hour legendary sapping semi-final win against Del Potro at the London Olympics will be remembered for years to come.
Andy Murray (3)
Arguably the impact player of the year, Murray still finds himself behind his two rivals in the rankings- despite winning his first Slam at New York and the gold at London. The second half of the year belonged to the Scottish Superstar- though he failed to defend his Shanghai title against Djokovic in the Masters match of the year after blowing 5 match points. Though he remains one of the many top players voicing their concern at the end-of-season tough schedule, he is the favorite to win the Paris Masters right now- after losing his Japan and Shanghai titles. His lack of Masters title wins keep him at no. 3, where he will finish the year, irrespective of his performance at the WTF at London. Murray will remember 2012 as his breakthrough year- the beginning of a long period of rivalry and hopefully dominance on top of the men’s tour, where he seems to have modeled his game perfectly to beat the likes of Djokovic and Federer. Once Nadal comes back, though, it could be a different story.
Rafael Nadal (4)
Missing in Action since his shock Wimbledon loss to Rosol in the second round back in June, Rafael Nadal facing his most serious test yet. A career-threatening knee condition seems to have resurfaced again, and getting back on court in whatever manner will be his first priority now. 2013 is his target, and the Australian Open could see a new and remodeled Rafael Nadal- a player who will need to depend far less on his physical endurance in order to win matches. After dominating 2008 and 2010, Nadal has enjoyed relative success despite his crippling rivalry with Djokovic lately. 2011 was a year that broke the Spaniard, but the way he came back in the Clay season of 2012 says a lot about the Champion in him. He may never enjoy such dominance on the testing Clay of Europe again, with his body giving way more than usual, but his presence is needed back on a tour that has developed new rivalries without him. Despite his absence, he ends the season as World No. 4, and rightly so, after winning everything but Madrid in a successful clay stretch in 2012.
Apart from the 4 Gladiators at the top of the sport, Argentine Del Potro and Frenchman Tsonga are the others who have had a relatively successful year along with Tomas Berdych (the man who knocked Federer out of the US Open in the quarterfinals).
The season ending World Tour Finals will be a great indication once again about how these players have learned to pace their sapping seasons, with most of them running on fumes by now.