Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Australian Open Reflections

by John Huffstetler

Federer is Finished

At least as a major winner, that is. In his loss to Nadal in the semifinals, he played a nearly perfect match, managing to control the baseline with precise groundstrokes to both corners. Nadal also struggled mightily with his backhand, making several bad errors and pushing several short towards the middle of the court. Even with Fed playing close to his best match and Nadal struggling to find his backhand, Rafa still won in 4 sets. Fed is now 0 for his last 5 against Nadal in majors with his last win coming all the way back in 2007 at Wimbledon. He still wins tourneys in the best 2 of 3 format all the time and he can still win several rounds in majors, but he no longer has the level of fitness needed to defeat the best in the game in majors. If you look at the career of any great champions, they always fade in the majors first because of the extra set needed to win. Federer will finish his illustrious career with the 16 career major titles he currently holds.

The Player Who Will Inevitably Unseat Djokovic from the #1 ranking in the World is not Named Nadal, Federer, or Murray

Before the Aussie Open final, every fitness and scheduling factor favored Nadal. Djokovic was co
ming off a marathon 5-set win over Andy Murray in the semis on one day less of rest than Nadal, and Novak still managed to win. Although the match went to 7-5 in the 5th, every statistical advantage went to Djokovic. He won 193 total points to Nadal's 176 (which is a large difference in a match this close), he won a whopping 83 receiving points to Rafa's 56, and he managed 20 break point chances only converting on 7. Nadal had only 6 break chances and converted on 4 of those. All these stats point to won incontrovertible fact: Djokovic pushed Nadal much harder on his serve than vice versa, which is a major indicator of who is in control of a tennis match. If Novak converted break points at the 53% clip he has in previous meetings against Nadal, he would have rolled through this match.

Even a perfect spot cannot help the clear #2 in the world in defeating Djokovic. So, who can? Certainly Murray and Federer have both shown the ability to pull off an upset of Novak from time to time, but they can't reach the finals consistently because of Nadal, and when they do, Novak will still manage to win more often than he loses. This means that none of these players will supplant him as the world's #1. The thought of Murray achieving this feat as Brad Gilbert predicted this year is laughable. He chokes in every important match of his ca
reer. The player that will take down Djokovic is in the next wave of young talent. Alexandr Dolgopolov, Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, and Marin Cilic are just some names that come to mind that could make the push to the next level and challenge Novak for dominance, but that time won't happen this year and probably not next year either (barring injury). Dolgopolov in particular seems like a player destined for the #1 ranking in the world if he can figure out how to restrain his ridiculous talent, but for now, the tennis world belongs to Novak Djokovic.

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  1. Check out this Dolgopolov drop shot vs. Nadal

    1. So ridiculous. His skill is unquestionable, its his consistency that needs to improve to get him to #1.