Thursday, 28 October 2010

12 players the "Big 4" should watch out for

In the world of tennis, 'The Big Four' – namely Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have built up a legend for themselves. The legend convinces almost every player on the Association of Tennis Professionals that while these players are in the game, winning a Grand Slam is nothing more or less than a pipe dream. It is as Robin Soderling said about winning a Grand Slam in this decade, “It’s not easy today. I wish it were a lot easier.”

However, this mindset is precisely what keeps some A-grade players from playing their best tennis and introducing new talent to dethrone the top four tennis players who seem to have made a permanent niche for themselves at the top of the ATP Rankings.

12 players who could, with the right training and mental preparation, win Slams in the next few years are analyzed below:

1. Robin Bo Carl Soderling:

Ranked World Number 5 by ATP, this Swedish player seems like he could go both ways; he may make one more charge to defeat one of the champions and climb up the rankings, or he may fizzle out and leave the sport, having reached his limit.

His performance this year has been remarkably consistent. The 26 year old player has reached the French Open Final and the quarters of both Wimbledon and US Open in 2010.

While he holds wins over both Rafa and Federer at the French Open, his combined win record against them is 3-19. He lost to Nadal at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and was beaten by Federer at Flushing Meadows.

2. Tomas Berdych:

Similar to Robin Soderling, this 25 year old Czech player seems to have really settled into the game this year. He managed to defeat both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the Wimbledon Championships to become a finalist, losing the title match to Rafael Nadal.

He also reached the semi finals at Roland Garros, where he fell to Robin Soderling. Although, he was once considered a weaker player with not enough consistency, he seems to be more grounded now, and may make something of his success.

3. Fernando Verdasco:

There are only two Spaniards on the ATP Top Ten as of right now, and one of them is World Number 7, Fernando Verdasco. He has participated in a great number of events this year, playing a total of 25 tournaments and 61 singles matches.

This is the most that any player in the top ten has played this year. However, he may have burnt out due to this excess involvement, and went down 0-3 on the Asian circuit. He may also not qualify for the ATP Finals next month.

Verdasco showed signs of promise at the US Open, beating David Nalbandian and shattering David Ferrer in the fourth round before falling to Nadal.

4. Juan Martin del Potro:

This 2009 US Open champion may just be the contender needed by the tennis world; unfortunately, a stroke of bad luck left him injured and unable to exercise any potential this year.

He may have been able to challenge the Top 2, but he will be beginning from the bottom once again now.

5. David Ferrer:

This 28 year old Spaniard’s career highlight was probably his appearance in the 2007 US Open semi finals; this same year, he also made a break into the top five players of the world. However, he has had a slow year, and by and large his best results have been on clay courts.

He also went further at Wimbledon, reaching the fourth round, than he has ever been before. Ferrer also produced good hard court results, and may have what it takes to progress past his position of World Number 8 – however, his age is definitely a factor and may hold him back.

6. Mikhail Youzhny:

The 28 year old Youzhny is another player who may end up limited by his age. The Russian has had a consistent, impressive year; he won ATP events at Munich and Kuala Lumpur, reached the quarter finals of the French Open and made an appearance at US Open semi finals.

Youzhny, when in form, has one of the trickiest and hardest to manage games on the tour, but he also has his limitations. Now that his compatriot Nikolay Davydenko is on a downward spiral, he is Russia’s best; although, somewhat improbable hope for a Slam.

7. Andy Roddick:

This American player is another superb 28 year old tennis pro on the tour. As with every other player – even Federer’s age seems to be catching up to him – he also lacks the agility to succeed at this age.

He has suffered far more injuries this year than he normally does, which usually means that a player’s body is ready to break down. What Roddick has going for him is that he is both smart and competitive, and may be able to make the most out of his last few seasons.

He did reach one Slam quarter final in 2010, and was out-hit on all his losses.

8. Marin Cilic:

This 22 year old is a mystery. He won the Chennai Open and was a semi finalist at the 2010 Australian Open. For a brief period of time, he was regarded as a fresh new talent on the ATP. But, the Croatian seems to have disappeared in the past seven months entirely.

He possesses height, balance and firepower; although critics were sure that he would be the breakout player of this year, he hasn’t won any consecutive matches since August.

9/10. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils:

Both of these players have more than just nationality in common; they also have a great fault which debilitates them from making further progress in the field of tennis. Both players are enigmas who play exceptionally well, displaying terrific athleticism and potential; however, both of them fall apart at crucial moments in their careers, letting hesitation and lack of focus dominate their play.

Tsonga, who is 25 years old, is a former Australian Open finalist. His main problem is that he remains injured, and his body may be giving up on him earlier than that of most tennis players. Tsonga also requires work on his backhand and return serve, but his most urgent need is a regime which builds his body back and keeps on the tour for a full year. He is still young enough and talented enough to take over one of the Grand Slam champion slots if he focuses himself.

Meanwhile, compatriot Gael Monfils, who was a semi finalist at the French Open, has immense difficulty with a workable game plan. He falls apart and lacks consistency, engineering his failures by his own hand. Although, his offense and defence are superb – a rare combo – so far, he refuses to utilize them to the maximum potential. Monfils recently reached the US Open quarters and the final in Tokyo, where he was upset by Nadal.

11/12. Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey:

28 year old Mardy Fish, Number 18, has had an impressive summer, and looked confident while entering the US Open – however, Nole managed to rip the American player apart in the fourth round. However, he may still be the one to watch at the Slams; though he may not win, he will, nevertheless, make progress in 2011.

Sam Querrey at Number 22 has been winning smaller titles, but has as of yet been unable to move past a victory at the third round of a Masters Series or Majors event. His biggest advantage, perhaps, is his age; he is 23, and unlike Fish, he can afford to take his career with gradual improvement. He has won tournaments on all four surfaces, and that increases his chances of adaptability for a Grand Slam. This young player will definitely bring improvement to his already great forehand and serve in the New Year, but his chances of a Majors' victory are quite variable, depending on consistency and training.

This instalment completes the list of players who may make it big in 2011. All that remains to be done now is to sit back and wait for January to roll around.

Courtesy: Bettor

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