2006, will be the year during which order is finally restored over the ATP Tour; Rafael Nadal will drop to #5 in the world, a healthy Marat Safin will bring his A game and probably end up #3 in the world, behind a more consistent and pesky opponent in Hewitt, while Andy Roddick will fall in at #4... of course Roger will maintain his #1 ranking.
Richard Gasquet will move into the Top 10, Murray will move into the Top 50 and probably linger around that number for the year. He may have a bit of a let-down year, because he'll be making adjustments to his game and sort of in an experimentation process.
#1 - Roger Federer ( We all know why )
#2 -Lleyton Hewitt (Consistency, Consistency, Consistency) - Final - AO, SF - Wimbledon, SF - U.S Open
#3 - Marat Safin ( About the only player that can honestly even challenge Roger shot for shot and put pressure on him, maybe this will be the year he gets his head together)
#4 - Andy Roddick - Solid on Grass, solid on Hard, anemic on Clay; however, his posted results are consistent enough to win most tournaments without Roger in the draw (or Lleyton)
#5 - Rafael Nadal - This year was a bit of a fluke, many players simply did not know his game and he entered lots of tournaments got lucky players withdrew was left with the usual clay court suspects (i.e; ferrero, coria). He's somehow escaped players like Safin, Hewitt and Roddick. Roddick bageled him in NYC, Hewitt sent him home in Australia, Safin's height of 6'5" and tremendous talent would not struggle much with Nadal's moonballs.
Safin is much better on Grass, Hard, Indoors and he's not too bad on Grass when he applies himself. Federer fans never fear, if Roger doesn't handle him, then someone in The Top 5 will.
-- My prediction is that he won't even be
consistent enough with all the top dogs back to even meet up with Roger.
---- BTW, possibly with a few more cortisone shots and barring serious injury, Agassi & Nadal would be in an dog fight for that #5 ranking.
I expect to see the younger players moving up and doing big things, inflicting chaos in early rounds (much like Berdych did to Fedex in Olympics of 04 and to Nadal in Cincy) --- they will be lurking, the field will have a lot more competition. Next year will not be a year to cakewalk through Hard Court events playing nobodies. Also, expect Ivan Ljubicic to seriously do damage. Fact is, next year: Healthy bodies, more experienced players.
With the Gasquet, Berdych, Murray, Monfils, Djokovic lurking in the field ... that spells trouble.
Defending points and pressure accompanied by this will spell trouble for Roger's so-called "nemesis"
The only way to avoid the inevitable is to hide on Clay.