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2013: Transition Year or Year of Instability?

Posted 09-06-2013 at 07:47 AM by zjtennis
The aftermath of Federer and Murray's defeats in the US Open 2013 got me thinking:

This year since the end of the Miami Masters (even during that - Ferrer had match points against Murray but lost) has been VERY weird. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this year, no one has exceeded 3 titles this year - except Nadal. In From what I remember the Madrid Masters SF list was not your usual Clay SFers - except for Nadal. It had the upsets of Federer and Djokovic, the upsetters are the young guns (namely the ones under Del Po's age), but getting defeated themselves in the next match. In the Rome Masters, we have Djokovic having a lapse from serving the set to losing the match, then Federer only getting some games in the Final. Ferrer had 2 chances against Nadal with Madrid (only two points to victory) and Rome (pushed Nadal again in 3 Sets). In the summer hard courts, Djokovic and Murray were not in their best, with Murray being defeated in straight sets while Ferrer is also struggling. There is Tipsarevic who is having a very bad year after being Top 10.

On the 250s and 500s, we have seen old players getting their first singles titles - namely Berlocq and Mahut (even of two of them), against supposedly better players (Verdasco and Warwinka & Hewitt respectively). Berdych is the only Top 10er without a title yet, but is consistent enough that he is now in the Top 5. We saw Federer having a very poor after RG Clay season, with tough losses against Brands and Delbonis. We have that crazy Fognini Clay run where he had 3 consecutive Finals, winning 2 of them.

Then we go to the Slams: Federer had a very good path in going to the RG Finals, but he was defeated straight set for the first time by Tsonga, but Tsonga for some reason was demolished by Ferrer when I thought it could've been a tight match. Meanwhile, Nadal was struggling and almost being 2-0 to love up in Round 1, until regaining his form to the end. We have the interesting Djokovic vs Nadal SF, which Djokovic had that costly mistake, ending the match in his serve with errors. At the Final, Nadal was sub-par than the Djokovic match but still managed to NID win. In Wimbledon, well, we know what happened... Now, in the US Open, no shaky things at the start, but Del Potro shockingly exited early, Federer all of sudden had lost against one of his pigeons, Murray being defeated quite handily, Dark Horse Berdych faltered, and Ferrer being defeated in a 5 Setter.

This season has also brought us some breakthrough from the under 24's: Dimitrov had quite an impact by reaching his first ATP Tour Finals, pushing Nadal to 3 Sets in M-C and also defeating Djokovic in Madrid. Janowicz proved that his Paris Masters Final is not a fluke by reaching the Rome Masters QF by beating Top 10 players, and also reaching the Semifinals of Wimbledon, getting a set off the eventual winner Murray. Tomic now has a title. Raonic now has reached his first Masters Final. But all of this seems just good glimpses, as on other times they have been inconsistent (as proven by how Tomic, Janowicz and Dimitrov crashing out before the 3rd Round I think). You could've expected them to go far, but they seem to just crash.

Now we talk about the person that has been talking advantage of this year's instability - Rafael Nadal. After coming back from a shock defeat by Lukas Rosol (who is having a very poor season but did get his 1st title in Bucharest), somehow steamrolled everyone. And to tell the truth, I think he doesn't really look that unbeatable at first. I mean Del Po was up a break in Indian Wells, but I guess it was too much to ask to hang on against Nadal after beating Djokovic and Murray back-to-back. Then came the Clay season, where he won those he I think he was least expected to win, while losing that one he is expected to - Monte Carlo.

With that said, he had weirder losses: he only lost 3 times this year, but 2 of those were from people not even in the Top 100 I think: versus Zeballos in a Final (which is understandable as it was his first tournament of the year I think), which he always lost only against Federer and Djokovic I think in Clay; versus Darcis in Wimbledon's 1st Round (I really never thought that it would happen especially with Nadal just winning, that even without Grass training he would've get through this). Other than that, him winning was NID, and now he is an position to have a Serena-like NID path to the US Open title.

In short, this has been a very unstable year for every top player, EXCEPT Nadal:
1. Djokovic needs to sort out his mentality in some matches.
2. Murray needs to get his fighting will on again after having poor results after Wimbledon.
3. Ferrer needs to recover after his good start this season.
4. Berdych has to fix his consistency on a single tournament to at least get 1 title this year.
5. Del Potro is probably just in a slump for now and needs to recover.
6. Federer needs to really boost his confidence again - we might eventually see Ferrer defeat him.
7. Tsonga hopefully could recover from his injury.
8. Gasquet should hopefully use this breakthrough to really improve his standing.
9. Warwinka should be same as Gasquet and also improve in speed.

With that, I conclude that the order of things have been quite shaky in the ATP, except for Nadal. The Big 4 is not that potent now with Federer's poor performance this year, and this late summer Djokovic and Murray have been quite sub-par. Surprised that Berdych and Del Potro are out earlier than Warwinka and Gasquet, when the former have been better than the latter pre-USO. This year have opened first timers, but usually halted because of Nadal.

So, do you think is a transition year, where the young ones having breakthroughs, but not consistent enough to get to the top, while the veterans are now declining? Or is this just a freaky year, and would stabilize again next year, where the script would be as it is?
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