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Taking Stock: Bottom line for the top men

By Kamakshi Tandon

The year in a nutshell for most successful men of 2007, as well as what's on the agenda for next year.

1. ROGER FEDERER

KEY STAT Grand Slam titles this season: 3
Masters titles (including Masters Cup): 3
Other titles: 2




2006 year-end rank: 1

2006 Stat
How close he was to a perfect season: 79%
(Sampras’ high ≈ 60%)

2007 To-Do list
Rinse, repeat and win one more match. At Roland Garros.

Verdict
Don't forget the "one more match part."


Look at the big picture, and Roger Federer looks as daunting as ever. Just like the last two years, he won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, the US Open, and fell to Rafael Nadal at the French. That adds up to a grand total of one match lost at the majors this season (making it three over the last three years, and five over the last four years!)
But go in a little closer, and there were a few more wobbles during the season than we’ve become accustomed to. The biggest came early in the season. Two losses in a row to Guillermo Canas at Indian Wells and Miami were followed by an ineffectual performance against Nadal in the final of Monte Carlo and then a mystifying loss against Filippo Volandri in Rome. It seemed very possible that the era of Federer’s dominance – not victories, but dominance – was nearing a close. An unexpected parting of the ways with coach Tony Roche only reinforced the feeling.
Ye of little faith, said Federer – and right he was. A shaky start in Hamburg was quickly forgotten as proceeded to win the title by defeating Nadal in the final – his first clay win against the Spaniard six tries. Though he then fell to Nadal in the French Open final, Federer got his revenge at SW19 in a gripping five-set final that got him his fifth straight Wimbledon title.
A defeat in Montreal against Novak Djokovic was another little blip, quickly overturned when the two met again in the final of the US Open. He also marked a significant achivement that got lost during the shuffle – breaking Steffi Graf’s dual-gender record of being No. 1 for 186 consecutive weeks in a row. Federer’s mark is now 200 straight weeks at No. 1.
His season was sandwiched by a second Argentine-induced wobble – back-to-back defeats against David Nalbandian in Madrid and Paris. When Federer then proceeded to drop his first match at the Masters Cup the week after Paris, it marked the first time since 2004 he had lost two matches in a row. Speculation about the end of the Federer era started afresh, but barely had time to gather momentum before being swept away by Federer’s sublime performances in his last three matches. The Swiss world No. 1 ended the season with his fourth Masters Cup in five years.
Despite the minor hiccups, Federer maintained his standard at the most important times, bringing his career Slam haul to 12 and putting Pete Sampras’ record of 14 tantalizingly close. Along with winning the French and the Olympics for the first time, it’ll be one of his big goals for next season. It’s also eminently achievable – as long as his occasional displays of vulnerability remain confined to the non-majors.

2008 To-Do List: Try to complete 2007's to-do list.

2. RAFAEL NADAL

KEY STAT Points earned from March to end July: 4,730
Points earned the rest of the year: 1,005



2006 year-end rank: 2

2006 Stat
Relative ranking from Monte Carlo to Wimbledon: 1
Relative post-Wimbledon ranking: 11

2007 To-Do list
Repeat the first half of the year, try to do better in the second. Oh, and start beating Federer again.

Verdict
Try, try again.


Last year, Rafael Nadal ran rampant between Monte Carlo and Wimbledon. This year, it was between Indian Wells and Stuttgart, so at least he’s pushing the boundaries in the right direction.
The 21-year-old has already become the game’s longest-serving No. 2. If he wants to get to No.1, he has to aim to maintain his best form over an entire season.
Given that he’s the game’s most physical player, it’s ironic that the biggest barrier may turn out to be physical.
Nadal recently went into some detail about his injury woes this season, saying he hasn’t been able to incorporate running into his training routine for a couple of years and played the French Open with his foot numb from pain-killing anesthetic. At the US Open, he was literally brought down by compatriot David Ferrer. The image of Nadal sitting down on court during his fourth-round exit was so striking that even Federer remembered it months later in Shanghai.
Still, even a partly lame Nadal has maintained his position as the main challenger to Federer’s supremacy. The pair have played the final on the soft courts of Paris and Wimbledon for the last two years, Nadal winning on his native clay and coming ever closer on the alien grass. Hard courts have been his trouble – injuries have hampered him during the Australian Open and the long, hard European swing tends to leave him physically and mentally burnt out for the North American hardcourt season.
Even then, he’s had quite a career so far – three French Open titles, two Wimbledon finals and 20 other tournament titles. Now, with other members of his generation like Novak Djokovic coming up fast, he might want to – might have to – start husbanding his strength in order to peak at the Grand Slams and Masters Series events not held in May and July. This year, he cut back on playing the small South American clay events after the Australian Open. The small claycourt events after Wimbledon should be on the chopping block for next year.

2008 To-Do List: Stop losing steam in August.

3. NOVAK DJOKOVIC

KEY STAT Ranking spots gained this season: 13



2006 year-end rank: 16

The arrival of Novak Djokovic at the top of the men’s game was the biggest new storyline of the season (the continued dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal being the biggest old ones). He made the biggest jump of the top 10, going from No. 16 at the start of the year to No. 3 thanks to titles in Miami and Montreal and finals in Indian Wells and the US Open.
He, Nadal and Federer were the only players to win a Grand Slam or Masters Series crowns this year until David Nalbandian broke the triopoly in the fall.
The Djoker has also established himself as one of the tour’s bigger personalities, especially with his post-match impersonations of Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal at the US Open.
If the Serb is concerned about any part of his year, it should be the way he finished it – five straight losses, including three ineffectual performances at the Masters Cup. His schedule hasn’t been particularly crowded, but the added pressure of having to consistently perform at this level took a larger toll than he expected. He overdid it by playing Vienna right after a tiring Davis Cup tie, and that (plus some painful dental work) left him wiped out for the fall.
The only other thing the 20-year-old should be mulling over is his 2-5 record against Nadal this year. Few generalizations can be made because each match was decided by its own specific circumstances, but the Serb is chasing the Spaniard for the No. 2 spot in the rankings and will want to make the head-to-head a lot closer next year.

2008 To-do list: Be indefatigable.

4. NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO
KEY STAT Match-fixing investigations: 1



2006 year-end rank: 3

2006 Stat
Matches lost in 2006: 28
(most in top 10)

2007 To-Do list
Win more, play less. Try to encourage those Agassi comparisons TV commentators have been making ever since he shaved his, um, hair.

Verdict
Decided to find his own way of becoming famous.


No matter what else Nikolay Davydenko might have done this year, his infamous match in Sopot is the only thing people will remember. Luckily, he hasn’t done much: one title in Moscow, the semifinals of the US Open and the French Open, and two Masters Series semifinals. In almost half of his 29 events, he's won one match or less.
When Davydenko first made it into the upper reaches of the top ten a couple of years ago, he appeared to be the latest in a line of overachievers like Rainer Schuttler, Jiri Novak and Ivan Ljubicic – players who unexpectedly come up and get their rankings into single digits for a season or two, and then vanish back into the oblivion from which they came. But this is the third straight time Davydenko has finished in the top 5, so a little more respect is due.
A fourth top-5 finish will require snapping out of his current funk, though it’s hardly surprising that he’s fallen into one. The low-key Russian was thrust into the spotlight when betting exchange Betfair voided all bets placed during his match against Martin Vassallo Arguello in Sopot during the summer, setting off a match-fixing scare and numerous revelations of players being offered money to lose matches.
Apart from the public and press scrutiny, Davydenko was questioned by ATP investigators during the fall and twice told by umpires to try harder during a match (a fine for lack of effort in St. Petersburg was later repealed).He hasn’t made things entirely easy on himself either, playing through the cited injuries and throwing out belligerent counter-accusations at fellow players and ATP in public.
Little has been established so far one way or another, meaning that this is set to drag on well into next season.

2008 To-do list: Be unimpeachable.

5. DAVID FERRER

KEY STAT Points won on second serve return (57%)
Break points converted (48%)
Return games won (36%)



2006 year-end rank: 14

If the long-touted Novak Djokovic was the most expected surprise of the year, David Ferrer was the most unexpected. Once purely a claycourter who thought of himself as the “worst player in the top 100,” he has steadily improved his results on faster courts to the point where his best results this year were mostly on hard surfaces – titles in Auckland and Tokyo, the semifinals of the US Open and the finals of the Masters Cup. On his native clay, he also won the title in Bastad.
He didn't just defeat compatriot Rafael Nadal at the US Open and Masters Cup – he outlasted him, something that hasn't been done in a long time. Inexhaustibility isn't Ferrer's only weapon. He leads three of the ATP’s four service return categories – second serve points won, break points converted and return games won. In the fourth category – points won on first serve returns – he has the same 35% percentage as leader Nadal but has played three fewer matches. In short, Ferrer can safely be crowned the year’s most effective returner.
On his own second serve, meanwhile, he won a mere 52% of points.

2008 To-do list: Stay more of a 'second Nadal' than a 'second Robredo.'

6. ANDY RODDICK

KEY STAT Winning percentage this season: 75%



2006 year-end rank: 6

2006 Stat
Points from US Open Series events: 55%
Points from other events: 45%

2007 To-Do list
Keep channeling that Connors aggression on court. Channel less of it off court. And hey, why not – beat Federer.

Verdict
Connors who?


Three hyped but ultimately disappointing matches against Roger Federer defined Andy Roddick’s unremarkable year – the first at the Australian Open and the last at the Masters Cup. And unfortunately for Roddick, none of those was his most haunting loss of the season – that honor goes to his Wimbledon quarterfinal defeat to Richard Gasquet, which he lost after being up two sets and a break.
But hidden amongst those dismal scorelines is a very solid year. Only Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have a better win-loss percentage than Roddick this season. He reached at least the quarterfinals in over three-quarters of his 17 events this year, and lost his opening match at only two events. That, along with two titles, explains why he’s as high as No. 6.
No discussion about Roddick’s year should omit his Davis Cup campaign – spearheaded by A-Rod, the US team has a chance to win the Cup for the first time in 12 years when it takes on Russia in the final this week.
So while Roddick didn’t make much progress in his quest to climb back to the top of the game this year, he didn’t lose that much ground either. But many of those losses came either to Federer or to the upcoming generation – Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic – so another year of staying still could see him start to fall behind.
Hiring coach Jimmy Connors last year proved to be an immediate boost, but the Connors effect seems to have worn off by this point. Finding another magic cure will be tough, but a little luck might also do the trick. He’s due.

2008 To-Do List: Be spectacular, not solid.

7. FERNANDO GONZALEZ
KEY STAT Fraction of pointsearned at Australian Open: 35%



2006 year-end rank: 10

Fernando Gonzalez finished the year by doing the one thing he couldn’t do in Australia – beat Roger Federer. The Chilean was unstoppable in Melbourne otherwise, hitting 167 winners and just 24 unforced errors in his three matches before facing Federer in the final. Under the tutelage of coach Larry Stefanki, a new, patient Gonzalez was finding unprecedented success by mixing up his backhand and waiting for the right moment to unleash his forehand.
Gonzalez found flashes of that form in the next few months, reaching the final of Rome and winning Beijing, but overall the year was a slow fade. Over a third of his ranking points came from that Australian Open result – without it, he wouldn’t be in the top 25.
His Masters Cup campaign followed a similar pattern – after his sensational defeat of Federer, he somehow contrived to finish last in his round-robin group, behind even the beleaguered Nikolay Davydenko.
So no one knows quite what next year will bring for Gonzo, nor how long Stefanki's patience will last. But then again, unpredictability has always been the hallmark of the Chilean's career.

2008 To-Do List: Don’t get impatient with being patient.

8. RICHARD GASQUET

KEY STAT Season record in deciding sets: 10-8




2006 year-end rank: 48


There have never been any questions about the talent of the Frenchman who graced his first tennis magazine cover at the age of 9. But every year that goes by raises more questions about his heart.
The answers so far have been conflicting. After suffering a self-admitted meltdown in front of the reactionary French crowds at the French Open, Gasquet produced a stunning fightback against Andy Roddick to win their Wimbledon quarterfinal from a set and a break down.
After receiving some criticism for not attempting to play his second-round match at the US Open because of a virus, he went on a mini-tear by winning Mumbai, reaching the finals of Tokyo.
The week before the Paris Masters, he hurt his knee and considered skipping the event because he was “a bit scared of the reaction of the fans if things go wrong.” But play he did, producing a clutch performance to grab the last Masters Cup spot before falling to the red-hot David Nalbandian.

Overall, he split his two five-setters and went 9-7 in three-set matches.
There has been much French hand-wringing and weighing-in on his underachievement – in Monte Carlo, Gasquet complained it felt like even like even the tournament janitor had advice for him. But one person has actually been invited to provide input – Yannick Noah will be working as a coaching consultant for Gasquet over the next few months, much as he did with Amelie Mauresmo a couple of years ago.
A wildly talented game like Gasquet’s can take some time to come together – witness Roger Federer – but there are things the 21-year-old can do in the meantime: resolve some of the mental conflict, make a concerted effort to get physically stronger and adopt more aggressive court positioning. Next year is as good a time as any.
2008 To-Do List: Be a good finisher.

OTHERS TO WATCH
9. DAVID NALBANDIAN

KEY STAT Ranking points earned in October: 1,000
Ranking points earned the rest of the year: 775


2006 year-end rank: 8

2006 Stat
Slams where he hasn’t reached a semifinal: 0

2007 To-Do list
Get called an overachiever.

Verdict
Overachivers usually overachieve for more than three weeks.


It’s not clear where David Nalbandian was hiding himself for most of the year, but he certainly made his presence felt during the last few weeks of the season. Nalbandian didn’t just win Madrid and Paris, he beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the way both times.
But even that wasn’t enough for him to finish the year in the top 8, underlining how poor the rest of his season was. His early-round matches were often spending grinding out three-setters, leaving him with little energy for the rest of the event.
It turns out there was a reason for that destructive pattern. Nalbandian has never been one of the tour's most committed workers, and recently explained that he couldn't even train his usual amount during the first half of the year because of injuries.
After a few years of being labelled the best player not to have won a Slam, he spent most of his season trying to get back into contention for that list. Now, he can aim a little higher.

2008 To-do List: Make it unnecessary for people to wonder whether you’re the best player not to have won a Grand Slam.

11. ANDY MURRAY

KEY STAT Winning percentage for the season: 74.1%

2006 year-end rank: 17

2006 Stat
Bonus points collected (if bonus points still existed): 5th highest

2007 To-Do list
Become Top 10 so there’s one less Top 10 player to play against. After all, bonus points no longer exist.

Verdict
One ranking spot short.


Injuries prevented Andy Murray from playing a lot this year, but he was the fifth most effective player on tour when he did play – only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick have a better winning percentage this season.
Though Novak Djokovic was the one who ended up making a breakthrough, it was his friend and rival Murray who began the year looking like he would be announcing his arrival. Even Federer felt Murray was the most upwrdly mobile young gun at the start of the season. “They’re all very good, you know,” Federer said at the US Open. “You could definitely tell one of them was going to definitely make the breakthrough soon. It was Djokovic that did it first, even though it looked like Murray was going to do it ahead of him. He had problems with his injuries. Who knows what he could have done at the French Open and Wimbledon, he was injured.”

After defending his title in San Jose, Murray lost to Djokovic at Indian Wells and Miami and was affected by injuries both times. A wrist problem in Hamburg then kept him out of action until August, and it wasn’t till October that he really began to regain his momentum.
His last few matches bode well for next season, though his recent decision to part ways with coach Brad Gilbert means even more scrutiny and pressure for the British No. 1 in the months ahead.

2008 To-do List: Stay healthy. And vindicate the Gilbert decision.

61. ERNESTS GULBIS

KEY STAT Ranking spots climbed this season: 79

2006 year-end rank: 140

It’s not easy to leaving a top-10 player gasping in your wake at a Grand Slam, but that’s what Ernests Gulbis did at the third round of the US Open with his 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 destruction of Tommy Robredo. Afterwards, Robredo waxed about the potential of the 19-year-old who was playing just the third major of his career.
Gulbis is the third-youngest player in the top 100, just a few weeks older than fellow teens Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. He hit a career-high of 46 in October, a jump of over 620 spots from two years ago. His net gain for this season was 79 spots.
The Latvian honed his game at Nikki Pilic’s academy in Munich, where Novak Djokovic also spent some of his early years. “The last time we played, I beat him on carpet,” Gulbis said at the US Open. “But it was practice.” If he keeps playing like this, the next time could be for real.

2008 To-Do List: Start beating Novak Djokovic at tournaments

TOP 50 PLAYERS WHO ACHIEVED A CAREER-HIGH RANKING THIS YEAR
Novak Djokovic*
David Ferrer*
Fernando Gonzalez
Richard Gasquet
Andy Murray
Tomas Berdych
Mikhail Youzhny
Ivo Karlovic*
Juan Monaco
Paul-Henri Mathieu
Nicolas Almagro
Gilles Simon*
Potito Starace
Phillip Kohlschreiber
Filippo Volandri
Robin Soderling
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga*
Juan Martin del Potro*
Nicolas Mahut*
Albert Montanes
Andreas Seppi
* current ranking

No. 3 (July 9)
No. 5 (November 19)
No. 5 (January 29)
No. 7 (July 9)
No. 8 (June 18)
No. 9 (August 20)
No. 10 (August 13)
No. 22 (November 9)
No. 19 (September 17)
No. 19 (October 29)
No. 26 (September 10)
No. 29 (November 5)
No. 27 (October 15)
No. 28 (June 18)
No. 25 (July 23)
No. 23 (January 8)
No. 43 (November 5)
No. 44 (November 5)
No. 45 (November5)
No. 45 (October 29)
No. 49 (November 5)

Source: http://tennis.com/features/general/features.aspx?id=108482
 

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I DON'T LIKE DJOKOVIC
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My considered analysis - That is an awful picture of Gasquet. And I am struck by how long Nole's skull is, and how thick his neck is! What an athlete. :worship:

edit, we already had Nadal's portion in his forum. They could have just repeated last year's for him :sad:
 

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edit, we already had Nadal's portion in his forum. They could have just repeated last year's for him :sad:
Same here for Roddick. Even with all the improvements he's made to his game it still feels like he's running in place and nothing's really happening.

Hopefully Davis Cup will be his shining moment for an otherwise mediocre 2007.

2008 will be critical for Andy. I feel that the other young guns will finally be making their move up the ladder and he'll have to contend with them, too.
 

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My opinion on Nadal: I think the press and people should stop comparing his pre-August season to post August season. Nadal is an expectional player on clay and a very good one on grass. What he achieves during the clay season is not normal. What is normal is his hard court performances. I for one, think he played overall a much much better hard court season that last year except for the USOpen(only result wise). He is more aggressive, comes and ends points at the net. Last year he lost to people like Joachim Johannson, Youzhny and Berdych. This year he lost to an in form Djokovic, Nalbandian, Ferrer and Federer. When he lost, in three cases Fed lost to the same guy. He also reached an indoor final and a hard court semi post August apart from Shanghai semi. The only change for next year I would expect is reaching USOpen quarters or semis preferably semis.
 

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Same here for Roddick. Even with all the improvements he's made to his game it still feels like he's running in place and nothing's really happening.

Hopefully Davis Cup will be his shining moment for an otherwise mediocre 2007.

2008 will be critical for Andy. I feel that the other young guns will finally be making their move up the ladder and he'll have to contend with them, too.
I thought 2007 and 2006 were very different for Roddick.

2006 - he struggled a lot until around Cincinnati, then had a lot of success.
2007 - Just the same the whole year, a rather dull year you could say but not terrible at all.

My opinion on Nadal: I think the press and people should stop comparing his pre-August season to post August season. Nadal is an expectional player on clay and a very good one on grass. What he achieves during the clay season is not normal. What is normal is his hard court performances. I for one, think he played overall a much much better hard court season that last year except for the USOpen(only result wise). He is more aggressive, comes and ends points at the net. Last year he lost to people like Joachim Johannson, Youzhny and Berdych. This year he lost to an in form Djokovic, Nalbandian, Ferrer and Federer. When he lost, in three cases Fed lost to the same guy. He also reached an indoor final and a hard court semi post August apart from Shanghai semi. The only change for next year I would expect is reaching USOpen quarters or semis preferably semis.
I agree about Nadal. He hasn't really proven that he is good enough to get the results U.S Open series and afterwards that the press expect him to have. Maybe he could have done better but you get the feeling they think he should be beating everyone ranked below him. On paper, there was no problem losing to the players he did but there was probably room for improvement in his performances.

I can't believe they listed Davydenko's results then added to say that he hasn't done much. So compiling a record in Grand Slams of QF, SF, 4R (on by far his worst surface), SF is not impressive. :confused:

There will be a lot of pressure on Gonzalez at the Australian Open next year because he has so many points to defend. Given that he has not done well at all in the Grand Slams recently compiling a record of 1R, 3R, 1R after the Australian Open, you have to think there is a large possibility that his ranking could be down quite low by the end of it.

By the way, Gasquet's year end ranking in 2006 was nowhere near 48, it was 18.
 

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I can't believe they listed Davydenko's results then added to say that he hasn't done much. So compiling a record in Grand Slams of QF, SF, 4R (on by far his worst surface), SF is not impressive. :confused:

I know. It's ridiculous how there is so much lack of objectivity. Two slam semifinals is a very good result for anybody:eek:. The man just can't get a good word from the press:rolleyes:
 

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I know. It's ridiculous how there is so much lack of objectivity. Two slam semifinals is a very good result for anybody:eek:. The man just can't get a good word from the press:rolleyes:
That's either because of his low-profile or because he's been reprimanded by the ATP for his :retard: ways.
 

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I know. It's ridiculous how there is so much lack of objectivity. Two slam semifinals is a very good result for anybody:eek:. The man just can't get a good word from the press:rolleyes:
Word. :yeah:

That's either because of his low-profile or because he's been reprimanded by the ATP for his :retard: ways.
The low-profile argument I understand... but let's not forget there has so far not been ANY evidence that he's indeed done what he's been accused of. All 'evidence' so far is merely circumstancial. And in my (law) book, anyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty... ;)
 
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