The top three in men’s tennis has been cemented in stone for some time now, but with Andy Murray snapping at the heels of Novak Djokovic and his number three spot, are we witnessing the emergence of a ‘big four’?
Rafael Nadal today claimed his first clay title of the season in a three set 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 victory over Novak Djokovic in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters. It’s the fifth year in a row that Nadal has won this particular title, and the 22-year-old has now equalled Roger Federer’s haul of 14 Masters titles.
Djokovic, in reaching the final, was thoroughly tested by Swiss number two Stanislas Wawrinka – Roger Federer’s victor – in the semi-final. It was a match that the Serb had to win – if he hadn’t, Andy Murray would have readily snapped up the world number three spot.
The top three, consisting of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, has been in place for almost two years now – since July 9, 2007 to be precise. And with Djokovic and Nadal being both still so young – 21 and 22 respectively, that pair look set to be up there for the immediate future at least.
Seeing as we have witnessed the development of a solid ‘big three’ for just under two years now, a ‘big four’ is definitely a realistic possibility.
Andy Murray, with his 22nd birthday under a month away, will be certain of being able to continue challenging the best if he continues his form of late. A prestigious Grandslam title however, is surely key to any future progression.
Roger Federer is the veteran of the four at 27, and after having held the number one spot for over four years, he was eventually overcome by the relentless power of Nadal, and after losing in the final of his favourite tournament at Wimbledon last Summer to the Spaniard, he also surrendered the top spot later in the year.
So after reaching his first ever semi-final on clay this week, Andy Murray has continued to close the gap to Djokovic. The Scot will have his work cut out in the coming weeks, as he has found only limited success on clay during his career. If he does however overtake the Serb, he will become the highest ranked male British tennis player in history.
But importantly, in his constant chase of the number three spot, Murray has opened up an impressively large gap of over 4000 ranking points between himself and Juan Martin del Potro in fifth place. Looking at the top four, could it be that we will see these players dominate for months and possibly years to come?
Seeing as we have witnessed the development of a solid ‘big three’ for just under two years now, a ‘big four’ is definitely a realistic possibility. It should be noted that the way in which the ranking system is calculated, with players having to better or defend their correlating results from the previous year, makes it easy for players to slip down the table very quickly if they hit a bad run of form.
Whether we now begin to see domination from these four surely depends greatly on who the three remaining Grandslams of 2009 are dished out to. Looking ahead to June, Roger Federer will dying to regain his Wimbledon crown. And before that in Paris, the Swiss maestro would surely love nothing more than to finally defeat Nadal at Roland Garros. It is the only Grandslam that has evaded him in his illustrious career. Two-time French Open semi-finalist Djokovic will also be eager to go further in Paris. Murray has never been further than the third round, but this year he looks in with his best shot so far.
So will the top four be the same this time next year? As with everything, time will tell, but so far this year, all signs point to ‘yes’.
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BIOGRAPHY: Georginio Wijnaldum