It has been a fascinating season on the ATP tour so far in 2009. The key plotlines have been Rafael Nadal taking his first Grand Slam title on a hard court in Australia and threatening to become the first man since Rod Laver to win all four majors in one season before injury derailed his bid; Roger Federer rising from the flames to capture the French Open and with it the career Slam, before breaking Pete Sampras’ record of total Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon; and of course Juan Martin Del Potro’s scintillating win at the US Open.
But putting those biggest of stories to one side, there have been a few subplots that could easily have been missed by less seasoned observers of the game.
Robin Soderling made big strides this year, turning himself from a solid top 40 player into a man on the cusp of the top 10. He reached his first Grand Slam final in Paris, causing the biggest upset of the year in beating the four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal on his way to the championship match. Since then, he has performed solidly, reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals of the US Open, losing on each occasion to Federer.
By reaching the French Open final, Soderling became the first Swede to get that far since Magnus Norman back in 2000, and it’s no coincidence that it’s the cerebral Norman who has coached Soderling to his career best season. Norman taught his protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ©e to temper his mood swings and approach the game in a more confident manner. Soderling is one of the game’s biggest hitters and could push on again in 2010 into the top 10.
Juan Carlos Ferrero was ranked number one in the world back in 2003, when he won the French Open and reached the US Open final. Thereafter, he went on an inexorable slide which lasted until April of this year when his ranking dropped as low as 116th, his lowest position since 1999.
There were no obvious reasons for his poor form, and many fans of his style of play had all but given up hope of a return to the upper echelons of the game, yet since the start of the grass court season, the Spaniard has shown glimpses of his best form.
He reached the semi-finals at Queen’s, before advancing to the last eight at Wimbledon. He’s beaten the likes of Gilles Simon and Fernando Gonzalez, and looked superb in dispatching Dudi Sela for the loss of just six games in their recent Davis Cup encounter. His forehand, once the most feared in the game, has rediscovered some of its old bite, and next season he could once more contend for some of the games bigger titles.
Dudi Sela is another player who has had a year to remember. At just 5 foot 9 and 147 pounds, he may struggle against the new breed of power players, but he has made the leap from outside the top 100 at the start of the year to his current position in the top 30. The highlight of his year to date was his fourth round finish at SW19, having beaten Rainer Schuettler and Tommy Robredo to get that far, and to date he is the third highest ranking Israeli of all time.
The two Americans, Sam Querrey and John Isner have also had years they can be proud of. Querrey is nestled just outside the top 20 having been as low as sixty earlier in the year, and John Isner pulled off a huge shock in beating an in-form Andy Roddick at the US Open. In winning that match he showed himself to have one of the best serves on tour, and it will have given him confidence to kick on and do some more damage in 2010, if not before.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge
BIOGRAPHY: Kepa Arrizabalaga