If the recent ATP World Tour Finals taught spectators one thing, it’s that anything can happen on a tennis court in major tournaments. World ranking is sometimes more a guideline than a reflection of ranked skill, with form often playing havoc on the ATP Tour circuit. As Novak Djokovic’s god-like 43-match unbeaten run earlier this year before a lowly World Tour Finals performance will display, there’s no telling what can happen on-court, with any one tournament very much anyone’s game.
With injuries and possible fatigue plaguing the second half of World No.1 Novak Djokovic’s season, eyes were soon averted away from the Serb in search of hot talent, coming largely from Swiss genius Roger Federer. Crowned victor at the recent ATP World Tour Finals, Federer showed the world he still possesses the quality and grit that once made him World No.1. After a 10-month drought without a trophy, he exploded back onto the scene with two ATP Masters titles before running away with the ATP World Tour Finals – making easy work of the hard-hitting Jo Wilfred-Tsonga and ending the season on a 17-match winning streak and taking his 70th ATP Tour career title in the process.
Finalist Tsonga also made light work of 2011. Starting the year ranked 18th, the Frenchman reached countless semi-finals and finals on the ATP circuit to see the year out finishing sixth thanks to victories against the likes of Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Winning three of the season’s four Grand Slams, top seed Djokovic is undoubtedly the hottest player on the ATP circuit right now. His 43-match unbeaten run – broken eventually by Federer – broke records, as he romped to 10 title wins in 12 months to finish a year of superhuman measures.
Title-rival Rafael Nadal had a comparatively tough year. His ongoing battle with Djokovic for top seed was dealt a major blow after seeing his 37-match clay court winning streak destroyed by the Serb mid-year, before losing to the same man just a week later. Recovering well to clinch the French Open, he fell to that same man in the Wimbledon and US Open finals to end the year as the World’s No.2.
This year’s World Tour Finals highlighted how dangerous Tomas Berdych can be when in-form. Burdened with early injury, a slow year saw the World No. 7 take just his first title in 29 months back in October. Impressive performances at the recent Finals took Berdych to the semi-finals before he was toppled by Federer, and this aside if Berdych can take his close-season form into the new year he could well be a serious threat in the coming months.
Once more, Brit No.1 Andy Murray had a troubled season. With patriotic expectations sky-high, Murray failed to reach a Grand Slam final yet showed quality during multiple tussles with Djokovic and Nadal in particular. Just 24, he’s one of the youngest elite players however, and on his day Murray can be a wrecking ball to the world’s best. Although dropping a place in the rankings to the dynamic Federer, there’s no reason he can regain his spot with an illustrious 2012.
Form plays a huge part on the tennis court, and no result is ever a given. What can be assured for the coming year however is the abundance of talent on the ATP circuit. With the Australian Open – the first Grand Slam of the season – just weeks away, spectators won’t have to wait long to see such spectacles unfold.
By James Hartnett