Friday, 9 January 2009

4 for 4?

Are the top 4 in Men's tennis more dominant than ever before?

Ahead of the new season and with the establishment of what seems to be 4 dominant players at the top of the game, what do you think the chances of all 4 reaching the semi's at each of this years grand slams?

Assuming all remain fit, is there a chance they could do it?

Aus Open:
This is the most likely slam for all 4 to make the semi's in my opinion. Murray has started the new seaon very strongly and Nadal is looking more consistent on the slower hard courts. Federer has an excellent record Down Under and should be shoe-in for a semi final berth. As for Djockovic the winner at Melbourne Park last year despite losing to Gulbis in Brisbane his is likely to up his game to defend his title.
If someone is to come unstuck early on it may be against an on fire Nalbandian or Safin. Nadal has also struggled with hard flat hitters on this sort of surface so someone like Blake or Tsonga could cause him a few difficulties. The Australian Open also has a habit of throwing up a suprise package. Relative unknowns have reached the finals over the years including Gonzalez, Schuttler, Baghdatis and Tsonga last year.

French Open:
A good chance Nadal will bag another title here, the Spaniard is arguable the greatest clay court player in the games history and it would be a brave man to bet against him going far again this year. Last year we also saw that Federer and Djockovic are the best behind the imperious Nadal and both stand a good chance of reaching the last 4 this year as well. This leaves Murray as the weak link for Roland Garros. After teaming up with former champion Alex Correjta last year Murray showed signs of improvement on the red clay beating the clay court specialist Jose Acasuso before falling to Nicolas Almangro in the last 32.
It is clearly a big ask for Murray to reach the semi-finals this year and there are perhaps numerous player more than capable of defeating the Scot on their day. Ernst Gulbis, Nicolas Almangro and Nickolay Davydenko would all be confident of victory against Murray in Paris.

Nadal and Federer are almost certain to reach the last 4 again this year and Murray stands a pretty good chance as well if given a reasonable draw. In-fact, despite reaching the final 4 in 2007, Djockovic may prove the weak link here. Last year he seemed very rusty at the net and needs to improve his volleys if he is going to go far at Wimbeldon again. Players such as Roddick, Karlovic, Ancic and even Soderling or Youzney could all be stern tests this year.

US Open:
I think that Federer has been most dominant at the US in recent years and stands a pretty good chance of adding a sixth title to his collection. Both Djockovic and Murray are very strong at Flushing meadows and i would expect them to do well again this year. If feel that Nadal again may be the most likely to fall at the US. As with the Australian Open Nadal is vulnerable to strong flat hitting players such as Blake and Tsonga. The 2003 champion Andy Roddick should also not be counted out. With the vocal support of his home fans he is more than capable of taking out one of the big four.

It is very unlikely that the top 4 all meet their seedings and get through to the semi-finals of the slams. In fact this has only happened 3 times in the 21st century. Djockovic reaching the semi's at Wimbeldon and Murray at the French Open are perhaps the two least likely to happen. Federer's semi-final run must come to an end at some point but who outside of the top 4 can take him out over 5 sets? As for Nadal he is dominant on clay, very strong on grass and continually improving on hard courts but it is still a big ask to make the semis at all 4 this year.

One thing that is certain, these 4 players will battle on every stage for the big prizes.

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