With the conclusion of the 2011 tennis season, attention now turns to 2012 and whether the men’s game will continue as it has for the past couple of years and it is hard to look beyond a prediction that the 2012 ATP Tour will see Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer dominate the major events with possibly world number four, Andy Murray, also capable of making his presence felt.
With the conclusion of the Davis Cup earlier this month, won by a Rafael Nadal inspired Spain; thoughts go back 12 months ago to when this tournament was won by Serbia, who were similarly inspired by the magnificent performances of Novak Djokovic.
Of course as we all know now, the Davis Cup last year provided the catalyst for Djokovic to produce a breathtaking year, with the 24 year old winning three Grand Slams, Five ATP Masters 1000 titles and finish 2011 as comfortably the number one player in the world. One now must wonder if this year’s Davis Cup will have the same positive effect on Nadal, who was the player who suffered most at Djokovic’s hands throughout 2011.
Nadal lost his Wimbledon and US Open crowns to Djokovic, who beat him in the final of both events as well as losing to the Serb in the final of four ATP Masters 1000 events; two of which were on Nadal’s beloved clay court surface.
Predicting that the Davis Cup will inspire Nadal similarly therefore is not easy, particularly as Nadal himself, after losing to Djokovic at the US Open in August appeared to have no answer in how to overcome the Serb. However, given the Spaniard’s renowned powers of determination that he’s show in the past, he will be sure to want to find a way and will have no doubt been putting in the extra required to give himself a chance of winning more Grand Slams and returning to the number one spot in the ATP rankings.
The first big test for Nadal will come in at the Australian Open which gets underway on the 16th January in Melbourne. Djokovic won this tournament for a second time last year when defeating Andy Murray in a one-sided final. There is no doubt that the Scot will have learnt a lot from that defeat and will be a danger again this coming term, after all, Murray has made the final for the last two years and made the semi final in all three of the other Grand Slams held during the year but the question still remains about his capabilities of bridging that gap from finalist to Grand Slam winner, something that still eludes the 24 year old.
Federer of course can never be written off, particularly as he holds the record of 16 Grand Slams, although his last one came in Australia in 2010. The Swiss however comes into 2012 having won a record sixth ATP World Tour Final in London providing him with good momentum coming into the New Year. Federer has also made it clear that he still believes he has the game to defeat both Djokovic and Nadal on hard courts and if his form is on a par to that he showed at the end of 2011 then he is likely to be playing the best tennis of all. This is why he should not be written off from winning the Australia Open for a fifth time which, would provide him with a 17th Grand Slam!
Nadal has proven six times at the French Open that he is unstoppable on clay in five set matches although he will hope that Djokovic makes an exit from Roland Garros at least before the final when the tournament comes round in May. Djokovic was beaten by Federer in the semi finals last year, which obviously was the only Grand Slam singles match where he lost during the year and although Djokovic had two wins over Nadal on clay in 2011, the Spaniard remains the greatest clay court player that the world has ever seen, which is why he should make a return to winning ways again in 2012.
Like the Australian Open, the Wimbledon Championship has been won by all big three players over the last three years; Federer won in 2009, Nadal in 2010 and Djokovic in 2011. Murray meanwhile has made the semi final for the last three years, losing twice to Nadal and once to Andy Roddick. The outcome of Wimbledon 2012 can only be guessed at but the way in which Djokovic destroyed Nadal in last year’s final suggest that he has the best game for grass courts currently and he will be the one to beat.
The US Open is the one Grand Slam where most pundits have predicted will one day be won by Murray. His last appearance in the final at Flushing Meadows ended in a three set defeat at the hands of Federer, but it is usually a tournament where the Scot has often found his best form and is played on a fast hardcourt surface which Murray relishes. It is a very ‘big ask’ but this could be Murray’s last ever chance to claim a first Grand Slam and the prediction is that he will do so.
2012 Grand Slam Predictions
Australian Open – Roger Federer
French Open – Rafael Nadal
Wimbledon – Novak Djokovic
US Open – Andy Murray
As far as the nine Masters 1000 tournaments are concerned, it is predicted that they too will be monopolised by the top four in the world. Nadal will get back to winning ways on clay and should take at least two titles, Djokovic will not get the five he managed last year, but he will win at least three titles while Murray, who usually claims two of these titles each year should also grab two more. Meanwhile of the other two titles, one of those possibly the Paris Masters will head in the direction of one of the top Frenchmen, while Federer should grab the one that remains.
Djokovic will finish on top of the world rankings, with Nadal creeping ever closer, while Murray will regain the number three spot followed by Federer at number four.