Rafa Nadal personifies the Spanish saying, “Piedra sin agua no aguza en la fragua!”
As of this Monday, Rafa Nadal will regain the No. 1 ranking after a period of three years. Rafa has been one of the most consistent players this season, having won five titles already including his 10th French Open. Only Federer could have prevented Nadal from becoming No. 1 again but his withdrawal from Cincinnati came as a relief to Nadal. This means that Rafa would be the top seed at the US Open.
Roger Federer has everything to gain from the forthcoming tournaments this season, as he would be defending no points. Should Federer make a deep run at the US Open and Nadal exits in the first week, Federer could topple Nadal for the top spot. Nadal had reached the fourth round at the US Open last year. Federer is just 5 points behind Andy Murray and while Murray has to defend titles at Shanghai, Paris and London, Federer would just be collecting more points this season. So, as of now it is safe to predict that Federer and Nadal would finish this season as the top two players.
NextGen on the rise
Alexander Zverev beat Roger Federer last week at Montreal to win his 2nd ATP Masters title. Earlier this season, he had beaten Novak Djokovic to win the Rome Masters and Kevin Anderson to win the tournament at Washington. He is currently ranked seventh in the world, the highest ranked German player since 2004.
Nick Kyrgios beat Rafa Nadal at Cincinnati to reach the semi-finals, where he would play David Ferrer. He now has a 2-2 head to head record against Nadal. Kyrgios has a good chance of winning the tournament given the form he is in. Even though Dominic Thiem lost his lost his quarter-final match against Ferrer at Cincinnati, he has had a very consistent year overall. He is well placed to qualify for the World Tour Finals for the second consecutive year.
Starting this year, the ATP has announced a separate World Tour Finals for the younger generation to be held in Milan. While Zverev has qualified already for Milan, he could become the first player to qualify for both the World Tour Finals in the same year. Karen Khachanov who is second in line to qualify for the tournament is 3275 points behind Zverev. Sumit Nagal, the Indian star, is currently placed at No. 49.
The Lost Generation
With Nadal and Federer still winning Grand slams and the generation of Zverev and Kyrgios winning ATP Masters and making deep runs at tournaments, the lacklustre generation of Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov will find it more difficult to climb up the ladder. If they continue with their run-of-the-mill performances for the next two or three years, theirs could be a lost generation in tennis. The likes of David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych might have an excuse that they were born in the generation of Federer and Nadal and even after being among the top players consistently for so many years, they are yet to achieve their due. Nishikori’s generation could easily take a few notes from Wawrinka’s notebook. Wawrinka being the only player in recent times to surge after being around for so many years. While DelPotro and Marin Cilic too have won a US Open title apiece in 2009 and 2014 respectively, Wawrinka was able to break off the stranglehold of the Big Four. Before 2013, Wawrinka was not a popular name and had won just 3 of his 16 titles today. But the last four years have been amazing for Wawrinka and since the time he broke into the Top Ten he has performed well to stay there. He has since beaten Djokovic twice and Nadal once in Grand Slam finals and Federer at Rome in 2014.
It is still unconfirmed whether Andy Murray would play the upcoming US Open and with Wawrinka and Djokovic having pre-maturely ended their season, Nadal and Federer are going to be the favourites at this year’s US Open. The two have won all the grand slams this year so far between themselves. Hoping for a prolonged déjà vu.