ATP World Tour: 7 Players Who Will Drop in Ranking over the Course of 2012
The quality of 2011 tennis depends on the person that you ask. If you roam the streets of Belgrade surveying random Serbians, I'm pretty sure you'll get a positive answer.
On the other hand, if you have a poll in any Mallorcan city whose inhabitants have seen Rafael Nadal win many grand slams over the years, the answer wouldn't be as great.
It was a normal year; good for some, bad for others.
This article, however, concerns not the four best players but their peers—other fantastic tennis players who have amassed a great amount of ATP ranking points during the last few years.
Whether I predict that the drop will be drastic or whether I believe a certain player will only fall a few spots, the men mentioned in this list will not, in my opinion, have a bright 2012.
But don't worry, because for every drop in ranking there is someone else who rises, so it won't be sad for everybody.
In addition to why I think these players will slip, I will include what their ranking will be on December 31, 2012 (if there is one).
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The last tournament that Robin Soderling played was Bastad, Sweden in November 2011, which he won. However, before that, he hadn't played since Wimbledon, where he lost in the Round of 32 to Bernard Tomic.
Just last month, the Swede decided to pull out of the 2012 Australian Open due to an illness called mononucleosis. He said that he will definitely miss January, and it is possible that the 27-year-old will be out of action in February as well.
He has around 430 ranking points to defend in January, all of which he will lose, and if he misses February also, he will lose about 750 points. With over 1,000 points lost, it doesn't seem like he will stay in theTop 20 during the time that he doesn't play.
The only hope for Soderling in 2012 is that he will come back strong.
The man does have quite a dynamic game and is more than capable of beating players in the Top 10. Expect him to get to at least the Round of 16 at Roland Garros and do well in the other two majors that he will take part in.
Ranking Situation: Right now, he sits at No. 13 in the rankings, but with all these things factored in, I think he will be at No. 25 at the end of the year, assuming that he will do well when he comes back.
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Gilles Simon's game isn't typical.
Rather than relying on winning the point with sheer skill and power, the Frenchman's game depends more on consistency and having a "tennis brain". A bit like Brad Gilbert, Simon is extremely good at playing angles, keeping players from finding a rhythm and catching opponents off guard.
I think that Simon will drop in the rankings because his game is built very much around being extremely quick.
At the age of 27, I don't believe that Simon can maintain the agility that he has had for so many years. When that goes, his whole game will break down. I am not saying that the change will be sudden and obvious, but his age will take a small toll on him.
In this era of tennis, people with this type of game aren't as successful as they used to be. Back in the day, it was an excellent style to have (dependent on angles, changes of pace and cleverness), but with newer technologies, players win with sheer power.
With rackets and strings being designed to hit harder, I don't think that Simon can continue like this; maybe he should try to flatten his shots out a bit more.
Ranking Situation: At 12th place, I think that younger players will overtake him during the course of the year because those players hit harder. By the end of 2012, my prediction is that Simon will be around No. 20 in the rankings.
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Standing at 6'6", Cilic has a solid game and is reliant on his serve, but he isn't like other tall players in the sense that the Croat can also hit hard groundstrokes cleanly. Cilic is a decent mover, plays a smart game, and he's always a tough test for top players.
Even though he's only 23, I don't see him having a great 2012.
His 2011 wasn't too good, despite the fact that he did put on a good showing in the Australian Open, reaching the Round of 16 but losing to No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal.
However, at both the French Open and Wimbledon, Cilic exited in the first round, losing to then-ranked No. 100 Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo and Ivan Ljubicic, respectively.
In the US Open, he only reached the Round of 32, but that was because he encountered 16-time grand slam winner and world No. 3 Roger Federer.
His level of play last year wasn't so high, and he needs to really turn it around. But I don't see it happening for him in the next year.
Ranking Situation: Right now, the Croat is ranked at No. 21 and by the end of the year, I see him dropping to No. 25 as younger players pass him.
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It's a known fact that David Ferrer possesses the quintessential Spanish game: He's very consistent, isn't a very hard hitter and is one of the best movers on the tour.
Everyone also knows that Ferrer's surface is clay. He's good on hard court, not great on grass, but most of the points that he gets come from tournaments played on the dirt.
He did extremely well on clay in 2010, getting to three finals (not the French Open) and winning one of them. In the other two he lost to Nadal.
Last year, however, as Novak Djokovic's reign was in full swing, Djokovic and Nadal met in clay-court finals. Both of those players are superior to Ferrer on clay, so he couldn't really get as many points as he would have liked.
I think that this year's clay season will go almost exactly how it went last year (maybe with Rafa beating Novak more often). I don't see Ferrer getting to any tournament finals.
When you take out the tournaments that he gets the majority of his points in, David Ferrer cannot have a great year.
Ranking Situation: Currently at No. 5, I think Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will overtake him, therefore I see Ferrer finishing off the year sitting in the No. 7 spot.
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Mardy Fish enjoyed a fantastic 2011, winning a hard-court tournament in Atlanta, Georgia, and getting to two other ATP finals (Canada and Los Angeles).
The American, who has a huge first serve and hits the ball devastatingly hard off of both flanks, wasn't doing well by his standards in early 2010—he even dropped out of the Top 100.
However, after losing more than 30 pounds, Mardy became fitter, and as a result his movement improved greatly and he became more of a counterpuncher.
Fish didn't do too well in the first two grand slams of last year, losing in the Round of 64 in the Australian Open and the Round of 32 in the French Open. However, he did well in the next two majors, getting to the quarters of Wimbledon (losing to Nadal) and the Round of 16 in Flushing Meadows (getting edged by Tsonga in a tough fifth set).
But at the age of 30, I just don't think that Fish can keep it up. As with Simon, age will take a toll on this man.
Ranking Situation: I don't expect Mardy's drop to be drastic, but I think that he will narrowly fall out of the Top 10, finishing in 11th or 12th at the end of the year.
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Tomas Berdych's 2011 was disappointing compared to 2010, in which he bombed into the Top 10 after reaching the final of Wimbledon.
With the game that he has, it's surprising that he's not in the Top Five. Known as one of the hardest and cleanest hitters on tour, the Czech hits with tremendous pace off of both flanks and wins many free points with his serve.
Berdych had a good run in last year's Australian Open, reaching the quarterfinals where he lost to the eventual winner, Djokovic. The French Open was a catastrophe for him, as he lost in the first round to Stephane Robert, a Frenchman who was ranked at No. 140 at that time.
He did well at Wimbledon, losing to Mardy Fish in the Round of 16. At the US Open, he was forced to retire against Janko Tipsarevic in the Round of 32.
Though he's not too old—26 years—it's hard to see Berdych continuing his hot run and not being overtaken by up-and-comers.
Ranking Situation: Currently No. 7, I think Berdych will fall to the No. 10 slot by the end of the year.
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Sorry, American fans.
Andy Roddick's form is just so bad and his confidence is so low that I don't see him rising back up. His serve, which used to be huge, has lost its zip; his forehand, which used to be a weapon, is mighty no more; his backhand is still awful.
By his extremely high standards, the American did not have a very good 2011, in which he reached the Round of 16 in Melbourne, pulled out of the French Open, lost in the Round of 32 at Wimbledon and lost to Nadal in the quarters of the US Open.
Last year, Roddick was struggling to beat opponents who ranked outside of the Top 50—he really was the shocker of the year.
Additionally, 29 is not an age where most people drastically turn around their game, and that's why I can't see Roddick climbing back up the rankings.
Ranking Situation: I think it will be all downhill from here for the American, and from his current ranking of No. 14, he will plummet to the low 20s.
Please leave your comments and feedback, and tell me what you agree or disagree with.
Also, be sure to check out my article on Andy Murray.