2012 was a nice change of pace in the men’s game. It marked the first time since 2003 where four different champions were crowned at the Grand Slams and thus there was no complete domination of one player.
We saw the signs of 2011 with Novak Djokovic’s defense of Australia and Miami, the return of the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, reclaiming Monte Carlo and Rome titles, Roger Federer becoming a Wimbledon champ again and Andy Murray denying Federer a gold medal, plus Murray winning his maiden Grand Slam title.
Head-to-head against each other, this season has also been very close, with, again, no one player having a clear advantage over the other.
Overall, each man has had a season to remember, but when comparing their entire season, who got the best of 2012?
Let’s look at their 2012 results to determine who had the best year overall.
4. Rafael Nadal
Win/Loss 2012 record as of this week: 42-7
Four titles: Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Rome and Barcelona
Grand Slam record: 14-2
Masters Series record: 19-3
Remaining ATP tournament record: 9-2
Nadal vs. Djokovic, Federer and Murray this season: 4-3
For the short season Nadal had, it was not too shabby. He finally got the upper hand on the Djokovic rivalry, beating him in Monte Carlo, Rome and Roland Garros after losing a tough six-hour match to him in Australia.
Unfortunately, Nadal’s season will also be remembered for one of the biggest upsets on the men’s side we’ve seen in a long time, being outplayed by the No. 100 ranked opponent, Lukas Rosol, in the second round at Wimbledon. Knee injuries have kept Nadal sidelined since the end of June, but he is expected to return in December.
Because of his lack of play, Nadal comes in fourth when comparing him to the other three, however, he was still the best player during the clay court season, naturally.
3. Andy Murray
Win/Loss 2012 record as of this week: 56-14
Three titles: U.S. Open, Brisbane, Olympic Gold Medalist
Grand Slam record: 22-3
Masters Series record: 14-7
Remaining ATP tournament record: 20-4
Murray vs. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer this season: 6-5
2012 was a breakout year for Andy Murray, reaching his first Wimbledon final, winning a gold medal and finally, winning his first Grand Slam in New York. So why is Murray ranked second-to-last?
First, he has the most losses among the four. He also was a disappointment when it came to the hard-court Masters series, losing early at Indian Wells, Toronto and Cincinnati—which are all places at which he has had previous success. Granted, he was worn out in August after winning 12 matches at the Wimbledon lawns over the course of two months.
He did show signs of his summer self this past week in Shanghai, defeating Federer in straight sets and almost defeating Djokovic in the finals. That is good new for his fans in London, but again, Murray’s 2012 was a roller coaster.
2. Novak Djokovic
Win/Loss 2012 record as of this week: 70-11
Five titles: Australian Open, Miami, Toronto, Beijing and Shanghai
Grand Slam record: 24-3
Masters Series record: 34-5
Remaining ATP tournament record: 12-3
Djokovic vs. Nadal, Murray and Federer this season: 6-8
Djokovic played the most matches compared to the other three, which was a good and bad thing for his 2012 season. First off, Djokovic had a ton of points to defend this year after dominating the 2011 season with three Grand Slams and starting last year undefeated until the French Open. He held is own, defending Australia and Miami before succumbing to Nadal in all of his clay-court finals.
At Wimbledon, he looked out of sorts against an in-form Federer and continued his daze in the Olympics and U.S. Open, being outplayed by Andy Murray. During his underperformance, Djokovic still had success, winning Toronto and reaching the finals of Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. He was the best player out of the four when it came to Masters Series events, winning three and reaching three finals.
With that said, Djokovic has performed the best out of the four during the fall swing, winning Beijing and Shanghai, and has the most momentum going into the ATP World Tour Finals. Though it was no 2011, Djokovic needs this momentum to propel him into the 2013 season.
1. Roger Federer
Win/Loss 2012 record as of this week: 65-9
Six titles: Wimbledon, Indian Wells, Madrid, Cincinnati, Rotterdam and Dubai
Grand Slam record: 21-3
Masters Series record: 23-3
Remaining ATP tournaments record: 21-3
Federer vs. Nadal, Murray and Djokovic this season: 5-5
Federer has had the best 2012, and it’s not because of the number of titles, but that he captured his first Grand Slam and regained the world No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2010. He was the most consistent player of the four, and only lost early in Miami and in New York after seeming poised to take the title after Wimbledon and Cincinnati wins. Despite the minor setback, Federer is looking to end the year as world No. 1 for the sixth time.
Overall, 2012 was a successful year for the “Big Four” and will make the ATP World Tour finals intriguing in the coming weeks.