Robin Soderling, whose total tennis repertoire stole the show at the Masters in Paris, tops our Power Rankings for the very first time.
The Swede’s 2010 indoor season proved to be the best of his career, ending with his first ATP Master’s 1000 win.
Soderling, along with many of the world’s top players, fought hard throughout the Fall in order to qualify for the season-ending championships.
As the culminating event of a very long year in tennis, the eight top-ranked men in 2010 will begin play at the World Tour Finals in London on Sunday, November 21.
The eight who have qualified: (1) Rafael Nadal, (2) Roger Federer, (3) Novak Djokovic, (4) Robin Soderling, (5) Andy Murray, (6) Thomas Berdych, (7) David Ferrer, and (8) Andy Roddick are almost all featured in our Power Pankings.
Only Berdych failed to make the list, suffering a bit of a slump at the end of this year.
The next question facing the tennis-loving public is—who will win the World Tour Finals (WTF) in London?
Much will depend, of course, on the draw. But with the top eight doing combat, no opponent will be easy.
Judge for yourself as you consider the following candidates:
1. Robin Soderling, Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 4
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Winner), Valencia (Semifinals), Stockholm (Quarterfinals), Shanghai (Quarterfinals).
Power Ranking Points: 1,137
Not only did Soderling win his first Master’s 1000 tournament in Paris on Sunday, in the process he became the No. 4 ranked player in the world. Winning the BNP Paribas Masters, however, was not an easy row to hoe by any stretch of the imagination. Soderling had to survive American Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals employing steel will and unflappable determination.
Then, the Swede pulled out all the stops to get by a red-hot Frenchman, Michael Llodra, in the semifinals in three thrill-packed sets with the French crowd screaming in support of their countryman. Soderling faced another Frenchman in the final. Gael Monfils, on the other hand, appeared to dissolve quietly after upsetting Roger Federer in a seismic match on Saturday. For French fans, it was another “almost” day.
Soderling is riding a high that should find him going deep into the week in London.
Projected WTF Final Result: Finalist
2. Roger Federer, Last Power Ranking: 3; ATP Ranking: 2
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Semifinals), Basel (Win), Stockholm (Win), Shanghai (Finals)
Power Ranking Points: 793
Federer enjoyed a terrific indoor season, winning two titles in Stockholm and in Basel, to the delight of his legion of fans. His loss to Gael Monfils in the semifinals in Paris, however, stopped the Swiss’ match winning streak dead in its tracks.
With five match points on his racket, the Mighty Federer could not deliver the goods, again. His vaunted forehand went astray at the worst possible moments. After shooting out to a 4-1 lead in the third and final set, the crowd and those glued to the television watching the match assumed Federer would survive to the finals where Soderling awaited.
But Monfils broke back in a poor service game by the Swiss, eventually forcing another tiebreak. When Federer fell behind, the Frenchman gained belief and held on to beat Federer for the first time in his career.
Still, Federer has played very well during the indoor season and there is no reason to assume his stellar play will not continue in London.
Projected WTA Final Result: Finalist
3. Gael Monfils, Last Power Ranking: 6; ATP Ranking: 12
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Finals), Valencia (Quarterfinals), Montpellier (Wins), Shanghai (R 32).
Power Ranking Points: 737
For most of his tennis career, everyone waited for Frenchman Gael Monfils to live up to all the promise he exhibited during his junior career. The tennis establishment expressed constant disappointment in his up and down seasons. Often, Monfils played brilliantly only to crash out in the first round in the following tournament—or withdraw citing injury.
Prior to his semifinal match at the BNP Paris Masters, Monfils had won one set from Federer in five meetings. The Frenchman's modus operandi, especially when Federer won the first set, was to resign himself to defeat—which was what inevitably followed.
This match gave Monfils what he needed to win—a screaming crowd of Frenchmen pushing him to win that first-set tiebreak.
Skill has never stopped Monfils. Rather, his decision-making prowess and self-confidence have eroded the Frenchman’s abilities in the past. Perhaps now, Monfils will claim his spot at the top of the men’s game.
4. Andy Murray, Last Power Ranking: 10; ATP Ranking: 5
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Quarterfinals) Valencia (R16) Shanghai (Wins) Beijing (Quarterfinals)
Power Ranking Points: 418
Andy Murray, who lost his quarterfinal bout with Frenchman Gael Monfils in Paris, will wake up on Monday no longer one of the top-four men in the tennis world. His ATP ranking falls to No. 5 after Robin Soderling of Sweden leapfrogged him landing in the No. 4 spot.
Soderling’s win in Paris blasted Murray out of his accustomed perch. As the top players battled for ranking points, much shifting was bound to take place in Paris. Murray also realized he had an opportunity to climb to No. 3 if he had made the final in Paris, displacing Djokovic. Instead, the Scot finds himself tumbling down.
Regardless, Murray will head into the WTF in London injury free this year with optimism about his chances. He could very well end up as the No. 3 player by winning the event. At home, Murray will be inspired to win to regain that top 4 ranking.
Projected WTA Final Result: Semifinalist
5. David Ferrer, Last Power Ranking: OLI; ATP Ranking: 7
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Round 3), Valencia (Winner), Shanghai (R16), Beijing (Finals).
Power Ranking Points: 408
The Paris Masters featured drama along with annoying music escalated by Davis-Cup boisterous crowd noise. When the tournament got underway, there were still three undecided places and five players in contention to qualify for the World Tour Finals in London starting on November 21.
The spots would be filled depending on certain scenarios unfolding during this last tournament of the long tennis season. David Ferrer breathed easier, however, once Gael Monfils eliminated Fernando Verdasco in the third round. For the Spaniard, it meant a return to the year-end tournament after his last appearance there in 2007.
Ferrer made the 2007 finals during his first time participating in the year-end event, going undefeated in his round robin group. That is all the more remarkable considering that both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were in his section of the draw. Ferrer met and was defeated by Roger Federer in the final. Until that match, Ferrer seemed unstoppable.
This year, the tour’s biggest over-achiever will be ready to do battle again, hoping for a result as good as or better than the one he enjoyed three years ago. But lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot.
Projected WTA Final Result: Round Robin
6. Novak Djokovic, Last Power Ranking: 2; ATP Ranking: 3
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (3rd round), Basel (Finals), Shanghai (Semifinals), Beijing (Wins).
Power Ranking Points: 395
By the time Novak Djokovic arrived in Paris to defend his title at the BNP Paribas Masters event, he had already qualified for the season-ending WTF to be played in London later in the month. There was a slight danger that he might lose his No. 2 ranking if Murray managed to make the finals in Paris, but the difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in tennis are negligible at this point.
The Serb remains, at heart, an entertainer. So when he showed up on court dressed like Groucho Marx before his match with Michael Llodra, he delighted the French crowds.
As the match progressed, however, the Serb found little to laugh about, because Llodra played a brilliant and entertaining match and handed Djokovic an exit from the tournament 7-6, 6-2. This will give the Serb some extra rest and practice time for the WTF in London and for the upcoming Davis Cup Final.
Having won the title in 2008, Djokovic will be inspired to play well in London for pride and in preparation for Serbia's Davis Cup final against France in December.
Projected WTA Final Result: Semifinalist
7. Michael Llodra, Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 23
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Semifinals), Basel (R32), Montpellier (R16), Orleans (Semifinals).
Power Ranking Points: 369
The 30-year-old Frenchman made Paris sizzle with his scintillating play and his brilliant shot-making. He blazed a path to the semifinals and was points away from making this Masters Tournament Final entirely a French affair.
Llodra defeated No. 16 seed John Isner in the second round, No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic in the third round, No. 10 seed Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals—finally losing in the semifinals to No. 4 seed Robin Soderling in three tense, exhilarating sets.
The French crowds were enthralled by the serve and volley exhibition as Llodra moved in covering the net, hitting sharp angles, blistering forehands and perfect lobs. Known for his doubles play, the French embraced Llodra, readying him, perhaps, for a bout of singles in the upcoming Davis Cup Tie with Serbia.
8. Rafael Nadal, Last Power Ranking: 1; ATP Ranking: 1
Last Four Tournaments: Shanghai (R16), Tokyo (Winner), Bangkok (Semifinals), U.S. Open (Winner).
Power Ranking Points: 314
According to all reports, Nadal is currently nursing an injured shoulder hampered by tendinitis. He has not stepped foot on court to compete since the Masters event in Shanghai where he lost in the round of 16 to Austrian Jurgen Melzer.
That was a month ago. Standing alone atop the tennis rankings, Nadal will end the year as the No. 1 player. He has nothing to prove at this year’s WTF in London. But last year, battling injuries, Nadal lost each match in his round robin section of the draw. If fact, Nadal has never advanced to the finals of this event.
This seems to be Nadal’s year to conquer all tennis feats left undone. In 2006 and in 2007, Federer defeated the Majorcan in the semifinals of this event. This year, Nadal would love to claim the championship to notch another first in his impressive list of accomplishments in 2010.
Nadal, however, will be too rusty to excel on the quick courts in London, so he will not come out on top in his round robin group.
Projected WTA Final Result: Round Robin
9. Jurgen Melzer Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 11
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Quarterfinals), Vienna (Winner), Shanghai (Quarterfinals), Tokyo (R16).
Power Ranking Points: 307
For 29-year-old Jurgen Melzer, 2010 has been the best year of his tennis life. He climbed to a career high No. 12 ranking in October and was very close to making the season-ending championships in London, but fell just short of making the field.
Melzer is also an excellent doubles player and has used his skill and finesse in doubles to parlay his strengths in singles. Always touted as having great promise throughout his career, Melzer could not seem to find much success in the majors—seldom advancing beyond the third round. But at the French Open in 2010, the Austrian made it all the way to the semifinals.
Melzer also defeated Nadal in the third round of the Shanghai Masters—the first time Melzer ever defeated a No. 1 ranked player. Although Melzer did not make the London field in singles, he will get to appear in doubles with his partner Philipp Petzschner.
10. Andy Roddick, Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 8
Last Four Tournaments: Paris (Quarterfinals), Basel (Semifinals), Shanghai (R32), Tokyo (Quarterfinals).
Power Ranking Points: 294
Andy Roddick needed to make the quarterfinals in Paris in order to qualify for the season-ending WTF in London. He did exactly that by getting by Ernests Gulbis in the third round. This paved the way for Roddick’s eighth trip to the year-end tournament—which he has never won.
According to Roddick, making the field is what it is meant to be—a reward for an outstanding year-long season.
In the next round, however, Roddick was sent packing by Robin Soderling. The Swede eventually won the tournament. Roddick suspected that he may have let down a bit after he knew he had made the field of eight.
Being injured or sick a great part of the year did not help the American—because he seemed to spend a lot of time sitting on the sidelines.
Roddick looks forward to his participation and to the rest that will follow before the campaign of 2011 begins in January. Perhaps, making the field is enough for the American this year.
Projected WTA Final Result: Round Robin
[This is the next to last installment in 2010 of the "Men's Tennis Power Rankings" series, with contributions from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Ronger Fengerer (Feng Rong). Stay tuned for Marianne's wrap up of the year after the conclusion of the WTF in London. Thank you all for the support!]
Click here to see how the Power Rankings are calculated by our mathematician Feng Rong.