No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal rolled over No. 3 seed Roger Federer in the semi-final at Key Biscayne in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, breaking the great man twice in each set. He will next meet No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic, currently the hottest player with an unbroken streak of 23 wins this year.
Who will win Sunday? Both have equal chances of winning. But as far as Nadal is concerned, it does not matter. He has defended all his points and then some and given notice that he is ready to move to the next level to defend all his points in the clay and grass court seasons.
Nadal is the most dominant player on clay, and has been since he planted his flag on the clay of Roland Garros in 2005. There is no reason why he should come a cropper this year. He is still in his prime and will be 25 in June.
The only joker in the pack is Djokovic. If he maintains his form and fitness he may be a threat, but I still expect Nadal to defend most of his points.
Come the grass court season, Nadal may take some time to adjust to the slippery grass. But should he safely negotiate the first week, the chances are that we will find him hoisting the trophy on the second Sunday at Wimbledon.
However, Djokovic, with his movement and superb offense and defense, could be a serious threat on grass. Andy Murray, too, cannot be in a permanent slump, and I expect him to be as big a threat as Djokovic. What about Federer? He is an elite player and no one can count him out at Wimbledon. But I would still give Djokovic and Murray a better chance than him to wrest the crown from Nadal, if only because he would be almost 30 by then.
Who will be year-end No.1?
I expect Nadal and Djokovic to be close in ranking points at this stage, with the Spaniard holding the edge.
Then we move to the hard court season and the US Open. Here, apart from Nadal, who has proved he is among the best, we have Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Del Potro. The points during this season are likely to be shared among these elite players. So I expect Nadal to be still holding onto his lead.
In the last part of the season, so often called the silly season because of the weird results thanks to the injuries and exhaustion of most of the top players, I expect Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray to defend most of their points.
Last year, Nadal had declared his intention of trying to do better at the year-ending championship. He improved upon the dismal performance of the previous year by winning all his matches until he met Federer in the final. He lost to a Federer who was playing absolutely out of this world.
This year, I expect Nadal to go one better and win the championship. He will, of course, end the year at the top of the rankings. Djokovic will be No. 2.