Tennis Power Rankings: Lord of Discipline Novak Djokovic Dominates

JA AllenSenior Writer ISeptember 21, 2011

Tennis Power Rankings: Lord of Discipline Novak Djokovic Dominates

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    The Davis Cup ties have ended with Spain once again in the final this time facing Argentina—not Serbia—excused when an exhausted Novak Djokovic retired in his semifinal match against Juan Martin del Potro.

    It goes without saying that the last major of the summer is over. As magnificent as the season has been for Djokovic, the other members of the top four gaze longingly at the drawing board, trying to analyze their respective defeats in tournaments they expected to win.

    It is safe to say that there were no major upsets or unexpected results on the men’s side of the draw during the 2011 US Open. Many predicted correctly that the two top seeds,  No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal, would meet in the men’s final.

    Unfortunately, the two men who were playing the best hard-court tennis met in the US Open semifinals—Djokovic and the No. 3 seed Roger Federer.  Federer squandered two match points before falling to Djokovic in five sets.

    Rafael Nadal did not have a similar struggle against No. 4 Andy Murray in their semifinal, defeating the Scot in four sets. 

    For the past six majors, going all the way back to the French Open in 2010, Djokovic and Federer have been on the same side of the men’s draw, regardless of their respective spots in the top four—while Nadal continued to face Murray in the semifinals.

    As we head into the autumn indoor season, the upcoming Barclays World Tour Finals loom in the distance, marking the end of the 2011 season.

    So far only the top four—Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray—have made the top eight field scheduled to begin play on November 20. 

    The summer season-ending power rankings give a clue as to who will make the elite eight field.

    We will detail their chances of making the WTF field for 2011.

10. Gilles Simon, France

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    Last Power Ranking: 9; ATP Ranking: 11

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Round 16], Cincinnati [Quarterfinalist], Roger’s Cup [Round 64], Hamburg [Winner].

    Power Ranking Points: 290

    France has an abundance of talented male tennis players and one of the most improved is Gilles Simon who has returned to form after suffering through almost a year of injury.  A counter-puncher and a brilliant tactician, Simon’s game is back where it was prior to his injuries.

    In winning two tournaments this year in Sydney and at Hamburg, Simon uses defense to create offense. His deceptive speed and his tenacity make Simon a handful for any player to overcome.

    Simon advanced to the fourth round of the US Open where he met and lost to John Isner in four tense sets, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-7. He just could not conquer the Isner serve in their three tiebreakers.In order to reach Isner, Simon had to defeat Juan Martin del Potro in the third round 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6.

    The Frenchman played some brilliant tennis before being dismissed by the tall, lanky Isner.

    WTF Outlook

    Simon, sitting in the No. 12 spot, has never made the final eight field for the World Tour Finals. Currently, he has amassed 2,020 points, trailing David Ferrer, sitting in the No. 5 spot, by 1,650 points. But he trails Tomas Berdych by only 330 points—Berdych currently holds the No. 8 spot in the year-to-date ATP Rankings. Depending on his play during the indoor season, Simon could very well make the field.

9. Andy Roddick, United States

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 14

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Quarterfinalist], Winston-Salem [Semifinalist], Cincinnati [Round 64], Wimbledon [Round 32].

    Power Ranking Points: 401

    Roddick’s year can best be summed up as disappointing.  After fighting an injury for most of the summer season, the American who loves the hard courts could not muster another win to get past Rafael Nadal during the 2011 US Open quarterfinals.

    Coming in a bit rusty, Roddick, nonetheless, had some outstanding wins allowing him to face the defending champion. But Roddick was "spent" and could not keep pace with the rockets coming off the Nadal racket that day. 

    Roddick dipped out of the top 10 for the first time in 2010 after being a fixture there primarily since the end of 2002. The consistency Roddick has shown throughout his career proves his intensity and his mental mettle.

    Still, there is cause for concern as the American stalwart has reached age 29. 

    WTF Outlook

    Andy Roddick has seen his tennis fortunes drop in the past year. Last year, he made the World Tour Finals in London, ranked No. 8 in the world. There he lost all three of his round robin encounters against Rafael Nadal, Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic.

    The American’s chances of making the field in 2011 look very slim, but not impossible if Roddick were to get some big wins during the upcoming indoor season.

8. Mardy Fish, United States

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    Last Power Ranking: 3; ATP Ranking: 7

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Round 16], Cincinnati [Semifinalist], Roger’s Cup [Finalist], Los Angeles [Finalist].

    Power Ranking Points: 411

    If he had captured the 2011 US Open title, American Mardy Fish could have taken home an additional million dollars because he'd won the US Open Series Title coming into New York City. 

    Fish clinched the series title when he defeated Richard Gasquet in the fourth round of the Masters tournament in Cincinnati. Fish went on to reach the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open, losing to eventual champion Andy Murray.

    The American reached the finals in Montreal where he lost to Novak Djokovic in three sets. Fish also reached the finals in Los Angeles and repeated as the champion in Atlanta.

    The US Open title, however, remained out of his reach. Fish was defeated by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round. It was in the fourth round where Fish also fell to Novak Djokovic at the 2010 US Open. 

    Fish’s new-found fitness, enhanced by a rekindled confidence, made many fans believe that winning the US Open might happen for the American. But Fish’s lack of success at majors held sway and the American went home without the extra million.

    WTF Outlook

    Fish has never competed as a member of the final eight at the year-end championships.

    At age 29, the window of opportunity may well be closing.

    Currently, the American sits in the No. 6 spot with 2,685 points just behind David Ferrer. So far Fish is scheduled to play in both the Japan Open and the Shanghai Masters in October. The chances for Fish to appear at the championships in London are looking very good at this point.

7. John Isner, United States 

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 18

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Quarterfinalist], Winston-Salem [Winner], Cincinnati [Round 64], Roger’s Cup [Round 32].

    Power Ranking Points: 455

    As late as June 2011, American John Isner was ranked world No. 47. He has risen in the rankings over the summer to No. 18.

    Finally the big guy, standing at 6' 9", has brought the full weight of his powerful serve to bear on the rest of the men’s tour. Isner’s latest results show the growing maturity of his play.

    After his epic marathon Wimbledon first-round match in 2010, understandably, Isner and Mahut both suffered slumps. This summer, however, Isner has overcome the remaining physical and mental effects of that match. He has moved on to conquer the American hard courts, culminating his improvement by making his first major quarterfinal at the 2011 US Open.

    The 2011 US Open found the big guy in top form, defeating Marcos Baghdatis in the first round, fellow American Robby Ginepri in the second, followed by Alex Bogomolov, Jr. in the third.  The fourth round turned into a bit of a marathon against the tenacious Gilles Simon of France; but, Isner toughed it out winning in four sets—7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

    With little left in the tank, Isner finally fell to Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.

    WTF Outlook

    The possibility of Isner making the final eight field in 2011 remains very, very slim. Nineteen guys are ranked ahead of him for the year-end championships—11 ahead of him for making the final eight entrants to the Barclay WTF in London.

    Making the WTF should be a goal for Isner starting in 2012.

6. Janko Tipsarevic, Serbia 

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    Last Power Ranking: NR; ATP Ranking: 17

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Quarterfinalist], Cincinnati [Round 32], Roger’s Cup [Semifinalist], Washington DC [Quarter finalist].

    Power Ranking Points: 458

    The intellectual Serbian made his presence known during the summer hard court season with top-notch results including reaching his first ever major quarterfinal. Janko Tipsarevic did that by dispatching the No. 9 seed, Tomas Berdych, followed by defeating former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

    The win sent him into the next round to face countryman Novak Djokovic for a chance to advance to the semifinals of the 2011 US Open. 

    Tipsarevic extended Djokovic to four sets before retiring at 0-3 in the fourth set.

    The results of the US Open sent Tipsarevic into the top 20 for the first time in his career.

    It has been a memorable summer for this young man.

    WTF Outlook

    With 1,805 accumulated points, Tipsarevic sits 12 back on the pole in the race to make it into the elite eight for the World Tour Finals in London at the end of the 2011 season. He will have to move up five spots to make it into the top eight men in the field.  Tipsarevic has, obviously, never made the field before this year and it would mean a great deal for him to make it in 2011.

    His chances to climb high enough would require a couple of top notch results during the indoor season.

    Tipsarevic would be pleased to add making the elite eight to his collection of firsts in 2011.

5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France

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    Last Power Ranking: 7; ATP Ranking: 10

    Last Four Tournaments: Cincinnati [R32], Roger’s Cup [Semifinalist], Wimbledon [Semifinalist], Eastbourne [R16]

    Power Ranking Points: 509

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has always had the reputation of being a great player with unlimited potential since he made the finals of the 2008 Australian Open. Plagued by injuries and inconsistent results, the Frenchman has never displayed the full palate of his talent for any consistent period of time.

    Recently, however, Tsonga has found moments of brilliant tennis all summer long. Starting with the Queen’s Club in June where Tsonga made the finals, his summer results continued to build.

    The Frenchman’s play propelled him up the ranking ladder from 19 to his current No. 10.

    Tsonga made it to the semifinals of Wimbledon and the Rogers Cup in Canada, losing both times to Novak Djokovic. The Frenchman also managed to dispatch Roger Federer on his way to meeting the Serb—both times.

    Tsonga was the man who broke American hearts by sending Mardy Fish packing, ending his campaign and America’s chance to win a title at the US Open this season. Soon, however, it was Tsonga’s turn to fade in the quarterfinals as Federer turned the tables, winning in straight sets.

    WTF Outlook

    Tsonga currently sits in the No. 7 position for the World Tour Finals in November. The Frenchman has an excellent opportunity to make the elite eight which he did in 2008.

    After the top four, Tsonga is third behind David Ferrer at No. 5 and Mardy Fish at No. 6 with 2,440 points—only 245 points back. Look for Tsonga to make his way on to the stage in London in November.

4. Roger Federer, Switzerland

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    Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 3

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Semifinalist], Cincinnati [Quarterfinalist], Roger’s Cup [R16], Wimbledon [Quarterfinalist].

    Power Ranking Points: 816

    Roger Federer began 2011 by winning the season-opening tournament in Doha. This followed securing his fifth title at the 2010 Barclays World Tour Final in November. These successes seemed to offer fans much promise for the year ahead.

    Federer entered the Australian Open as the odds on favorite to win the title especially after the word spread that Rafael Nadal was battling a virus.

    However, the world would soon discover that 2011 would belong to Novak Djokovic and Federer. Like Nadal and Andy Murray, they just hung on for the ride, hoping the Serb would come down to earth.

    Federer came closer than anyone else to bringing Djokovic back down to the ground by defeating him in Paris during the French Open semifinals and by holding match points against Djokovic in the semifinals of the US Open.

    Those lost opportunities must come back to haunt the Swiss as he reflects on how close he came to defeating the Serb and advancing to the finals in Flushing Meadows.

    Federer maintains his No. 3 spot in the ATP rankings, but will exit 2011 without winning a major, something which has not happened since 2002. Yet, his play remains superlative and Federer continues to win against those ranked lower—with some exceptions. 

    This year, it was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who tripped the Swiss up during the Wimbledon quarterfinals and in the third round of the Roger’s Cup. But Federer defeated Tsonga in straight sets during the US Open quarterfinals to exact a small measure of revenge.

    WTF Outlook

    Federer is the defending champion of the WTF to be held in November in London. Last year, he defeated Nadal in the finals for his fifth championship at this event. Federer won his first title in 2003, defeating Andre Agassi in the final. In 2004, he defeated Lleyton Hewitt to claim his second consecutive title. In 2005, Federer lost in the finals to David Nalbandian, but he came back strong in 2006 to win over American James Blake.

    He won again in 2007 defeating David Ferrer in the finals and finally again in 2010 where Federer upended the world No. 1 Rafael Nadal to claim his fifth title. 

    Federer remains tied with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl who each hold five year-end championship titles. He has made the championship field for nine consecutive seasons starting back in 2002. The only year he did not make it out of the round robin competition to the semifinals was 2008. 

    You have to give Federer a very good chance for repeating as champion in 2011. The Swiss loves the super fast court conditions in London.

    Federer has, after all, won the title five times previously. The Swiss would love to make this one No. 6. A win would allow him to step ahead of Sampras and Lendl. 

3. Andy Murray, Great Britain

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    Last Power Ranking: 2; ATP Ranking: 4

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Semifinalist], Cincinnati [Winner], Roger’s Cup [R32], Wimbledon [Semifinalist].

    Power Ranking Points: 1,037

    Andy Murray must be dreaming of a change of fortunes and a different view from the top. Currently, Murray always seems to face Nadal in major semifinals. 

    Although the Scot convinces himself that he has a chance to win these encounters, there is something in his game that convinces Nadal that Murray is lacking.

    Of the 17 times the two have met, Murray has won only four times, the last at the 2010 Rogers Cup in Canada. The two have met in eight grand slams and Nadal has won six of those matches, while Murray won twice on hard courts (at the US Open in 2008 and at the Australian Open in 2010).

    While the pundits prod the Scot by advising him to be more aggressive and move forward, Murray seems content to wait until it is his time to turn the tables like Djokovic has done in 2011.

    Facing Nadal once again during the semifinals of the 2011 US Open could not have been pleasant, although the Scot did manage to take a set off Nadal who just gets stronger and stronger the further he progresses in a major event.

    To date in 2011, Murray has won titles at both the Queen’s Club and at Cincinnati, defeating his pal Djokovic in the final. The Scot served the Serb his second loss of the season.

    Murray constructed a very successful season, starting with progressing to the finals of the 2011 Australian Open where he lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.

    Murray also made the semifinals at the 2011 French Open where the Scot traditionally does not do well. He lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets at Roland Garros.

    After winning at the Queen’s Club, defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final, Murray again met Nadal in the semifinals of Wimbledon, losing in four sets at the 2011 US Open to Nadal.

    WTF Outlook

    Murray has participated in the World Tour Finals for the past three seasons. He progressed to the semifinals in 2008 and in 2010, losing to Nikolay Davydenko and Rafael Nadal, respectively.

    Murray was the third player to advance into the 2011 field of eight, following Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Murray has never won a year-end championship title.

    Because the championships are being held in London, Murray should be a favorite if you consider the “home-field” advantage.  But that does not seem to help Murray in this instance because the pressure to win is so great, it takes the edge off being at home.

    Still, the surface should be to his liking and the crowd support should help in the close matches. 

    It would be a real shot in the arm for Murray to conclude his year by winning the WTF for the first time.

2. Rafael Nadal, Spain

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    Last Power Ranking: 6; ATP Ranking: 2

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Finalist], Cincinnati [Quarterfinalist], Roger’s Cup [Round 2], Wimbledon [Finalist].

    Power Ranking Points: 1,356

    In 2010 and 2011, Rafael Nadal made it to the finals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. What distinguished one year from the next was simply that Nadal won all three in 2010 and he lost all but one in 2011. That can ruin a perfectly great year, otherwise.

    Nadal seems to have spent the entire year coming in second to Novak Djokovic. Six times the two have met in finals in 2011 and in all six, Nadal has come in second best, something that does not sit well with the world No. 2. 

    Nadal had finally surged past Roger Federer for the No. 1 spot only to have Djokovic take it away during Wimbledon in 2011. After serving as the No. 2 man behind Roger Federer from 2005 to 2008, Nadal seized his chance to overtake Federer.

    But Djokovic has cut Nadal’s reign short.

    Even after all the practice, Nadal has not found a way to overtake Djokovic on the tennis court this year. 

    Despite losing two of three majors, Nadal has managed to have a credible year. He won the French Open for the sixth time, tying Bjorn Borg. The world No. 2 also made three major finals including the recent US Open where he lost to Djokovic in four sets. 

    For the time being, Nadal must take comfort in the fact that he can lead Spain to another Davis Cup championship in December, facing Argentina who knocked Serbia out of contention.  This means one less time to face Djokovic.

    WTF Outlook

    Although Nadal has qualified seven times for the ATP year-ending-championships, now known as the Barclays World Tour Finals, he has only participated in the tournament four times (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010).

    In 2010, Nadal advanced to the finals where he faced Roger Federer who defeated him in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Typically, by the end of the year and after playing for months on synthetic surfaces, Nadal’s physical state is fairly low when the WTF rolls around. He has never won this title.

    The extremely fast surface makes Nadal’s prospects of winning this tournament quite narrow. But one thing you never do is count Nadal out. This is one of his goals—to win this tournament. He will give it everything he has in 2011.

    Winning the 2011 WTF title for the first time would definitely ease the pain of Nadal's losses during the rest of the year.

1. Novak Djokovic, Serbia

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    Last Power Ranking: 1; ATP Ranking: 1

    Last Four Tournaments: US Open [Winner], Cincinnati [Finalist], Roger’s Cup [Winner], Wimbledon [Winner].

    Power Ranking Points: 2,532

    Tauting a new-found regimen for winning, including a restricted diet and self-discipline, Novak Djokovic has made 2011 the "Year of the Serb."

    After capturing three of the four majors, maintaining a 62-2 win-loss record and winning 10 career titles, the year caught up to Novak Djokovic. While trying to rescue Serbia from being dismissed in their quest to make another Davis Cup final, Djokovic was forced to retire against Argentine Juan Martin del Potro during their semifinal match.

    The problem was Djokovic’s back, which has now been diagnosed as not a severe problem but requiring much rest. That means we will be seeing very little of the Serb in the coming months. The injury is described as a partial rupture of a back muscle.

    There is little left for Djokovic to accomplish so the required rest may be the perfect way to end the season. No doubt the Serb will be back in action in late October and early November to prepare himself for the Barclays WTF in London.

    The US Open was the icing on the cake for Djokovic who edged past Federer in the semifinals, despite being down, facing double match points on Federer’s serve. Escaping from that match and beating back Nadal in the final gave the Serb an almost perfect season to date.

    WTF Outlook

    Djokovic—who has put together an amazing year—would consider adding the WTF title as a perfect ending to 2011. He won entry into the tournament back in May after winning the Rome tournament over Nadal.

    Djokovic has made the ATP field five consecutive years. The Serb won the tournament in 2008, defeating Nikolay Davydenko in the final. Last year, the world No. 1 made it to the semifinals, losing to Roger Federer—which was the last time Djokovic lost a match until Federer defeated him again in the semifinals of the 2011 French Open.

    There is no reason, except perhaps the back injury, to bet against the Serb winning this tournament as well. Like everyone else, Djokovic would have to overcome the other top seven players in the world.

    Will the Serb be able to hang on and tie John McEnroe’s 1984 year-ending record of 82-3?

    This year will be over in a couple of months and many expect it to remain a memorable season for Djokovic.

    The power rankings list players based on recent results. The season-long series is authored by JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong, whose formula provides the rankings.