The 7 Most Likely Candidates to Break the Big Four's Stronghold on the Game

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The 7 Most Likely Candidates to Break the Big Four's Stronghold on the Game
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

A year has passed and positions have been swapped, but the four names at the top of the rankings are still the same. 

In tennis lingo, they are simply known as the Big Four. 

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have occupied the year-end top four for the last four years, and the former three have occupied the year-end top three for the last five. 

No player outside the Big Four has been able to make it into the top three since Djokovic climbed up the rankings in late 2007, and with a few exceptions in the form of Robin Söderling (11 weeks) and Juan Maritin del Potro (one week), no one has been able to make it to the fourth spot, either. 

Now that is called dominance. 

Looking ahead to 2012, do we see any likely upsets of the current order? Do we see anyone with enough potential and consistency to break their dominance at the top of the rankings?

It's hard to bet against the Big Four, but here are the likeliest candidates to break into the big men's league. Even if they only make it for a week, it will still be a tremendous accomplishment. 

A couple of things that are in their favor? 

The oldest-ever World Tour Finals champion is—surprise, surprise—getting a year older and will turn 31 in 2012. He has shown that he is still better than anyone outside the Big Four, but how long can that continue to be the case? 

I'm not betting against him, but at some point Father Time will have to catch up even with Roger Federer. 

Moreover, Nadal seems spent mentally and physically. Is it just a rough period after some tough losses, or is the Spaniard with the many miles on his legs about to go into his own slow decline? 

I wouldn't bet on it, and I don't expect it to be the case, but I wouldn't rule it out completely, either. 

Finally, with the way the Big Four is looking right now, it wouldn't be completely unlikely that one of them would have to take some months off to heal an injury. It would be unfortunate, but with the gruelling game three of them play and Federer's advanced age, it is not completely unlikely.

Enough said—on to the pretenders to the top of the tennis hierarchy

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