Nov 3 DVD Offer — 3 Days Left
Deadline: Friday, Nov 30th
The Four Masters of Tennis
From so far down, the darkness seems to go on forever. Yet the two gladiators know that they are not alone in the arena, that out there, up there, 36,000 eyes are watching them closely, merciless and thirsty for blood. Throughout, as they hack and parry for survival in the spotlight, over their grunts and pants and the desperate squeak of their shoes on the icy blue ground, they can hear them chattering, murmuring, a sound like a great heartbeat thudding louder and louder…
The O2 Arena in London really is a cracking venue for the event that used to be called simply ‘the Masters’. The ‘Barclays ATP World Tour Finals’, as it is now known, has been held here since 2009 and, it has recently been announced, will continue at this venue until 2015 -good news for those who like their tennis with heartbeats and 36,000 merciless and bloodthirsty eyes etc, etc.
Federer and Djokovic played the final at this years season ending tournament with the winner getting an extra $830,000, 500 ranking points, and arguably the status as the world's best player.
The final this year was contested by the world’s top two players, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. On the line? An extra $830,000, 500 ranking points and arguably the status as the world’s best player.
Djokovic was undefeated coming into the final, having come back from the brink against both Andy Murray and Juan-Martin Del Potro earlier in the week. Federer had suffered a loss to Del Potro, but seemed to have found his form in the semi-finals, defeating home hope Murray in straight sets.
The Swiss picked up where he left off in the first set of the final, outclassing a nervous Djokovic to take a 3-0 lead. Djokovic, however, thrives both on the big occasion and on the comeback, and soon began to sink his teeth into the match. Under the Serb’s persistent pressure, Federer’s immaculate veneer began to crack, though it didn’t shatter. At times he was unplayable, but too many errors came off his racquet, often at important moments.
Despite denying Djokovic the set at 6-5, Federer could not stop him from taking it in the tie-break. The second set followed the same pattern. It was the Swiss who took the early lead as the Serb’s intensity dropped slightly. Federer held on to serve until he had set point at 5-4, 40-15, before three unforced forehand errors gave Djokovic break back point.
Djokovic took it emphatically, held serve, and broke again to take the match on his first championship point, reinforcing his reputation as one of the great fighters in the history of the sport, and as the world’s top player for 2012.
The Big Four
Novak Djokovic’s triumph at the Masters was big news, but the main story of the year has surely been Andy Murray’s magical transformation of the Big Three into the Big Four. For the first time in nearly a decade, the majors have been split evenly.
Back in 2003, this was because the top of the game was fairly open. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. The Big Four have dominated this year, winning every significant title except the Paris Masters, and occupying every single major final spot. Their win-loss record against everyone else this year stands at over 90% (221-23), which is remarkable given the strength of the tour today.
With Murray's Olympic gold medal and his US Open title, the big three has suddenly become the big four. And despite missing half of the year with a knee injury, Rafa still managed to win the French Open for what seems like the hundredth time.
Only a few months ago, many predicted the demise of this mighty quadrumvirate just as soon as it formed (though they may not actually have used the word quadrumvirate…). They said long-absent Nadal might never play again, given the state of his knees; they said Roger Federer was in decline after his defeats at the Olympics and the US Open (though they’ve been saying that since 2008); they said the new age had come, one to be dominated by the Murray-Djokovic rivalry.
It’s true that Nadal’s return to the sport is still in question, and that Federer is an old veteran in tennis terms. The fact remains, however, that both of them achieved awesome things this year, and at times looked as strong as ever. Given Roger’s impressive finish to the season, and the encouraging noises from Rafa’s camp, it seems reasonable to predict that 2013 will belong to the Big Four as much as 2012 did, even if Murray and Djokovic are now the senior partners.
It would be historically significant if the four stayed strong. For, as the table below shows, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray are already on the verge of becoming the most successful contemporaneous quartet of the Open Era.
The current Big Four are far ahead of any of their historical rivals in terms of how much they have achieved between them in such a short space of time. Between them they’ve won as many majors as Connors, Borg, McEnroe and Lendl did over a 20 year span. After only another seven matches, they will have played each other more times than any four men in the last fifty years, and most of these occasions have been finals or semi-finals. All it would take would be one more year like this one for theirs to become definitively the greatest four-way rivalry of the Open Era.
Can anyone out there break into this group? Can anybody stop them? Del Potro is finding his form again, which is great news for his many fans and for the sport, but he still struggles to beat the Big Four consistently. Berdych and Tsonga have also demonstrated the ability to beat them, but not the ability to go the distance and take the biggest titles. Perennial world number five David Ferrer, on the other hand, clearly has the consistency, but simply gets outgunned when it matters.
Of the ‘next generation’, Raonic and possibly Janowicz are ones to watch. They bring the same impressive assets to court — huge serving, big forehands, surprising touch (especially in the case of Janowicz), and great resolve. However, for all the talk of tennis becoming a big man’s game, I’m not convinced that it’s a net advantage to be 6’8 and 200lbs.
All of the sixteen multiple major winners of the last thirty years have been between 5’11 and 6’4. Nine of these have been 6’1 or 6’2 (including Federer, Nadal and Djokovic), and between them they’ve won 69 majors. This seems to be the ‘goldilocks height’, combining some of the power, reach and serving advantage of the big guys with most of agility and acceleration of the smaller guys.
In the case of Raonic and Janowicz, we’ll just have to wait and see what they can achieve. But even if they or some other youngster (big or small) out there is up to the task, it will surely take them at least a couple of years to reach the level of the very best.
Of the 'next generation', Raonic (right) and possibly Janowicz are players to watch.
For the time being, then, it follows that the Big Four will surely continue to gobble up the lion’s share of the big titles. Murray and Djokovic are in their prime. Federer’s final decline could begin at any moment but it hasn’t yet, and he’s hardly shown signs that it will any time soon. There is a question mark over Nadal’s return to the top because of the severity of his injuries, but if he does come back it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be just as good as before, even if it takes a while to get there.
Sooner or later, it’s true, Federer and Nadal will fade, and four will become two. Eventually, Murray and Djokovic also will fall. For now, however, and possibly for several years to come, the world of tennis has four kings, four masters, and their grasp on the throne is as secure as ever. Long may they reign.
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
There are many definitions for mental toughness as it applies to tennis. Some might say it is the resistance to choking. Others might define it as solid concentration or not easily distracted. These would certainly be in the right ballpark. However, Dave Smith looks at Mental Toughness as a conditioned and positive response to adversity. See how it can and does affect your game.
Serve and Volley Shadow Stroke
From body weight exercises to dumbbell exercises, conditioning has become a major part of the modern game. Another important component to physical training the pros use are shadow workouts. Shadow stroking can hone your footwork, technique, and improve cardio fitness at the same time. Here, former touring pro, Jeff Salzenstein, works out a serve and volley sequence.
ProStrokes 2.0 — Christina McHale, Serve
2012 was a breakout year for twenty-year-old Christina McHale< who reached a career high-ranking of no. 24 in WTA singles. On the way she had wins over Kuznetsova and Wozniacki as well as Kvitova, Hantuchova, and Bartoli. Certainly not a physically imposing player, standing at only 5’7” and a 130 pounds, McHale however stands toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the world. She plays with a classic two-handed backhand and a full western topspin forehand. She prefers to stay back and augments her topspin game with a slice backhand as a defensive response or a change of pace. New this issue, McHale's Serve.
TennisOne Writers Store
One of your many new benefits as a TennisOne membership is your ability to purchase selected instructional DVDs at 20% off ($7.50 off each) in our new TennisOne Writers Store (login in first to access members links):
- "Building Your Serve from the Ground Up," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Building Your Ground Game," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Building a Kick Serve," Jim McLennan Members – Public
- "Underspin Backhand - Weapon," Jim McLennan Members Public
- "Achieving Peak Performance the Wholistic Way: The Mental Game," Happy Bhalla Members – Public
- "Building a World Class Serve," Phil Dent Members – Public
- "Building a World-class Volley," Dave Smith Members – Public
- "Keys to Modern Tennis Technique: One-Handed Topspin," Doug King Members Public
- "Best of Ken DeHart," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Corrective Techniques & Myths," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Defeating the Monsters in Your Mind," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Skills, Drills, and Games for Beginning Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- "Drills for Intermediate Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public
- "Drills for Advanced Players," Ken DeHart Members – Public.
- Click here to see all the benefits of a TennisOne Membership.
- Click here to sign up for a risk-free, TennisOne 30 day free trial membership.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement
If you wish to be removed from our newsletter list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and leave the subject line blank. A confirmation email will be sent to you, and you will be removed from our newsletter list once you reply to that confirmation. If trouble unsubscribing, simply email us with a request to unsubscribe at: email@example.com