With the conclusion of the final red clay Masters 1000, Rome, Roland Garros is just a week away (with qualifying is underway now). It has been a hell of a ride so far this year, with yet another big upset reading the headlines as Alexander Zverev hoists the trophy in Rome defeating Djokovic in straight sets.
The tennis revolution of the up and comers making their mark this year has drastically changed the rankings. Only about a year or so ago, did breaking the 2,000 point mark mean being in the top 15, now there are 22 players in the world who have over 2,000 points, which shows how much more competitive the top is becoming. A few years back, we saw Novak and Murray (and Stan Wawrinka) dominating the field, and before each grand slam, the main question would be which one of the two would prevail as the champion. This has changed (for the better in my opinion) with major upsets against the top players in the early rounds of big tournaments.
Currently, the world number 1, Murray, and number 2, Djokovic, are 13 and 7 respectively in the Race to London rankings. If you told me this before the season began, I would have assumed that both had gotten injured. This is obviously not the case, but you see my point that the two best players in the world are both having a disastrous season when compared to their normal dominance in the rankings.
On the other hand, after last year’s below sub-par performance for Roger Federer, it looked as if at 35 his tennis career might have been coming to a close, but this year he surged to win three out of the four tournaments he has played (winning the Aussie Open, losing to Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai, and winning the Indian Wells as well as Miami Masters 1000s).
The king of clay (Nadal) is leading the pack this year ahead of Fed by just under 900 points, but the real interesting story is with Thiem, Zverev, and Goffin taking the 3-5 spots. Thiem was able to hand Nadal his first defeat on clay this season in Rome but was unable to capitalize on a great opportunity to win his first 1000 after he got dismantled by Djokovic (6-1, 6-0) in the semis. Sascha Zverev jumped about 10 spots in the Race to London after winning Rome, and he is currently dominating the Race to Milan (21 years and younger) with more than tripling his next competitor’s point total (Borna Coric). David Goffin comes in at number 5 by beating Thiem and Djokovic en route to the semifinals of Monte-Carlo in his best tournament so far this year.
Whether we like it or not, the big four will eventually be completely broken up, and a new string of young guns will thrive in their places. This year has expedited the process, and no one could have imagined that Murray and Djokovic would be outside the top five at this point of the year and that Nadal and Federer would have a revival.
I am so excited to see what will happen next, and I am especially interested in how the ATP Barclays Tour Finals will shape up. With less dominance among the top few players, this year is set to be one of the most competitive years we have ever seen and is on pace to be an incredible season for tennis fans.