In his latest Serves and Returns, GTT contributor Van Sias channels the bottom 96 of the ATP top 100 and asks: Brother, can you spare a Masters Series? Thanks, Van!
Serves and Returns – Can Anyone Break Up the Masters of the Masters Tournaments?
By Van Sias
2010 seems like so long ago.
Way back when, Ivan Ljubicic (Indian Wells), Andy Roddick (Miami) and Robin Soderling (Paris) won ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. This year, if you didn’t belong to the “Big 4,” you were left on the outside looking in as Novak Djokovic (five titles), Andy Murray (two), Rafael Nadal (one) and Roger Federer (one) dominated in the events that fall behind the Slams in prestige and prize money.
Not only did they take up all the spots in Grand Slam finals for the season, but they also accounted for 14 of the 18 final spots in Masters play. David Ferrer was somewhat of an anomaly by notching two of those runner-up finishes. Mardy Fish made a final, joining Paris runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Players outside the top four were left vying for second-place trophies at Masters tournaments: Will that be the case in 2012 as well?
Players like Tsonga or Tomas Berdych (both former Paris Indoors champs) have games big enough to take titles at those events. Right now, though, it seems as if Djokovic, Nadal and Murray are reaching their athletic primes, while Federer is still in his, as seen by the ease in which he handled Tsonga and Berdych last week.
So the “serve” to you is, will a player outside the “Big 4” capture a Masters crown in ’12?
My Take: It may seem a little early to start speculating on this, but I think the only way it will happen is if only two of the top four show up. That still becomes a difficult task because even if there are fewer of those guys around, the player most likely to benefit is one that comes from that peer group. Expect another year of dominance at the Masters level.