Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 ATP World Tour review

The 2014 ATP season has finished so it is time to have some review of the season. Novak Djokovic ended the season as the World No. 1. He wasn't way above others and managed to win only one Grand Slam tournament but nobody else could play on such a high level all year long.

Roger Federer finished the season as the World No. 2. That surpassed the expectations after the poor 2013 season. He played more often at the net and it worked for him. He won five titles this year, including two in the Masters Series. He also finally got his name to the Davis Cup trophy when Switzerland won it for the first time. But, despite having had the second-best season of all players, he couldn't win a slam. He isn't anymore way above the rest of the field, and players like Cilic or Gulbis have the abilities to beat him when they are in form. What I found promising was that he got better at the end of the season, but that can also be explained by faster surfaces on the second half of the season.

This season saw the end of the domination by the usual Big Four. Stan Wawrinka started that by winning the Australian Open. Title at the Monte Carlo Masters proved he isn't a one-tournament wonder. But his season had lots of everything. The lowpoint was a first-round loss at the French Open as well as the loss streak after the US Open. Quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open were respectable performances but his game lacked the magic there was at the Australian Open and Monte Carlo. But he found his form again at the end of the season, making the semifinals at the World Tour Finals and winning impressively a singles and a doubles rubber in the Davis Cup final.

Marin Cilic was another first-time Grand Slam champion this year. He won the US Open with very impressive tennis. He dominated the semifinal against Federer and won it in straights. The final against Kei Nishikori was a one-sided affair. Three consecutive long matches surely didn't help Nishikori but Cilic was in an excellent form. Still, Cilic couldn't establish his status as a top player the same way as Wawrinka did. He won four titles in total but besides the US Open, Wimbledon quarterfinal was the only time he made it that far in a slam or masters.

Kei Nishikori reached this year the level that he is a serious threat to anyone on the tour. I think his two most memorable matches this year were the Madrid Masters final and the US Open semifinal. Kei had found a great clay form and won the Barcelona 500. After that he made the Madrid Masters final and was leading it against Rafael Nadal with a set and a break. But then an injury cost him the second set and the title as he was forced to retire at the beginning of third. In the US Open semifinal, he beat the World No. 1 Djokovic in four sets. Unfortunately he still couldn't win a masters or a slam but he finished the season at a career-high rank of 5. If he stayed healthy next year, he should be able to do that next year.

Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov were players who made the long-awaited breakthrough to the top 10 this year. They both did reached their first Grand Slam semifinals at Wimbledon but losses to Djokovic and Federer showed they still need to improve.

Talking about Nadal only now shows what a poor season he had by his standards. He missed most of the second half of the season due to injury and health issues but even until then, he was playing the worst season since his breakthrough on the tour. There were more players than before who were able to trouble and even beat him.

Andy Murray was even bigger a disappointment. He never looked like a top player during this season. As a sign of his poor performances, he wouldn't have made the World Tour Finals without playing and winning some smaller tournaments after the US Open. And once he made the Tour Finals, he won only one match there.

And some words about one of my favorites, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. After the summer 2013's knee injury, Tsonga couldn't reach his former form. 2014 was full of mediocre results and he won only one title. But that title gives some hope. It was at the Toronto Masters, beating Djokovic on the round of 16 and Federer in the final. That showed he still has the abilities to succeed. I hope he can play more often like that in 2015. And of course that he will have fully recovered from the elbow injury that ended his Davis Cup final by the beginning of the season.

What I liked this year was unpredictability and new players succeeding. That was very refreshing after years of Big Four domination. But what I didn't like was only two players having truly great seasons as a whole. Those were Djokovic and Federer to a lesser extent. The other good players had fluctuations in form or injuries. My wish for 2015 is that some of the younger guys can succeed with that kind of consistency. If Nishikori could have a season without bigger injuries, I believe he would be a consistent top player, what he was already at the end of 2014.

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