2012 proved to be one of the most competitive and exciting years in the men’s game in recent times. Competitive advantage swung like a pendulum among the members of the ‘Top Quartet’ throughout the year.
From Djokovic’s epic win against Nadal in Melbourne in January, to Nadal’s revenge at Roland Garros to the Federer win at Wimbledon, to Murray’s revenge a month later in the Olympic Final, his impressive win at Flushing Meadow and to round off the year in symmetrical fashion, Djokovic’s win in London in November, the game had a breathless quality in 2012. What is certain is that the game is in a healthy state with so much depth of talent at the top.
The year did not end well for Rafael Nadal as a result of prolonged injury and he now enters 2013 having already dropped out of the Australian Open through illness. Much doubt now exists over his long-term future – a sad prospect for one of the stars of the game still in his prime.
With Federer perhaps beyond his peak, this seems to pave the way for Djokovic and Murray to dominate the men’s game in 2013. Others barking at the heels of the top players are Ferrer, del Potro and Tsonga. Will we see at last the emergence of a hero from either of those two historic tennis crucibles of Australia and the United States? It remains to be seen.
As far as the British game is concerned, it has never been in a better state. Murray has finally cemented his place at the top of the game with his Olympic and US Open wins and in the women’s game, Heather Watson and Laura Robson have pushed Britain to a level not seen in many years.
Melbourne provides the first major test of 2013. The event will be watched closely for possible markers being laid down for the rest of the year. My prediction is for a consolidation of the Djokovic dominance seen in the last few months of 2012 and in the women’s game, a much wider pool of players aspiring to the top prizes. A continuation broadly of existing trends, but there could be some surprises along the way. In this regard, a player of Federer’s calibre and pedigree can never be counted out, as last year’s Wimbledon showed. The prospects for the game are nothing if not interesting.
Paul McElhinney January 2013