The year of 2011 is not over yet but Roger only has Basel, Paris, and the Masters Cup left. I expect him to do well in these events. Roger played very well at the US Open and the indoor season has always been good to him, especially Basel(4 titles + 3 finals) and the Masters Cup(5 titles + 1 final). I think Djokovic will play Basel even though he withdrew from Beijing and Shanghai. So I think we can look at least at another final for Roger in his home event. In Paris Roger have never been past the semis which is a bit strange. This year he is taking a long enough break and I think he could do well there, as in make the final or better. At the Masters Cup he will be looking to defend his title which he won in epic fashion last year. Hopefully he can end the year on another high by winning a record sixth Masters Cup.
Roger has a lot of points to defend in the events that he has left and he is not playing Shanghai or Stockholm this year, which means he will lose the points he gained in those events last year. This means Murray has already passes him in the rankings and will probably end the year ranked ahead of Roger. Roger could end the year ranked number four, which is not where we are used to see him. I don’t think he would mind that much however. As far as his slam draws goes it will make no difference. The draws will probably stay fixed in which case he will keep facing Djokovic in the semis. He didn’t need to go to the east just to stay ahead of Murray in the rankings, when that could have cost him injury. And besides, we all know Roger is still better than Murray. But let me get back to the topic of this post, which is your expectations for Roger in 2012.
Roger had another consistent year in the slams this year, although he went without a slam title for the first time in nine years. He has also won only one title so far this year in Doha. I think he can win at least one more title this year, but the last time he won only one title was in 2001. So we are looking at a slamless year for the first time since 2002, a year end ranking outside of the top two for the first time since 2003, and possibly the lowest title count since 2001. It does look like Roger’s decline is becoming more rapid at age 30. But really it is nothing to be sad about. Roger has had arguably the peRFect career and I think he wants to keep playing for as long as possible. There is still big things left for Roger to achieve in the game. The order of big events to win in tennis in descending order are as follows: Grand Slam > Masters Cup > Olympic Gold > Masters Series > Davis Cup > 500 > 250.
Actually it is hard to know where to put Davis Cup since it is a team event, but I put it in between a Masters Series and ATP 500 event. I still believe Roger has a shot at the highest level. It will be tough from here on, but if he has a tournament like he did at the French Open or US Open this year, he could win another slam. The trouble is getting by Djokovic or Nadal. Roger matches up well against Djokovic and on a good day can still beat him. Nadal is a more difficult proposition because of the match up issue. But if he meets Nadal in a slam semi there will be less pressure and then maybe he could get a win. Maybe if Murray overtakes Roger in the rankings now he will finally be in Nadal’s half of the draw. It would make it look even more like a fix job if Roger still ends up in Djokovic’s half of the draw, so maybe the ATP will finally be too embarrassed to let it happen again.
Next in line is the Masters Cup. Roger have already won five of those and one more would put him alone on six titles. That would be another vey nice record to hold for Roger at this prestigious event. He could do it this year already. Indoors may be his best surface at present and he will probably have his best chance there to beat Nadal and Djokovic. Third on the list is the Olympic gold in singles. This is another title that Roger would love to add to his illustrious resume. In 2012 the Olympic singles event is being played at Wimbledon, which makes it really special for Roger. For me personally the Olympic gold is not that big a deal, especially since Roger already has an Olympic gold in doubles. A gold remains a gold in Olympics, and the title doesn’t have much historical significance. But it certainly won’t hurt the resume. Then we have Masters Series events.
Roger have won 17 of these, second only to Nadal who is on 19 and collects most of these things on clay. I don’t think Roger will catch Nadal, but that doesn’t matter. If there were one or two Masters Series events on grass I’m sure Roger would have held the record. Having said that, it remains a big event and Roger could still pick up a few before the end of his career. As far as Davis Cup goes we know Roger have never been extremely motivated for Davis Cup. It is a fresh change from the individual competition though and does carry some importance. It would be nice if Roger could help his country to win a Davis Cup, but it will be tough with teams like Spain and Serbia around. As far as 500 and 250 events go Roger can still win some of those too. Every title adds to the total after all, and it will help to keep his ranking up.
So as far as the big titles go I would say that is the slams, the Masters Cup, and the Olympic gold, and Roger still has chances to win all of these. These will be the titles that will really drive him in the years to come. He really has achieved it all, but winning another slam could be a nice way to go out, and it would make his record just a little harder to chase down. The question is whether he will retire like Sampras on a high after he won his last slam, or will that give him the incentive to keep playing? Remember Sampras actually struggled a lot for 2-3 years before he won his last major. Roger is not struggling that much yet. He is still making deep runs in the slams. And Roger has a better mentality than Sampras. He plays for the love of the game which means poor results will not necessarily affect him that much.
So I can see him playing for a few years still. But let me take a quick look at the slams next year. Where will Roger have his best chances to pick up a 17th slam? And you better believe that he can still do it. If Sampras went through a two year slam drought then Roger can certainly do it too. Next year at the Australian Open Roger will be two years without a slam, and he may just pick up number 17 there. It is however hard to say which surfaces favor Roger these days. On one side he is slower than he was in his prime, which means slower surfaces gives him more time to get to the ball. But at the same time his serve and volleys are probably the only improved part of his game these days, which are favored by the faster surfaces. Last year at the Oz Open the slower hard court clearly did not help his case against Djokovic.
He could not get enough free points with his serve and forehand. Djokovic strangled him from the back of the court, proving just too solid for him. But to prove how difficult it is to predict which surfaces favor him more, he beat Djokovic at the French Open on an even slower surface. I think Roger still has his chances in Melbourne, if he can avoid Djokovic. The Oz Open is probably Djokovic’s favorite slam now. I think it will be hard to avoid Djokovic so I don’t think the Oz Open is his best shot at a slam next year. As far as the French Open goes, it is where Nadal is still at his most dangerous. Even if he is struggling he is still a huge favorite there. And there is no possibility of Djokovic taking him out before the final. I don’t think Roger is beating Nadal in Paris and it will be hard for him to repeat this year’s performance against Djokovic.
I think next year we will probably see a Nadal/Djokovic final in Paris. So again I don’t see the French Open as Roger’s best chance at a slam. I still believe R0ger’s best chances for a slam title will come at the faster surfaces of Wimbledon and the US Open. This year Roger should not have lost to Tsonga at Wimbledon. I think he let himself down in that match after leading by two sets to love. I think Roger can beat Djokovic on grass on a good day, but the problem remains that he could face Nadal in the final then. Therefor I hope he is in Nadal’s half of the draw. I just think Roger is very much at home on grass and he is due for a good performance there. At the US Open, as we have seen this year, Roger remains a big threat. Djokovic will remain a tough nut to crack, but Roger has better chances to beat him in New York than in Melbourne I feel.
Let me know what you expect of Roger in 2012.