Friday, September 26, 2014

If the ATP were the Lord of the Rings trilogy

If the Lord of the Rings trilogy was actually a movie about tennis, the ATP World Tour is currently at the scene of the ambush at the caravan by the warg riders of Isengard .

Here's how it breaks down:
Roger Federer is Legolas
Novak Djokovic is Gimli
Rafael Nadal is Aragorn
Andy Murray is Gandolf
Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, and Stan Wawrinka are the men on horses
The young players on tour are the warg riders

The scene opens with Legolas seeing the wargs coming over a hill from far away and charging too quickly for their group to simply run away. The teenagers have been doing the same thing this year, charging up the rankings and nobody has seen it coming better more than Roger Federer. In April this year, there wasn't a single teenager in the top 200, but now six of them have come over the hill to enter the top 200, which is the most since 2008. Every year Federer invites teenagers to practice with him, during the offseason, so he knew very well how talented this group of teenagers is.

Legolas shot down a few of wargs before realizing there were too many to take on by himself. Federer did the same beating Vasek Pospisil in Canada and Pablo Carreno Busta at Roland Garros, which significantly slowed their progress in the rankings.

The first warg to reach the men was Grigor Dimitrov, who took down Novak Djokovic for a while with a win in Madrid. A second warg fell on top of Gimli, but it was already dead (Tomic's win over Djokovic at Hopman Cup).

Like Gandolf, Andy Murray isn't even in the scene. Since winning Wimbledon, Murray has still yet to reach a final over a year later.

However, the crucial moment in the scene is when one of the warg riders throws Aragorn off the cliff. At Wimbledon this year, Nick Kyrgios, perhaps the leader of the teenagers, beat Nadal, who still hasn't played in an ATP event since.

At the end of the scene, Gimli walks around and kills a few more warg riders. This year Djokovic has claimed a few wins over Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, and Carreno Busta, but still hasn't quite been at the level of play he reached in 2011.

There are only a few men at the end of the scene, who came away mostly unscathed. Those are Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, and Kei Nishikori, who have all benefitted from the struggles of the Big Four this year.

The question now is: will the ATP World Tour continue like the rest of the trilogy? Will Nadal come back, bursting the doors open to claim his spot on the throne as world No. 1? Will Murray come back like Gandalf the White and get back to winning majors?

Tennis may be an individual sport, but the Big Four need to collectively send a convincing message to young guns on tour that they still own the big events. Federer announced today that he will be in Shanghai, Murray should finally reach the final of an event in Shenzhen, Djokovic always dominates in China, and Nadal was back on court yesterday. If those four can dominate the tournaments in Shanghai, Paris, and London (if Murray qualifies), that would go a long way in slowing down the rapid charge of the young players that are surging up the rankings.

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