Tennis

/ Features

Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson Chris Wilkinson RSS FeedFeeds

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.

  • Chris Wilkinson

Djokovic-Nadal rivalry sets up 2014 - but Federer won't win another slam

Chris Wilkinson November 13, 2013
Don't look too down, Rafa, you're still No. 1... © PA Photos
Enlarge

On the Nadal - Djokovic rivalry...

What a great week of tennis.

The ATP World Tour Finals was an enthralling tournament and once again a fantastic advert for the sport, and fitting that the final was played between the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world - Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

If I'm honest, I thought the final was a bit of an anti-climax. I didn't think it was that great. Djokovic played well, but Nadal was below par. He just seemed about a step behind and Djokovic could quite easily have been 4-0 up in the first. And from 4-0 his victory could have been so much more convincing.

But it's incredible that Nadal is still world No. 1 when you consider what Djokovic has achieved this year - particularly the last couple of months where he has gone 22 matches unbeaten since losing to Nadal in the US Open final.

And if you look at the world ranking points, Nadal, on 13,030, and Djokovic, 12,110, are almost double the amount of points ahead of third-placed David Ferrer, on 5,800.

It's some rivalry and the so-called Big Four is now down to two. Of course, that's a bit unfair on Murray, who has been out injured, but it sets up 2014 perfectly.

There will be a lot of jockeying for the world No. 1 spot in the new year - especially when we get into the clay court season in March, April time, because Nadal will start to lose a few points. Djokovic needs to keep winning, of course, but they're so close that just one or two victories or defeats can be the difference between being No. 1 and No. 2.

It is important these guys keep pushing themselves in the off-season - keeping fitness levels up but getting enough of a break so as to not burn themselves out.

The Australian Open is eight or nine weeks and it'll be more of the same for Nadal and Djokovic. They will carry so much confidence into next year and will be the guys to beat again.

On Federer...

I will get some heat from the Roger Federer fans for this - but I don't think he can win a grand slam next year.

And I don't think he can win a grand slam again ever.

At the moment, Federer is the greatest of all time. No doubt about it. People have recently been suggesting Nadal could overtake him and there's no reason why he can't. You have to assume he's got at least a couple of more French Open wins to come - and that puts him within two of Federer, so in the next two or three years we could be sitting here discussing Nadal as the best of all time.

It will be interesting to see if Federer continues playing past next season, particularly if he goes another year without a slam and if his ranking drops outside the top 10.

We talk so much about fitness with these guys, and Federer needs to be fit and keep up with those at the top. He's carried a bit of a back injury this year and it wasn't until the last two months that he started to look fully fit.

He needs to manage his schedule better, too. He went through chunks of this season where he didn't play and he might need a few extra matches to gain that confidence. He's not as good as the top two and that's the bottom line now.

He's still dangerous, and he'll be competing in the latter stages at the grand slams - but to win a slam you've got to beat Nadal in five, Djokovic in five, Murray in five, Del Potro in five, Ferrer in five. We've got to question if he is fit enough and if he has the game to hurt those guys.

On Murray...

Murray has returned to light training - but will he be fit for Australia? © Getty Images
Enlarge

Murray's been at Roehampton this week hitting a few balls. He's still not rotating his body, but it's good to see him back in light training. He's headed out to Miami this week where they have a fantastic training environment and the warmer weather will be much better for him.

It's a good time for him to get away and work on his regime to get back to full fitness and raring to go for when he returns - whenever that may be. Only he knows whether he can play at the Australian Open but that will undoubtedly be his target.

It will be interesting to see how he gets on next year. Murray's goal will be, as it is with all years, to win a grand slam.

But firstly he needs to get fit, then he'll be looking to win another slam and get his ranking back up.

On the battle for the top 10...

That will be the same for all the top players.

Federer, as I've said, wants another grand slam. Del Potro won the US Open in 2009 and will go into next year brimming with confidence off the back of a fine 2013. And then you've got the other players in the top 10 who have achieved a lot in the game but are yet to win a major - and that will be their next goal.

Stan Wawrinka, who was one of the players I tipped to do well at the Tour Finals and he made it to the semi-finals, will be looking to push on next year and cement himself in the top 10. And I can see him doing that, having gained a world of confidence from this year.

I'd also like to see a few of the players further down challenging for the top 10.

Nadal, Djokovic, Ferrer, Murray, Del Potro, Federer, Berdych - then you've got a few spots up for grabs to fight for between Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the likes of Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Jerzy Janowicz.

I think we will see a few changes next year - and there's every chance we could be discussing Roger Federer outside of the top 10 for the first time since 2002.

Wilkinson is predicting a big year for Wawrinka in 2014 © Getty Images
Enlarge

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Feeds Feeds: Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson Close
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.