Murray’s US Open Win – Does it Change the ATP?

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Andy Murray’s U.S. Open title not only changed his life but also completed a rather remarkable trend this season that saw the top four men each win at least one of the Grand Slams. Does this mean we should expect more of the same next year or will one man dominate the Majors? And can we expect anyone else from the ATP Tour to breakthrough in 2013?

Despite not reaching the finals in New York, Roger Federer could well finish the year as No. 1. And as long as he stays healthy and motivated, there’s nothing to suggest that Federer couldn’t stay No. 1 throughout 2013 as long as keeps posting stellar results week in and week out. Federer’s level has remained constant even when some thought at age 30 he would be trailing behind his younger competitors by now. If he can keep up that level and defend all those points he’s earned will be something to watch but since Federer likes being “king”, it would take a sub-par year from him plus a strong effort from someone else to push him off of the throne.

Most players would love to have the year Novak Djokovic has had, including winning the Australian Open, but it still feels like the former No. 1 has lost his near-invincible aura from last year. Why he has is hard to say, but it’s too soon to tell if he will climb back to his 2011 heights or slip back even more next year. Either way, Djokovic is probably the best poised among the top four to improve next year and possibly win two Majors. If he can move past the disappointments of this summer, we could see a hungrier Djokovic once again become the man to beat.

After the celebrations over Murray’s title win subside, it will be up to Murray to prove he can do it again in 2013. Murray’s U.S. Open title finally puts to rest all the questions of “can he do it?”, but in some ways he may face even more expectations to do it again and that will be something new for the Scot to deal with. Murray is certainly a more forceful player thanks to his partnership with Ivan Lendl, but it doesn’t change the fact that he will still have to likely go through two of the top three to win another Major – not an easy task for anyone.

Murray will now be confident and free of the doubts that plagued him before, but his New York victory doesn’t suggest, at least not right away, that we can expect another Major title from him next year. Simply put, things will be a little easier for Murray but not by much.

Rafael Nadal, who missed the U.S. Open due to his ongoing knee issue, will probably still be a question mark for most of next year. Even if he doesn’t play the rest of 2012 to allow himself to heal properly, there’s no guarantee that he will play a full schedule next year, even at the Majors. It’s a disappointing scenario for the sport but it would allow Federer, Djokovic and Murray an even better chance at another Major. It also bears noting that Nadal’s absence at Wimbledon (due to his second round loss) along with his withdrawal from New York ultimately helped Murray the most this summer. And that’s why any Murray/Nadal matches next year could be the most important matchup when it comes to determining the Grand Slams.

Nadal will still be an overwhelming favorite to win his eighth French Open, but if he somehow wins one of the other three next year, that might be prove to be one of his greatest achievements yet in an already legendary career.

And what of the rest of the ATP Tour? 2012 proved again to be a year of the “fantastic four” dominating not only the Majors but just about every other tournament they entered. David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all reached the semis of at least one Major and while Juan Martin Del Potro is now a permanent fixture in the top eight, but it’s hard to see any one of these men busting through to enter the top four.

We’re also still waiting for someone outside the top ten to breakthrough and at least challenge for a big title. Milos Raonic keeps getting mentioned but he hasn’t even reached the quarterfinals of a Major. And with the retirement of Andy Roddick, the American men will now face even more scrutiny to do something other than excel in their country’s summer hardcourt ATP 250 events.

But all eyes for the moment will now be on Murray as he joins a very exclusive club of only seven active players who have won a Major. His win may prove to be the tipping point for more success or a temporary halt to Federer, Djokovic and Nadal’s dominance over the sport, but it certainly proves that 2013 will be an exciting and intriguing year for everyone who follows the sport.

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