When Novak Djokovic once again defeated Rafael Nadal in a final to take the Australian Open January 29, he established his ascendance to the top of the pecking order in the men’s game. While he’s the latest at the top, in a sense there is nothing new under the sun that is the men’s game.
First it was Roger Federer, then Nadal, now Djokovic. Sure, there are times throughout the dominant period of each of those three men where there were challenges, but mostly from the man that just got passed. When Nadal overtook Federer, the Spaniard’s greatest adversary was still the Swiss champion.
The current competion for the top spot still factors in Federer and even Andy Murray, but it’s primarily between Djokovic and Nadal. That kind of dominance is something completely foreign to the women’s game
If Nadal continues to be second in the pecking order to Djokovic, it will be interesting to see how he handles it. I think he’s a player who grew very accustomed to life at the top, and will not react well to being anything less. While I think Federer will enjoyed playing out and competing for the top even after the ascendency of Nadal, it won’t be the same this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nadal retires if his 2012 plays out like most of 2011.
Five slams, five winners
The last five Grand Slam events have been won by five different women. The 2011 Australian Open went to Kim Clijsters. Wimbledon saw Petra Kvitova win her first slam. The runner-up at Melbourne, Li Na, won at Roland Garros. The U.S. Open witnessed Sam Stosur shock Serena Williams.
Fast forward to the 2012 Australian Open, where Belorussian Victoria Azarenka picked up her first Grand Slam win. Azarenka defeated the same woman who had lost the final at Wimbledon to Kvitova, Maria Sharapova.
With the Australian Open win, Azarenka moved up to the top ranking. Former world no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki fell out of the top three, and could slide more if she sees many more early exits. The no. 1 ranking is likely to change throughout the year, as they are so close on points.
The good and bad of the paradigm
Personally, I wouldn’t be happy if the women’s game had the same level of dominance at the top. It’s fun seeing different players surge at different events, rising to the top, then sliding down on the other side. It’s great being able to see new faces percolating near the top.
On the other side of the coin, I like seeing Djokovic do what he is doing. It’s incredible to see him find a way to win again and again. Part of my enjoyment of Djokovic may be the fact that I never really warmed up to Nadal as a personality. I find Djokovic to be a much more likable figure.
Might I get tired of seeing him on top, and yearn for another champion? It’s possible, but for now I am enjoying the domination on the men’s side and the parity in the women’s game.