As the 2012 season begins, it seems interesting to me to look at what we learned during the past year. Who owned the court? Who was rising to challenge for it? Who was declining? And after the changing of the guard, we will see a new one this year?
Over the lead-up to the Australian Open, I will be discussing the top five player's in men's tennis and looking at some of the questions that they'll have to answer in the coming year. This is a preview of those individual posts.
• Let's start at the top. The 2011 season was all about Novak Djokovic. Boosted by his Davis Cup triumph, he went from being the usual underdog to the undeniable No. 1. He crushed everything on his way. How can we explain it? Will he be able to repeat it in 2012? And, above all, what conditions need to be in place for him to remain the king of the court?
• Rafael Nadal struggled in '11 despite winning the French Open (as usual). His losses against Djokovic cost him a lot mentally and the consequences were seen all over his game. He admitted at the end of the season that he lacked passion. We all know how essential that one ingredient can be, so this is worrisome. Will he find the solution in order to solve the Djokovic issue? Will he find the technical and tactical answers in order to beat Nole?
• Roger Federer pleased us at the end of the season by finding himself back in the winner's circle. Since the US Open, the Swiss star was displaying a more attractive version of tennis after 18 months of middling results. But will it be enough for him to win a Grand Slam again in 2012? Will he find the key to win there against Nadal? What is he still lacking to find his game totally back?
• We've been waiting for Andy Murray for two years. Three Grand Slam finals but still no major title, you know the refrain. He has a lot of ups but also lots of downs, making him a tough one to understand. His amazing talent is frustrating many people who imagine what he could achieve. Will 2012 be his year? What does he really miss in order to reach the next and big step? Most importantly, but rarely discussed; is he really motivated to get there?
• Jo-Wilfried Tsonga seems to be the potential fifth man, the only one who could make this dominating Big Four doubt. His end of season showed he was owning the weapons to hurt the best players. But Jo is lacking in the semis of Grand Slams. He chose to fly solo, without a coach. Will he able to go for the next chapter alone? What's the one thing he'll need in order to become a real contender for a victory in a Grand Slam?
Those are the questions I will try to answer on the articles I will post here about each of these players as the countdown to the Australian Open has begun.