Monday, February 16, 2015

Which Swiss Will Finish 2015 On Top?

With his titles at Rotterdam and Chennai to go along with his Australian Open semifinals performance, Stan Wawrinka isn't messing around to begin 2015.  His only loss so far is to Novak Djokovic in 5 sets at the Australian Open, which is as good of a loss as someone can have.  He's scheduled to play in Marseille this coming week, and if he has enough left in the tank has a good chance to add yet another title to his 2015 resume.

Roger Federer has only played two tournaments so far this year, and his stay at the Australian Open was surprisingly short thanks to Seppi playing the match of his life.  Before that, Federer looked to be off to a strong start to the year by taking the title in Brisbane.  It's quite possible (if not likely) that Federer's loss to Seppi was merely a fluke and not a sign of things to come.  However, it does raise some questions as to whether Federer will be quite as strong this year as he was in 2014.  Federer may not feel (at least subconsciously) like he has quite as much to prove in 2015, and could accordingly be due for a slight letdown.

Based on his strong start, Wawrinka seems like a good bet to finish 2015 as the highest ranked Swiss player.  His confidence and focus seem to have returned, and assuming he's moved past the physical and emotional fatigue he referenced in Australia, seems poised for a huge year.  Wawrinka knows his time is now, as he'll be turning 30 in March.  Not that he hasn't had an excellent career already, but the late blooming Wawrinka likely realizes he's only got about two years left in his prime.

Even if Federer puts together a top 5 year, that may not be enough to hold off Wawrinka.  Depending on Nadal's health and how soon he returns to form, Wawrinka could finish this year as high as two or three in the world.  (If Nadal is healthy and racks up a huge amount of points during the clay season like he always does, the number three spot may be more realistic).  Wawrinka will need a couple of outstanding results at the majors and Masters events to finish in the top 3, but the draws at these tournaments may begin to open up.  Nadal doesn't look like he'll be a consistent presence at big tournaments outside of clay at the moment, and Federer suddenly looks vulnerable.  Wawrinka currently looks to be a step above Berdych, Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov, and on par with Andy Murray.  He's more than capable of winning a Masters tournament at some point this year, and making the finals of a grand slam.

Finishing higher than Federer may not mean a whole lot in the grand tennis scheme of things, but it would be meaningful for Wawrinka.  For a guy whose been overshadowed by Federer his whole career, he'd at least be able to tell his grandkids that just once he managed to surpass the legend in the year end rankings before he retired.

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