It’s still hard to believe that the once-mighty Roger Federer is languishing 16th in the ATP World Tennis Rankings. Okay, so it’s not quite the same fall from grace as former golfing great Tiger Woods, who is attempting to claw his way back up but still has a long way to go before even coming close to resembling the superstar he once was. But seeing Federer, a player who seemed nigh on invincible just a few years ago, ranked so low takes some getting used to. Ranked nine, Raphael Nadal is another titan of the tennis court whose powers are on the wane. After claiming 17 of the 18 majors available between June 2005 and September 2009, neither of them has won any of the last 10 available slams.
While Novak Djokovic is anything but a spent force, the Croat admits that he lost his mojo in 2016, Andy Murray’s appetite for success though seems more insatiable than ever, and it would be a travesty of justice if he didn’t win his third BBC Sports Personality of the Year award after a stellar 2016 in which he won Wimbledon and Olympic gold for a second time and climbed to number one in the world on the back of nine tournament title wins.
At 29 years, 5 months and 23 days Murray is the oldest first-time singles No. 1 in the last 40 years, but he looks as strong and as fit as ever – and with his traditional rivals now on the wane, it could very well be his time to dominate for at least the next two seasons.
Predictions of a double Grand Slam year in 2017 have been made by former GB star Greg Rusedski, and according to Betway.be, Murray and Djokovic are joint favourites at 6/4 to take the first major title of the season, the Australian Open (16-29 January).
It is 11/1 bar the field, as of 6 December 2016, with Stan Wawrinka considered the most likely challenger to head the chasing pack. He is quoted at 11/1. World No.4 Wawrinka has a respectable record in his head-to-head with Murray, winning seven times to Murray’s 10, but, at 31 he is two years older. A straight sets victory for the Scot in their last meeting suggests the Swiss has plenty of ground to make up too.
Others under consideration include Juan Martin del Potro (14/1) and Milos Raonic (20/1). Argentinian de Potro is ranked 38th but can cause anyone problems on his day, as Murray found out in battling his way to a 3-1 victory in the Rio 2016 Olympic final. However, doubts persist over his troublesome left wrist. He may be able to challenge in a one-off tournament but can he prevail over the course of an unrelenting season? The jury is still out.
Meanwhile, Raonic was once earmarked as a potential star of the circuit but has yet to really deliver on that early promise. At 25 years of age, the Canadian still has time on his side but his one tournament title and a win percentage of 75 percent were a below-par return on his undoubted talent in 2016. Maybe Raonic will use the disappointment of his injury-forced withdrawal in the Paris Masters semi-final against Murray as extra motivation in the year ahead.
Federer and Nadal are 16/1 and 22/1 to end their title drought in Melbourne, while Japan’s Kei Nishikori, another of the so-called lost generation and ranked at No.5 five in the world, is available at 25/1 to prove the critics wrong.