Wednesday, 23 November 2011


To follow-up on my tweets on the subject earlier – if Andy Murray was to fulfil ALL his mandatory requirements, Davis Cup commitments and have the full possible amount of tournaments counting towards his ranking (best 18 + Tour Finals and Olympics counting as an extra tournament, although that is still to be confirmed by the ATP), here is a possible POTENTIAL schedule for the world No.3 next year:

January 1-8: Brisbane (ATP 250)
January 16-29: Australian Open (Grand Slam)

February 10-12: Davis Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 1st Round vs Slovak Rep. at Braehead
February 13-19: Rotterdam (ATP 500)
February 27-March 3: Dubai (ATP 500)
March 8-18: Indian Wells (Masters 1000)
March 21-April 1: Miami (Masters 1000)
April 6-8: Davis Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 2nd Round vs Belgium at home*

April 16-22: Monte Carlo (Masters 1000, although counts as a 500)
May 7-13: Madrid (Masters 1000)
May 14-20: Rome (Masters 1000)
May 28-June 10: French Open (Grand Slam)

June 11-17: Queen’s (ATP 250)
June 25-July 8: Wimbledon (Grand Slam)
July 28-August 5: Olympics

August 6-12: Toronto (Masters 1000)
August 13-19: Cincinnati (Masters 1000)
August 27-September 9: US Open (Grand Slam)
September 14-16: Davis Cup World Group Play-off - I know, I am being a bit hopeful here ;)

October 1-7: Tokyo (ATP 500)
October 8-14: Shanghai (Masters 1000)

October 29-November 4: Paris (Masters 1000)
November 5-11: London (ATP World Tour Finals)

*Great Britain would only play a Davis Cup tie on April 6-8 if they beat the Slovak Republic in February.  Also, there would be no DC tie in September if GB beat Slovak Rep but lost to Belgium in April.  There is also the possibility of GB playing a relegation play-off away to Israel or Portugal on October 19-21 if GB lost to Slovak Rep., Slovak Rep. beat Belgium in April and Belgium beat GB in September.
As you can see, there is not much room for manoeuvre.  It is not mandatory that Murray competes in the two ATP 250 events in Brisbane and Queen’s, but these are useful tournaments for preparing for the upcoming grand slam events, and he can use a maximum of two 250 events to count towards his ranking.

The Davis Cup ties are also not mandatory so he could choose to miss these, but would no doubt incur the wrath of a number of British tennis fans if he were to do so.

In previous years, Murray has went to Miami in July for a mid-season training block ahead of the US Open series, but this is not likely next year as the Olympics start at the All England Club less than 3 weeks after the conclusion of Wimbledon.

A tough ask for the players competing in the Olympics will be to go to Toronto straight from London.  With the Olympics being played on grass, it will be tough for the players to adjust to hard courts so quickly.

A hotly debated topic in recent weeks has been the fact that the ATP World Tour Finals is straight after Paris next year.  There is no gap week for practice and general PR and marketing, which is a shame and a bad mistake by the ATP in my opinion.

This does mean, though, that the players will have the benefit of an extra two weeks to rest and recuperate at the end of the season ahead of 2013.

And it will be needed as 2012 is an extremely busy year.

***I must stress that Andy Murray is yet to confirm his full schedule for 2012.  This potential schedule that I have created is based on tournaments he has played in previous years.***

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


ANDY MURRAY has decided to begin his 2012 season at the Brisbane International ATP 250 event.

The world No.3 will head to Queensland for the first time to begin his preparations for the Australian Open in the joint ATP and WTA tournament which begins on January 1.

Murray had played in the ITF Hopman Cup mixed team exhibition event in Perth in the last two years with teenager Laura Robson for Great Britain, and the pair reached the final in 2010, losing narrowly to Spain.

It was regarded by Murray as perfect preparation for the first grand slam of the year, and subsequent runs to the final in Melbourne in 2011 and 2010 vindicated his decision to start the season on the west coast of Australia.

But after it was revealed last month that Murray would not be returning to Perth next year, speculation had mounted as to where the 24-year-old would begin 2012, with ATP 250 events taking place in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha in the first week of the calendar.

In his early years on tour, Murray started the season in Doha, but despite winning the event in both 2009 and 2008, the Scot felt he struggled to acclimatise to the conditions in Australia after arriving from the Middle East.

This made Brisbane the insiders’ favourite to be Murray’s first event of 2012 and his participation was confirmed today.

Murray said: “I love coming to Australia, but I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Queensland before.

“I’ve heard only good things about the Brisbane International tournament, so I am looking forward to competing in January.  With a quality field it is the perfect way to begin my Australian campaign.”

Murray will also likely have the option of playing an exhibition match at the AAMI Kooyong Classic, which is held in the suburbs of Melbourne in the days leading up to the start of the Australian Open on January 16.

Other players competing at the Brisbane International include Marcos Baghdatis, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Florian Mayer, Kei Nishikori, Gilles Simon and home-favourite Bernard Tomic.  The wild cards are still to be awarded and tournament organisers may hope they can attract world No.1 Novak Djokovic, who has not entered in Chennai or Doha.

Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer begin their season at the lucrative Mubadala World Tennis Championship – a rather grand title for an exhibition event – in Abu Dhabi from 29-31 December.

Nadal and Federer will then head to Doha for the Qatar Open, an event in which they have both competed in the past three years.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Roger Federer’s year, up until a fortnight ago, read as follows; Runner-up at Roland Garros, a run to the semi-finals of the Australian and US Opens and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, winner in Doha, runner-up in Dubai and appearances in the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.

Two titles, in Basle and Paris, have been added to that list in the last two weeks.  It really does make you wonder how some had the audacity to say that he was “past it”.

There is no doubt that the 30-year-old’s days of domination in the tennis world are over.  Gone are the times when he was winning more than 10 titles a year.  But Federer has never really gone away, has he? 

The past fortnight has not been the “return of the king” as some may have billed it.  It is not as if Federer has experienced an almighty downfall akin to when Andre Agassi dropped out of the top 100 in September 1997, just 19 months after he was the world No.1, before he fought back to reclaim the top spot two years later.

Since Federer lost the No.1 spot in June of last year, he has remained in the mix.  Although he currently sits at his lowest ranking, No.4, for over eight years, he is still regarded as one of the ‘big four’ – the game’s elite who, between them all, have claimed every Grand Slam and Masters title on offer this year.

So it should be of no surprise that, after a six-week break following Switzerland’s Davis Cup victory away to Australia, Federer has won back-to-back titles in Basle and Paris and displayed some of the form that he became renowned for as he regularly picked up Grand Slam titles during the mid-noughties.

Federer is one of, if not the greatest tennis player of all time.  As you grow older, you may lose a bit of pace around the court and your level of consistency may not be as extraordinarily high as it was during your peak, but you do not lose the talent overnight that took you to 16 grand slam titles.

The Swiss is still in great physical condition and remains highly motivated to win more tournaments.  His reaction after winning in Basle - which even included a few tears - and Paris said it all.

You get the sense that he feels there is still more work to be done.  2012 could provide him with yet more achievements to add to the CV, with another chance to win that elusive Olympic singles gold medal and the opportunity to help Switzerland won the Davis Cup for the first time in their history as they return to the World Group once again.

But for now, the focus is on the O2 Arena in London for next week's ATP World Tour Finals where Federer returns as the defending champion and bookies’ favourite, after a fortnight in which he only dropped one set in ten matches and also became only the seventh man in the Open era to record 800 career match wins.

While speaking during the Swiss Indoors in Basle, Federer seemed unperturbed about the fact he had recently lost his world No.3 spot to Andy Murray.  But you can’t help get the feeling that he would gain a slight extra sense of satisfaction if he was to go into the off-season having reclaimed that position ahead of the Scot.

The amount of different possible scenarios created by the round-robin format at the O2 means that there is not just one clear-cut way that Federer can return to No.3.  The simplest scenario, though, would be if Federer was to be unbeaten in London, Murray could only prevent a rankings drop by reaching the final with at least two group wins.

The format also means that today’s draw, which is live on BBC Radio 5 live, will guarantee at least two meetings between members of the “big four” before we even reach the semi-final stage, something which we have been starved of since the US Open with the final in Tokyo between Murray and Rafael Nadal being the only time any of them have met since the final Grand Slam of the year.

For Federer, London provides the chance to prove the doubters wrong again.  In his eight meetings this year against other members of the top 4, he has only won one – his four-set semi-final victory against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

For all that he has not gone away, he still has something to prove against his fellow competitors at the very top of the game.  So far this year, they have got the better of him.

Federer will no doubt, though, relish the task ahead of defending his World Tour Finals title.  His work is not done.  “The King” is most certainly not dead.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Roger Federer revealed yesterday that he played a part in choosing the surface of indoor clay for Switzerland’s Davis Cup clash with the USA next year – but still refused to confirm that he will play.

The World Group first-round tie will take place in the town of Fribourg on February 10-12 next year and it was no real surprise that the Swiss have chosen clay, considering that the USA have won seven of their past eight ties on surfaces other than the red stuff.

“I was part of the decision, so obviously it is the right choice,” Federer joked, after his semi-final victory against compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka at the Swiss Indoors in Basle.  “Otherwise, I am a bad guy if I say it is a bad decision.

“Clay is the right choice as it takes the more dangerous guys out of the equation for them.  They already have good players, but they are very good indoors or on hard, and I think clay makes the trip that much tougher for them.

“I believe it plays in our favour, especially for Stan.  And if I do play, I can play on anything anyway, so we all thought, after no hesitation, that it was the right choice.”

The 16-time grand slam champion has not played in a World Group first-round tie since 2004, but considering that a Swiss Davis Cup victory is one of the few things missing from his list of achievements in tennis, it is expected that he will fully commit himself next year in an effort to help his country win the competition for the first time in its history.

But Federer is holding off making any announcement on his participation at the moment.

He said: “I still haven’t decided on my schedule at the start of next year yet.  I am still putting everything together but I hope I can announce something in the next couple of weeks.”

Next year’s first-round of Davis Cup ties are being held three weeks earlier than usual, scheduled for a fortnight after the Australian Open and immediately before the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam, a tournament which Federer has already committed to playing.

But the Swiss denied that the change in the calendar would affect his decision, saying that it was more a “matter of priorities”.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Mike Dickson of the Daily Mail summed it up perfectly when he tweeted his reaction to last Thursday’s breaking news that Andy Murray was to play at the Swiss Indoors this week, saying: “That's what you call parking your tanks on Roger's lawn.”

Federer’s home city of Basle may not have been Murray’s first-choice destination this week, but after his request for a wild card in Valencia, where he was the singles champion in 2009 and won the doubles title with his brother Jamie last year, was, bizarrely, turned down, the Scot is instead in Switzerland to play the last of his four mandatory ATP 500 events in 2011.

His appearance here this week has further boosted an already stellar line-up, with Federer and world No.1 Novak Djokovic also competing.  It is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious 500 tournaments, with previous champions including Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.

Murray has not played in this north-western corner of Switzerland since he reached the quarter-finals in 2005.  That was the tournament in which Murray beat Tim Henman in the first round, a significant victory which was then billed in Britain as the “changing of the guard”.

Six years on, Murray is a different prospect altogether, and it is he who comes into this tournament as the second seed and the in-form player on tour.  He has won all 15 matches he has played since the US Open, but faces a tough task if he is to keep the winning streak going this week as the draw has not been kind.

Murray’s opening first-round match this afternoon pits him against Robin Haase, the world No.40, who he knows only too well after being two sets to love down in their last encounter in the second round of the US Open.

Murray fought back to win the match in five that day, but he will not be afforded such an opportunity today if Haase is to win the first two sets of this best-of-three set encounter.

The good news for Murray is that the Center Court is not as fast as previous years – Federer reckons “it is a touch slower” – and that should help his cause against the big-hitting Dutchman, who has only won one match in five since that match at Flushing Meadows.

Murray would then face home-favourite Stanislas Wawrinka in the second-round tomorrow, before a potential quarter-final meeting on Friday with Serbian Janko Tipsarevic, who currently sits at a career-high ranking of No.13 having recently won tournaments in Kuala Lumpur and Moscow and finished runner-up in St. Petersburg last week.

It is not, by any means, an easy task for Murray to reach the semi-finals, but he should still be confident as he comes here in great shape and with more momentum than any other player on tour at present.

Murray said: ““Someone like Novak will tell you, when you’ve got momentum you want to keep playing.

“Right now I feel better than I did at this stage last year.  My body has held up better and that’s something I need to try and keep going for the next few years because it will hopefully add a year or two onto the end of my career if I can look after my body well like someone like Roger has done.

“I have played well recently.  At this stage of the season, everybody has niggles that you have to stay on top of, so you can’t expect to be 100 per cent fit.  But the advantage I have of playing in Asia is that I will have played some more matches and that always helps when you are match fit.”

A potential semi-final meeting with Federer in his own backyard on Saturday has the makings of a classic.  The fact that Murray has also recently moved ahead of the Swiss in the rankings to No.3 also adds more intrigue.

Federer looked rusty in his opening match against Potito Starace on Monday night, but that is to be expected after a break of six weeks.

It is this break which left the door open for Murray to become the new world No.3, but Federer has insisted this week that he is not overly concerned about his demotion to No.4, his lowest ranking since July 2003.

Federer said: “I don’t even know what it takes to regain the No.3 position.  My goal is to try and win when I am playing in the next few weeks.

“The focus right now is trying to play well here in Basel.  And if I’m three or four at the end of the year, we’ll see, but if I’m going to make a move I need to win tournaments and that’s what it’s going to take.”

Djokovic was also similarly rusty in his first-round match against Xavier Malisse, which he eventually came through in three sets.  Again, though, the Serb has also had a six week break from tennis due to a back injury which he said was the worst injury of his career and he has only started serving again in the last few days.

Expect his rhythm to build as the week goes on, though.  After the early exits of Viktor Troicki, Tomas Berdych and Mardy Fish, there are no seeds remaining in his half and he may not be fully tested until he potentially meets either Murray or Federer in the final.

Murray is the only one of the top four singles seeds to also compete in the doubles this week and he teams up with brother Jamie once again after their success in Tokyo last month.  It’s a big week for Jamie with 500 points to defend after their success in Valencia last year, but a tough opener awaits later today, following the conclusion of Andy’s singles match, against second seeds Max Mirnyi, of Belarus, and Canadian Daniel Nestor.

Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins also play their first 500 event together here this week, which comes on the back of their success in St. Petersburg.  The British pair have received a kinder draw than their counterparts as they play the Swiss wild card pairing of Stephane Bohli and Marco Chiudinelli tomorrow.