Saturday, 21 November 2015

Still 'Big four'?

Andy Murray will face Stanislas Wawrinka in the last round robin match.
The winner will qualify for the semi finals

In less than half and hour, we will have the last match of the round robin stage at the ATP World tour finals, where Britain's Andy Murray will face the reigning French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka.

The reasons why I decided to write a post on this match are more than one. First of all, it is a match between two of the best players in the world, which, hopefully will make for an interesting viewing. Two, it is the last match of the round robin format, yet it is a virtual quarter final, where the winner will seal a berth for the semi finals. Three, the semi finalist waiting on the other side is the great Roger Federer and everything related to him interests me greatly. Four, these two players are both in the debate as to who the fourth member of the so called 'Big Four' is.

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have already qualified for the semi finals, and have also proven once again that they are still well ahead of the upcoming players. The fourth position (in the 'Big Four' as well as in this tournament) is up for grabs, mainly due to Wawrinka's form in 2014-15. While he has notched up the Australian Open last year and the French Open this year, Murray has failed to add to his tally of two slams during the same period. No doubt Murray has been the more consistent player of the two at any given time, but in tennis, excellence gets rewarded more than consistency.

If we look at the head-to-head between these two, Murray is slightly ahead with an 8-6 record, but the last two meetings have gone to the Swiss, and both remarkably easy victories. In fact, at Monte Carlo 
 2013 and the US Open in the same year, the scoreline reads 6-1,6-2,6-4,6-3,6-2 respectively, in favour of Wawrinka . Out of the last 4 hard court meetings, they have split it 2-2.

But they haven't met in the last years and it is very difficult to pick a winner. Wawrinka can be devastating on his day, but can be unpredictably mediocre on others. Another variable is added when you consider the fact that Andy is supposed to play in the Davis cup finals on clay a week later, and it is very difficult to assume how is he prepared to perform on the hard courts, and more importantly, whether he is mentally there to perform at his very best. If you ask me, I feel Wawrinka has a slight edge, and should win this contest in three sets.

No matter who wins though, this is an important match in the whole context of 'the big four'. While nobody can rule out Murray for at least another couple of years in terms of winning slams, a victory here for Wawrinka, (and who knows, he might move beyond the semis too) might force us to accommodate an additional berth for him and call it 'Big Five' instead.

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