x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Big four back to dominate, but Novak Djokovic looks to have the edge

Over the past month, with Novak Djokovic and the rest of the Big Four taking a break, the lesser lights of the men’s tour have had an opportunity to grab a few headlines and add some dollars to their bank accounts. Now Djokovic is back. So are Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia has proclaimed that he is ready to get back into the swing of things with the US Open looming on the calendar. Anthony Devlin / Reuters
Novak Djokovic of Serbia has proclaimed that he is ready to get back into the swing of things with the US Open looming on the calendar. Anthony Devlin / Reuters

“I’m going back to the business, back to my office.”

Novak Djokovic would have had a twinkle in his eyes as he announced his return to tennis with those words at Toronto.

In the locker room, many faces must have been cloaked in despair.

Over the past month, with Djokovic and the rest of the Big Four taking a break, the lesser lights of the men’s tour have had an opportunity to grab a few headlines and add some dollars to their bank accounts.

Names such as Lleyton Hewitt, Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Cuevas, Leonardo Mayer, Bernard Tomic, John Isner, Pablo Andujar and David Goffin graced the winners’ list, but not many among them would be looking forward with much optimism towards the coming month.

Djokovic is back. So are Roger Federer and Andy Murray for the Rogers Cup. Rafael Nadal should have been in Toronto as well, but an injury to his right wrist has ruled him out of action for three weeks.

The Spaniard still hopes to defend his US Open title.

With a crocked wrist and given his court rust, Nadal is unlikely to be at the top of anyone’s list as favourite for the title at Flushing Meadows.

Even if he had not been injured, that honour would have belonged to Djokovic.

The Serbian is the man to beat on hard courts. He has the best win-loss record on the surface among current players – 366-77 for a winning percentage of .826, which is the third on the list of the best hard court players of all time, behind Jimmy Connors (. 827) and Ivan Lendl (. 826).

Djokovic has won 34 of his 45 titles on hard courts, including the past four Masters and, mentally, the world No 1 has probably never been in a better space, having just been married and won Wimbledon last month.

Federer, like Djokovic, will be in a good mental space as well after his first grand slam tournament final since his 2012 Wimbledon triumph.

The Swiss turns 33 on Friday, though, and only two men have won a major past 33: Ken Rosewall and Andres Gimeno.

The same goes for Murray.

The Scot has not reached a tournament final since back surgery last autumn, but he is the owner of nine hard court Masters titles.

It all points to the Big Four dominating the next month, but if there is one man who could gatecrash it is Milos Raonic.

Last week, the Canadian confirmed his position as a dark horse with success in Washington.

He has been a consistent performer at the Masters and grand slam tournaments this year, and could be ready to make his leap into the big league.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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