Monday, August 4, 2008

In a perfect world (The TTA? top 10: men's edition)

Just imagine a world where flakiness didn't exist, where injuries didn't derail progress and your talent reflects where you should be in the rankings. Determination also pays off for any technical shortcomings you might have to help you climb up the rankings.

Well, that's what I'm doing here: imagining!

Andy Murray's great win in the Cincy Masters yesterday got me thinking: If you were really to look at it from an ability standpoint, he should at least be number four in the world, right behind the guy he knocked off, Novak Djokovic. He moved up to six, but does anyone think that he couldn't take out David Ferrer or Nikolay Davydenko?

I decided to make up my own version of the top 10: the way it would be in a perfect world. Talent, as I mentioned above, is a big part of making the list, and if you have that single-minded determination, a la Rafael Nadal, that helps too.

So here goes: the debut of The TTA? Top 10 Male Players! From the top:

1. Roger Federer: He's slumping now, but is there any doubt he's the best player? Few players have matched his versatility in history.

2. Rafael Nadal: The soon-to-be number one has the sheer physical ability and force of will to overcome most of the people on this list, despite some of them being more naturally talented.

3. Novak Djokovic: I think he's probably the most versatile player after Federer, but can still wilt in big situations against the two in front of him.

4. Andy Murray: Bagging Cincy was the beginning of big things for him, I feel. I don't think he's strong enough yet to handle Nadal and his clay-court game might be kind of lacking, but I think he'll only get better.

5. Richard Gasquet: You're probably thinking, "That dude's a headcase! No way!" But remember, mental lapses don't count here! Young, strong, a threat to win on all surfaces: He makes the cut.

6. Jo-Wilifried Tsonga: Forget Max Mirnyi: This guy is the real beast! Who knows if he'll ever get healthy again, but as with his fellow Frenchman Gasquet, deficiencies don't count here!

7. Marat Safin: The veteran of this group should only lose to the above players alone. Ever.

8. Marcos Baghdatis: One of the most versatile shotmakers out there: You have to think he has the potential to beat anyone on any surface.

9. David Nalbandian: Perfect groundies, good hands at the net, smart serving: What else do you want? Being older than most of the other guys ahead of him is all that's keeping him back. (Remember: No knock for mental or physical deficiencies!)

10. James Blake: One of the most imposing games on tour, which should translate to any surface.

There you have it, the first TTA? top 10! Any omissions?

(Photos: Getty Images)


Anonymous said...

James Blake doesn't belong on the list. I know you're not counting who's a headcase and all, but when you see him and Dmitry Tursunov play, their one dimensional game is way too evident.

freakyfrites said...

Hey Van,

FUN post!

Gonzo would make it into my top ten (maybe instead of Blake.) I think that when he's on, he's a force that no one can reckon with.

Jodi said...

I would bump Marat up a few spots, if we're talking pure talent. In fact, if we're talking pure talent, I'd put him at #2, after Federer. I wouldn't back him against Rafa because of Rafa's pure physicality and super-strong mentality (headcase he is not), but when it comes down to pure talent, I think Marat's up there.

I'd also put Ernests Gulbis on the list. I know he's relatively unproven, but he's got bucketloads of talent. But he is my pet future star, so I might be a little biased!

van said...

• Hey Anonymous, I thought about Tursunov for a second. I think he and Blake are definitely two of the biggest hitters out there. Even though they split their matches this summer, Blake should've won that first one. So that's how he ended up on the list; plus, I think Blake's going to come into the net more than Dmitry.

• Hey FF! How was the tournament today? I actually had Gonzo typed in originally at that spot! Their games are so similar, and I know Gonzo's come out ahead more, but Blake should've won some of those, especially when he was up two sets to none on grass in Davis Cup a few years ago. So wiping out the mental meltdowns Blake has had, I picked him over Gonzalez.

On a Blake-Gonzalez note, though: I think Larry Stefanki could do wonders for JB.

• Hey Jodi! I thought about your man Gulbis for the 10-spot, too. I know he beat Blake twice this year, but I thought James should have won both of those. Ernests would definitely be in my top 15.

Marat's ultra-talented, but I thought he wouldn't be able to easily yank the guys in front of him around the court, so that's why I put him down there. I felt if you eliminated the idol-worship (a la Djokovic) and the lack of mental fortitude (Gasquet), he might get into trouble.

Anonymous said...

love the post & think you're dead on, ESPECIALLY about Blake. All the doubters out there will see...

van said...

Hey anonymous, thanks! I don't know if he'll get to a Slam final before it's all said and done, but this is an "in a perfect world" list!

IHeartRafa said...

I am glad you left out Roddick, since I agree that he does not belong in the top 10. But then how do we explain the fact that has been in the top 10 for the last 6 or 7 years? Hmm....

I think oldies like Hewitt and Tommy Hass should be considered. If they are free of injury, I think they can wreck havoc.

van said...

Hey Iheartrafa, welcome back!

You know, I thought of Haas, but like I did with Gulbis and Gonzalez as I mentioned earlier in this thread, I thought about a recent match with James Blake; in this case, the one at the U.S. Open that JB lost in a five-setter. If Blake weren't such a headcase in those tight moments, he should win a match like that.

Since I eliminated the headcase issues, Blake won out. Haas' game is incredible, though.

You're absolutely right about Hewitt, though: Maybe I should have had him above Blake, just based on his will to win.

Anonymous said...

Andy is in the top ten because he has 25 titles. Blake has 10.See the difference. Andy is the fourth active player with the most titles. So you might reconsider, people.

van said...

Hi anonymous. I'm a huge A-Rod fan, but I just think his game has too many holes in it, especially now that it seems a book is out on him: Block, chip, bunt, swing—whatever you have to do, but get the serve back and go from there.

hcfoo said...

It's tough to come up a perfect list, isn't it?

Personally I don't think any of the French players belong in the top 10. Gasquet could be no. 11 or 12. And Tsonga, nah.. we don't see him much after the Australian Open. Great players are consistent.

I'm totally agree that Murray should be in the top 5. Hope we'll see more winnings from him soon.