The ATP's end-of-the-year championships is about to kick off any minute now (the U.S.-China time difference always trips me up). What a year it's been, too: I think the biggest thing is Rafael Nadal's ascendancy to the top of the heap. Rafa's not here, but Roger Federer—the man he replaced—is. I'm picking R-Fed to add to his Masters Cup haul this year—and would have even if Nadal were playing. It won't be easy, though. Here's my breakdown of how I think everyone will finish (going by seed) and a mini-recap of their 2008 season.
• Federer Titles: Four, including the U.S. Open. (and an Olympic Gold in doubles, too.) Year in review: "Is Roger done?" was the question most repeated over the season. It was an off one by his standards, but I think most players would take making three Slam finals and winning one any day of the week. He's not done yet! Shanghai prediction: Champ (2-1 in round-robin play)
• Novak Djokovic Titles: Three, including the Australian Open. Year in review: A great first half of the year with a Slam and two Masters shields. However, the player who looked like he would seriously be challenging for the top spot, kind of fell off in the second half. The indoor season hasn't been that impressive. Shanghai prediction: 1-2
• Andy Murray Titles: Five, including two Masters shields. Year in review: The U.S. Open finalist is responsible for making the "Big 3" on tour the "Fantastic 4." Everything pretty much fell into place for Murray this year and he's been on a tear indoors. Shanghai prediction: Runner-up (3-0 in round-robin play)
• Nikolay Davydenko Titles: Three, including a Masters shield. Year in review: Winning Miami was huge for the perennial top-tenner, but I know Slam-wise, this was the worst he's done in years. He hasn't gotten deep in a draw in ages it seems: Did he even play this fall? And oh yeah, he's off the hook in the gambling scandal. Shanghai prediction: 0-3
• Andy Roddick Titles: Three Year in review: A-Rod's year was OK (wins over the Big 3) and he got to the quarters at the U.S. Open. But I'll tell you this: If he didn't have bad injury spells, he really coulda been a contenda. Shanghai prediction: 1-2
• Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Titles: Two, including one Masters shield Year in review: Jo-Willie! The Aussie Open finalist also got hit hard by injury, but won Paris the last week of the regular season to get in. If not for that knee, oh what could've been... Shanghai prediction: Semifinalist (3-0 in round-robin play)
• Juan Martin del Potro Titles: Four (and those were in a row) Year in review: The kid was alright. The youngest guy in the tournament was the hottest player on the planet this summer until Andy Murray stopped him in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. He's had a solid indoor season and should do well here. Shanghai prediction: Semifinalist (2-1 in round-robin play)
• Gilles Simon Titles: Three Year in review: The beneficiary of Nadal's withdrawal came up with some nice results over the season, including a win over Federer this summer. To me, the most impressive thing he did all year was making the finals in Madrid, where he came through in third-set breakers in each match to get that far. That shows a lot of guts. Shanghai prediction: 0-3
That's my take on the Masters Cup. Even with Rafa out, it still should be a good one!
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.