The Sultan's 2013 Tennis Betting Review
Which tennis stars were on the decline in 2013? And who is on the rise? Today on the blog, The Sultan delivers his 2013 tennis betting review, looking ahead to 2014.
The 2013 tennis season was a fascinating one and sets us up nicely for an intriguing 2014 campaign. Rafa Nadal's amazing, instant return to form and the world number 1 slot after a long injury lay-off and Serena Williams' almost total domination grabbed all the headlines.
What We Learned In 2013
Lesson 1: What I learnt from this year personally, was that despite this domination, there is still very much money to be made by opposing these players in-play. Williams went out early in 2 of the 4 slams and showed on many occasions that she is human and does suffer from huge lapses in concentration which even she seems to find unfathomable. Nadal won 10 titles in 2013 but towards the end of the season, showed he is still weaker indoors than on slower surfaces and has dropped the first set in a number of matches against players he was expected to steamroller, even on clay. I also still think he will continue to struggle on grass (as he did this Wimbledon) because his knees can't handle the low bounce and expect Wimbledon to elude him in 2014 again.
Lesson 2: The other big story of 2013 was the decline of Roger Federer. It is now clear that he is past his peak and in my opinion, never going to get back to that level on a consistent basis. There is little doubt that he is not going to get back into the top 3 and there is perhaps a chance he will never win another slam. Regarding the men's game as a whole, it would seem that the gap is perhaps closing between the top 3 or 4 players and the rest. I think the next level of player down has definitely stepped up their game and as a result, are giving the top guys closer run matches. This means more potential for opposing the big guns and profiting in-play.
Lesson 3: With the women, I think 2013 saw perhaps the start of a new era in the WTA. A number of young players have started to realise their promise and make waves inside the top 50 and I think they will continue to climb and change the face of the game at the top. This will make the WTA a very competitive tour and perhaps even more unpredictable than it already is; which is great for trading as this means potentially more swings in-play but also more value to be found in pricing, as opinions will be divided much more.
Lesson 4: But the important thing to note about 2013, is that it showed how things rarely stay the same in tennis and so your betting or trading has to adapt. There will be players who surprise everyone and improve their game to unexpected heights (such as Simona Halep and Fabio Fognini) those who drop like a stone after a brilliant previous year (Janko Tipsarevic and Juan Monaco) and newcomers who burst up the rankings, like Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil. It's almost impossible to say with any great conviction who will fill those shoes in 2014 but there will be some indicators from the past year.
How Will The Top 10 Fare In 2014?
The "Big Four" have had very contrasting seasons which sets us up nicely for an intriguing 2014. Roger Federer really could go either way and you just think with the fact he's past his peak and much older than most of those around him, he is more likely to fall rather than rise.
I imagine it will take time for Andy Murray to get back to the level required to challenge the top 2 but I expect he will by the end of the year. If I was to take a punt, it would be on Novak Djokovic ending the year as number one. Nadal has so many points to defend from his 2 slam triumphs and 10 titles whilst Djokovic was starting to look imperious as he ended 2014 on that 24 match unbeaten streak.
Are they even a "Big Four" anymore?
David Ferrer might dispute that, though I think his ranking will fall from the current 3 with Del Potro, Murray and Federer on the warpath. I think this year could be Juan Martin Del Potro's year to win a slam again and he's most likely to break-up the big four's monopoly on the top prizes. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a long lay off following injury at Wimbledon and was justifiably a little rusty towards the end of the season but I think we'll see him do well in 2014, as he effectively missed 2 slams in 2013.
Two players who stood out in 2013 were Richard Gasquet and Stanislas Wawrinka, now both top 10. They were unusually consistent, so the immediate thought is that they won't be able to keep it up. The problem both have is that to climb the rankings further, they are going to have a lot of points to defend from this season to fend off those behind them but will also have to find a way of improving enough to catch established top ten players such as Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer - which is asking a lot. So really, you would have to think it's more likely both will drop places. Gasquet especially, has 4 titles and a US Open semi final spot to defend. I feel Wawrinka has a better chance of holding his top 10 spot but it's gonna be a tough year for both in my opinion.
Who To Watch For Outside The Top 10 In 2014
Grigor Dimitrov finished 2013 in great form, taking his first ever ATP title in Stockholm and with wins over Djokovic and Ferrer, is a player who seems to be getting closer to the hype which has surrounded him. Inevitably, some now say he is over-rated but I don't go along with them. He's talented enough for top 10 easily, and I expect him to go higher than that. With a poor showing at every slam in 2013 so not many points to defend, improvement this year could catapult him close to the elite and with a new coach in place already having secured a title, I think he'll be going up the rankings again.
After an injury hit 2011, Gael Monfils has climbed the rankings and is currently at 31 with potential to go much higher. As a former world number 7, I can see his progress continuing. Marin Cilic returned in the Paris Masters at the end of the season, after being barred since Wimbledon for taking a banned substance. He looked pretty sharp on his return and I expect him to climb from his current 37 to something more befitting of his talent.
Vasek Pospisil surprised everyone with his semi final runs in Montreal and Basel. The young Canadian is now ranked 32 and will play a lot more ATP events in 2014 (was still playing mostly Challengers in 2013). This could mean he struggles playing at the top level consistently but if he starts the year well, the points he'll earn in ATP Tour events could keep him on the rise as they will eclipse what he got on the Challenger Tour.
Fabio Fognini is a player I think could struggle in 2014. He surprised everyone by finally making the most of his supreme talent and rising to number 16. But I think he'll struggle to recreate back to back tournament wins in Hamburg and Stuttgart and will drop next year.
Certain players have had a terrible year and will be looking for a clean slate and a chance to get back where they belong in 2014. Janko Tipsarevic is top of that list after dropping from 9 to 36 but he withdrew from the Davis Cup Final with a heel injury and I would be unsure about him getting back to anywhere near the heights of 2011. Alexander Dolgopolov is a better candidate to yo-yo back up the ranks. He slipped from top 20 to 57 and I feel his dire year can't get any worse and we'll see some improvement in 2014. I was surprised to see Marcos Baghdatis as low as 87 in the rankings. Not sure what triggered his terrible year (including 10 first round losses in a row) but he's far too good to remain that low and should climb at least back to top 50 in 2014.
Young Players To Watch Out For In 2014
With a number of precocious female stars starting to make their presence felt on the WTA tour, 2014 promises to be an exciting year. If the likes of Madison Keys, Eugenie Bouchard, Jamie Hampton, Laura Robson and Caroline Garcia can continue their march up the rankings, we could see a lot of change at the top. Whilst I'm not expecting any of them to break the top 10 in 2014, I do expect them all to continue climbing the rankings. Keys has yet to really make the world sit up and take notice but she's the youngest of them all and in my opinion, has the most potential. Bouchard and Robson have both already had everyone excited with big performances and wins. Whilst Robson stalled in 2013, Bouchard had an outstanding year, which she may find hard to replicate and could stall like Robson but I think she's got enough about her to continue climbing higher than current 32 and I think Robson will push on next year.
Garcia is ranked 72 and despite a dodgy end to 2013, I think she'll continue to rise as she learns to become more consistent. The talent is there to go right to the top of the game but it's still very raw. Jamie Hampton is an under-rated player who almost slipped under the radar to reach 28 but is a favourite of mine with top 10 potential and a level head which I think makes her a match for her more hyped peers.
The biggest question mark is over Sloane Stephens. She splits opinion amongst tennis fans, not so much over her undoubted talent but over her desire, passion and application. Clearly still with a lot to learn about the mental side of the game, I see this as a positive - she's already ranked 12 despite never having won a title and with plenty of improvements still to be made. She has a lot of points to defend from the slams, where she did particularly well in 2013 but with a new, high-profile coach in place (Paul Annacone, Roger Federer's coach for the past 3 years), I think the top 10 is there for the taking in 2014.
Other Women Who Could Rise
Former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic spent 2013 coming back from a long time out with horrendous bad luck with injuries but is starting to motor now and will surely only go higher than current 43 ranking. Her German compatriat Julia Goerges has gone in the opposite direction, slipping from a top 20 place to 71 after an appalling season. I'd be amazed if her fall continued.
Simona Halep is arguably the player of the year, with an incredible 6 titles over 4 surfaces and now just outside the top 10 for the first time. Her problem will be "second season syndrome". With so many title-winning points to defend, she'll probably need to do much better in slams to crack the top 10, so it's hard to say whether she'll continue rising. It could go either way in 2014 but we've seen a similar player in Sara Errani hit top 10 and maintain her position. Halep is a better player than Errani, so she's a great chance of establishing a top 10 spot.
How Will The Top Ten Fare?
It will be fascinating to see if Serena Williams will continue to dominate. She still has plenty to aim for, with disappointing showings at the Australian Open and Wimbledon blotting her almost immaculate 2013. Whilst the hunger is there, she's close to unstoppable but I just wonder if she might be vulnerable defending the 9 non-slams she won - a repeat year is asking a lot. Maria Sharapova will possibly take time to get her groove after a long absence, which leaves a great chance for Li Na and Petra Kvitova to establish themselves at the very top. Kvitova didn't have a great 2013, so I think we'll see her improve.
Victoria Azarenka, as usual, is the most interesting character. Since her US Open final defeat, she's been terrible and going straight into a title defence in Australia might be too soon for her. I wouldn't be surprised if she was the player in the top 5 who struggles this coming season. Competition is very tight behind Williams for that number 2 ranking and I think we'll see Li, Sharapova and Kvitova all with a chance of snatching it away from the Belarussian. I've not included Agnieszka Radwanska amongst them as I feel the world number 5 might tail off in 2014, especially with a huge points tally to defend from her 13 match unbeaten start to 2013.
Looking for tennis betting tips? Check our Tennis Betting Tips Board for all of our community's tennis tips in 2014.
Follow the Sultan on Twitter: @TennisSultan
And read more of his great work on his blog Centre Court Trading