In case you missed it in Thursday’s tennis headlines, Rafael Nadal suffered a shock straight-sets defeat to German Florian Mayer. While it is possible we’re witnessing a breakdown in the Nadal aura, it’s not the earth-shattering loss some fans have proposed. Nadal has historically struggled during the fall and exited Shanghai at the same stage last year. But this loss was still a significant one in that it officially ensures that Novak Djokovic will end 2011 as the No. 1 ranked player – the first player not named Federer or Nadal to end in the top spot since Andy Roddick in 2003. But Nadal will still be keen to gain on Djokovic as 2011 winds down in an effort to reclaim the coveted ranking in 2012.
Difficult to Weigh
Before the Shanghai Masters got underway, there was some chatter about Andy Murray’s victory in Tokyo this past weekend. It marked his second successive tournament win, but what made it so impressive was that he secured it by coming from a set down against Nadal, trouncing the Spaniard 6-0 in the third. It was a big win for Murray, because it came against the No. 2 player in the world, whom he had lost to the last five times they played. But there wasn’t a huge fuss about the result. Many saw Murray’s victory as having more to do with the psychological damage Djokovic has inflicted on Nadal this season rather than the Scot’s superior play. But that interpretation sells Murray short. There’s no doubt he played one of the best match of his career this past Sunday. But we’ve seen this song and dance before. He’s had the big wins. He’s shown he has the game and the smarts to defeat the best on any surface on any given day. But until he gets a major under his belt, this win is just another one of those breathtaking moments that leaves many a Murray fan begging the question that if he can produce this kind of tennis in Tokyo, why not on the game’s biggest stages?