Simon Reed

Men’s game showing cracks

Simon Reed

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In my
previous blog I talked about the terrible state of the women's game recently, but for many the men's game seems to have gone from
strength to strength.

Certainly the success of the men's
game in recent years has only gone to highlight the women's woes, but with big
names such as Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters coming back, I think the balance
of power is slowly going to start to changing.

I say that because, for me, the
men's game is not in the great state that everyone says it is. I don't think
Roger Federer is the player he once was, I think it is pretty obvious that
Rafael Nadal is not where he was and I feel we have been slightly
smoke-screened about how good the men's game actually is.

On paper it has been a great season
for Federer but I look back on the year and certain matches stick out. The way
that Tommy Haas took him to five sets at Roland Garros and very nearly won, or
how Andy Roddick almost beat him in the Wimbledon
final - these are all things that never used to happen.

I think Federer and Nadal were way,
way clear of the field but subtley this year, without everyone noticing it,
that gap has faded away.

I don't think there is a big gap
between the top players and the rest AT ALL anymore, and I see new players
coming through like Juan Martin del Potro (which is of course easy to say in
hindsight) and challenging consistently.

However, I feel the reason that
this is happening is as much because the top players have dropped a level as it
is for any other reason.

One player I'll certainly put
forward as a name to watch is Marin Cilic (pictured). I'm going to go out on a
bit a limb here and say that he could be a Grand Slam winner by this time next
year and I'll also again mention the emergence of Andy Murray, even though I
know people might be sick and tired of hearing me say that.

Regarding Murray, there is a danger that not having won
a Grand Slam will become a monkey on his back. At the moment it might be too
early to say that, but I certainly thought at the beginning of the year that he
would have won a Grand Slam by now and it hasn't happened.

At what point does it become an issue?
I'm not sure, it depends on how he gets beaten in matches as much as anything
else. If he goes to Australia
and gets knocked out in the third or fourth round by someone who has a ranking
like Cilic had at the US Open, then the pressure might be really too much going
into Wimbledon, especially as it is hard to
see him winning at Roland Garros.

But let's not play down how well
Cilic played at the US Open in beating Murray and I must reiterate that I think
he really could be the player to watch out for in 2010.

The best tennis I saw played by
anyone in New York was from the Croat, not
against Murray,
but rather in the first set-and-a-half that he played against Del Potro in the
quarter-finals.

He was absolutely superb and then,
for whatever reason, it all seemed to fall away for him and I have no idea why.
I really would like the answer to that mystery - it's the one thing I still
need answered before I'm 100 per cent certain he can be one of the game's very
top players.

However, there is certainly a
massive opportunity for lots of players out there because, as I said earlier,
for me the Federer/Nadal era is over - you can forget about it.

After he won Roland Garros and
Wimbledon people were saying crazy things like Federer could go on and win 25
Grand Slams but there is no chance of that happening - none!

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