Since the U.S. Open, there has been plenty of action in the tennis world, most notably that Rafael Nadal has continued his ridiculous tear to the top of the rankings and that Juan Martín del Potro is reaching the form that won him his only Grand Slam title in 2009.
Nadal has continued his dogged pursuit of Novak Djokovic and reclaimed the top spot on October 7, though Djokovic’s recent title at the Shanghai Rolex Masters (Nadal lost in the semifinals) means that he is very much in the running to retake the crown going into the final tournaments of the year.
As of writing, Nadal is 400 points up on Djokovic, more than insurmountable for a talented player of his caliber. Most heartening to see in the tournaments since the close of action at Flushing Meadows is the return to form of players who had been injured and were working their way back.
Gaël Monfils had a good showing in Shanghai, defeating Roger Federer (showing his age and falling fast) en route to a quarterfinal exit in which he took a set off eventual champion Djokovic. Monfils is returning from a knee injury that has been plaguing him since last season, and has benefited from strong showings dating back to the U.S. Open, where he fought valiantly against John Isner before eventually going down in supremely entertaining fashion. Notably, his most characteristic attribute, an athleticism that is at once crowd-pleasing and useful as it allows him to run nearly everything down, was on full display.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, out since Wimbledon with a knee ailment, has continued his strong play back on tour, reaching the final of the Moselle Open (losing to compatriot Gilles Simon) and the semis in Shanghai, where he bowed out to eventual champion Djokovic. Tsonga is brilliant to watch when at the top of his game, with a powerful forehand to complement a good serve, and he moves really well for his size and game.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams has continued her strong play, winning the China Open over Jelena Jankovic, who has never quite lived up the potential that her former number one ranking predicted. Indeed, this seems to be a trend on the women’s side: players attain the number one ranking much more easily than they actually win Grand Slam titles. Of course, this has much to do with Serena Williams’ dominance. But talented women such as Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki (to name two recent examples) have reached the top spot only to have this accomplishment devalued by the media because it was accompanied by neither ridiculously dominant play or a Slam title (though both have reached the finals, only to fall back to earth rather dramatically).
Watch for Angelique Kerber, who along with Sabine Lisicki, heads the next generation of German women’s tennis (following in the footsteps of greats like Steffi Graf), to move up as this season progresses into next. Lisicki made the Wimbledon final this year and Kerber has won one title and reached another final since the U.S. Open.
Fortunately for we enthusiasts but unfortunately for the players, tennis has a very short offseason. After playing and traveling all year, both the men and women get about eight weeks off to prepare for the start of the season in Australia. For now, though, we’re building toward the year’s last big tournament, the Tour Championships, in which only the top-ranked players participate and in which the movers and shakers will look to finish the year strongly.