I wrote that Federer turned the page on 2013 in Melbourne, and that turning continued this weekend when he played his second Davis Cup World Group main-draw tie in 10 years for Switzerland. Suddenly, with Federer and Wawrinka scheduled to play again in April, the Swiss are the team to beat. Finally winning a Davis Cup is a goal that should keep Federer focused and upbeat through 2014. It might also affect his scheduling choices; this time, you would think, DC would be the priority.
In Melbourne, Federer did something he couldn’t do in 2013: He beat a fellow member of the Big 4 in Murray. But as Rafa showed Federer in the semis, it’s another leap entirely to beat a member of the Big 2. Federer might get the chance at his next event, in Dubai, where he could face Djokovic, the man who defeated him there in the final in 2011. At the end of 2013, Federer said that, if nothing else, he wants to win tournaments, any types of tournaments, in 2014. As well as he’s played so far this year, though, it's still not looking so easy.
With his title in Australia, Wawrinka becomes just the second player outside the Big 4 to win a Grand Slam since 2005. It also makes him the preeminent wild card for the rest of 2013. If he can beat Djokovic and Nadal at the same major, who can’t he beat? Has he leap-frogged del Potro? Should he be favored against Federer? Stan may not be able to match his two-week run in Australia, but it wasn’t a fluke, either. He had been building to something big for the previous 12 months. And as for the next major, at Roland Garros, he won it as a junior and he still likes clay.
As for the immediate future, Wawrinka has already learned how exhausting success can be. Since his big win, he has pulled out of not one, but two tournaments, in Montpellier and Rotterdam, citing fatigue. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to pull out of a third, in Marseille, in two weeks. Either way, I’m thinking there could be a Wawa letdown until he gets back to European dirt in April.
At 31, with his old coach gone, with his ranking down from No. 3 to No. 5, has the Little Beast finally begun to run himself into the ground, or at least into the nether regions of the Top 10? Either way, he won’t stop running. Ferrer, after losing to Daniel Brands, Rendy Lu, and Tomas Berdych in his first three tournaments in 2013, will begin his assault on South American clay in Rio in two weeks.
Juan Martin del Potro
From breakthrough to breakdown once again. Delpo’s left wrist won’t leave him alone. Since his early loss in Melbourne, he’s been undergoing treatment for it. For now, he remains scheduled to play next week in Rotterdam, where’s the defending champion, as well as in Dubai two weeks after that. It gets harder to hope for the big man.
Now come the hard yards, as they say. Can “Showtime” Dimitrov consolidate his quarterfinal run in Melbourne at lower-profile events in Rotterdam and Acapulco in February? Now that’s he cracked the Top 20 for the first time, can he defend that ranking? We’ll begin to see next week in Rotterdam, where he reached the semifinals a year ago. In the longer term, Dimitrov likes clay—last year he beat Djokovic in Madrid and took a set from Nadal in Monte Carlo. Going from his current No. 19 to a Top 16 seed for Roland Garros would be a nice next step.