The last decade-plus of men’s professional tennis has been dominated by four players: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. These men combined to win every Grand Slam but one from the 2005 French Open through the end of 2013.
This remarkable stretch of hegemony was always going to end eventually; time always wins, after all. 2014 saw the forming of the initial cracks in the Big Four’s dominance, with the season producing multiple first-time Grand Slam winners (Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic) for the first time since 2003. Throw in breakout years from youngsters like US Open finalist Kei Nishikori and Wimbledon semifinalists Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, and you’ve got a worthy set of challengers to the once-impregnable upper echelon.
Meanwhile, some members of the Big Four started to show seams. Nadal lost in Barcelona for the first time in over a decade, absorbed a similarly early exit in Monte Carlo, and narrowly squeezed out clay titles in Rio (facing down multiple match points in the semifinals) and Madrid (falling behind by a set and a break until an injury to Nishikori allowed Nadal to rally, and eventually forced his opponent to withdraw); he then missed the North American hard court swing (including the US Open) due to injury, and accomplished little after returning to the court in September. But at least Rafa won the French Open again, and made the Australian Open final. Murray didn’t make a single final at any level of the tour between his historic Wimbledon triumph in 2013 and the 250-point event in Shenzen in September of this year, a 14-month gap.
The group’s other two members fared rather better; Federer rallied from an injury-dampened 2013 to win a quintet of titles and lead Switzerland to its first-ever Davis Cup crown, while Djokovic bested Federer in a classic Wimbledon final and took seven total titles in securing the ATP’s #1 spot for the third time. Even these two, however, had their moments of frailty; Djokovic’s streak of 14 Grand Slam semifinals was broken by Wawrinka in Melbourne, while Federer lost to the mercurial Ernests Gulbis in the round of 16 at Roland Garros. Both men would also absorb the occasional puzzling defeat in Masters events, with Djokovic’s loss to Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati and Federer's defeat by Jeremy Chardy in Rome serving as particular standouts. Great as they were, neither was quite as ironclad as they’d once been.
So with that in mind, let’s dust off the Melog 75 tennis ranking system (the initial form of which was laid out in these three posts; I have since made a couple of modifications that don’t really affect the top players at all, though I still think they’re fairly important and can go into further detail if there’s any interest), and see who it thinks were the best players of 2014: