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Grand Slam Betting: Tsonga and Murray have what it takes but will 2009 be their year?

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By Betfair.com

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2008 was significant in that someone other than Nadal or Federer won a Grand Slam. But just what do you need to win one and who of the curent crop not to have won one yet, have what it takes, asks Simon Mundie.

Until this year, no one had won a Grand Slam title besides Roger Federer (3.35 to win the Australian Open) and Rafael Nadal (5.8) since Marat Safin (250) claimed his second major win at the Australian Open in 2005.
Three years after the mercurial Russian's victory, Novak Djokovic (6.8) finally broke the stranglehold that the world's top two have had on the Slams, again Down Under.

Federer and Nadal may have won the three remaining majors this year, but Djokovic's Australian triumph was significant for proving that players other than those two were now capable of winning the games' biggest prizes. Next year, there will be a handful of players who believe they can claim one of the four Grand Slam titles, but what attributes and experience does a player need to have to win a major, and add their name to the list of the games' greatest Champions?

The first key attribute is physical conditioning. To win a Grand Slam title, players must win seven best-of-five-set-matches; and it's not unusual to play matches on consecutive days. Roger Federer's physical conditioning is underrated; indeed part of the reason for his straight sets loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals in Australia this year was due to a bout of glandular fever in the run up to the tournament.

The Swiss is also lucky to be able to win matches quickly against lesser players, which enables him to save energy for the bigger challenges at the business end of the tournament. Contrast that with David Nalbandian (65.0), a man whose talent certainly deserves a major win. The Argentine is in marginally worse shape than the very best, and he is unable to finish players off quickly in the earlier rounds, which means by the time he has to face the likes of Federer, he is beginning to run on empty.

One player who is worth keeping an eye on is our own Andy Murray (6.6), whose fitness levels are now amongst the very best in the game. He proved how tough he now is in beating the iron man of tennis Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the US Open, and looking the stronger player. He will be working hard in the off-season, and will arrive in Australia in the best shape of his life.

The second key attribute a player must have is mental toughness, and a genuine belief that they are the best; a rare quality. Obviously Roger Federer has it by the bucketload having won 13 Majors, but that belief was questionable early in his career.

When he did get the monkey off his back at Wimbledon in 2003, proving to himself that he was capable of winning on the biggest stage, he cried with relief. The other players with that quality are Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Andy Murray is clearly starting to think of himself in those terms, having reached the US Open final and won back-to-back Masters titles.

That quartet aside, you have Andy Roddick (48.0) and Lleyton Hewitt (160.0) who have won majors before so know what it takes, but in all honesty probably no longer have what it takes on court to do so. Of the up and coming players, one mans' confidence stands out above all others, and that is Jo-Wilfred Tsonga (20.0).

The way he nonchalantly blew Nadal off the court in Australia was impressive for the way in which he didn't doubt himself even for a moment. As for other players, including the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro (38.0), they probably need a few more wins over the top four to give them the true confidence they will need to win a major.
On occasion, players do come from nowhere to win their first Grand Slam title, Gustavo Kuerten winning his first ever tour title at the French Open in 1997 an obvious example, Boris Becker storming to the Wimbledon title in 1985 another.

Those are the exceptions that prove the rule though, as generally speaking the route to a first major is pretty formulaic. If you look back at the players who have won their first majors since the year 2000- like Marat Safin, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic; their wins have followed a consistent improvement on the main tour, including success at the Masters Level and a decent run at a Grand Slam.

By that reckoning, the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro and Gilles Simon (55.0) won't be genuinely challenging for a Grand Slam title until the second half of 2009 at the earliest. It also appears to be important that a player doesn't miss his chance to win that elusive first slam, as first time winners over the age of 26 are extremely rare; of the current top tenners, that affects Nikolei Davydenko (60) the most.

Bearing all that in mind, it appears Andy Murray and Jo Wilfred Tsonga are but a short step from making that final move to major winner. For those two, it's perhaps a shame that the season ended when it did, interrupting their run of good form, but they will certainly play 2009s Grand Slam tournaments with an extra spring in their step.
 

Railbird

The Great Govenor of California
Joined
Feb 21, 2001
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Andy a great future bet for AO, counter puncher on slow hard, much better chance than ultra fast flushing.
 

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