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In a Perfect World: The Tennis Talk, Anyone? Top 10 (Men's Edition)

Just imagine a world where flakiness didn't exist, where injuries didn't derail progress and your talent reflects where you should be in the rankings. Determination also pays off for any technical shortcomings you might have to help you climb up the rankings.

Well, that's what I'm doing at Tennis Talk, Anyone?: imagining!

Andy Murray's great win in the Cincy Masters yesterday got me thinking: If you were really to look at it from an ability standpoint, he should at least be number four in the world, right behind the guy he knocked off, Novak Djokovic. He moved up to six, but does anyone think that he couldn't take out David Ferrer or Nikolay Davydenko?

I decided to make up my own version of the top 10: the way it would be in a perfect world. Talent, as I mentioned above, is a big part of making the list, and if you have that single-minded determination, a la Rafael Nadal, that helps too.

So here goes: the debut of The TTA? Top 10 Male Players! From the top:

1. Roger Federer: He's slumping now, but is there any doubt he's the best player? Few players have matched his versatility in history.

2. Rafael Nadal: The new number one has the sheer physical ability and force of will to overcome most of the people on this list, despite some of them being more naturally talented.

3. Novak Djokovic: I think he's probably the most versatile player after Federer, but can still wilt in big situations against the two in front of him.

4. Andy Murray: Bagging Cincy was the beginning of big things for him, I feel. I don't think he's strong enough yet to handle Nadal and his clay-court game might be kind of lacking, but I think he'll only get better.

5. Richard Gasquet: You're probably thinking, "That dude's a headcase! No way!" But remember, mental lapses don't count here! Young, strong, a threat to win on all surfaces: He makes the cut.

6. Jo-Wilifried Tsonga: Forget Max Mirnyi: This guy is the real beast! Who knows if he'll ever get healthy again, but as with his fellow Frenchman Gasquet, deficiencies don't count here!

7. Marat Safin: The veteran of this group should only lose to the above players alone. Ever.

8. Marcos Baghdatis: One of the most versatile shotmakers out there: You have to think he has the potential to beat anyone on any surface.

9. David Nalbandian: Perfect groundies, good hands at the net, smart serving: What else do you want? Being older than most of the other guys ahead of him is all that's keeping him back! (Remember: No knock for mental or physical deficiencies!)

10. James Blake: One of the most imposing games on tour, which should translate to any surface.

There you have it, the first TTA? Top 10! Any omissions?

(Photos: Getty Images)

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Comment by Mark / The Mayor on August 22, 2008 at 10:42pm

I knew you would really try to overthink this one. All good questions, but all questions I was trying to ignore!
Comment by mikeindo on August 22, 2008 at 12:30am
ok, so what constitutes talent? shot-making ability? flashiness/entertainment value? results? (cuz how could a 'talented' player who loses all the time ever be considered a good/great talent?) it's hard to separate talent from hard work that has paid off. (i think of courier and lendl whose off-court work complemented their talent to beat players more talented but less prepared.) i think nadal should be #2, Joker #3, because their talent took them there. i like Fed, Safin, Gasquet, Nalbandian, Murray... as for some of the other more obscure names above, i guess i havent seen them play enough to make a decision on them.

here's my question on safin: yes, he's a talented player, but is he just another Michael Stich (or pick another equivalent) story who got hot twice (2 Slams) and beat big names en route?

if including determination? gotta include Hewitt then.

all-time list? laver, mcenroe, agassi, sampras, leconte (cant deny his shotmaking), roche, ashe, connors... ok, this quickly becomes basically a list of all-time greats. maybe i'll pose this: which players have been victims of the headcases or injuries who could/should/would have been greats?

(ok, thats enough on this post! :) )
Comment by Patrick on August 15, 2008 at 6:50pm
If this is really about talent and willpower doesn't factor, Nadal only squeaks onto the list. In my book, though, age counts. Otherwise guys like Haas and Moya would rank much higher. This is my potential list, if everyone was healthy and fixed their mental games:

1. Federer - I think his problems since Wimby this year are all mental. I'll bet Mirka is pregnant.
2. Roddick - If he could learn to relax a bit and work the left side of the court, he'd be unstoppable. His backhand is just so... uncomfortable.
3. Monfils - This guy has arms and legs to spare, but he plays like a girl. Take a lesson on aggression from Nadal, please.
4. Gasquet - Just a pleasure to see in action. So smooth.
5. Safin - He's still got plenty of game, if he can beat himself.
6. Murray - Unforced errors, anyone? Get it together.
7. Nadal - Good, but it's really his force of will that kills. Intimidation factor +9.
8. Tsonga - Probably the most exciting player on the list, next to Nadal.
9. Djokovic - He's got the goods, but I think he's at his plateau.
10. Blake - He might also be peaking. Great mental game, but does he have the stuff to move up?

Honorable Mentions:
Baghdatis - Too wild to call it just yet.
Wawrinka - He could come into his own with a little direction.
Gonzalez - Just a bit more accuracy would drive him way up the list.

Going downhill:
Ferrer - Could anyone be less exciting? #4 and no one knows him.
Nalbandian - He still has a few good years, but not good enough.
Davydenko - Same story. On his last legs.

Boy... this was fun to think about. Thanks.
Comment by Mark / The Mayor on August 9, 2008 at 3:31pm
For me, it goes like this. No injury, no headcases, no age - but still playing:

1. Fed
2. Safin
3. Nadal
4. Djokovic
5. Murray
6. Ljubicic
7. Youhzny
8. Wawrinka
9. Roddick
10. Blake

It gets tough from 6 on up... Berdych, Moya, and Gasquet all hovering in there too. :-)
Comment by Van Sias on August 7, 2008 at 11:04am
Yeah, that stroke helped get him up there in the rankings!
Comment by Chris on August 7, 2008 at 12:20am
LOVE Gasquet's backhand. =)
Comment by Van Sias on August 6, 2008 at 2:21pm
Hey Mark. Someone asked me that, too, in regard to Marat and said they'd have him higher as well. I thought about it and figured age wouldn't be a factor, but he still shouldn't be able to jerk those guys above him around the court. From what I read, Marat's Wimbledon win was also due to a little bit of Novak being bitten by the idol-worship bug, so I took that into account, too.
Comment by Mark / The Mayor on August 5, 2008 at 10:47pm
Does age count? Because if it doesn't, I'd put Marat much higher.

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