For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “mid-carders” is used in Boxing and MMA to describe fighters who aren’t super high profile and don’t main event, but fill up the rest of the card.
A lot of them fighters made a living being exciting mid-carders, putting on good fights, and became fan favorites.
I feel that right now, tennis is lacking in that regard. The “main eventers” are all there (with the exception of Nadal who is injured), and the top 5-7 is still exciting filled with great players (many argue the top 4 is the best ever, and it has a solid case), but beyond that, I feel the list is growing thin.
The biggest indicator is the somewhat dull nature of the AO (even on paper) in the first week, where not a lot of intriguing match-ups are taking place, something that is actually quite unusual. Of course, the second week is where things get really interesting, but we’ve always had good encounters in the first 3 rounds, something that has been missing recently (again, this is strictly on paper, as sometimes matches can surprise us.. like Nadal-Rosol).
To highlight my point, allow me to look at the list of players ranked between 11 and 20:
11 Almagro, Nicolas
12 Monaco, Juan
13 Isner, John
14 Cilic, Marin
15 Raonic, Milos
16 Simon, Gilles
17 Wawrinka, Stanislas
18 Nishikori, Kei
19 Kohlschreiber, Philipp
20 Dolgopolov, Alexandr
I don’t know about you, but that’s a truly underwhelming list of players to me. For people ranked so high, none of these players have done anything of note as of late.
It gets even worse the further you go down the list. Here are those ranked between 21 and 30:
21 Haas, Tommy (GER)
22 Querrey, Sam (USA)
23 Seppi, Andreas (ITA)
24 Verdasco, Fernando (ESP)
25 Youzhny, Mikhail (RUS)
26 Janowicz, Jerzy (POL)
27 Fish, Mardy (USA)
28 Mayer, Florian (GER)
29 Melzer, Jurgen (AUT)
30 Klizan, Martin (SVK)
Again, no disrespect to any player, but with the exception of Fish (who’s injured, and maybe an in form Haas or Youzhny, would you get excited to see any of them in action?
While it’s been quite a great time for tennis at the top (the slams being split among the top 4 last year was great), with Federer pushing father time, Nadal’s knees pushing hospital doors, and no exciting young talent showing any real promise, the tour might suffer greatly in two years, with only Novak and Murray to carry it (I’m sure that won’t be 100% accurate as someone will emerge, but you get the point).
The difference between the tour now and say, 2-3 years ago, is that back then, in addition to the top 4 and the perennial top 10′ers like Del Potro, Tsonga, Berdych (and Soderling, who was still playing), you had the older generation who still had some tennis in them to make things interesting. Davydenko was still a force (at least by his standards), Roddick still had good tennis in him, Hewitt was less washed up than he is now, Nalbandian and Gonzalez still knew how to swing a racquet, etc…
This might not feel like a big deal now, but these players actually added depth to the tour, so when you get a 4th round match-up between say, Federer and Hewitt (2010 AO), it meant something, regardless of whether or not the outcome was in doubt (even at last year’s AO, Djokovic vs. Hewitt had a big-time feel to it).
With the older generation hanging up their racquets completely (Safin, Roddick, Gonzalez), or not having much left in them, the lack of up-and coming players to occupy their spots in the top 20/top 30 became quite evident, and as a result, we’re all just killing time waiting for the second week of a GS for things to become interesting. Think of it this way, how many matches/potential matches not involving Novak, Fed or Murray are you looking forward to this week?