WORLD No. 16 Alexandr Dolgopolov says the gap between the ATP’s big four and the rest is as big as ever and it’s up to the pack to do the chasing rather than wait for them to fall.
And he’s warned against being fooled by world No. 2 Rafael Nadal’s successive losses at the World Tour finals last month which prompted him to concede his passion for the game was on the wane.
The big-hitting Ukrainian has started his pre-season training in Adelaide in a bid to tackle the “big four”: Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray next year.
“People are overrating those guys’ losses,” he said.
“You don’t see them losing much to other players except to those four, they’re still the top four for the majors and it’s extremely tough to beat them.
“For me, I have the game, I just need the mental strength and my physical strength to get up to the level to play them. But surely I have the game and the shots.”
Dolgopolov reached the quarter finals of this year’s Australian Open and went on to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga twice, David Ferrer and Robin Soderling.
The win against Soderling was his breakthrough victory and set the foundation for his impressive year. He suffered losses to Nadal, Djokovic, and Andy Roddick and took the first set against Murray in the Australian Open quarter-finals before falling in four sets.
He said the aim this summer was for continual improvement rather than focusing solely on claiming a top-four scalp.
“I wouldn’t say to beat them (is a goal) but if you want to get top 10 or close to top five, you have to beat those guys,” he said.
“That’s the next level to try to get close to . . . Sometimes they have their bad days but are still really tough to play.”
Dolgopolov and his Adelaide-based coach, Jack Reader, left for the Fleurieu Peninsula yesterday to start his Australian Open preparation in earnest.
The pair plan three “Dolg days” where locals are encouraged to attend opening training sessions and meet the emerging star.
The first is at Southern Tennis Association headquarters, River Rd, Port Noarlunga on Thursday.
* Age: 23
* Height: 183cm
* Weight: 73kg
* Country: Ukraine
* Singles Ranking: 16
* Best Grand Slam Result: Quarter-Finals, 2011 Australian Open
* Career prizemoney: $1,818,100
* 2011 Scalps:
d Robin Soderling 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2;
d Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1;
d David Ferrer 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.