December 11, 2014
Was the 2014 season a fulfilling one for fans of the ATP World Tour? There were plenty of different results throughout the year, highlighted by four different Grand Slam winners. The Masters events featured a tad more in the consistency department with Novak Djokovic winning four times, Roger Federer taking home two titles, and Stanislas Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga capturing one title each. The diverse winner’s column this year poses an interesting question: Is it good for the sport when there are so many different winners? We’ve been treated to domination by the Big 4 for so long that 2014 provided a little more uncertainty with regards to the contenders and pretenders for titles. If you ask me: the sport is at its best when there for 4-6 guys at the top battling for every single tournament. Rivalries are the key to the best storylines.
However, the fact remains that a bulk of the ranking points are based on the four Majors and nine Masters tournaments. Great success in these events will pretty much guarantee a top 10 finish at the end of year. While six of the current top 10 ranked male players in the world own a slam, the likes of Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori will be eager to build on career seasons during 2015.
Based on my Projected Top 10 Rankings for 2014, you’ll notice that I have a lot of work to do this time around. Federer roared back to the top of the rankings (after I had him finishing outside of the top 10) and powerhouses such as Juan Maritn del Potro and Jerzy Janowicz either sustained injury or lost interest. Nadal was sidelined for large portions of 2014 but still finished at No. 3. Can the Mallorcan regain the top spot in 2015? One has to think that there’s only so many times he can reappear and dazzle us all, while leaving the opposition in the dust.
Where will Andy Murray fit into the top 10 equation when 2015 is over? He still has top 10 talent but hasn’t had a big win in an awfully long time. Ditto goes for Tour workhorse David Ferrer. The compact Spaniard did finish at No. 10 this year but his days as a marquee player must be coming to an end. Finally, can flamboyant Australian Nick Kygrios maximize on his ability and inch closer to a top 10 spot?
Let’s now have a look at how 2015 could unfold.
Projected 2015 year-end top 10 ATP World Tour Rankings:
1. Novak Djokovic: Whether it’s a Djokovic year or not, Nole is right where he needs to be regarding his game and results. I’m feeling a 2011 type of season for him in 2015, but even if he doesn’t soar to those heights again, his game, fitness and mentality should be more than enough to end the year as the top player in the world. Regardless of finishing at the top spot for a fourth time in five years, I still don’t believe that Djokovic wins his first French Open.
2. Rafael Nadal: Pending on his health and how much more he can beat up his body, Rafa is still such an iconic figure that writing him off would be foolish. Turning 29 in May and being on Tour for 15 years, Nadal still has enough passion and power to be a force. Still my favorite to win his 10th title in Paris, Nadal could get on a roll and win two majors next year. This of course all depends on his health and if he can play 11 months without any absence. I would love to see that happen but history is definitely not on his side.
3. Roger Federer: Playing carefree tennis these and being healthy for the most part (see his withdrawal from the WTF Final), Federer still has the goods to play a few big matches during 2015. Blessed with effortless power and movement, Federer’s greatest challenge over the next 12 months will be to put seven matches together in a row throughout a fortnight. We all know that he wants at least one more slam before he retires, but will he get a better chance than he had at Wimbledon or at the US Open this year? It will certainly be tough to recreate those scenarios next year. Federer will always be relevant to the sport and fans alike but he’ll likely stay at 17 Majors until he retires.
4. Kei Nishikori: If fitness is his friend in 2015, Nishikori will reach a top four ranking. Currently ranked at No. 5, Kei is hitting his groundies about as well as anyone out there and as he continues to develop his serve (I’m hopeful) and improve on is volleys (hopeful again), he should have another stellar season. Michael Chang has done wonderful job with Nishikori in 2014 and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue throughout 2015.
5. Milos Raonic: With a shot-gun of a serve, there’s real no ceiling for this young Canadian. Carrying himself with maturity, Raonic is determined to win majors and be No. 1 in the world. I’m not sure about his ability to win a slam in 2015 or to gain the No. 1 ranking, but as my friend Rob Koenig has often said: “That serve is worth a million bucks a year, easy.” Based on that statement alone, Raonic will end 2015 in the top 10 and likely in the top five. For Milos to move up any higher, he’ll have to beef up his second serve points won (currently ranked No. 12) and of course return much better.
6. Stan Wawrinka: The Davis Cup hero will have everything to prove as the defending champion at the Australian Open. Even though Wawrinka played great in the DC final and during the WTF, something tells me that he starts slow in 2015 and loses a lot of points. Remember, he also won in Monte Carlo in a great match over Federer in early Spring. That said, Stan will show glimpses of being the man in 2015 and that could very well happen with a deep run at the French Open. I could also see Wawrinka playing well in New York to end the Slam (Stan’s) season.
7. Andy Murray: I’m not quite sure what to make of Murray these days. He looks likes he’s training hard in Miami, he’s made a lot of changes from by getting engaged, downsizing his coaching staff and picking up a new apparel sponsor, but something tells me that Ivan Lendl knew way more about Murray’s future than we did. Leading the Brit to two Majors and an Olympic Gold medal, Murray was a shell of himself in 2014 and that will likely continue next year. Andy’s had a heck of a good career but winning another slam will be a tall task for him.
8. Tomas Berdych: Dropping to a ranking position that has many interchanging names throughout the year, Berdych will likely continue in the mold that he’s shown in the past two years. Not winning anything of significance for quite sometime, the tall Czech should continue to make between 8-10 quarter and semifinals next year. One can only think what Tomas could’ve accomplished in his career with a better mentality toward the sport.
9. Grigor Dimitrov: A model for the game in more ways than one, Dimitrov still doesn’t have that signature victory to make him a threat for a higher ranking. Great at social media and making the highlight reel, Grigor will have to acquire an overall commitment to the game on a day-to-day basis that has allowed Djokovic, Federer and Nadal to achieve what they have to date. Still, Dimitrov’s a great guy to watch and a player that has tremendous star power.
10. Marin Cilic: Turning heads like crazy by winning the US Open in September, Cilic will have enough points to sustain a top 10 ranking until New York. That buffer will allow him to play his way into the season and feel more comfortable when he’s a marked man in NYC. I like Marin as a person and as a player, but I’m not sure if he has the killer instinct to beat the likes of Djokovic or Nadal when it matters the most. That lack of a killer instinct will likely have him heading close to or out of the top 10 in the next 12 months.
Notable players to watch for in 2015:
Nick Kygrios: If he doesn’t get burnt out then watch out for this youngster. He has everything necessary to be a top 10 player and time is still on his side. Will the flamboyant Australian flourish Down Under and make a quick strike for a top 10 position? I was reluctant to place him at No. 9 or No. 10 simply because he’s currently ranked No. 52. However, if he comes out blazing in Oz then he could definitely end 2015 as a top 10 player.
David Goffin: A silky smooth game has Goffin as a player to watch for in 2015. Currently ranked No. 22, David has an effortless array of weapons that can trouble the best in the world. If he can stay with the top players mentally then he can certainly be one as well.
Gael Monfils: The best athlete that tennis has ever seen can afford to come and go as he pleases. Monfils has been playing some good ball as of late and I do suspect that he’s realized that turning 30 is not too far away. Still, this is Gael Monfils that we’re talking about and he could very well attempt a forward facing tweener on championship point of a Masters or Slam event. We would love him either way for it.
Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Tell me your projected top 10 year-end rankings for 2015 below. You can also follow me on Twitter @TennisConnected.
November 19, 2014
In my latest article for Tennis Canada, I discuss the Crazy Eight in London at the O2 Arena.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
” The absence of Rafa Nadal in London ultimately means that the player finishing in ninth position this year would get into the draw. Never one to shy away from his aspirations as being the best ranked player in the world, Milos Raonic will make his first trip to the O2 Arena this year, via a strong finish at the Paris Masters. Defeating Federer for the first-time in a master-class serving performance, Raonic will be eager to ride his monster delivery and great inside-out forehand as deep into the tourney as possible. Following Eugenie Bouchard into the final event of the season on his respective Tour, 2014 has been a great year for Canadian tennis.”
The full article can be read here.
October 20, 2014
In my latest article for TennisCanada.com, I discuss this weeks WTA Finals from Singapore and how the top eight ladies look. Here’s an excerpt from the article right here:
“Notable obstacles in Serena’s way will be reigning French Open winner Sharapova and current Wimbledon champ Kvitova. Although Sharapova has a terrible head-to-head against Serena throughout their career meetings, it’s exactly this type of format that Shazza can work her way into the event and be ready for the brute force that the American possesses. As for Kvitova, she’s possibly the greatest threat to the top seed, considering that she’s dynamite on fast courts and has also made the finals or better of two events post US Open. For me, Kvitova is the second favourite to take the title after Serena.”
The full article can be found here.
September 22, 2014
In my latest article for Tennis Canada, I discuss what’s left to play for after the slam season is over. For the likes of Nole, Serena, Federer, Rafa, Marin, Milos and Eugenie, there’s still plenty on the line.
Here’s a excerpt from the article:
” Newly crowned US Open winner Marin Cilic will also have something to say about how 2014 rounds out. The towering Croat stunned everyone in the draw with his comprehensive victory in NYC. Winning his last three matches in straight sets to claim his maiden slam victory, Cilic became the fifth major winner currently placed in the top 10. For Marin, this fall is a time for him to prove that he’s going to be a force at the top of the game for years to come.”
To read the full article, click here.
August 8, 2014
In my latest article for TennisCanada.com, I discuss the vital importance of the Rogers Cup in both Toronto and Montreal toward the outcome of US Open later this month. Here’s an excerpt from the article below.
“How could we ever forget last year’s event in Montreal? Nadal returned to asphalt action after a year of being tormented by injuries to win the event and take the title in Flushing Meadows to close out the slam season. Ripping his forehand with ease and efficiency during his perfect summer, Nadal was hopeful of similar results this time around but an untimely right wrist injury will have the Spaniard sidelined until the US Open. For those that are keeping track, Nadal has 4000 points to defend during Toronto, Cincinnati and New York. He will drop at least 2000 points for not competing in Canada and Ohio and I wouldn’t bet on him entering the US Open with zero preparation.”
July 10, 2014
In my latest article for Tennis Canada, I discuss Eugenie Bouchard’s stellar result at Wimbledon and what the future holds in store for the young Canadian. Here’s an excerpt below.
“How can you not like Genie? She tells it like it is and has charisma to spare. Although I could do without her receiving a new stuffed animal after every win, her appeal to a vast audience is rare to find. From knowing how to take the best #selfie on Tour, Bouchard is well spoken, knows how to dress and most importantly knows how to address the media. Another trait that I look for in an upcoming star is how they react in press conferences. You look at Maria Sharapova or Roger Federer and they eat up the limelight and know exactly what to say at all times. However, you observe someone like David Ferrer and even though he’s had a great career, there’s a reason why he’s seldom featured on a show court (his personality is just not that engaging). Thankfully, though, Eugenie or “Genie in bottle” as Brad Gilbert likes to call her won’t ever have that problem.”
Click here to read the full article: TennisCanada.
June 16, 2014
In my latest article of Tennis Canada, I preview the 2014 Wimbledon Championships. Will Rafa Nadal rebound from two poor years on the grass? Will Roger Federer win his eighth title at SW19? How about defending champ Andy Murray: Does he have the confidence to repeat? I also discuss the chances of Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard.
April 23, 2014
In my latest article for Tennis Canada, I discuss Rafael Nadal’s 2014 clay-court season and why it might be the most important one of his career thus far.
March 3, 2014
In my latest article for Tennis Canada, I discuss the marvelous month in March and the tennis that it has in store. Nothing really beats spring break in either Cali or Miami. Click here to find out why.
November 29, 2013
With the Australian Open ready to kick start the new calender year in about six weeks, there’s no better time than to turn on that crystal ball and throw our hands into the prediction pot for the 2014 year-end rankings.
In a fascinating season that featured Rafa Nadal storm back from injury to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, Roger Federer by contrast had his worst season in a decade, falling to No. 6 and winning only one smaller-tier title. Stan Wawrinka made himself a name to remember over the holidays as he finished a proud member in the top 10 for the second time in his career; so to did Richard Gasquet, who chalked up three titles and squeaked by Milos Raonic to claim the 10th position on the computer.
With that said, where will we be in a year from now? Will Nadal have equaled or nearly caught up to Federer’s mark of 17 majors? Will Novak Djokovic grab his elusive title at Roland Garros and join Rafa and Roger with all four slams? How will Andy Murray fit into the sport’s dominated rivalry that Rafa-Nole have captured? Will the Scot rebound after minor back surgery to reclaim his Wimbledon title, while imposing himself at the other majors? Finally, could we see Jerzy Janowicz or Grigor Dimitrov finally make that push into the elite top 10 and live up to their much-hyped potential?
The world of tennis is certainly a wacky place and trying to predict what will happen in a year’s time is never easy. Nevertheless, we’ll give it another shot and see how high we can hold our heads come mid-November in 2014.
For the Projected 2013 ATP top 10 rankings piece, click here.
Projected 2014 year-end ATP World Tour Rankings:
1. Rafael Nadal: The Mallorcan could very well seal the year-end ranking in January if he can win the Aussie Open. Why? Because he has zero points to defend Down Under and showed over the course of 2013 that no pressure usually means a win by week’s end. Oh, did I mention that he has zero points to defend at Wimbledon and Miami as well? Although Nadal has a ton of points to defend between March-September (and we mean a ton), he should clean up again on the clay and do well enough on grass and asphalt to roll to another No. 1 finish.
2. Novak Djokovic: Nole won’t be happy to finish No. 2 again for the second straight year, but it’s hard to see him claiming his fifth title in Oz, especially after everything he put into his post US Open run. Yes, Djokovic is one heck of a player, and yes, he can go on long winning streaks throughout important parts of the year. But, the Serb still hasn’t claimed the title in France and the clay season has such great implications on the rankings come year’s end.
3. Juan Martin del Potro: This is where it starts getting interesting. At 25, Delpo is certainly coming into his own. Defeating all Big Four members throughout ‘13, the Argentine used his wrecking ball forehand to showcase his elite talent on court. Coupled with the fact that he knows his way around a clay-court and proved that he can play on grass (see Wimbledon semifinal run), Juan Martin could very well win his second slam and his first Masters title in 2014.
4. Andy Murray: Still in the prime of his career, one wonders how Murray will perform the first half of the season? He has finals points to defend at the Oz Open and he won the tune up event in Brisbane. The Scot did little to nothing on the clay in ‘13 and that could once again dent his chances of finishing higher. Still, Murray is a tough out at any event and he will continue to be solid—and a slam threat—throughout 2014.
5. David Ferrer: I wrote off Ferrer from a top 10 position at the end of 2013 and boy was I wrong. Not only did the Spaniard finish in the top three, he also made his first slam final at the French Open and reached eight other finals. Ferrer will have a tough task in reaching the RG final in ‘14, but he will continue to beat the players that he should.
6. Stanislas Wawrinka: I like what I’ve seen from Stan the man in the past 12 months and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t hungrier for more success. Magnus Norman has done wonders for his career and the decision to stick with him is a great one. Wawrinka will have to continue to work on his forehand for better use in pressure situations and his transition game could also be stronger. However, Stan looks like he’s enjoying himself out there and that will only lend to more success on Tour.
7. Tomas Berdych: Always a Bird and never a champion? Tomas played well throughout 2013 but with no singles titles in his pocket, it will certainly be difficult to break the top five and challenge for the majors. However, the Czech is still good enough to reach the quarters or semis in most events and that will aid him in finishing in the top 10 once again.
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: I hate to say it but Tsonga’s best days are behind him. His coaching situation has never been great, he’s injury prone, his backhand continues to be weak, he’s dabbling with different rackets and his return of serve is one of the worst in the top 10. With that said, Tsonga’s forehand, serve and athleticism are top notch and that should enable him to stick around the elite 10 for at least one more season.
9. Milos Raonic: Finishing near the top for yet another year, it appears Raonic has finally embraced his innate attacking style courtesy of Ivan Ljubicic. Raonic has the desire and professionalism to be a top tenner, but his movement and backhand still need fine tuning in order for him to break into the top five and become a perennial slam candidate.
10. Jerzy Janowicz: Why not show some love for Jerzy? The man can smoke his forehand, rain down serves and his competitiveness amongst his piers is second to none. The Pole believes that he belongs with the big boys and his foot speed and deft touch at net are more than good enough for a place at the top. However, for Janowicz to make that leap into the top five and challenge for the slams, he’ll have to understand his game a tad more and learn to control his temperament on the big points.
Notice the lack of a high profile name missing from the year-end predictions for 2014? Even though Federer will continue to gather the most fan and media attention around the globe, the Swiss legend simply doesn’t have the same movement and consistency as he once did. Can we really see him taking out Djokovic, Murray and Nadal in consecutive slam matches? Can we really see a season where his back is not a problem? Does Federer himself want to grind and get his socks dirty for the first time in his career? It’s really a shame when the greats fade from glory but if 2013 was any indication as to what the future holds for Roger Federer, his follow up season could produce even poorer results. My guess is that he finishes somewhere between 11-15.
Agree with my picks? Have your own top 10 for 2014? Kindly share them below in the comments section.