It’s that time of year again where most of the top pros are either in the Maldives enjoying some sun and the beach, or for the dedicated few the tennis off-season presents a period of reflection and rigorous training as 2019 looms.
Hands up for those of you that picked Novak Djokovic to finish No. 1 in 2018? While I’m wiping the sweat off my brow, I can happily say that on November 24, 2017 I picked the Serb to end this year ranked No. 1 and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Beginning the season ranked No. 12, Djokovic dipped to No. 22 in May before mounting a memorable second half to 2018. Claiming four titles in total, Djokovic’s season included wins at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Rafa Nadal also had a year to remember, capturing his 11th French Open title, while going an impressive 45-4. I still don’t believe that Nadal would’ve finished No. 1 even if he didn’t pick up another knee injury in New York, but he certainly would’ve locked down the No. 1 spot if he had defeated Djokovic in that epic Wimbledon semifinal. That said, Nadal will have many question marks to answer about his health and his level of play as he enters Australia.
What about the form of Roger Federer and the late season push of Alexander Zverev? For Federer, age has always been a number but that number (currently 37 and some change) continues to grow. With age waiting for no man and quite a bit of points to defend throughout the early stages of 2019, the Fed ex train could certainly be in trouble.
For Zverev, his late season heroics in London (where he defeated both Djokovic and Federer) will leave him with a tremendous buffer to gain points and stay relevant for over 90 percent of next year. That’s a great luxury to have.
Apart from the aforementioned players above, who else will make a push for top ten fame in 2019? Will Andy Murray (currently ranked No. 260) ever see a single digit ranking again? Will Stan the man Wawrinka return to prominence and display his powerful three shot arsenal on the grandest stages of the sport? How about the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Alex De Minaur? All three youngsters poured in great results throughout this year and all three appear to be the real deal as we move toward a changing of the guard in men’s tennis.
Finally, is it too early to write off the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Jack Sock, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic? All have been touted as the next successors to the Big Four—even though relative success has appeared on all of their resumes—but it has also been shown that none of them have been able to step up and win Majors.
As we move forward and turn the page on the twenty eighteen season, the time has come to predict how the landscape of the top 10 in 2019 will likely pan out.
Here’s our Projected Year-End ATP World Tour Rankings for 2018 one more time before we begin.
Projected Year-End ATP Tour Rankings for 2019:
1) Novak Djokovic: How can we bet against Nole now that he has regained his confidence and has seemingly no points to defend throughout the first six months of 2019? There will be no bold No. 1 predictions needed for next year. You can book in Djokovic for the top spot from start-to-finish for next season.
2) Alexander Zverev: Here’s where it starts getting interesting. Yes, Zverev showed that he can win a big title like he did in London. However, he still hasn’t made in past the quarterfinals of a Major in 14 tries. That said, with Ivan Lendl in his corner and a tremendous serve and backhand, Zverev is due for a rise in the rankings.
3) Rafael Nadal: It’s time to pick and choose for Rafa. With his 19th season as a professional approaching and his 33rd birthday coming up in May, the Mallorcan will have to significantly tweak his hard-court schedule. The clay will once again be his bread and butter but it should also be noted that Nadal finished No. 2 in the world this year playing in only nine events. That’s nothing short of outstanding.
4) Juan Martin del Potro: A knee cap injury late in the season was surely a buzz kill for the tower from Tandil. Delpo had returned to his top form in Acapulco and in Indian Wells, before making the finals of the US Open. Del Potro will have a lot of points to defend in 2019 but his world-class forehand remains among the best on Tour and should maintain his status as a top five player.
5) Dominic Thiem: Based on the sheer amount of events he plays (23 plus two Davis Cup ties in 2018), Thiem has the experience and power to claim a top five spot. Yes, there are points to defend but when you play like Thiem does, there’s always next week. It should also be said that Thiem has improved tremendously on hard courts throughout the years.
6) Roger Federer: RF starts to become a wildcard for me as 2019 begins. He has title points to defend in Oz and Rotterdam and a finals appearance in Indian Wells to worry about as well. Does he skip the clay again? Probably. Can he make up the ground he needs to challenge everywhere else? Probably. Does he win another Major? Perhaps. You can never discount a player of Federer’s pedigree but the curtain is certainly closing on his illustrious career.
7) Marin Cilic: As I’ve mentioned before: Cilic is in a great place in his career. He’s playing with margin and confidence but does he have the overall wherewithal to win another Major and be a force at the absolute highest level? Probably not but he’s still more than good enough for a top ten finish.
8) Karen Khachanov: It’s time for Karen to put on the full-court press. His line-backer physique is second-to-none and he’ll be feeling mighty good as he enters the Australian summer. Capturing fall tourneys in Paris and Moscow, Khachanov will have a great buffer to play freely throughout 80 percent of next season. That bodes very well for his top ten prospects.
9) Borna Coric: Putting in the hours to gain the success that he wants, Coric has been steadily chipping away at his tennis career. I’m still not a big fan of his forehand in general (see Khachanov) but what he lacks in technique on that side he makes up for in fitness, court coverage, and daily professionalism. Big positives all around for Borna.
10) Kevin Anderson: Maximizing his strengths in his early 30’s, Anderson continues to be a great example for any budding pro player. He leaves no stone unturned when it comes to his preparation, but it’s hard for me to see him defending his finals points at the Big W.
Players to watch for in 2019:
Daniil Medvedev: The unsung Russian may not be a favorite in the locker room but his sling-shot game should score him an ample amount of victories next year.
Yoshihito Nishioka: If he can stay healthy, watch out for Yoshi. His foot speed is off the charts and if Diego Schwartzman can hit a career-high ranking of No. 11 in the world, then there’s no reason why Nishioka can’t do the same.
Reilly Opelka: The heir apparent to John Isner, Opelka reached the top 100 late in 2018 courtesy of two Challenger titles. As the saying goes: “You can’t teach height”. Once his fitness and confidence are fully intact, there’s no reason why he won’t be a perennial top 20 player that no one will want to face.
Sound off in the comments below and let us know your year-end ATP Tour top 10 for 2019.