Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 10 Predictions

In my last post, I predicted what the year-end rankings would be in 2014 for the top 100. However, I want to take a closer look at how the top 10 will break down. I was reading some forums on top 10 predictions for the end of next year. My list isn't too much different from those I read about, but as you get to five through 10, things change a little. This is my prediction for the top 10.

Rank Name                             Current Ranking
1Novak Djokovic2
2Rafael Nadal1
3Andy Murray4
4Juan Martin del Potro5
5Roger Federer6
6Tomas Berdych7
7David Ferrer3
8Jo-Wilfried Tsonga10
9Stanislas Wawrinka8
10Milos Raonic11

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - For the third time in four years, these two will be the top two. It will be a tight race to the end, but I am giving Djokovic a slight edge, because the majority of the season is played on his favorite surface, hard courts. In their rivalry, court surface doesn't seem to have much of an effect on the result, but outside of the head-to-head matchups, it's clear that Djokovic enjoys the hard courts much more than his rival. These two are going to dominate the sport in 2014. There are 14 tournaments that they both play in every year: 4 slams, 9 1000's, and the year-end finals. Of those 14 tournaments, these two won 12 of them in 2013. I am predicting that they will win at least 12 again in 2014. Also, of the 28 finalists in those tournaments, Nadal and Djokovic made up 16 of them. I am predicting that it will be more than 16 in 2014. I am also predicting that the pair will combine for at least 26,000 ranking points.

Andy Murray - Since Djokovic and Nadal will combine for so many points, Murray won't need to win much to take third. In 2013, David Ferrer only needed 5,800 to be No. 3 in the world. Although Murray will need even less than that most likely, I am predicting that he will earn more than 5,800 ranking points. However, he won't have 8,000 either, which is what he finished with in 2012. Murray is going to do well on the grass and hard courts, but collect next to no ranking points on the clay. If he gets to the final of more than one slam, it will have been a good season for Murray. It's still hard to know how he will recover from back surgery, but don't expect a Nadal-like comeback for the Brit in 2014.

Juan Martin Del Potro - Most people on the forums had the same top five as me, but at No. 4, there was a little deviation, even from the level-headed fans on the forums. Del Potro is capable of being great on all surfaces unlike Murray. However, the Argentine is notorious for slow starts. He has never reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and has failed to reach the second week five times. After that though, you can almost guarantee that he will reach the semifinals at each of the other three slams. He hasn't been in a slam final since he beat Roger Federer in 2009 at the US Open though. I am predicting that Del Potro will not reach a grand slam final, he will reach multiple slam semifinals, and he will fail to win a 1000.

Roger Federer - I just read an article that predicted that Federer would drop out of the top 10 and fail to win a title in 2014. The last time people were jumping off someone's bandwagon this fast was when Tiger Woods had his scandal. Tennis fans need to calm down when it comes to Roger Federer. His back problems are gone, he is sticking with his usual racket, any coaching issues that may have existed are gone, and he finished 2013 with some great results. All of these things are reasons to believe that Federer will have a fantastic season. I'm more worried that he will finish better than five than below. If it really does come down to Federer and Del Potro for the No. 4 spot, don't be surprised if Federer is the one who comes out on top. Despite his struggles in 2013, Federer still won two-of-three matches against Del Potro. For 2014, I am predicting that Federer wins multiple titles, and notches at least five wins against top 10 opponents.

Tomas Berdych -  This is where things started getting a little crazy on the forums. Almost everyone had Berdych in the top 10, but his ranking was all over the place from No. 5 to No. 10. Seems like every year, Berdych has an early exit at one of the slams. Maybe this will finally be the year that he reaches the quarterfinals at all three tournaments. Even if he doesn't though, finishing top six shouldn't be hard. As I've mentioned before, Nadal and Djokovic will hog all of the points, so there won't be much leftover for the rest of the top ten. Berdych didn't earn any more than 360 points at any tournament last year and he still finished No. 7. All he has to do to finish No. 6 in 2014 is equal his performance from last year, which includes a first round exit at Roland Garros and second round exits at three of the 1000 events. I am predicting Berdych will reach the semifinals at multiple 1000 events, but not reach the final at any of them, and he will reach the US Open semifinals. He will also win three titles in one season for the first time in his career.

David Ferrer - I said he would do poorly in 2013, and I was wrong. However, I am saying he will not be a top five player again in 2014. He can't stay in the top five forever. After failing to win a match at the year-end finals, it's increasingly difficult to see Ferrer sticking around in the top five. There is no way he will be reaching a slam final ever again. Maybe he will reach one final of a 1000. However, he has always gotten a large chunk of his points from 250's and 500's. Those points will be tough to earn next year, since Nadal has almost an identical schedule for 2014. Ferrer might be able to steal a few easy 250's, but other than that he won't win any titles in 2014. For Ferrer, my predictions are that he will win less than one-fifth of his matches against top 10 players, he will not reach more than one final of the main 14 tournaments, and he will meet Nadal at least five times.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - I said that I will continue to edit my picks up until the first day of the Brisbane Open, and there is a good chance that I will chicken out on this prediction. After his incredible result at Roland Garros last year, he did next to nothing to convince me that he will even be a top 10 player this year. I predicted last year that every player who finished 2012 in the top eight would be in the top eight at the end of 2013. Tsonga was the only one that failed to make it true. Once again though, I am predicting that the top eight at the end of 2012 will be the top eight at the end of this season. To be a top 10 player demands consistency. Tsonga has done that. Despite injuries throughout the second half of 2013, he still finished in the top 10. He hasn't spent a day outside the top 10 since August 2011. Although he might drop down early in the 2014 season, he doesn't have much to defend in the second half, so I won't be pressing the panic button if he drops as low as 12 or 13. For Tsonga, I am predicting that he will make the semifinals in at least one of the slams and he will reach the quarterfinals in at least five of the 1000's.

Stanislas Wawrinka - Putting my trust in Wawrinka has been hard for me. After I correctly predicted that he would reach the 2011 Australian Open quarterfinals, he was my go-to man for the rest of 2011. He let me down almost every time for the rest of the 2011 season. People on the forums are much more confident in Wawrinka than I am. Everyone had him in the top 10 and some had him as high as No. 5. This is the guy who just 12 months ago was the only player in the top 20 without a title. What sticks in the minds of fans though is his epic matches with Djokovic and his good showing at the year-end finals. Aside from those events though, the only thing Wawrinka did well was benefit from Grigor Dimitrov's win over Djokovic in Madrid to take an easy path to the final. Like the rest of his career, Wawrinka was still very streaky in 2013. If the draws don't open up for him in 2014 like they did in 2013, the top 10 will be tough to reach. I am predicting that Wawrinka will fail to reach the quarterfinals at minimally two of the slams and four of the 1000's. Also he will not win a title at any event bigger than a 250.

Milos Raonic - Raonic sort of slid into this position by process of elimination. We know the Canadian is good for a couple titles next year, so he is always a safe bet. You can also mark him down for a few top ten wins, and since he is already ranked 11, a top ten win usually results in 300 or 360 points depending on the tournament. With a guarantee of those points, the rest is all bonus and it should be enough to get him in the top 10. For Raonic, I am predicting he wins at least a quarter of his matches against top 10 opponents, also he will lead the tour in aces and win a tournament without dropping serve.

The Rest -  Most of the other names being thrown around were Richard Gasquet, Kei Nishikori, or young guys that fans are hoping finally break through. I put Gasquet at 11 on my list and I was trying to convince myself that he belonged that high. He played to the best of his ability in 2013 and barely earned a spot in London. I don't think he can do as well in 2014 and finishing in the top 11 would be a great season. Nishikori is going to get injured in 2014. It is just way too risky to predict him finishing in the top 15 even. Grigor Dimitrov is one of the young guys expected to break through, but he still has a long way to go. I picked him to finish at 15, and that seemed generous. Jerzy Janowicz was on more people's lists than even Tsonga. The Pole lacks consistent results. Whether it be Wimbledon or Bercy, he relies on one big result to carry his ranking for the season. He reached the quarterfinals at just two of the big tournaments all season. It takes at least five or six to crack the top 10. I think he will continue to make progress, but I have him finishing the season at No. 13.

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