Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tennis Trivalries

This week, there was plenty of big news coming out of the Roger Federer camp. First he announced that he will be having another kid. Also Stefan Edberg will be joining Federer's team. With Edberg coaching Federer, he rejoins the tennis world along with Ivan Lendl (coaching Andy Murray) and Boris Becker (coaching Novak Djokovic) reigniting the some of the greatest rivalries of the 1980's.

Many people say men's tennis is in a golden era right now, because of what has been called the "Trivalry" between Federer, Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. However, Becker, Lendl,  and Edberg also made up an exciting trivalry. This got me thinking about all of the greatest trivalries in tennis history and where the current trivalry fits in historically.

Lavallcombe - The first trivalry of the Open Era was between a trio of Aussies. John Newcombe, Rod Laver, and Ken Rosewall made up that trivalry. Officially, they played 46 matches against each other, but that doesn't count the hundreds of times they played before the Open Era. In the Open Era, they contested four grand slam finals, meeting nine times in slams and 16 times in WCT tournaments.  Rosewall's win over Laver in the 1972 Dallas WCT final was one of the best matches in Lavallcombe. Rosewall won 7-6(5) in the fifth set after losing the fourth set in a tiebreaker. The trio also made up a Davis Cup team, which played a huge role in bringing titles to Australia, including in 1973, which was the country's 15th title in 24 years.

McConnorg - The next trivalry spanned over three decades, going from the late 1970's to as late as 1991. This was between Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Bjorn Borg. They played each other 71 times, which included several of the all-time greatest matches in tennis history. In 1980, McEnroe and Borg met in both the Wimbledon and US Open finals, producing some of the most memorable five-set epics in tennis history. Connors also had his share of epic encounters with his rivals. He played five five-set matches against McEnroe, which includes the 1980 US Open semifinal that was determined by a fifth-set tiebreaker. McConnorg combined for 26 grand slam titles and occupied tennis' top ranking for 547 weeks.

Bendlberg - The three coaches also are three of the greatest players in tennis history. Edberg, Lendl, and Becker played each other 83 times, including 35 times between Edberg and Becker, which was the record before last year. Of the 83 meetings, 39 were in finals, which includes seven grand slam finals. However, some of their best matches were outside the finals. In the 1985 Australian Open semifinals, Edberg defeated Lendl 9-7 in the fifth set. In their final meeting, they had the benefit of a tiebreak, when Edberg again defeated Lendl in the 1992 US Open quarterfinals. The three players completely dominated their era with 336 combined wins against their peers in the top 10.

Courassi - This is another trio of countrymen. The 1990's were dominated by players from the United States. In particular, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and Pete Sampras. The Americans met 66 times on tour with over half between Sampras and Agassi. In fact, most fans wouldn't have considered Courier part of any trivalry, but since this post is about trivalries, I added him in. And he was part of some amazing matches and even had a winning head-to-head against Agassi. Sampras also had two of the best matches of his career against Courier. In both the 1995 Australian Open quarterfinals and the 1996 Roland Garros quarterfinals, Sampras came back from two sets down to beat Courier. The rivalry between Agassi and Sampras, however, ranks as one of the best in tennis history. The pair played 34 times, including nine times in slams and in four grand slam finals. In total, the trio had 26 grand slam titles and spent 445 weeks at No. 1.

Fedalovic - So where does the current trivalry between Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal rank? For me, it is the best of all of them. Not only are they the three greatest players to be part of a trivalry, but they consistently meet on the biggest stages in the sport. Here are the numbers: 101 meeting, 15 grand slam finals, 32 meetings in any round of a slam, and 48 finals at any tournament. Each rivalry within the trivalry has to rank as one of the top 10 rivalries in tennis history. Each rivalry has met at least 10 times in slams and 30 times in total. The three players have fought each other for the top ranking in the game for the last 514 weeks and counting. They also have 36 combined grand slams and 396 wins against top 10 players. Also since Djokovic first reached the top three in 2007, only three other players have been able to crack into the top three, and only one reached the top two. We haven't even begun to talk about the incredible matches between these players.

In 2012, Djokovic and Nadal met in the Australian Open final in a match that took almost six hours to complete with Djokovic finishing on top 7-5 in the fifth set. Then this past year, Nadal defeated Djokovic 9-7 in the fifth set at the Roland Garros semifinals on his way to a record-setting eighth title in Paris. In both 2010 and 2011, Djokovic and Federer met in the US Open semifinals, and both times,  Djokovic saved two match points to defeat Federer 7-5 in the fifth set. Then there is the rivalry between Nadal and Federer, which is widely considered the greatest in tennis history, which includes what is widely considered the greatest match in tennis history. In 2008, Nadal defeated Federer 9-7 in the fifth set of the Wimbledon final for his first title at the most prestigious event in tennis. The trivalry continues to dominate tennis today with all three players still in the top 10 and 14 of the last 16 slam titles.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Upset Alerts in Doha

Doha this year has fielded one of the best lists of players at a 250 event in a long time. The tournament includes five top 10 players, getting ready for the Australian Open. It's going to be a fun tournament, and I am predicting a pair of big upsets. I'm predicting that neither Rafael Nadal nor Andy Murray will reach the semifinals.

I know I'm not the only person predicting Murray will struggle in his return from back surgery. His performance was not convincing in Abu Dhabi, and Fernando Verdasco, who is the likely quarterfinal opponent, is a serious threat to Murray. In the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Verdasco won the first two sets against Murray, who played the best tennis of his career in that fortnight. Murray struggled handling playing against a left-handed player. Since that match, Murray has only played one other lefty. Add on the back problems, and Verdasco has a good shot at pulling off the first big upset of 2014.

The Nadal prediction is probably the more surprising prediction of the two. No, I am not saying Rosol will upset Nadal again. I think Ernests Gulbis is finally going to get over the hump and beat Nadal. He has won a set against Nadal five times, and is getting closer to pulling off the upset each time.

On top of that, it's the perfect conditions for Latvian claim his first win over the world No. 1 in seven attempts. More than it just being a hard court tournament, it's a 250 tune-up for a slam, which historically is the kind of tournament where Nadal doesn't make his best effort. In his career, Nadal is 39-17 (69.6%) with just one title in 250 events that are within two weeks of a grand slam. At masters 1000 events, Nadal's winning percentage is 84.1%. 1000 events are also best-of-three sets and have a significantly tougher field of opponents.

The conditions are perfect for upsets. Verdasco and Gulbis just have to be ready to take advantage.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

4 Most Overrated and Underrated Players going into 2014

It's always fun to discus who the most and underrated players in tennis are. And the unique thing about the conversation it is impossible to agree. If everyone thinks that a player is underrated, then they are overrating that player. For many people the definition of overrated and underrated vary. For this post, I defined overrated and underrated based on expectations for 2014. Players that are expected (by fans and analysts) to do too much are overrated, while players whose expectations are too low are underrated. With that, here are the four most overrated and underrated tennis players going into the 2014 tennis season.
1. Stanislas Wawrinka- It is easy to overrate a guy who has his biggest results on the biggest stages in the game. The tennis world stopped during Wawrinka's incredible matches against Djokovic to see him play in two of the best matches of the year. However, when Wawrinka lost four-of-five matches to players with an average ranking of 92, nobody noticed. Wawrinka did have an incredible 2013 season, but staying in the top eight in the world for 2014 is far from a guarantee.
2. Jerzy Janowicz- Once again his ranking is balancing on one leg. If he doesn't have another huge result before Wimbledon, he could drop out of the top 40. Janowicz's incredible runs in Paris and Wimbledon have been the only times a lot of fans have gotten to see him (aside from his awesome tirade in Melbourne). Take away his two amazing results in the last 48 months and he wouldn't even be noteworthy. Consistency is the key to the top 10 and he lacks that severely. I expect him to improve in 2014, but the top 10 finish that many are predicting is very unlikely.
3. Andy Murray- Murray will always be overrated since he won Wimbledon, so I should probably just get used to it. However, the expectations for Murray in 2014 are just absurd. People don't realize just how bad of a 2013 season he had. Yes, he won Miami, Wimbledon and reached the final in Melbourne, but outside of those three tournaments, it was another poor season. Poor may be a harsh word for someone who finished the season ranked No. 4 in the world, but fans always want to put him as part of the Big Four and by Djokovic and Nadal's standards, it was a poor season. In 2014, Murray is going to lay an egg on clay, while fail to put together consecutive good results on hard courts. His longest winning streak in 2014 will be less than 15.
4. Grigor Dimitrov- BabyFed will likely crack the top 10 eventually, but not this year. His win over an injured Djokovic set the expectations unrealistically high for the Bulgarian. I want him to do well just like everyone else, but the results aren't going to come immediately. It's going to take time.

1. Roger Federer- He is the greatest of all time, so he can't possibly be overrated, and he is quite underrated. One of the downsides of being the greatest of all time is that every match he plays is watched. He can't sneak an early round loss past anyone. Anytime he loses, there are headlines. Federer actually did have a decent 2013 season compared to what most people think, and there are a lot of reasons to think 2014 will be even better. Way too many people are predicting  that Federer won't finish in the top 10 or won't win a title. He still is Roger Federer. He might not win a grand slam, but that doesn't mean he isn't good enough to qualify for London. There is no way BabyFed or his countryman Wawrinka will outperform him in 2014.
2. Gilles Simon- Simon is by far the most underrated player of our generation. His playing style doesn't excite most fans, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. Simon has been in the top 20 since May of 2011, but he doesn't get a lot of attention for it. Simon is one of the smartest players on the court, but also one of the smartest when it comes to scheduling. Every season Simon picks the right tournaments to play to get the maximum amount of ranking points, which is why he will stay in the top 20 in 2014 even if he doesn't get the attention he deserves.
3. Sam Querrey- No doubt it was a disappointing year for the United States' No. 2 player. Dropping out of the top 40 for the second time since he broke through was not one of his goals for the season, but that doesn't mean he is doomed in 2014. A lot of pressure is off Querrey right now, because the expectations are so low. Querrey hasn't played a match since Beijing so it will be a long off season for him to get prepared. Expect a resurgent 2014 season for the American No. 2.
4. Ryan Harrison- This is probably a surprising player to see on the list. For so long, Harrison had been so overrated. Then his 2013 season proved once and for all that he will never meet the hype surrounding him. However, what this has done is put the expectations incredibly low for one of the most competitive players on tour. He still  is just 21-years old and has a career-high ranking of 43. While I don't expect him to return to his career-high ranking, it won't be such a struggle to for Harrison to stay in the top 100. With how low expectations are for Harrison, he should have no problem surpassing them.

Rafole: What can we expect in 2014?

On my list of greatest rivalries in tennis history, I have the rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at No. 2 behind Nadal's rivalry with Roger Federer. Rafole already holds the record for most matches played and most matches in masters series events. It is also tied in records for most finals played and most meetings in slams. It also ranks second in grand slam finals meetings and includes epic meetings like the 2009 Madrid final, 2012 Australian Open final, and 2013 Roland Garros semifinal.

These two have already done all of that against each other and Djokovic is only 26, while Nadal is only 27, meaning we still have several years left in this rivalry. The two could finish with well over 50 matches between each other, considering that they have played 16 times in just the last three years.

The battle for year-end No. 1 in 2014 is a two-horse race. Nobody besides Djokovic and Nadal have a chance to finish the year at No. 1. The two dominate the tour right now. They combined for three of the four slams in 2013 along with eight of the nine 1000 events and the year-end finals. There is no reason it will be any different in 2014. Del Potro and Murray will try to break into the that top two, but their combined ranking in 2013 wasn't as much as either Nadal or Djokovic.

The more Djokovic and Nadal dominate the tour in 2014, the more times they will play each other. Since they are the top two players in the world, they will never play each other before a final, so they have to dominate the tour to play each another six more times.

In their six meetings in 2013, they split the two on clay and the four on hard courts. Unlike Fedal, Rafole is a rivalry on all surfaces. With that, a meeting between Djokovic and Nadal in the Roland Garros final could cement this rivalry as the greatest of all time. The pair's first meeting was at Roland Garros and it would be their third consecutive meeting at the second slam of the year. If Djokovic wins, it will give him a calendar slam with wins against Nadal in finals of all four grand slam events.

The one thing left that the rivalry needs to settle all debate would be a Davis Cup epic. Both players usually participate in Davis Cup and their countries are on opposite sides of the draw in 2014. What better way to end the year than with a Davis Cup match between Djokovic and Nadal. It wouldn't be a stretch to see Spain and Serbia in the Davis Cup final. Both countries reached the final once in the last two years. Djokovic and Nadal would meet in the fourth rubber, which obviously would have huge implications in determining the winner of the tie.

Regardless of which tournaments these two meet in for 2014, when they meet, they will produce the best tennis of the season. And even when they aren't playing each other, they are still battling each other for the top ranking in the world. 2014 is going to be the year of Rafole.

100 Predictons for 2014 ATP World Tour

These are my 100 predictions for the upcoming season. I only got 47 right last year, so I'm hoping I can do a little better this year. All of my grand slam predictions for finalists are at the end. I let the fan inside me come out for those predictions. I'll defend my picks a little bit at the end.

Federer will finish the season in the top 10
Federer will not reach a grand slam final
Federer will win one or less 1000 event
Federer will win multiple titles
Nadal will not be No. 1 after the US Open
Nadal will defend one or less hard court title
Nadal will get at least 10,000 ranking points
Nobody besides Nadal and Djokovic will be No. 1 or 2
Nadal and Djokovic will combine for at least 3 slams
Nadal and Djokovic will combine for at least 16 finals in slams and masters
Nadal and Djokovic will combine for at least 26,000 ranking points
Djokovic will win a title in at least four of the first five months of the year
Djokovic will win multiple titles in tournaments not played on hard courts
Djokovic will win multiple titles in North America
Djokovic will have more ranking points than Wawrinka and Murray combined
Ferrer will drop out of the top five
Ferrer will earn at least 600 ranking points at one or less tournaments
Ferrer will not win his 600th career match in 2014
Ferrer will win multiple titles for the fifth consecutive year
Murray will not win a grand slam
Murray will finish with less than 8,000 ranking points
Murray will reach one or less semifinals at clay tournaments
Murray and Nadal will meet each other one or less times
Murray will get at least six top 10 wins
Del Potro will be a top four seed at Wimbledon
Del Potro will reach multiple slam semifinals
Del Potro will reach a final in a 1000 or slam before by the end of US Open
Del Potro will win more clay matches than Murray
Del Potro will earn at least $4,000,000 in prize money
Del Potro won't win a five-set match against Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray
Berdych will win a title
Berdych won't win a five-set match against Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray
Berdych will reach the semifinals of at least eight events again
Berdych will end the year ranked higher than Ferrer
Berdych will set a personal record for titles in a season
Berdych, Tsonga, and Federer will not win a grand slam
Wawrinka will never be ranked higher than seven
Wawrinka will fail to reach the quarterfinals in at least two slams
Wawrinka will not beat Djokovic or Nadal
Wawrinka will not finish in the top eight
Gasquet will reach one or less slam quarterfinal
Gasquet will not finish in the top 10
Gasquet will win a title in France
Gasquet will win a five-set match
Gasquet will win at least 42 matches
Tsonga will finish the year as the top-ranked Frenchman
Tsonga will reach the second week in Roland Garros and Wimbledon
Tsonga will defeat three former grand slam champions
Tsonga will win multiple titles
Tsonga will get at least five wins against top 10 opponents
Raonic will finish the year in the top 10
Raonic will win a title without dropping serve
Raonic will lead the tour in aces
Raonic will win at least 10 matches on grass and clay combined
Raonic will reach the quarterfinals in at least eight tournaments
Haas will drop outside the top 20 before Wimbledon
Almagro will win at least 40 matches
Almagro will win a title in South America
Isner will hit at least 900 aces
Fognini will crack the top 15 before the end of February
Anderson will drop out of top 20 before end of March and won't return
Janowicz will finish the year in the top 13
Janowicz will earn at least 500 ranking points from one event
Dimitrov will not win  title
Dimitrov will reach the top 15 for the first time in his career
Dimitrov will reach the fourth round at a slam
Gulbis will reach a career-high ranking before March
Paire will have more double faults than any player in the top 20
Pospisil will reach the top 28 by the end of Wimbledon
Cilic's year-end ranking will be at least 15 spots better than at the start of July
Tomic will not reach the top 20 at any point in the season
Dolgopolov will lose in the first or second round in at least two slams
Between Hewitt, Haas, and Robredo, at least one will retire
Nobody younger than Jiri Vesely will finish the year ranked higher than him
Vesely will win a grand slam match
Harrison will reach a final
Klahn and Young will both be in the top 10 for left-handed players
Sock will earn $500,000 in prize money
Lajovic will crack the top 100
Giraldo will make more in prize money than Seppi
Lopez will hit more aces than Karlovic
Simon's winning record will be better than his percentage of points won
Istomin will hit more aces than he will face break points
Brands will have more break points on his return than on his serve
Brands will reach a final and have a winning record
Matosevic will win a grand slam match
Verdasco will not get more than 300 points at a single tournament
Querrey & Istomin will combine for more ranking points than Haas & Seppi
Exactly four players from Spanish speaking countries will finish in the top 20
At most, 15 different countries will be represented in the top 20
Spain will have  most players in top 15, but France will have most in top 25
At least 20 tournaments will be won by players from that country
The United States will have more players in the top 100 than Germany
No player will reach the top 10 for the first time
The finalists at each slam will be players who have already reached a final
Djokovic will beat Nadal in the Australian Open final
Djokovic will beat Nadal in the Roland Garros final
Djokovic will beat Del Potro in the Wimbledon final
Djokovic will beat Murray in the US Open final
Djokovic will finish the year No. 1 in the world

As I thought about my picks for the grand slams, I tried to think about which slam I thought Djokovic wouldn't win, and I couldn't think of any slam that he wouldn't win. He owns the Australian Open, and who will beat him? Murray is coming off an injury and Djokovic owns the rivalry with Nadal on hard courts since the US Open. For Roland Garros, that is going to be Djokovic's biggest goal of the year. He proved he is good enough to win it last year. I think this is the year that he finally gets it done. Wimbledon will be the tough one for Djokovic. Federer and Nadal proved that they won't ever win another Wimbledon with their disappointing performances last year, so it comes down to Djokovic, Murray, and Del Potro. It will be easier to predict a winner when the draw comes out, but a repeat would be difficult for Murray, and Del Potro has a poor five-set record in his career. At the US Open, Djokovic has always done well. His first slam final was at the US Open and he has reached four consecutive finals there. I also predicted Djokovic would win all four in 2013 and I was wrong of course. I would be shocked if Djokovic actually does win the calendar slam, but I'm not sure which one he will lose. This is certainly going to be a fun season at the slams.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tennis' Greatest Rivalry Outside the Top 10

I've written about this rivalry once before and it deserves another mention, because nobody else is writing about it. If you throw aside any rivalry that involves any of the Big Four, the best rivalry in tennis is between Andreas Seppi and Denis Istomin. Yes, two players outside the top 20 in the world have that great of a rivalry. Forget about Isner/Mahut, Almagro/Berdych, and Tsonga/Wawrinka. The rivalry between Istomin and Seppi is the best of these rivalries.

Istomin (Uzb) is ranked 45 in the world
and reached R16 at the US Open
Not only have the players met several times, they have broken each others' hearts and played some incredible matches on the biggest stages. In 2013, the average amount of time a match lasted between these two was exactly 3.5 hours.They were on court against each other for a total of 10.5 hours this season.

The frequency with which the pair meets in the grand slams is incredible. The pair has met twice in the first round of slams, once in the second round, and once in the third round.  Also, all three of their first meetings, which were not in slams, were first round encounters.

Then, what happens when the pair meets in slams is even more incredible. All four of their meetings in slams have gone five sets. It's rare that two players who have never even sniffed the top 10 would have played one five-set match against each other. But the pair has now played four five-set matches against each other on the biggest stages of the sport.
Roland Garros is now the only major where the pair has not battled out a five-set match. I haven't done the research, but I'm willing to bet no other pair of players in tennis history have had five-set encounters at all four of the majors. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have contested four-setters at every slam, but have only gone the distance at the Australian Open and Rolland Garros.

Seppi has established himself as a marathon man. The Italian played in eight five-set matches in 2013 and finished with a record of 7-1 in those matches. The only loss was in the round of 32 at the US Open to Istomin 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-1. Those were all relatively short sets for the two however.
Seppi (Ita) is ranked 25 in the world and has played multiple
five-set matches at four of the last seven majors,
including three at Rolland Garros 2012.
The first 13 sets played in grand slams in the rivalry lasted on average 11.7 games. Those 13 sets consisted of six tiebreakers, two 7-5 sets, and an 8-6 set. Because of this, the average length of the four five-set matches was 327.75 points. To put that into perspective, the 2007 Wimbledon final between Nadal and Federer lasted 323 points. So the average grand slam match between Istomin and Seppi is longer than the epic 2007 Wimbledon Final. Also less than eight points shy of this year's epic Rolland Garros semifinal between Nadal and Djokovic.

So keep an eye out when the Australian Open draw is released to see where Istomin and Seppi are. We could see a fifth five-set match in the greatest rivalry that nobody is talking about.

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.

2014 Year-end Rankings Predictions

For the past few years, I have spent the tennis off-season predicting what will happen in the upcoming season. Since the start of the 2012 season, what I have done is predicted what the rankings will be of the top 100 at the end of the season. On my first try, I correctly predicted the 2012 year-end ranking of six players. However, I was wrong by 31.1 spots on average for each player. In predicting the year-end ranking for 2013, I had three perfect picks and missed by 31.56 spots on average. I just finished my predictions for the 2014 year-end rankings. However I will be updating them to try to improve them up until the first match of the season in Brisbane. Let me know what you think of my predictions. Which names did I leave off the list? Who did I predict to do to well? Who am I underestimating? I want to hear your thoughts.
Nadal and Djokovic have both finished in the top two for two of the past
three years, and 2014 shouldn't be any different.

Rank Name                             Current Ranking
1 Novak Djokovic 2
2 Rafael Nadal 1
3 Andy Murray 4
4 Juan Martin del Potro 5
5 Roger Federer 6
6 Tomas Berdych 7
7 David Ferrer 3
8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 10
9 Stanislas Wawrinka 8
10 Milos Raonic 11
11 Richard Gasquet 9
12 Nicolas Almagro 13
13 Jerzy Janowicz 21
14 Marin Cilic 37
15 Grigor Dimitrov 23
16 John Isner 14
17 Kei Nishikori 17
18 Fabio Fognini 16
19 Kevin Anderson 20
20 Ernests Gulbis 24
21 Gilles Simon 19
22 Benoit Paire 26
23 Sam Querrey 46
24 Gael Monfils 31
25 Denis Istomin 45
26 Bernard Tomic 51
27 Tommy Haas 12
28 Jeremy Chardy 34
29 Mikhail Youzhny 15
30 Philipp Kohlschreiber 22
31 Daniel Brands 54
32 Janko Tipsarevic 36
33 Fernando Verdasco 30
34 Vasek Pospisil 32
35 Alexandr Dolgopolov 57
36 Marinko Matosevic 61
37 Frederico Delbonis 55
38 Santiago Giraldo 69
39 Tommy Robredo 18
40 Andreas Seppi 25
41 Dmitry Tursunov 29
42 Jurgen Melzer 27
43 Ivan Dodig 33
44 Marcel Granollers 38
45 Feliciano Lopez 28
46 Juan Monaco 42
47 Robin Haase 43
48 Joao Sousa 49
49 Roberto Bautsita Agut 58
50 Julien Benneteau 35
51 Jarkko Nieminen 39
52 Lukas Rosol 47
53 Ryan Harrison 100
54 Edouard Roger-Vasselin 52
55 Pablo Carreno Busta 64
56 Matthew Ebden 68
57 Lukas Lacko 81
58 Jiri Vesely 85
59 Jack Sock 102
60 Somdev Devvarman 90
61 Marcos Baghdatis 87
62 Bradley Klahn 97
63 Martin Klizan 108
64 Albert Ramos 83
65 Igor Sijsling 70
66 Leonardo Mayer 94
67 Thomaz Bellucci 125
68 Florian Mayer 40
69 Donald Young 96
70 Julian Reister 86
71 Pablo Andujar 48
72 Ricardas Berankis 131
73 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 62
74 Yen-Hsun Lu 65
75 David Goffin 110
76 Mikhail Kukushkin 67
77 Grega Zemlja 121
78 Carlos Berlocq 41
79 Tobias Kamke 74
80 Adrian Mannarino 59
81 Michal Przysiezny 66
82 Denis Kudla 114
83 Dusan Lajovic 116
84 Aljaz Bedene 95
85 Tim Smyczek 89
86 Teymuraz Gabashvili 76
87 Steve Johnson 156
88 Daniel Gimeno-Traver 77
89 Nick Kyrgios 182
90 Andrey Golubev 82
91 Rhyne Williams 130
92 Alex Bogomolov Jr. 88
93 Guido Pella 118
94 Alejando Falla 99
95 Sergiy Stakhovsky 98
96 Horacio Zeballos 56
97 Alejando Gonzalez 91
98 Dominic Thiem 139
99 Viktor Troicki 75
100 Guillaume Rufin 137

Notable missing players: Lleyton Hewitt, Radek Stepanek, Nicolas Mahut, Nikolay Davydenko, Albert Montanes, Filippo Volandri, Ivo Karlovic, Benjamin Becker, Victor Hanescu, Lukasz Kubot, Kenny De Schepper, Michael Russell, Go Soeda, Dustin Brown