Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mid-season predictions for year-end ATP top 10

After completing two of the four majors and five of the nine Masters 1000 events, the ATP World Tour has reached the unofficial mid-season, providing a good opportunity to reflect on and reevaluate preseason predictions. In December, this was my prediction for what the top 10 would be following the 2014 Davis Cup final.

1. Novak Djokovic
2. Rafael Nadal
3. Andy Murray
4. Juan Martin del Potro
5. Roger Federer
6. Tomas Berdych
7. David Ferrer
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
9. Stanislas Wawrinka
10. Milos Raonic

A closer look of my top 10 predictions from December is here. This is my new prediction of the top 10 for the end of 2014.

1. Novak Djokovic
2. Rafael Nadal
3. Roger Federer
4. Andy Murray
5. Stanislas Wawrinka
6. Tomas Berdych
7. David Ferrer
8. Ernests Gulbis
9. Milos Raonic
10. Kei Nishikori

Novak Djokovic - I'm sticking with Djokovic to finish the year as the world No. 1 for the third time in his career despite losing the Roland Garros final to Rafael Nadal. Djokovic now trails Nadal by over 1000 points in the Race Rankings, but after Wimbledon, it is all hard courts for Djokovic, who has been dominant on that surface with a 40-2 record since the 2013 US Open. The wrist injury that plagued him early in the season seems to be a thing of the past. The only question mark is how Djokovic will respond to the disappointment of Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal - The Spaniard is going to surrender the No. 1 ranking some time between now and September. Then he will have the rest of the season to try to get it back. The key for Nadal will be to hold onto his over 1000-point lead in the Race Rankings. As long as he maintains that lead going into the year-end finals in London, Nadal has a chance to finish the year No. 1. Finishing in the top two won't be a problem at all, barring injuries.

Roger Federer - Federer falls into the third spot more by process of elimination than anything else. I originally picked him to finish at No. 5 and he is ranked No. 4 in the Race Rankings, but the two slams remaining are historically his two best slams. Then add the indoor hard court season at the tail end and Federer should have no problem returning to No. 3 in the world. Federer has won 20 of his titles on indoor courts and has been the most dominant player at the year-end finals in tennis history.

Andy Murray - The Brit is ranked No. 9 in the Race Rankings and has been far below his standard so far in 2014. However, he showed signs of turning that around late in the clay season, which is historically where he struggles the most. Murray now has a new coach and will be the No. 4 seed at Wimbledon, where he is the defending champion. All of this should serve as good motivation for a strong back end of the 2014 season.

Stanislas Wawrinka - Before the season, I wasn't sure if Wawrinka would even be in the top 10, but he has already won the first grand slam and 1000 events of his career, which almost guarantees him a return to London to end the year. However, it's hard to see the second half of 2014 being as good for Wawrinka as the first. Since winning Monte Carlo, Wawrinka has gone 4-4 with some ugly losses. Now he arrives at Wimbledon, where he has won just one match in the last four years. These aren't typical numbers being thrown around for a top five player, but thanks to titles in Melbourne and Monte Carlo, he should be able to coast to a top five finish in 2014.

Tomas Berdych - Starting in 2007, Berdych has had a first-round exit from exactly one of the four slams every year. However, that hasn't happened yet in 2014. The Czech has reached the semifinals and quarterfinals of the first two slams of the season. And both of his losses came against players outside the top five, which are beatable for him. Despite missing a couple golden opportunities, Berdych is sitting nicely at No. 5 in the Race Rankings. Murray is the only player below him that I think will pass him. He will be a dangerous quarterfinal opponent for whoever he faces at Wimbledon.

David Ferrer - Ferrer is ranked No. 6 in the Race Rankings right now, but he has played his last clay match of the season, meaning it will be harder for him to earn ranking points for the rest of the season. Since defeating Nadal in Bercy, Ferrer has struggled on hard courts with an 11-9 record and no titles. He should be able to turn that around, but I can't see him making a return to the top five again in his career.

Ernests Gulbis - I originally picked Gulbis to finish the year ranked No. 19, but the Latvian reached the Roland Garros semifinals, cracking the top 10 for the first time in his career. He has always had the game to be a mainstay in the top 10. Now he finally has a portion of the work ethic and dedication to the sport required to be part of the top 10. If he keeps posting good results, no amount of racket breaking or ill-advised quotes to the media will stop him from qualifying for London.

Milos Raonic - The Canadian reached his first career grand slam quarterfinal in Paris after reaching the semifinals in Rome, proving that big servers can have success on clay. However, Raonic has never been able to master the grass and lost in his first match at Halle to wild card Peter Gojowczyk. Thankfully for Raonic, the grass season is short and his No. 8 seeding at SW19 will help get him a beneficial draw. After that is a hard court season full of opportunity for Raonic. Outside of reaching finals in Tokyo and his home tournament in Montreal, Raonic has little to defend from now until he arrives at Indian Wells. This is a great chance for him to see how high he can get in the rankings with the 720 points he got at the last two clay events.

Kei Nishikori - I said before the season that I didn't want to put Nishikori in the top 10 because I thought he would get injured. And I was right to some degree. If not for his injury, he would probably be No. 4 or 5 in the Race Rankings, but those injuries haven't stopped him from cracking the top 10 for the first time in his career. He looked healthy in Halle, so if he can maintain that, he should be able to stay in the top 10.

The Rest - Grigor Dimitrov is ranked No. 10 in the Race Rankings and just reached the final at Queen's Club. If he wins tomorrow, he will be No. 9 in the Race Rankings, passing Murray. Still, I'm hesitant to pick him in the top 10 after the first round loss in Paris. I do expect him to finish at No. 11 or 12 though. For Marin Cilic, the best part of the season for him is yet to come, but I think that he too will finish at No. 11 or 12. I picked him to finish No. 14 before the year and he is ranked No. 13 in the Race Rankings. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is No. 15 in the Race to London and I picked him to finish No. 8 originally. He has not seemed motivated to win this season and has under-performed so far. I don't think he will come out of his slump in time. Juan Martin del Potro was the other player that I, like almost everyone else, had in the top 10 before the season. However a wrist injury has sidelined him for most of the season. He should be able to stay in the top 100, but that's one too many zeroes to make this list.

1 comment: