Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top 20 Season Previews and Projected Rankings

These lists are the projected top 15 players on the ATP following each grand slam or 1000 event from now until Wimbledon. These projections are based solely on points that have to be defended and are therefore less and less accurate as the year goes on. The purpose is simply to get an idea what the rankings will look like a few months in advance.
After the Australian Open
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Roger Federer
3. Rafael Nadal
4. Kei Nishikori
5. Milos Raonic
6. Andy Murray
7. Marin Cilic
8. Tomas Berdych
9. David Ferrer
10. Grigor Dimitrov
11. Stan Wawrinka
12. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
13. Ernests Gulbis
14. Feliciano Lopez
15. Kevin Anderson

After Indian Wells
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Roger Federer
3. Rafael Nadal
4. Kei Nishikori
5. Milos Raonic
6. Andy Murray
7. David Ferrer
8. Marin Cilic
9. Tomas Berdych
10. Stan Wawrinka
11. Grigor Dimitrov
12. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
13. Feliciano Lopez
14. Ernests Gulbis
15. Roberto Bautista Agut

After Miami
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Roger Federer
3. Rafael Nadal
4. Kei Nishikori
5. Milos Raonic
6. Andy Murray
7. Marin Cilic
8. David Ferrer
9. Stan Wawrinka
10. Tomas Berdych
11. Grigor Dimitrov
12. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
13. Feliciano Lopez
14. Ernests Gulbis
15. Roberto Bautista Agut

After Monte Carlo
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Roger Federer
3. Kei Nishikori
4. Rafael Nadal
5. Milos Raonic
6. Andy Murray
7. Marin Cilic
8. David Ferrer
9. Tomas Berdych
10. Grigor Dimitrov
11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
12. Stan Wawrinka
13. Feliciano Lopez
14. Ernests Gulbis
15. Roberto Bautista Agut

After Madrid
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Roger Federer
3. Milos Raonic
4. Andy Murray
5. Marin Cilic
6. Kei Nishikori 
7. Rafael Nadal
8. David Ferrer
9. Tomas Berdych
10. Grigor Dimitrov
11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
12. Stan Wawrinka
13. Feliciano Lopez
14. David Goffin
15. Ernests Gulbis

After Rome
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Roger Federer
3. Andy Murray
4. Milos Raonic
5. Marin Cilic
6. Kei Nishikori 
7. Rafael Nadal
8. David Ferrer
9. Tomas Berdych
10. Grigor Dimitrov
11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
12. Stan Wawrinka
13. Feliciano Lopez
14. David Goffin
15. Tommy Robredo

After Roland Garros
1. Roger Federer
2. Novak Djokovic
3. Kei Nishikori
4. Marin Cilic
5. Milos Raonic
6. Andy Murray
7. David Ferrer
8. Grigor Dimitrov
9. Tomas Berdych
10. Stan Wawrinka
11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
12. Feliciano Lopez
13. David Goffin
14. Tommy Robredo
15. Roberto Bautista Agut

After Wimbledon
1. Roger Federer
2. Novak Djokovic
3. Kei Nishikori
4. Marin Cilic
5. Andy Murray 
6. Milos Raonic
7. David Ferrer
8. Tomas Berdych
9. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
10. David Goffin
11. Stan Wawrinka
12. Tommy Robredo
13. Feliciano Lopez
14. Grigor Dimitrov
15. Roberto Bautista Agut

2015 Season Previews
Novak Djokovic  (Srb)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 1
For the third time in four years, Djokovic is starting the year as the world No. 1, and in each of the previous two years, Djokovic couldn't hold onto that ranking throughout the year. With Roger Federer's strong finish to the 2014 season, Djokovic is going to have to maintain a high level of play throughout the year to hold off Federer. According to the projections, Djokovic is expected to drop the No. 1 ranking after losing his 1,200 points from Roland Garros. To maintain the top ranking Djokovic needs to have a large lead over Federer going into Indian Wells, because from Indian Wells to Wimbledon, Djokovic has a ton to defend in every tournament except Madrid. However, if Djokovic remains the world No. 1 going into Canada, he won't have to worry about the top ranking again until a potential year-end battle with Nadal at the O2.

Roger Federer (Sui)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 2
Federer hasn't held the top ranking since late in the 2012 season, which was a season where Federer made a huge push to reach the No. 1 ranking. He then paid the price with a horrible 2013 season by his standards, and was forced to skip several tournaments to make up for the extra work put in during 2012. Federer has now returned to a full schedule, but that may not be enough to overtake Djokovic. If Federer is to return to No. 1, he must do it before going to Canada in the fall. It will be interesting to see if Federer tries to play a tournament like Hamburg or Washington D.C. before going to Montreal if he is within reach of the No. 1 ranking. I doubt returning to No. 1 for just one more week matters to Federer, since he already holds the record and nobody is threatening it.

Rafael Nadal (Esp)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 2
Nadal had another season derailed by injuries in 2014, making him very dangerous in 2015. There is a good chance that he will be seeded outside the top 4 at tournaments like Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, meaning he could meet Federer or Djokovic at those tournaments as early as the quarterfinals, wrecking havoc on the draws. For Nadal this year, his 52-week ranking isn't what fans should be watching. He is essentially starting 2015 from scratch, so if he is going to challenge for the No. 1 ranking, that will be shown by wher


e he is in the year-to-date rankings. Meanwhile, Federer and Djokovic will be cheering for Nadal to remain in the top four of the 52-week rankings, while staying out of the top two in the YTD rankings, and that isn't going to happen.

Stan Wawrinka (Sui)
My projected peak rank of 2015:4
The 2014 season is going to start with Wawrinka taking a sharp nose dive in the rankings as 2000 points fall off his ranking, but he will be able to rebuild that ranking as the season goes on. He also has a lot to defend at Monte Carlo and Wimbledon. However, 2014 taught us, that Wawrinka is capable of picking up big chunks of points all at once. He is going to have disappointing results in 2015, but he will be able to make up for it with just a few good tournaments. He may not ever get back to the top 5 after the Australian Open, but he will certainly return to the top 10.

Kei Nishikori (Jap)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 4
The question around Nishikori will always be his health. He could very easily be the No. 3 player in the world right now if he hadn't suffered a series of injuries throughout 2014, which has been an issue for him throughout his career. There is no doubt after what he did in Madrid and the US Open that he is as good as anyone in tennis, but to get into the top 3 would require either a grand slam title or a lot of consistency. He just reached his first grand slam title, so it might be a little early to start expecting slam titles from Nishikori and consistency is impossible with the frequent injuries. If he does somehow manage to stay healthy in the first eight months of the tennis season, he could easily be the No. 2 seed at the US Open.

Andy Murray (Gbr)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 3
There are a lot of parallel's to Federer's 2013 and Murray's 2014. Both players after winning Wimbledon the previous year, struggled for the next 12 months, causing their rankings to drop sharply. Both players then responded with solid endings to their season to be able to qualify for the year-end championships in London. Federer used his strong finish to propel him to the No. 2 ranking in the world and put him within reach of the No. 1 spot. Now Murray has a chance to do something similar. When Nadal has a lot of points to defend in the first five months, Murray has a golden opportunity to quietly slide into the No. 3 ranking. Because of his previous success at Wimbledon, he will likely be the No. 3 seed there and can continue to build his ranking. Catching Djokovic and Federer in the rankings will be out of reach for Murray until after Shanghai most-likely, but if he can stay ahead of Nadal in the rankings in the meantime, he could definitely finish the year at No. 3.

Tomas Berdych (Cze)
My projected peak rank of 2015:5
Berdych's ranking has fluctuated drastically at any point since 2010 when he reached the Wimbledon final, moving up in the rankings five entire spots (even that isn't much), and his ranking isn't going to fluctuate much in 2015 either. Yes, Berdych has many shocking upset losses, but his ranking is still always built on between eight and 10 solid results. He may drop a spot of two after the Australian Open, but for the rest of the year he will slowly build his ranking back up. His peak ranking for the year will either be what it is now or what it is 52 weeks from now, because he is unable to have shock results like Marin Cilic or Wawrinka. He is the most consistent player in tennis outside of the top 4, and that consistency should be on display again in 2015.

Milos Raonic (Can)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 4
In 2014, Raonic racked up a large amount of points in the from Rome until the end of the season, which is perfect for him to get his ranking very high early in 2015. However, some disappointing results in Moscow, Shanghai, and London right at the end of the year were huge missed opportunities. Still, he should have no problem reaching a new career-high ranking before Rome. Expectations for Raonic will rise quickly at that point, and he will suddenly have a lot to defend, so it is important for him to do well in the part of the season where he has little to defend. He only has 90 points to defend in Melbourne, so how he does there will be a big indicator of just how well he will do in 2015.

Marin Cilic (Cro)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 8
The elbow injury to Cilic is a major blow to what could have been the prime of his career. With the title at the US Open, Cilic could have easily been a top 5 seed at that tournament this year. However, he is going to miss the first grand slam of the season and go into February, where he dominated last year, trying to work off the rust. He won't have to worry about his ranking dropping much in the next couple months, because the US Open title alone will keep him in the top 15 or so in the world. Still, this is a massive missed opportunity to build on a career-defining tournament. It is hard to know what to expect from Cilic when he does come back, but his window of opportunity closes at the end of Cincinnati. This is a crucial time for the Croat.

David Ferrer (Esp)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 8
The good news for Ferrer is that he doesn't have a single tournament with a massive amount of points to defend until Cincinnati. However, the 32-year old is clearly in decline, and it seems unlikely that he will be able to turn that around in 2015. His career was built on consistency, which is the area of a player's game that suffers significantly with age. His great record on clay last year will be tough to repeat, so Indian Wells and Miami will be his last chances to get that ranking back up to where it used to consistently be.

Grigor Dimitrov (Bul)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 8
Dimitrov continued his steady progression up the rankings in 2014, and continued to show that he has all the tools to be a dominant force on tour. Most-notably was that he was the only player other than Djokovic to win titles on all three surfaces. Also, at just 23 years old, he already has eight wins against top 10 opponents. The next step for Dimitrov is to start competing at the top echelon of the sport. However, against the current top three, Dimitrov has just one win in 13 matches. Wimbledon will be the key tournament for Dimitrov this year. Thanks to the tournament's seeding formula, Dimitrov will get a very good seeding. With his recent success on the grass, anything less than a semifinal at SW19 would be a disappointment and he certainly has the game to reach the final if his draw opens up.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra)
My projected peak rank of 2015:10
Tsonga probably had the strangest 2014 out of anyone. After losing to Djokovic in the fourth round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Tsonga gave Djokovic a 6-2, 6-2 beat down in Toronto and went on to win the title. He eventually took a page out of his countryman Richard Gasquet's book by losing in the fourth round at all four slams, and his title in Canada was the only memorable positive moment to his season. Now, that one shining moment is all his ranking has to balance itself on. It could be the base of a return to the top 10 for Tsonga this summer, or it could be the cause of a major fall in the rankings in eight months.

Ernests Gulbis (Lat)
My projected peak rank of 2015:12
The tennis world is about five months away from forgetting Gulbis temporarily. The Latvian had an amazing first five months to his 2014 season and seemed to have his ticket punched for London at year's end. However, an issue with his arm derailed the rest of his season as he finished with a 9-10 record after Roland Garros and missed out on London. Now, the points gathered in those five months of brilliance are going to start falling off, and so will Gulbis. He may be able to rebuild his ranking for the end of the year, but that won't happen until after his ranking plummets.

Feliciano Lopez (Esp)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 12
Lopez has an interesting year ahead of him, because expectations aren't very high for the 33-year old Spaniard, who finished 2014 with his career-high ranking. Yet almost all the points he has to defend, aside from 180 points in Madrid, are back-loaded to the second half of the year. In the meantime, Lopez is going to be seeded high at every tournament he plays with almost nothing to defend. In the after Roland Garros rankings, he sits at No. 12, but he is less than 400 points away from being No. 7 in the world, so if he can have a couple good results away from the grass courts, he could reach the top 10 for the first time in his career.

Roberto Bautista Agut (Esp)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 14
Bautista Agut had a break through year in 2014, so the test for him in 2015 will be to avoid a sophomore slump. The No. 4 Spaniard isn't under the radar anymore, and players are going to have a better game plan against him in the new season. Also, the changes to the grass season affect him more than any other player on tour. In 2014, his only two titles were in Stuttgart and s-Hertogenbosch. With Stuttgart now being played on grass, it was moved to the same week as the Topshelf Open, so it will be impossible for Bautista Agut to defend both of his titles. A large portion of Bautista Agut's ranking is based on his semifinal in Madrid. Before that, he won't have much to defend and could get his career-high ranking a spot or two higher.

Kevin Anderson (RSA)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 16
Since the start of 2010, Anderson has been slowly but surely making his way up the rankings and now begins 2015 at a career-high ranking of 16. However, the South African doesn't have much breathing room in 2015. He has to defend finalist points in Acapulco and Delray Beach right after trying to repeat his second week appearance in Melbourne last year. Anderson has never won a match in the second week of a slam in his career, which will certainly be one of his goals in 2015. His professional career had a late start, because of his successful college career, so its possible that Anderson still hasn't peaked yet. Still, he doesn't have all the weapons of an Isner or Raonic, who have similar games, and those two have yet to do much better in the rankings, particularly Isner.

Tommy Robredo (Esp)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 15
At 32-years old, Robredo should be declining at this point in his career, but he has been doing the opposite these last two years after having thought about retirement not long ago. Robredo has a chance to go a little bit higher this year, but maintaining a top 20 ranking all year seems unlikely. Robredo has 180 points to defend in Melbourne, which is the largest of any event until Wimbledon comes around. Even at Wimbledon, he isn't defending nearly as many points as those around him. If he has a good spring on clay, he will be seeded in the top 16 at Wimbledon, which should mean a straight path into the second week. After that, his ranking will start to fall and it is hard to imagine him recovering after that.

John Isner (USA)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 13
Isner is going to be coached by Justin Gimelstob in 2015, and there is really no telling what is in store for Isner. The goals for Isner are clear though: return to the top 10 and make a run at one of the slams. The No. 1 American will start the year on a three-match losing streak, but all of those losses came to other players on this list. After winning Atlanta last year, Isner had a quiet end to the year. And he will have to flip the switch right at the start of 2015 with a title to defend in Auckland followed without a break by the Australian Open and then a Davis Cup tie with Great Britain. However, Isner's season will be defined by what he does in March and August on the North American hard courts.

Gael Monfils (Fra)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 16
It has been a while that Monfils started a season ranked this high, so it is hard to know how well he will do in 2015. Particularly after having success at two of the grand slams, expectations are high for Monfils. He will be seeded just outside of the top 20 at the Australian Open, so that will be the first chance to see how he handles being ranked this high again. Outside of the majors, not much seems to matter to Monfils, though.

Fabio Fognini (Ita)
My projected peak rank of 2015: 19
He had a chance to peak around seven months ago and crack the top 10, but first round losses in Madrid and Rome, where he should have done well, stopped him from getting to the top 10. After that missed opportunity, Fognini didn't do much of anything notable in 2014. Fognini is extremely talented, but he is really just a clay specialist, and because of the format of the ATP, it is almost impossible to build a top 20 ranking on only clay.

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