From Djokovic To Thiem: The Best Performers Of 2018 On The Men’s Tour - UBITENNIS
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From Djokovic To Thiem: The Best Performers Of 2018 On The Men’s Tour

Ubitennis looks back at the achievements of the best players on the ATP World Tour this season.

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2018 looked a lot like 2008, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic hoarding all the Major singles titles, and ending the year as the top three players in the world. Despite the lack of change at the top of the sport, there were several promising young talents who made significant progress this year.

 

Here’s a look at the best performers of 2018, listed in order of their year-end ranking.

Novak Djokovic

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  • 9,045 points
  • 53-12 match record (.815 winning percentage)
  • 4 titles, including 2 Majors (Wimbledon, US Open) and 2 Masters 1,000 events (Cincinnati and Shanghai)
  • 8 weeks ranked No.1, including the end of the year.

Recap: Has a world No.1 ever had such opposite halves of the season? Djokovic left Miami on a three-match losing streak following elbow surgery, and parted ways with his new coaching team of Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek. Novak brought Marian Vajda back into the fold, but results did not come right away. He was 6-6 coming into the Rome Masters, and had no titles through the first six months of the year. But everything changed at Wimbledon. His monumental win over Rafael Nadal in an extended semifinal was the turning point of the tennis year, and perhaps will prove to be a turning point in tennis history. Djokovic would win the last two Majors of the year, and go 35-3 in the second half of 2018. Now with 14 Major singles titles, he’s opening talking about overtaking Roger Federer’s mark of 20 Majors.

Rafael Nadal

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  • 7,480 points
  • 45-4 match record (.918 winning percentage)
  • 5 titles, including Roland Garros, 3 Masters 1,000 events (Monte Carlo, Madrid, Toronto), and Barcelona.
  • 36 weeks ranked No.1

Recap: Nadal did not play at all in Q4, but his 2018 accomplishments are still well worth recognition. With more titles, more weeks at No.1, and a better winning percentage on the year, an argument can even be made that Nadal should be named the best player of 2018 instead of Djokovic. Rafa only lost four matches on the year, and two of those were retirements. But with only nine tournaments played, missing significant portions of 2018 due to injury, and of course only one Major title compared to two for Novak, that argument is ultimately defeated. I’m curious to see how much Nadal’s body will allow him to play in 2019, especially as the Major title tally tightens between himself, Federer, and Djokovic.

Roger Federer

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  • 6,420 points
  • 48-10 match record (.828 winning percentage)
  • 4 titles, including the Australian Open, Rotterdam, Basel, and Stuttgart.
  • 8 weeks ranked No.1

Recap: At this stage of his career, any year where Federer remains close to fully healthy, wins a Major, and finishes the year ranked third in the world must be deemed a resounding success. I’m sure Roger would like a redo on a few matches from this year (the Indian Wells final and Wimbledon quarterfinal immediately come to mind, both matches in which Federer had match point). But Federer seems to quickly put disappointments like those behind him. The big questions surrounding Roger’s future are how much longer will he play, and can he add to his Grand Slam trophy room? The Majors will only become more difficult, especially if Djokovic continues on his current tear.

Sascha Zverev

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  • 6,385 points
  • 58-19 match record (.753 winning percentage)
  • 4 titles, including the ATP Finals, Madrid Masters, Washington, and Munich.
  • Spent the entire year ranked inside the top five.

Recap: The last two days of the season were the best of Sascha’s year. He defeated Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on consecutive days to win the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals. This may be the boost he needs to propel him to success at the Majors. While he made his first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam event in Paris this year, that remains his best Major result. That will likely change in 2019.

Juan Martin Del Potro

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  • 5,300 points
  • 47-13 match record (.783 winning percentage)
  • 2 titles, at back-to-back events in Acapulco and Indian Wells.
  • Reached a career-high ranking of No.3 in the world.

Recap: 2018 was a banner year for Del Potro, but as has happened all too often in his career, it ended with injury. Juan Martin won his first Masters 1,000 title at Indian Wells, and made the second Major final of his career, his first since 2009. And at Wimbledon, he played one of the best matches of the year, a near-five-hour defeat to Nadal. Unfortunately a knee injury he suffered in Shanghai ended his season early. Hopefully Del Potro is fully recovered as 2019 begins.

Kevin Anderson

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  • 4,710 points
  • 47-19 match record (.712 winning percentage)
  • 2 titles, including the New York Open, and his first 500-level event win in Vienna.
  • Reached a career-high ranking of No.5 in the world.

Recap: In 2018, Kevin Anderson proved his surprise appearance in the 2017 US Open Final was not a fluke. He also dismissed his reputation of choking under pressure at multiple turns. This was especially evident at Wimbledon, where he came back from two sets down and saved a match point to upset Roger Federer. Two days later, he outlasted John Isner in the longest Wimbledon semifinal in history. He ended the year with the biggest title of his career in Vienna, and advancing out of the round robin stage in his ATP Finals debut. There’s no reason to believe Anderson’s career will not continue to ascend in 2019.

Marin Cilic

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  • 4,250 points
  • 44-20 match record (.688 winning percentage)
  • 1 title (Queen’s Club)
  • Reached a career-high ranking of No.3 in the world.

Recap: Cilic started the year extremely strongly, making his third Major final in Melbourne, where he pushed Federer to a fifth set. In June, he saved a match point to defeat Djokovic in the Queen’s Club final. But it was at Wimbledon where his year took a turn, as the second half of his season saw him choke away leads to almost a dozen opponents. However, Marin ended the year by clinching the Davis Cup title for his country of Croatia, which may be exactly what Cilic needed to regain his confidence heading into 2019.

Dominic Thiem

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  • 4,095 points
  • 54-20 match record (.730 winning percentage)
  • 3 titles (Buenos Aires, Lyon, St. Petersburg)
  • Spent the entire year ranked inside the top 10.

Recap: As usual, Thiem’s clay court results were impressive. For the second straight year, he was the only player to defeat Nadal on the terra baute. And at Roland Garros, Dominic advanced to his first Major final. But the most impressive part of Thiem’s year was his hard court play. Historically a poor performer in the second half of the season, Thiem played some excellent tennis in taking out Kevin Anderson at the US Open. And in the quarterfinal, he played one of the best matches of the year in a loss to Nadal, a match that went past 2:00am in the morning. While Thiem is yet to win an event bigger than 500-level, he seems poised for a breakthrough in the coming year.

2018 Honorable Mentions

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Kei Nishikori started the year missing the Australian Open due to injury, and playing challenger events to get match tough again. Yet he still was able to be one of the tour most consistent performs of 2018. John Isner won the biggest title of his career in Miami, and made his second Major semifinal at Wimbledon. 22-year-old Karen Khachanov won three titles in 2018, most notably defeating Novak Djokovic to claim the Masters 1,000 event in Paris. 22-year-old Borna Coric twice defeated Roger Federer, including in the final of the grass court event in Halle, and ended the year as a Davis Cup champion. 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas was the revelation of the season, making the finals in Barcelona and Toronto. He ended the year by winning Stockholm, as well as the Next Gen ATP Finals.

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Casper Ruud Opens Up About What It Is Like Playing Roger Federer

The 21-year-old explains what it is like to face somebody who is considered by some as the ‘greatest legend’ in tennis.

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Norway’s top tennis player admitted that he had difficulty sleeping the night before he was set to play Roger Federer for the first time in his career.

 

Casper Ruud has shed light on what it was like for him playing the Swiss Maestro during an interview with TV 2. The 21-year-old took on Federer in the third round of the French Open last year which he ended up losing 6-3, 6-1, 7-6. At the time it was only Ruud’s fourth appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

“When you meet the man who is considered the greatest legend in your sport in history, it is clear that then you were a little extra nervous,” he said of 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
“I remember before I was going to play against Federer, it was a bit difficult to sleep the night before. When you lie with your head on the pillow, your thoughts come.”

Ruud says Federer’s achievements in the sport made him feel more nervous about playing him. Overall, the 39-year-old has won 103 ATP titles and currently holds the record for most time spent holding the world No.1 ranking at 310 weeks. He played his first ATP event at the 1998 Gstaad Open, which was a year before Ruud was born.

Although the Next Gen star says he has admiration for all members of the Big Three, which also include Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The two highest ranked players currently on the men’s tour.

“It was in Melbourne a few years ago, and then I remember that we sat in a large cafe where all the players sit to eat. When Federer came in, it was completely quiet and everyone turned around. Now the legend is here,” he said.
“These three legends, they look taller than they might be. They are probably around 1.85 meters, but it may seem that they are two meters because of the respect you have for them.”

Since his meeting with Federer in Paris, Ruud has managed to make a name for himself as he gradually climbs up the world rankings. In February he won the Argentina Open to become the first Norwegian player in history to have won a title on the ATP Tour. He also reached the final of another tournament in Santiago. In September he defeated Matteo Berrettini in the Italian Open to record his first and so far only win over a top 10 player in his career.

“I do not remember everyone in my career. But there are some matches that stand out a bit, and that you remember extra well. Some ball exchanges, some punches here and there that you get, which you usually do not do. It is something that stands out a bit,” Ruud explains.

Unusually Ruud confirmed that both of his parents are now classed as his employees. He is coached by his father Christian who is a former player himself. Christian is a former world No.39 who was his country’s highest ranked male player in history until his son.

“The ultimate boss is probably (my) mother. She rules over both of us. In between at least,” he jokes.

After ending his season with three consecutive Tour losses, Ruud closes out 2020 with a win-loss record of 22-13 and has won $965,653 in prize money. He is currently ranked 27th in the world.
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Six Next Gen players to watch in 2021

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Six under 21 players born in the 2000s have come to the fore this season and are ready to make a major breakthrough in the coming years. 

 

We look back at the Next Gen season featuring six Next Gen players outside the top 100 (Thiago Seyboth Wild, Lorenzo Musetti, Sebastian Korda, Carlos Alcaraz, Hugo Gaston and Brandon Nakashima), who produced an impact on the ATP Tour and Challenger season in 2020 and could break into the top 100 next year. 

Thiago Seyboth Wild (world number 115) born in 2000

The 20-year-old Brazilian player emerged in 2018 when he won the US Open Junior title. He became the first ATP Tour champion born in 2000s when he beat number 1 seed Christian Garin in Santiago, followed by Norwegian clay specialist Casper Ruud 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the final. At the age of 19 Seyboth Wild became the youngest Brazilian champion in ATP Tour history and the youngest champion during the Golden Swing since an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal won the Acapulco title in 2005. 

Seyboth Wild was the lowest-ranked winner at World number 182 and the youngest tour-level champion at 19 years and 11 months. He broke into top 200 in the ATP Ranking on 24 February and climbed up 69 positions reaching his career-high of world number 113 on 2 March. 

“It’s an incredible achievement. It’s something I have always dreamed about”, said Seyboth Wild.

Thiago saved three match points to beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the first round in Rio de Janeiro as wildcard after 3 hours and 49 minutes in the longest ATP Tour match since the 2009 Madrid semifinal, when Rafa Nadal beat Novak Djokovic after 4 hours and 3 minutes.

Sebastian Korda (world number 117) born in 2000

Sebastian Korda is following in the footsteps of his father Petr Korda, who won the Australian Open title in 1998 and reached the French Open final in 1992, and tennis player Regina Rajchrtova. Sebastian grew up playing competitive ice hockey, but he decided to switch to tennis at the age of 9 after accompanying his father Petr to the US Open in 2009. 

The US player of Czech origin made a step forward in his career last summer, when he qualified for the main draw at the Western and Southern Open in New York by beating Gilles Simon. Korda pushed Denis Shapovalov in a four-set match in the first round at the US Open. 

At Roland Garros Sebastian came through the qualifying rounds to reach the main draw before beating Andreas Seppi and John Isner to get through the third round. He then beat Pedro Martinez becoming the first qualifier to reach the Round of 16 at Roland Garros in nine years. Korda won just four games in his straight-set defeat against 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, but the young US player will never forget this moment. 

“It was definitely the best moment of my life. It was super awesome”, said Korda. 

Korda went on to clinch his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Eckental (Germany). 

Lorenzo Musetti (world number 127) born in 2002

Lorenzo Musetti followed in the footsteps of Jannik Sinner, who won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in 2019 and claimed his maiden ATP Tour title in Sofia this year. 

Musetti, who won the Australian Open title in 2019, made his ATP Tour debut last February in Dubai, where he lost to Andrey Rublev in Dubai. 

Musetti entered the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome as the World Number 249 and dropped a set in two of his three qualifying matches. The Italian 18-year-old player went on to upset former top 10 players Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in back-to-back matches to reach the third round for the first round in his career. Musetti became the first player to reach the third round in Rome since Frenchman Fabrice Santoro in 1991. 

Musetti lost in the third round against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer. The Italian teenager carried the momentum winning his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Forlì and became the youngest semifinalist of the season at the Sardinia Open in Santa Margherita di Pula as a wild-card. 

Lorenzo’s father is a marble producer. His mother is a secretary. The only coach in his career is Simone Tartarini. Lorenzo considers him as his second father. 

Carlos Alcaraz (world number 140) born in 2003

Spanish rising star Carlos Alcaraz grabbed the headlines last February before his 17-year-old birthday, when he beat Albert Ramos Vinolas 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 7-6 (7-2) after 3 hours and 37 minutes in the ATP 500 tournament in Rio de Janeiro in his debut on the ATP Tour at 3.00 local time. 

Alcaraz went on to become the youngest player to win ATP Challenger Tour trophies in consecutive weeks and the second youngest player to claim three titles in Challenger history. Only Richard Gasquet was younger, when he won his third title in Naples in 2003. 

Alcaraz beat Musetti in the semifinal of the ATP Challenger in Trieste en route to winning his first Challenger title. The Spanish player coached by former world number 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero won two back-to back titles in Barcelona (beating Damir Dzumhur in the final) and Alicante. 

Alcaraz has ended the season with a record of 39 wins to just 7 defeats. 

Hugo Gaston (world number 161) born in 2000

Hugo Gaston entered the French Open without a tour-level win and a semifinal at ATP Tour Challenger in Bergamo as his best result. The 20-year-old Frenchman beat Yoshihito Nishioka to reach the third round in the Paris Grand Slam tournament. Gaston entertained the few French fans with his drop-shot in his five-set win over 2015 Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka to reach the fourth round for the first first time in his career. The player from Toulouse became the lowest-ranked player to reach the fourth round at the French Open since world number 283 Arnaud Di Pasquale in 2002 and the first Frenchman to reach the fourth round in Roland Garros debut since Patrice Dominguez in 1971. 

Gaston lost against US Open champion and two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem in five sets. 

Gaston made his Grand Slam main draw at the Australian Open as a wild card losing to Jaume Munar in the first round. 

Brandon Nakashima (world number 166) born in 2001

Nakashima received a wild-card to his first ATP main draw tournament in Delray Beach. The young US player beat Jiri Vesely and Cameron Norrie to become the youngest quarter finalist since Kei Nishikori won this tournament at the age of 18 in 2008. 

Nakashima won his first Grand Slam match against Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi at the US Open and claimed his maiden ATP Challenger title in Orlando. He advanced to the ATP Challenger semifinal at Indian Wells.  

Nakashima is coached by 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. Brandon’s mother grew up in Vietnam. His father is of Japanese ancestry and was born in California. 

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Greg Rusedski Fuels Rumours Of Andy Murray Retirement In 2021

Will 2021 be a farewell Tour for the three-time Grand Slam champion?

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Former British No.1 Greg Rusedski has suggested that Andy Murray could possibly be gearing up for a final farewell from tennis as early as next year.

 

The former US Open finalist, who now works as a TV analyst for Prime Sport, told Tennis365 that he thinks it is possible that Murray could play his farewell tournament at Wimbledon next year which will be the 16th anniversary of his Grand Slam debut at the event. Murray has been hampered by various injury setbacks since 2017 and has undergone two hip operations within as many years. This season he has also been troubled by pelvic bruising and was forced to pull out of his final tournament in Cologne due to an injury in the same area.

Rusedski is hoping that his fellow countryman will be able to get back in top form in time for the Wimbledon Championships next July. In 2020 the Grand Slam was cancelled for the first time since World War Two this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I hope for Murray that he can have a big Wimbledon Championship and there is a crowd for him there,” said Rusedski. “He’s got problems with the hip still so for me for him to win a major I think it’s too hard for him, but he could still have a good run.
“Even to win a Masters Series is a big ask, semis possibly. Masters Series is back-to-back and he hasn’t had much tennis during Covid. Who knows if Wimbledon could be his last event?
“He’s had an incredible career. Two Wimbledon titles, two Olympics golds, world No.1, he has nothing to prove to anyone.“

Murray has only managed to play in four tournaments this year due to both injury and the pandemic. Overall, he has won three out of seven matches played with his best run being at the Western and Southern Open where he defeated Alexander Zverev en route to the third round.

“I’ve seen enough in the limited amount I have played in the last year. I was beating a top-10 player in Cincinnati, and then obviously at the end of last year I was still winning against guys like Stan [Wawrinka, in the European Open final],” Murray told reporters earlier this week.

Despite speculation over his future, the 33-year-old hasn’t mentioned the possibility of retirement next season as he continues his preparation for the Australian swing on the Tour in January. Speaking to BBC Scotland, he said that one of his goals for 2021 would be to play at the Olympics, where he would be bidding to win the singles title for a third consecutive time. The Games take place after Wimbledon.

“I would love to play in the Olympics again, to get another opportunity to do that would be huge for me,” he said. “It would be one of my top five priorities for the year, obviously I’d love to get the opportunity to play at Wimbledon, same with the Aussie Open. If I’m fit and well, I’d be pumped to go and try and win another medal in Tokyo.”

Murray is currently ranked 121st in the world.

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