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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Fabio Fognini wins epic five-set match against Jordan Thompson

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Fabio Fognini battled past local favourite Jordan Thompson 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 3-6 4-6 7-6 in an epic five set match to score his five-set win at this year’s edition of the Australian Open.

 

The first set went on serve in the first five games. Fognini earned the first game in the sixth game, but Thompson broke back to draw level to 4-4. Fognini won the tie-break 7-4 after saving two set points in the 10th game.

Fognini earned an early break in the second game of the second set with a forehand passing shot. The Italian star went up a double break at 15 to race out to a 4-0 lead and closed out the second set 6-1 on his second set point.

Thompson saved two break points in the first game of the third set before breaking serve in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead. The Australian player saved a break point at deuce in the ninth game and held his serve to win the third set 6-3.

Both players went on serve with no break points in the first four games of the fourth set. Thompson converted his only break point in the fifth game and held his serve at 15 to open up a 4-2 lead. The home player did not look back in the next games to win the fourth set 6-4 forcing the match to the fifth set.

Fognini started the fifth set with a hold at love. The fifth set went on serve with no break points until the eighth game when Fognini earned the first break point of the set, but Thompson saved it at deuce to draw level to 4-4. Fognini earned his first match point at 5-4 with a forehand down the line. Thompson saved it with a big ace down the middle.

Thompson fended off another match point with a forehand down the line before holding serve after five deuces to draw level to 5-5. Fognini earned two consecutive match points, but Thompson saved them to force a super tie-break. Thompson made a forehand error at 1-1, but Fognini  double faulted. Fognini took a 7-3 lead after two unforced errors from Thomson. Fognini sealed the fifth set 10-4 with a backhand down the line after 4 hours and 5 minutes. Fognini will face Argentina’s Guido Pella.

“It was a good fight. It was amazing. It’s perfect. I feel good. I am tired for sure. I was two sets to zero in front. He was playing better, he was serving unbelievable. I had 75 match points, and it is more sweat, because it is tood easy winning in three sets”, joked Fognini.

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Marin Cilic takes the Match tie-break to beat Benoit Paire in Melbourne

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Marin Cilic battled past Benoit Paire 6-2 6-7 (8-10) 3-6 6-1 7-6 (10-3) in the match tie-break after 3 hours and 33 minutes in windy conditions to advance to the third round at the Australian Open. Paire won 82 % of his first serve points, but he made 51 unforced errors.

 

Cilic broke three times in a row to seal the opening set 6-2. Paire rallied from 3-5 down to win the tie-break 10-8. Paire earned a break of serve at deuce in the eighth game to win the third set 6-3. Cilic broke twice in the second and sixth games to win the fourth set 6-1.

Each player saved a break point in the fifth set, but they held on their service games en route to reaching the the match tie-break, where Cilic sealed the win 10-3.

Cilic booked his spot in the third-round, where he will face Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who came back from one set down to beat Michael Mmoh 5-7 6-2 6-4 6-1 after 2 hours and 44 minutes. The match was moved to the Melbourne Arena after it was interrupted by rain, when Mmoh was leading 2-1 in the fourth set.

Last year’s Australian Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the third round, when Phillip Kohlschreiber pulled out of the match due to a muscle injury. Tsitsipas set up a third round match against Milos Raonic, who converted each of his four break points to beat Cristian Garin 6-3 6-4 6-2.

Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics beat last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner 6-4 6-4 6-3 after 2 hours and 16 minutes. Fucsovics earned his first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Sinner broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3, but Fucsovics earned another break in the next game to take the opening set 6-4. Fucsovics went up an early break in the first game of the second set, but Sinner broke straight back. Sinner dropped his serve at love in the seventh game to lose the second set 6-4. Sinner went up a 2-0 lead with an early break. Fucsovics broke straight back in the third game to claw his way back to 1-2. Fucsovics broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and sealed the win in the ninth game on his first match point.

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Tennys Sandgren battles past Matteo Berrettini in five sets to reach the third round at the Australian Open

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Tennys Sandgren stunned number 8 seed and 2019 US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 4-6 2-6 7-5 to reach the third round at the Australian Open in Melbourne. The Tennessee player achieved the best result of his career two years ago, when he beat two top 10 players to reach the quarter final at the 2017 Australian Open.

 

Both players held on their service games throughout the first set en route to the tie-break. Sandgren saved a set point at 5-6 with a forehand. The US player earned a set point at 7-6, but Berrettini fended it off with a big forehand. Sandgren got the tie-break after an error from Berrettini at 7-7.

Sandgren went up a break at 2-2 and held on his service games to seal the second set 6-4 earning a two-set lead. Berrettini forced an error from Sandgren at 5-4 to earn the break and seal the third set.

Berrettini went up a double break to win the fourth set 6-2 forcing the match to the decisive set. The Italian player earned three break points, when Sandgren was serving at 3-4. The US player saved them to hold serve. Sandgren broke serve at 5-5, when Berrettini sent a forehand into the net and sealed the win with a strong first serve.

“It’s a top 10 win at a Slam, so it’s up there for sure. I was injured for most of the Fall. I tore a ligament and got a stress fracture in my toe. After the US Open I played one week in Asia and then I was done. I had five to six weeks where I did not have any points to defend and could have pushed higher in the rankings but I could not play. I felt I played in spurts last year. I had some good weeks at Slams. I like these tournaments a lot. Sometimes you can get lost a little bit when you are playing 30 or 35 weeks a year. I feel my game comes together in these weeks”, said Sandgren.

Sandgren set up a third round match against his compatriot Sam Querrey, who edged past Ricardas Berankis 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-4 6-4. Querrey hit 26 aces and won 87 % of his first serve points. Querrey reached the quarter final at Wimbledon and the semifinal in Eastbourne.

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