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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Kei Nishikori completes his third came-back win to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open

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Kei Nishikori won his third five-set match at this year’s edition of the Australian Open by completing his third come-back from two sets down with a 6-7 (8-10) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-6 (10-8) win over Pablo Carreno Busta after a 5-hour and 5-minute battle.

Kei Nishikori lived up to his reputation as a marathon man, when he completed his third come-from-behind win at the 2019 Australian Open following up his previous two five-set wins over Kamil Majchrzak and Ivo Karlovic.

Carreno Busta went down a break twice in the early stages of the opening set, but he managed to pull back both breaks in the fourth and sixth games to draw level to 3-3. Nishikori got an early mini-break to take a 2-0 lead, but Carreno Busta won three consecutive points for 3-2 after three errors from Nishikori. The Spaniard did not convert three set points at 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7, but he converted his fourth chance for 10-8 with a forehand winner.

Carreno Busta went up a set and a break with two forehand winners in the third game before saving two break points at 2-1. The Spanish player did not convert two set points at 5-3, when he made two forehand errors as Nishikori was serving at 15-40, but he closed out the second set at love in the 10th game.

Nishikori went down a break in the fifth game of the third set, but he broke straight back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Nishikori won the tie-break 7-4 to keep his hopes alive Nishikori broke serve in the first game of the fourth set at 30, but Carreno Busta broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Nishikori broke for the second time in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and earned three break points for 5-2 in the seventh game, but Carreno Busta held his serve. Nishikori held his next three service games at love to seal the fourth set 6-4.

Nishikori converted his third break point chance in the third game of the fifth set to take a 2-1 lead. The Japanese player came back from 15-40 down in the sixth game to hold his serve at deuce for 4-2, but he dropped his serve while he was serving for the match in the 10th game at 5-4. Carreno Busta built up a 8-5 lead in the decisive super tie-break, but Nishikori reeled off the final five points to seal a thrilling five-set match.

“I don’t know what to say. That was the toughest match. I have no idea how I broke back and I fough my way through. It was a great match. I feel like I have not played enough. It hasn’t been easy of course, especially not today. It was hard against Karlovic with a super tie-break, but today had longer rallies”, said Nishikori.

The Japanese star will face Novak Djokovic, who beat Danil Medvedev 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-2 in his fourth round match. Djokovic leads 15-2 in his 17 head-to-head matches against Nishikori.

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Lucas Pouille beats Borna Coric in four sets to set up a quarter final against Milos Raonic in Melbourne

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Lucas Pouille upset Borna Coric in four sets by the scoreline of 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 7-5 7-6 (7-2) after 3 hours and 15 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Pouille set up a quarter final against Canadian player Milos Raonic, who beat Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-1 7-6 (7-5). The Frenchman has not won a single set in his three head-to-head matches against Raonic.

Coric broke serve in the first game of the opening set, but Pouille pulled back the break in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next games to set up a tie-break. Coric converted the first of his two set points at 6-4 in the tie-break with his ninth ace to close out the first set.

Pouille got the only break in the seventh game of the second set to draw level to 1 set apiece after Coric made his fourth double fault the match and a forehand error.

Both players held their serve in the first ten games of the third set. Coric went down 0-40 on serve in the 11th game, but he managed to saved the first two break points. Pouille converted his third opportunity with a forehand winner to seal the third set 7-5.

Pouille got an immediate break in the first game of the fourth set. Coric converted his fourth break-back point chance at deuce to draw level to 4-4 setting up a second tie-break. Pouille sealed the win on his first match point, when Coric made his 55th unforced error of the match.

Pouille fired 57 winners and won 66 % of his second serve points.

Lucas Pouille has become the 13th French player to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open and the first since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2017. The Frenchman reached the third quarter final at Grand Slam level in his career after Wimbledon and the US Open in 2016.

Pouille lost in the first round for the fifth consecutive year at the 2018 edition of the Australian Open and won his fifth title in Montpellier against his compatriot Richard Gasquet after saving two match points in the semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Pouille reached a career-high of world number 10 after advancing to his third ATP Tour level final in Dubai, where he lost against Roberto Bautista Agut. After a difficult second half of the season Pouille hired Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.

“It feels great. It has been a tough match against Borna. He is one of the best players in the world. The last time we played I lost 6-4 in the third set, so I knew what to expect. A few points here and there. In the first tie-break I had 5-4 and made two lets and the ball went out. It was just a few details that made the difference. I am now very happy to be in the quarter final. The atmosphere is great here. In the previous round I played against Popyrin, an Australian guy, and the atmosphere was just electric”,said Pouille.

Pouille has not won a set in his three head-to-head matches against his next rival Milos Raonic and lost in straight sets against the Canadian player in their previous head-to-head match at the 2016 Australian Open.

“He is playing well. I watched the match against Alexander Zverev. I am going to be ready for it and try to reach my first semifinal”,said Pouille.

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Racket-Smashing Alexander Zverev Unfazed By Shock Australian Open Exit

The world No.4 reacts to his disappointing loss at Melbourne Park.

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‘I’m not happy, but I’m not depressed’ was Alexander Zverev’s response to his surprise defeat to Milos Raonic at the Australian Open.

The German fourth seed produced an erratic performance during his 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(5), loss to the world No.17 as he failed to hold serve in six out of his first seven service games. Zverev’s lacklustre performance saw him make more unforced errors than winners (23-21) and produced 10 double faults. At one stage of the match, Zverev let his own emotions get the better of him. Trailing 1-6, 1-4, he decided to destroy one of his rackets on the court. An act that unsurprisingly earned him a code violation.

“It made me feel better. I was very angry, so I let my anger out.” Zverev said during his press conference.
“I played bad. The first two sets, especially, I played horrible. I mean, it’s just tough to name one thing. I didn’t serve well, didn’t play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it’s tough to come back from that.”

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1087214145957752833

Monday’s loss continues Zverev’s patchy record in grand slam tournaments. Tipped by many as a future world No.1 in the sport, he has only managed to reach the quarter-finals of a major in one out of 15 attempts. His sole success was at the French Open last year. On the other hand, his run to the last 16 in Melbourne was his best run yet at the tournament.

“I’m not happy, but I’m not depressed, either. It’s fine. It’s a tennis match.” He reflected.
“I have learned to take tennis matches as tennis matches and not the end of the world. If I would think it’s the end of the world every time I lose a tennis match, I would be very depressed about 15 to 20 times a year. So I’m not going to do that.”

Heading into the Australian Open, there were concerns about Zverev’s fitness. The week prior he was dealing with issues concerning his hamstring and foot. However, the 21-year-old ruled out that any kind of injury had an impact of his match against Raonic.

Trying to pinpoint the cause of his display, the world No.4 admitted that he would have liked a longer off-season. Zverev ended 2018 by winning the ATP Finals on November 19th and returned to action on December 30th to play in the Hopman Cup alongside Angelique Kerber.

“For sure, I didn’t have a very long off-season, didn’t have a lot of rest. But, you know, this is us as tennis players. I’m happy how the season ended. I wouldn’t want it the other way.” Zverev stated.
“It’s always a give and take. If the season is 11 months long, it’s always that kind of give and take in what you do, how you rest, and how much work you put in. That’s just how it is for us tennis players.” He added.

Zverev’s conqueror Raonic will play either Lucas Pouille or Borna Coric in the next round.

Zverev’s grand slam record

Tournament 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 W–L Win %
Australian Open A Q1 1R 3R 3R 4R 7–4 64%
French Open A Q2 3R 1R QF 6–3 67%
Wimbledon A 2R 3R 4R 3R 8–4 67%
US Open Q2 1R 2R 2R 3R 4–4 50%
Win–Loss 0–0 1–2 5–4 6–4 10–4 3–1 25–15 62%

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