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ATP Sport Tennis

No 28. Borna Coric

After a career-best season in 2018 ending at 12 in the rankings, Coric fell back to 28 in 2019. His slide was in part due to some injuries such as back and hamstring that saw him miss Wimbledon, withdraw early at the US Open and concede a quarter-final at Halle. His first half of the season was reasonably consistent but after injuries hit he struggled to regain form later in the year and finished with a six-match losing streak.

Coric has a steady backcourt game and does most things competently on the court. However, at 22 and with a strong contingent in his age bracket, he will need to stay healthy if he is to push up in the rankings to where he was in 2018. My thoughts on Coric are “Baby Novak”, reliable, bland and sometimes-fiery.

Baby Novak: In the same way Dimitrov can look like a “Baby Fed” with a similar style to Federer, so do I think of Borna and Novak. It’s a solid backcourt game with minimal errors and lacking flair but not effectiveness. He wins a lot of his points due to mistakes from his opponent.

Reliable: No-frills consistency and counter punching that gets things done consistently for Borna.

Bland:  With minimal flair in his game or risk-taking Borna is not the most watchable player for me.

Sometimes-fiery: True to his Novak inspired game he can occasionally let loose angrily on the court like Novak and has had some epic racquet smashes just like his inspiration.

Likes: When fit, he tends always to give a good account of himself in matches. I admire that he is consistently hard to beat even for the very best. He doesn’t grunt, make excuses or sook, which I admire in players a lot.

Dislikes: His lack of flare is not my cup of tea to watch.

Areas for improvement: He could most benefit from improving his return which is on the lower side for a top ATP player. His forehand is not as strong as his backhand, and his inside variations need to be better. For Borna to improve his flare and variety, his homework is to watch the best all-court attacking player of the modern era on YouTube.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 29. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Tsonga struggled with significant injuries the past few seasons that saw his ranking balloon out past 250 at one point in 2018. For him to push into the top 30 finishing the year at 29 is a mighty effort. He won titles at Metz and Montpellier continuing his career trend of playing well in his home country.

Tsonga’s game style has followed the modern trend with a big serve and big forehand his significant weapons of choice. At 34 years of age, those two shots and staying injury-free will be the key to whether he can stay inside the top 30 in 2020. Thoughts for Tsonga are forceful, offensive and passionate.

Forceful: He is 188cms (6′ 2″) which is not tall for a tennis player, but he has a powerful body and presence on the court with his imposing power.

Offensive: Tsonga plays with an attacking style and likes to take the initiative and try to win points rather than waiting for opponent mistakes.

Passionate:  He plays with passion and shows his emotions on the court. He plays with a particular flair in front of his home fans. 

Likes: Takes the game on with big serve and crunching forehands.

Dislikes: Tsonga is so likeable, and no dislikes from me.

Areas for improvement: His backhand and return are the weakest parts of his game. At 34 could he improve them? It is improbable given the backhand particularly has needed improving for many years. For Tsonga, I suspect it is a matter of staying fit, refining his strengths which are; serve, forehand and volley and strategizing well to maximize their usage as often as possible. Jo’s homework is to watch another player with a superb forehand, serve and volley who is well past 30 years old and knows how to maximize his strengths on YouTube.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 27. Pablo Carreno Busta

Carreno Busta mostly treaded water this year slipping only four places in the rankings to number 27. He started strongly at the Australian Open reaching the 4th round where he squandered a 2 set lead to lose in dramatic circumstances to a gallant Kei Nishikori. He suffered shoulder problems which saw him miss ten weeks and plummet to 69 before he rallied and with the help of a title at Chengdu finished at 27.

Pablo has a steady, well-rounded game, and I would expect him to be in the mix for a top 30 place again in 2020. When I think of him, words that come to mind are pest, baseliner, one-dimensional and bland.

Pest: Pablo has a bulletproof backcourt game and can use his high endurance and consistent strokes to wear down his opponent. He can prove a real pest for attacking players to breakdown.

Baseliner: He prefers to play on the baseline and try to work his opponent around the court, looking for opportunities to press with his strong groundstrokes.

One-dimensional:  His game lacks variety, and steady strokes from the back of the court waiting on opponent errors seem to be his primary method to win points.

Bland: His game style I find quite tedious to watch.

Likes: He can get involved in some epic rallies when playing against opponents who possess equally good groundstrokes. His endurance, consistent strokes and speed can see him stay in points lesser players would not survive in.

Dislikes: His lack of variety and flare are not captivating.

Areas for improvement: His standout weakness is his serve. He does not produce enough service winners or cheap points with it. Top players expose his lack of variety and his homework is to watch the best all-court attacking player of the modern era on YouTube.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 26. Nikoloz Basilashvili

It was a steady season in 2019 for Basilashvili with quarter-final efforts at Doha, Dubai, Budapest and Metz. He defended his title in Hamburg and achieved a career-high ranking of 16 with a semi-final at Lyon.

Basilashvili will need to continue to evolve his game if he is to remain in the top 30 in 2020. My thoughts for Nikoloz are hard-hitting, baseliner, one-dimensional and boring.

Hard-hitting: Nikoloz seems to know only one way to hit the ball, and that is as hard as he possibly can.

Baseliner: He prefers to play on the baseline and try to dominate from there.

One-dimensional:  Basilashvili seems to know only know one way, and that is to hit hard from the baseline. His game lacks variety.

Boring: The combination of being a baseliner and one-dimensional make him quite dull to watch.

Likes: When he is having a good day can belt winners, past opponents.

Dislikes: Never seems to find a way to beat the very best. He can bully lesser opponents with his hard-hitting style but often comes up short against those ranked lower than him.

Areas for improvement: As a baseliner, his volley is unsurprisingly weak. He could evolve his game with the use of slice and different speeds on his shots and develop a drop shot. It’s this lack of variation that the top players expose. His homework is to watch the best all-court attacking player of the modern era on YouTube.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 25. Guido Pella

Pella enjoyed his most successful season in 2019. He won his first title at Sao Paulo and despite being considered a clay specialist made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

At 29 years of age without any significant weapons, Guido will need to work even harder to keep his top 30 ranking in 2020. Thoughts for Pella are steady, bland and tough.

Steady: Pella doesn’t possess any stand out weapons and likes to wear opponents down.

Bland: He is not the least bit exciting or entertaining to watch, and his style is dull.

Tough: He has toughed it out on tour since 2007, and his never give up approach has seen him reach highs in 2019. His hardiness is evidenced in his liking for clay and ability to out-hustle his opponents on that surface.

Likes: I like that he always gives 100% and is professional. He may not be entertaining, but I admire his application to the game.

Dislikes: Not my cup of tea to watch, but that is nothing against him :-).

Areas for improvement: Guido’s backhand is ordinary and his volley on the weak side. Although his forehand is decent, he could develop his down the line variant, which is error-prone. His homework is to watch fellow lefty Rafa on YouTube.