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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.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 24. Benoit Paire

Benoit had a very successful season in 2019 winning two titles on clay at Marrakesh and Lyon. He also made the final at Winston Salem as well as the 4th rounds at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

Paire is a very talented player who will be in the hunt for a top 30 spot again in 2020. I think of him as colourful, entertaining, streaky and volatile.

Colourful: Benoit would likely play the most amount of trick shots per match than anyone else on tour. He expresses his emotions on the court with his racquet.

Entertaining: Ever the showman Paire will get the crowd going with shots like tweener approaches and tweener volleys when a standard stroke would be more than enough to win the point.

Streaky: He can find hot patches in matches and is capable of winning a set in quick time with his strong backhand and serving.

Volatile: Paire can get aggravated when things don’t go as he wants and can snap quickly by unleashing a racquet smash or engaging with the crowd angrily.

Likes: That he avoids bland play at all costs preferring to have fun and do unusual things on the court. Often wears some very nice Lacoste gear.

Dislikes: Sometimes erupts like a volcano and can sweat the small stuff for no apparent reason. Paire hasn’t been able to find his best form against top 10 players.

Areas for improvement: Paire’s forehand is well below ATP top 100 standards. Also, Benoit’s first-serve percentage (52%) is on the low side for a top ATP player. He has a good volley, and a world-class backhand so needs to find ways to maximize those strengths and get his forehand up to average standard. For homework, he could do worse than watch the most versatile well-rounded forehand of the modern era on YouTube.

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ATP Sport Tennis

No 23. Andrey Rublev

Rublev was on the comeback from injury, and although he had to battle through some ups and downs in 2019, it was a very successful season for him. He won his hometown tournament in Moscow and made the 4th round at the US Open. He also posted wins over top 10 players Tsitsipas and Federer.

With injury now behind him, Andrey should continue to improve as he is only 22 years of age. Therefore I expect him to be in line for a top 30 place next season. When I think of him, words are grunter, hard-hitting, aggressive and skinny.

Grunter: He likes to hit the ball hard and grunts on all forceful shots. Grunting is a pet peeve of mine, so I do find it hard to watch him sometimes. I have done this at times by turning off the volume if he is involved in a match I like.

Hard-hitting: Except for touch shots, this man seems to crush everything all the time.

Aggressive: With his hard-hitting, he is not one to wait for something to happen in a rally. He will particularly on the forehand side, try to take control of a point and hit his opponent off the court as soon as possible.

Likes: I like his mindset to grab hold of the point and try to win it off his racquet and not wait for opponent errors.

Skinny: At 22 years of age and standing 188 cms (6′ 2″) he weighs only 70 kilos. I feel like he needs to develop his strength more and increase his nutritional intake. Perhaps because of his injuries, he has been unable to spend more time strengthening his body.

Dislikes: As mentioned likes to grunt (a lot) and that is a problem for me :-).

Areas for improvement: Serve, and volleys are two glaring areas for improvement. He doesn’t get enough service winners, and when he comes to the net, his volley skills are below average. Homework for Rublev is to watch the best volleyer on tour and best server of anyone who is not a giant on YouTube.