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Super-Seven for a new decade

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and to a lesser extent Andy Murray dominated the ATP for the past decade. As we enter a new decade which players might take control of the ATP tour?

The standout candidates heading into the new decade I think are Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Denis Shapovalov, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Alexander Zverev. When we look back in ten years, I imagine these seven will have shared the majority of big titles on the ATP tour. Therefore, we may find ourselves with a super-seven rather than a big-four.

Once Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have retired, it is not hard to imagine these seven players battling each other for big titles consistently. Leaving the youngest Sinner aside for a moment, the other six have now had at least one year on tour, and we can see that they are very accomplished players who still have varying degrees of scope for improvement. Thiem is the most mature and arguably next in line for grand slam success having already contested two finals at Roland Garros. However, he may find himself in a predicament wherein as he comes to his peak the old guard of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are still very much in contention and may deny him a major. Then as they leave the game, the other six are all in or coming into their prime.

Jannik Sinner is the most speculative selection of this group since we have only had a look at his first abbreviated year on tour in 2019. Based on what I have seen and the performance markers of past players at the same age, I am confident he will be an active force particularly toward the back half of the decade.

For a time, I was somewhat depressed at the thought of having an ATP tour that did not include Federer. There are no players with the style and completeness of Federer’s game, however, during 2019 the accomplishments of these seven players have given me hope that the ATP tour is going to be very exciting during this next decade.

Which players do you think are going to be at the top for the next ten years?

*Honourable mentions to Andre Rublev and Alex de Minaur who miss out on my super-seven.

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2020 Top 30 Prediction

When I started to put these rankings for each player in order, it became apparent very quickly that this is an impossibly difficult task. Having watched players over time, you get an idea of where you think their abilities lie. However, there is so much more to it.

Many variables go into it, such as:

  • injury concerns
  • how many points a player is defending
  • any improvement or decline a player may expect (technical or mental)
  • their age – sometimes aging a year is good and sometimes not
  • any changes to their staff
  • any changes in their personal lives
  • how did luck play a part in their 2019 ranking?

Another big unknown is tournament draws. All this adds up to probably the most challenging prediction in world sport. But here goes:

PlayerRank
Novak Djokovic1
Alexander Zverev2
Rafael Nadal3
Dominic Thiem4
Stefanos Tsitsipas5
Roger Federer6
Denis Shapovalov7
Stan Wawrinka8
Daniil Medvedev9
Grigor Dimitrov10
Marin Cilic11*
Borna Coric12
Pablo Carreno Busta13
David Goffin14
Alex de Minaur15
Fabio Fognini16
Jannik Sinner17*
Matteo Berrettini18
Diego Schwartzman19
Felix Auger-Aliassime20
Roberto Bautista Agut21
Andrey Rublev22
Karen Khachanov23
Kei Nishikori24
Gael Monfils25
Taylor Fritz26*
Lucas Pouille27
Kyle Edmund28*
John Isner29
Benoit Paire30

Which players do you have locked in for your top 10?

*Outside top 30 in 2019.

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3 Challengers for Top 30 in 2020

In choosing three other players outside 2019 top 30, I have gone for players with no known injury concerns. Players like Kevin Anderson, Andy Murray, Juan Martín del Potro and Milos Raonic would all likely be in the top 30 now if not for injuries, but I have left them out because of questions over their fitness.

  1. Jannik Sinner
  2. Taylor Fritz
  3. Marin Cilic

Fundamentally I have included a new impressive up and comer in Sinner, a ready to mature type in Fritz and a veteran in Cilic who’s 2019 season I think is an aberration.

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No 30. Nick Kyrgios

The talented and frequently unpredictable Kyrgios finished the season ranked 30 giving him his 5th straight season in the top 35. He played two outstanding tournaments winning at the ATP 500 series level in Acapulco and Washington. A combination of injuries and withdrawals coupled with meltdowns meant he did not reach a Grand Slam quarter-final for the 4th straight year.

Despite his mental shortcomings on the court, I have no doubt he will continue to be a top 30 contender in 2020.

Rather than bearing witness to Kygios’s talent every time he steps onto the court, too often we’re subjected to tantrums. Four words shape my opinion of him:

if – as in “If, if, if doesn’t exist,” as per Rafael Nadal in his post-match press conference after playing Kyrgios at Wimbledon 2019; depressing; arrogant, and deflector.

If: If only he would do the hard work and commit to tennis 100 percent. If not love it, then learn how to use it and maximize the earnings from it to provide a means to do what he does love. According to him, this is his NK Foundation. Anyone who wants to help kids and especially underprivileged or sick kids must have something going for them. If only he could channel this passion and remember he is playing for the kids every time he walks onto the court or gives an interview.

Depressing: Watching tennis must be sad for those fans who get duped by his sometimes ingenious play. Whenever he is building momentum with form, and you start believing in him, he so often fails to follow through. For example, when scheduled to meet someone like Novak Djokovic – who he loves to beat – in a later round, we get excited by the possibility. However, he’ll blow up and lose in an early match against a player he should comfortably beat and misses the anticipated moment.

Arrogant: He seems cocksure, which sometimes is fun when he does it with cheeky humour but too often is childish. His sullen arrogance comes across terribly, particularly in interviews. For example, when a reporter asks a reasonable question, his reply might be, “Next question,” or, “You’re the expert, you tell me”.

Deflector: When the going gets tough on the court, he too often starts whingeing and even blaming others for his performance. The worst is when he can’t overcome his mental frailty and says something like, “I’m done, bro; I’m f***ing done” during an outburst. He can’t handle whatever injustice he feels is upon him, so he acts out. Excuses like blaming the crowd for being too loud or the umpire being on a power trip are just weak. It’s all down to his attitude. When he’s feeling especially aggrieved, we get incidents like the chair-throwing and default that occurred in Rome this year.

Likes: Nick has a fantastic serve, that is not only powerful but is backed up by different strategies, spins and paces. I love it when he launches a bazooka forehand and especially if accompanied by an aerial launch. Kyrgios possesses a nasty forehand drop shot that is built on a good disguise. When he does guest commentary at a tournament like AO, he has profound insights and special-comments which are music to a hard-core tennis fans ears. I like seeing Nick also use his surprisingly high tennis IQ on the court. Kyrgios makes no secret that he thinks Federer is the best player ever and that he enjoys getting under Djokovic’s and Nadal’s skin. I don’t mind that he does that if it makes him play better against them.

Dislikes: When he can’t cope with whatever is the source of his actual problem and takes it out by deflecting and causing scenes on the court. He is prone to behave like this in interviews as well. It seems that whenever he is asked to reflect on himself by a reporter, he will get snarky and deflect.

Areas for improvement: His return is below average, and his backhand rally shot is mediocre. His forehand, while it can be spectacular, can also leak errors. Even his volley while not weak is at best average. His homework is to find out and deal with whatever is the real source of his problems that cause him to deflect and act out. Only once he has done that, only once he has addressed his technical flaws and achieved the fitness levels required, will he be able to contend at a slam and obtain a ranking befitting his talent. He might even get something out of watching 30 for 30 Rodman: For Better or Worse on ESPN. There is no point giving Nick tennis homework, he would think he is too good for that.

Perhaps Nick could do something like Wawrinka did because it’s OK to fail. ”Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”