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ATP Sinner Tennis

No 78. Jannik Sinner

The first player I think of outside the 2019 ATP top 30 with a chance to make it in next year is this youngster. Sinner turned 18 this year and incredibly only decided to pursue tennis seriously at age 13 after being an elite skier from age 8.

Sinner won four ATP Challenger tournaments in 2019. He also beat world number 13 Gael Monfils and reached a semi-final against Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp, before taking out the Next Gen ATP finals as a wildcard. In this Next Gen tournament in Milan, he beat an experienced tour player Frances Tiafoe on the way and a battle-hardened Alex de Minaur – ranked 18 – comfortably in the final. Incredibly, he started 2019 ranked in the mid-500s.

Four words encapsulate why I think he is going to be a force in tennis from 2020 and beyond: power, ruthless, composed, quality.

Power: In terms of power, Sinner exudes natural authority with both the forehand and backhand and his backhand line shot is superb. His young body is also already producing serves consistently over 200 kilometres per hour.

Ruthless: The Italian also owns a ruthless attacking game, and his strike is brutal on any ball that is the least bit short of length from his opponent. He is ruthless in that he won’t let his opponent get away with any such nonsense. Do that, and he will finish the point. His coach Riccardo Piatti has said in interviews that they want to take control of the point, not wait.

Composed: He is mentally highly focused and composed. Sinner says his best quality is staying calm. If you have seen him play, you won’t be able to argue with this.

Quality: He has quality strokes and is a quality person. He hits effortless rockets when given the opportunity, and he is a skinny teenager who can make it look ridiculously easy. He shows that great technique is better than brute force. He executes winners like a baby-faced assassin and the reaction to a winner is often a clenched fist and a simple nod to his box, no fanfare, and he’s ready to strike again.

Likes: I like his aggressive game. The way he tees off in the most smooth-looking way when he decides to hit a winner. I admire his demeanour on the court, as well as his humbleness and attitude off the court. Sinner does have a bit of flair as well, which I find captivating, and he can throw in an unorthodox winning shot. He is perhaps not as elegant as Roger Federer, but he is no less effective in stranding an opponent. He seems like a very pleasant, down-to-earth and hard-working kid.

Dislikes: Nothing comes to mind. I’m very excited to see Sinners progress in 2020. La Forza is formidable with this young Padawan.

Areas for improvement: These areas should be considered opportunities to develop more than weaknesses since he is barely 18 and has only been full-on with tennis for five years. His forehand cross-court rally shot can bleed errors, and his inside variations on the forehand also need improving. Drop shots and his touch on both sides have lots of room for advancement. Another clear focus is to get more training into his body. He may be building on an ideal base, though, for his current 188 cm (6′ 2″) frame having come from skiing. His homework is to continue what he and his coach are doing but watching Federer volleys on YouTube never hurts.

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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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ATP Sport Tennis Uncategorized

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.”

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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.