Carreno Busta, Rublev, Shapovalov, Zverev Honoured With Most Improved Player Nominations
The Most Improved Player of the Year Award in the 2017 ATP World Tour Awards Presented by Moët & Chandon recognises the player who reached a significantly higher Emirates ATP Ranking by year’s end and who demonstrated an increasingly improved level of performance through the year. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Pablo Carreno Busta
“I’m very happy. I think that it’s been a very hard and long year, but to be nominated for this award, which I’ve already had the pleasure of winning, is very special and something that makes me very happy. But the other nominees are also players who deserve it, they’ve had a great year. I hope I can be close to winning it, or win it. Thank you everyone for your support!”
As one of nine Spaniards in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, Carreno Busta started to move out of the shadows of his celebrated compatriots Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer in 2017. Four years on from rising 650 places to break into the Top 100 for the first time — for which he received the 2013 ATP Most Improved Player of the Year award — the 26-year-old is enjoying a career-best season, including a Top 10 breakthrough.
Despite missing two months mid-season due to an abdomen injury, Carreno Busta jumped from a 2016 year-end finish of No. 30 to a career-high No. 10 (11 September), centred on a run to the US Open semi-finals (l. to Anderson) and the Roland Garros quarter-finals (l. to Nadal). He also captured his third ATP World Tour title at the Millennium Estoril Open (d. Muller) and finished as runner-up at the Rio Open presented by Claro (l. to Thiem).
“I am happy to be nominated for this award. I thank my team for making it possible. I also thank my loyal fans worldwide. This gives me even more drive to continue my climb to the top.”
Among a new breed of Russian talent, 20-year-old Rublev soared from No. 156 in the Emirates ATP Rankings at the end of 2016 to a career-high No. 35 (9 October). The ascent of the #NextGenATP star included a Top 100 breakthrough on 26 June and his first ATP World Tour title in his first final at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag (d. Lorenzi) the following month. The result saw him clear the Top 50 barrier.
This year, the former junior World No. 1 also became the youngest US Open quarter-finals since Andy Roddick in 2001, beating Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin before losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. He will compete at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan next month.
"My breakthrough moment this season has to be in Montreal. My whole life has changed from that experience... It really pushed me up in the [Emirates ATP] Rankings and gave me confidence that I can play against these top guys and that I belong here."
The charismatic #NextGenATP Canadian swept through the ITF Futures and ATP Challenger Tour in 2017 to make his presence felt at August’s Coupe Rogers in Montreal, when, as a wild card, he broke a number of records en route to becoming the youngest ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-finalist since the series started in 1990. In upsetting World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, Shapovalov became the youngest player to beat a Top 2 opponent (in a non-retirement finish), since Nadal defeated then No. 1-ranked Roger Federer in the 2004 Miami Open presented by Itau third round.
He then qualified and defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route to US Open fourth round (l. to Carreno Busta), making him the youngest player to reach that stage at a major since Marat Safin at 1998 Roland Garros. Shapovalov finished the 2016 season at No. 250 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and broke into the Top 100 on 14 August, then into the Top 50 for the first time on 23 October — the same day he clinched his place in the Next Gen ATP Finals field.
”It’s awesome. It’s the second year that I’ve been nominated. Last year unfortunately I didn’t win it, but I think year I think I have a really good chance going from No. 24 to No. 4 in the world, maybe even finishing higher. There are a lot of other good players, but this year I feel like I really deserve it and hopefully the players can vote that way as well.”
Compiling a stellar 50+ match wins 2017 season, Zverev became the youngest player to win five or more titles in a calendar year since Novak Djokovic in 2007 and achieved a career-high No. 4 Emirates ATP Rankings on 11 September — the youngest Top 5 player since Djokovic on 8 October 2007. He also became the youngest player to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals since Juan Martin del Potro in 2008.
The 20-year-old German earned the biggest win of his career in May over then World No. 2 Djokovic to capture the Internazionali BNL d’Italia crown — making him the youngest Masters 1000 champion since 19-year-old Djokovic at 2007 Miami. Four months later he added the Coupe Rogers trophy to join Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the second active player outside of the ‘Big Four’ to win two or more Masters 1000 titles. Zverev also lifted silverware at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier (d. Gasquet), the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. Anderson) and the BMW Open by FWU in Munich (d. Pella), and reached a Grand Slam championship fourth round for the first time at Wimbledon (l. to Raonic).