Federer, Nadal, Dimitrov, Rublev: Who Will Impress The Most In 2018?
Who is going to rock the tennis world in 2018?
The crystal ball of player improvement can sometimes be uncertain, but an Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis highlights the group of players you should keep your eye on in the 2018 season, based on their promise and performance in 2017. For different reasons and at different rankings, these players look poised to make serious headlines in 2018. Let’s just say you heard it here first…
1. Next to be No. 1 = Grigor Dimitrov
The jigsaw puzzle has finally come together for the talented 26-year-old Bulgarian. He started 2017 ranked No. 17 in the ATP Rankings, but surged all the way to No. 3 at the end of the season courtesy of winning the Nitto ATP Finals in London. In 2016, Dimitrov saved only 60 per cent (238/397) of break points when serving, good enough for 36th best on tour in this specific category. Fast forward to 2017 and that number sky-rocketed to 70 per cent (252/360), and he leaped to fifth best saving break points. He is now mentally tougher, physically stronger, and has the confidence to stand alone at the summit.
2. Top 10 Breakthrough = Nick Kyrgios
The 22-year-old Australian reached No. 13 in October 2016, but moved backwards to No. 21 to finish the 2017 season. He is better than that, as we saw on Sunday when he beat Ryan Harrison to capture the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp title and improve his ATP Ranking to No. 17. Kyrgios is young and brash, and has already established himself as one of the premier servers in the history of our sport.
The ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS, powered by Infosys NIA Data, has Kyrgios ranked sixth best overall with serve performance since 1991. With a serve that big, there won’t be stopping him now he has something to prove – which starts with a 2018 move into the Top 10.
3. Top 20 Breakthrough = Hyeon Chung
Chung is currently ranked No. 62, but finished 2017 in a flourish, winning the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in November. Impressively, Chung was the eighth best returner on tour in 2017, winning 27.9 per cent of his return games, which put him higher than Top 10 players Roger Federer (26.7 per cent), David Goffin (26.7 per cent), and Dominic Thiem (25.2 per cent). Chung started 2017 outside the Top 100, but look for him to be firmly entrenched in the Top 20 by the end of 2018.
4. Big Upsets Coming = Andrey Rublev
When you see elite level players being upset on the big stage in 2018, there is a good chance that this 20-year-old Russian will be the reason. Rublev started 2018 ranked No. 39 and climbed to No. 32 with his Qatar ExxonMobil Open final run last week. But Rublev has the potential to reach the Top 20, and then halve that number by season’s end.
Rublev has already excelled on the big stage, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2017 US Open with wins against Top 10 players Dimitrov and Goffin. Rublev was an impressive 14th best on tour returning serve in 2017. His highest strategic ranking was 10th best with points won returning second serves, at 53.4 per cent. He was just 71st best on the ATP Stats Serve LEADERBOARD. Rublev actually has an outstanding service motion, so as that continues to mature, it’s all upside in 2018 for the Moscow native.
5. The Excitement Machine = Denis Shapovalov
The 18-year-old Canadian had an outstanding 2017, leaping all the way from No. 250 at the start of the year to No. 51 by season's end after reaching a career-high No. 49 in October. What does he do so well? The list is a mile long, but you must start with the serve. He was ranked 21st on the ATP Stats Serve LEADERBOARD in 2017, and was 13th best winning points behind his second serve at 53.9 per cent. His left-handed delivery is defined by accuracy, slice and power – and it’s going to only improve.
6. The Stalwarts of the ATP World Tour
Despite all the fresh and exciting players who made noise in 2017, let's not forget that no one had a better year than year-end No. 1 Rafael Nadal, and close behind him was longtime rival Roger Federer, who finished at No. 2. Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and 2016 year-end No. 1 Andy Murray all had to end their seasons early because of injuries, but expect the trio of greats, along with Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori, to be back in fine form at some point in 2018 to make this year one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.
Dimitrov, Kyrgios, Chung, Rublev, Shapovalov, along with the traditional powers of men's tennis, will all make waves in 2018. Keep an eye on them and follow their progress all season at ATPWorldTour.com. It’s going to be a fun ride.