I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I’m loving being off work and enjoying some time at home, both eating and drinking too much. The final of my off-season features is the ATP predictions for 2015. Next year, I will be focusing more on the WTA tour as things got a little crazy trying to follow both tours. I’ll still be previewing Grand Slams and Masters 1000 events for the men, but will probably miss out more 250 events to maintain my sanity. In case you missed it, I posted my WTA predictions for 2015 HERE. As always, comments are appreciated.
1. Novak Djokovic
Once again, i’m going for Djokovic to end the season at the top of the ATP tree. The Serb has finished number one for three out of the last four years. Djokovic had an excellent year, of which winning Wimbledon was the highlight. He had previously struggled in the big matches, but held his nerve to overcome Roger Federer in a terrific five setter. Djokovic’s closing abilities were suspect at times, but he almost always got the job done in the end. In total, Djokovic won seven titles in 2014, which also included the World Tour Finals and four Masters 1000 events. Djokovic’s start to the year was below-par for his standards, but he righted the ship by winning back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami, an extremely tricky feat to do. He’s the most consistent player on the tour for the last couple of years and i’d back him to have an even better year than in 2014, winning at least two more Grand Slams.
2. Rafael Nadal
A year dominated by injuries for Nadal was prematurely ended by a dodgy appendix. The whole appendicitis saga was one of the strangest stories of the year as Nadal continued to play with the problem through Basel and Shanghai. Perhaps if he had sorted it out earlier then he may have been able to play the World Tour Finals, or at least not have had his preparations for 2015 affected. Anyway, it was still a solid year for Nadal who won his 14th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros and three other titles in Madrid, Doha and Rio de Janeiro. Nadal is renowned for making some pretty awesome comebacks to the tour. In 2013, he exceeded all expectations after a lengthy spell on the sidelines for his knees. On his return, he won three of his first four tournaments and won two Grand Slam titles. Nadal seems to relish the position of being the chaser in the pack; with plenty of ground to catch up in 2014, Rafa should be in his element in 2015.
3. Kei Nishikori
There were a number of breakthrough acts on the ATP tour in 2014, but it was Nishikori’s progression that was the most convincing. The Japanese player moved up 12 places to the number five position in rankings and reached his first Grand Slam final at the US Open. The year was padded out with disappointments caused by injuries; however the way he finished the year, much stronger than the beginning, was very encouraging. In the first half of the year, Nishikori was forced to retire from three matches and gave one walkover in the semi-finals of Miami. Nishikori had Nadal on the ropes in an absorbing finale in Madrid until his patched up body gave way. Nishikori had shown great promise on the clay, powering his way to the title in Barcelona the week before Madrid. His body though couldn’t recover in time for Roland Garros where he suffered a first round exit.
Although his fragility has dominated his career, his body DID hold up during a physically demanding second half to the year. Nishikori won three consecutive matches against top ten players at the US Open to make the final. Just as impressively, he showed absolutely no letdown after the US Open as he won back-to-back tournaments in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo, and went on to make the semi-finals of the World Tour Finals. In my opinion, Nishikori is a future world number one. Kei is making a real name for himself and I expect Japan’s interest in tennis to explode when he wins his first Slam… I’d fancy that to happen in 2015.
4. Roger Federer
The elusive 18th Grand Slam title continued to thwart Federer in 2014, but on the whole, it was an excellent year for the Swiss star. He stayed reasonably healthy, didn’t overplay and reaped the benefits. Federer went 2-5 (W-L record) in finals up to August, but won his last three finals of the year (excluding the World Tour Finals where he didn’t take to the court). Working with Stefan Edberg, Federer frequently executed a more aggressive gameplan, which helped him maintain a winning record over Djokovic in 2014. His consistency and concentration has become more of an issue with time and is most certainly a factor at the Slams where winning seven straight matches is now becoming an increasingly challenging concept. He came so close at Wimbledon…
Compared to 2013 and 2014, i’d say 2015 will be somewhere in between. In 2014, he benefitted from two of the so called “big four” being off-colour and spending times on the sidelines (RAFAEL NADAL). Furthermore, he had a year that was largely injury free. A heavy schedule up to the very end of the 2014 season will not have helped his preparation for 2015. Still, it’s hard to see the new generation catching up with Fed just yet…
5. Andy Murray
Since winning Wimbledon, Murray has struggled to rediscover his very best tennis. This is partly down to the back surgery he had in late 2013. Progress was slow, yet this was to be expected and it was only in the latter half of 2014 when he began to show signs of improvement. In his bid to qualify for the World Tour Finals, Murray played an exhausting schedule that saw him play six consecutive weeks in the fall season. Although he won plenty of matches and picked up three titles on the way, the major area for concern was that Murray went 0-9 in 2014 against the trio of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. Murray will be in a stronger position physically to start the year as he goes it alone with Amelie Mauresmo as coach. Motivation was a question mark raised after Murray won Wimbledon, the tournament he was desperate to win. After ending the year with such a thoroughly comprehensive loss to Federer at the World Tour Finals, Murray should be plentifully motivated to try and get back up the pecking order and establish his position as a legitimate contender at the Grand Slams.
6. Milos Raonic
Raonic had a remarkably consistent year in 2014 and I expect more of the same in 2015. He broke new ground at the Grand Slams, ending a solid clay court season with a quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros and then going one step better at Wimbledon. I’ve been sceptical of whether Raonic has what it takes to crack the top five and go deeper at the Slams. My thoughts wavered through 2014, beginning with uncertainty, coming round during the clay court season and then back to uncertainty by the end of the year. Raonic had a big week in the penultimate tournament of the year in Paris, beating Roger Federer in a match that he HAD to win to keep hs chances of qualifying for the World Tour Finals alive. It was a rare moment of ruthlessness that saw Raonic produce his very best performance when he needed it; however away from Paris, he went 0-7 against top five players. Raonic has the advantage of his huge serve to win easy points, but that is not enough against the very best players. His willingness to come into the net was an encouraging sign, but personally, I still remain unconvinced that Raonic has what it takes to win a Grand Slam.
7. Grigor Dimitrov
Dimitrov made an impression on the tour in 2014, the first year that he has managed to match some of the expectation surrounding his game. He reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open and bettered that at Wimbledon, reaching the semi-finals and pushing Djokovic to four sets. His year petered out towards the end as he finished just outside of the top ten. Two of Dimitrov’s best wins of the year came against Andy Murray; a come-from-behind victory in a magnificent semi-final match in Acapulco and a straight sets pasting in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon. In his last tournament of the year, Dimitrov lost tamely to an improving Murray in Paris. Dimitrov showed enough promise through the first half of the year to suggest he is worthy of going much higher in the rankings. Personally, I really enjoy watching Dimitrov’s flashy game and with Roger Rasheed keeping him in line, I think 2015 will be an improvement on 2014.
8. Stan Wawrinka
Stanley’s 2014 was a complete mixed bag that will be remembered for all the good moments. Wawrinka won his first Grand Slam title and Masters 1000 title at the Australian Open and Monte-Carlo redpectively. After an indifferent fall season that saw him win just one match between the US Open and the World Tour Finals, Wawrinka ended the year in much better form, holding match points against Federer in that semi-final in London. Wawrinka has proven over the past two years that his best can beat anyone. In 2014, he defeated the likes of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal. He’s got it all there, but lacks the consistency of a Djokovic or a Nadal. This year he had the big results, but i’m wary of whether he can produce it again in 2015, which is why I have him down on 2014. I’m very intrigued to see how he defends his title in Australia. Even if he does fall early in Melbourne, realistically he can make up a lot of ground at Roland Garros on arguably his best surface after a disappointing first round exit this year.
9. David Goffin
New entry alert! David Goffin is the one (perhaps?) surprise in my list. One of the biggest movers of the year, Goffin enjoyed a remarkable second half of 2014 that saw him climb from outside of the world’s top 100 to just outside the top 20. It was a meteoric rise that saw Goffin rise 84 places in just 15 weeks. This consisted of two superb winning streaks; the first saw him win 25 straight matches, which included three Challenger titles and a first ATP title in Kitzbuhel. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Goffin won 16 straight matches towards the end of the year, winning another ATP title in Metz and reaching the final of the ATP 500 event in Basel. Goffin’s rise to relevance felt much like Halep’s on the WTA tour in 2013. Winning matches, on any level, is a huge confidence boost and Goffin should take that renewed optimism into the 2015 season. Goffin is defending less than 250 ranking points up to Wimbledon and he has a huge opportunity to keep rising in the rankings. Playing against the higher calibre players will be a challenge and by no means a given that he will keep building… I like Goffin’s game though and it’s one that I believe is solid enough to crack the top ten.
10. Tomas Berdych
The final place on my list was a really difficult choice… the likes of Ferrer, Berdych, Cilic, Monfils and Tsonga were all under consideration. I believe they will all be there or thereabouts, but I have gone for Berdych. The Czech player qualified for his fifth consecutive World Tour Finals in 2014, an excellent achievement that demonstrates the consistency he has shown on tour. 2014 was another good year, but lacking in major highlights. Berdych saw two players of generally equivalent quality win Grand Slams, both of which, could have conceivably been him. Berdych was defeated by Wawrinka in the semi-finals of the Australian Open and Cilic in the quarter-finals of the US Open. Berdych’s brand of powerful, attacking tennis is good enough to win a Grand Slam, but he has been unable to string it all together in the past. Berdych, now coached by Dani Vallverdu, should have a couple more solid years left in him. Another year in the top eight would be a really glowing achievement, but in my opinion, that will be tough.
Best of the rest:
David Ferrer: It’s hard to write off Ferrer with the way that the Spaniard tirelessly battles on the court, but there were signs that his heavy schedule was catching up with him in 2014. He still managed some excellent results throughout the year, but after long breaks from the tour, Ferrer took much longer to get going again.
Prediction: Top 12
Marin Cilic: The US Open champion faces an intriguing year as he seeks to prove that the run at Flushing Meadows wasn’t a flash in the pan. Cilic didn’t end the 2014 season in the best shape with a disappointing series of performances in London. Aside from the US Open, Cilic was actually very consistent as he reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and won three additional titles. Staying in the top ten will be a challenge…
Prediction: Top 12
Gael Monfils: 2014 was another wacky year for Monfils, who reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and US Open. The Frenchman was reasonably consistent, but injuries still masked his year. His unpredictability makes it tough to back him going any higher, but I do think it will be another improved year.
Prediction: Top 15
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: 2014 was largely disappointing for Tsonga aside from a surprisingly dominant and convincing run to the title in Toronto. Injuries once again derailed the end of his year and a elbow injury, which supposedly was the reason he pulled out of the Davis Cup final, threatens to disrupt the start of his 2015 season.
Prediction: Top 20
Dominic Thiem: A talented up-and-comer, particularly on the clay, Thiem enjoyed some big wins in 2014 and should keep progressing in 2015.
Prediction: Top 20
EDIT – How could I forget to write about the big guy himself, DelPo?! I think it will be a steady progression for Del Potro, assuming that he has no more issues with his wrists. Perhaps slightly optimistic, but I would fancy DelPo to be top 15 by the end of the year.