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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis

Updated: Dec 10, 2019


2019 Season review

The 2019 ATP Tour season was another one to remember and it was again dominated by the big three. The world’s best two players, Nadal and Djokovic, dominated the Grand Slams, Nadal won a record eleventh French Open and fourth US Open, which extended his Grand Slam winning total to 19, one behind Federer’s record haul of twenty. Djokovic extended his Grand Slam tally total to sixteen by winning a record seventh Australian Open and fourth Wimbledon title. The two also won four of the nine master’s 1000 Series titles, Nadal won Rome and Montreal and Djokovic won Madrid and Paris. The other five Master’s 1000 Series titles were won by three NextGen stars and two veterans. Medvedev announced himself as the king of the NextGen group by winning his first and second Master’s 1000 Series titles at Cincinnati and Shanghai. NextGen star Thiem, won his first Masters 1000 Series title at Indian Wells, veteran Fognini finally delivered on his precocious talent by winning his first Masters 1000 Series title at Monte Carlo and last but not least, Federer at the ripe old age of thirty eight extended his Masters 1000 Series title total to twenty eight, by lifting the Miami title.

While Federer didn’t extend his Grand Slam winning tally, he still did enough throughout the season to maintain third place in the world rankings, thanks to featuring in the latter stages at three of the four Grand Slams and he came within a whisker of winning a record ninth Wimbledon title having had match points. He also won four ATP Tour titles at Dubai, Basel, Halle and Miami.

Nadal and Djokovic dominated the 2019 season and look well set to surpass Federer’s mind-boggling achievements, barring a significant improvement from the top NextGen stars and/or serious injury over the next few seasons. However, there’s still a strong argument for why Federer will be classed as the greatest player of all-time from this group, because he continued to extend his legacy late in to his thirties, while still competing and contending against two of the greatest players of all time and an extremely talented group of NextGen stars. If Nadal and/or Djokovic do manage to surpass Federer’s achievements, I think they will need to continue doing it in to their late thirties as well, if they want to be officially classed as the greatest player of all time.

It’s safe to say the NextGen group of potential future stars is closing the gap on the big three and a couple of the more recent additions in Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Auger-Alisiamme look to have all the characteristics that are required to become elite tennis players and dominate the ATP Tour in future decades. In 2019 it was Medvedev who rose to the top of the NextGen group by reaching his first Grand Slam Final at the US Open, where he just lost an epic five set battle against Nadal, he won his first and second Masters 1000 Series titles at Cincinnati and Shanghai and also, two ATP 250 tournaments at Sofia and St Petersburg.

Medvedev definitely looks like an established future top-ten star and Grand Slam winner, most likely the US Open first, as he excels on hard courts and quick conditions, but he first needs to ensure that his breakthrough season doesn’t become a mill-stone around his neck, because many young breakthrough players struggle to match their breakthrough year achievements as they’re not always prepared to deal with the extra pressures that being a higher ranked player brings, like more regular tougher opposition and added media attention and responsibility. However, he seems to have a strong, outgoing personality and most importantly a stubborn competitive win focussed mentality, which should help him cope well with and deal with these added pressures next season.

World number four Thiem ended the season as the best player outside the top three again by reaching his first Grand Slam final at the French Open, winning the Indian Wells Masters 1000 Series and four other tournaments including the ATP 500 event in Barcelona. Thiem can sometimes be overlooked as a potential future world number one and Grand Slam winner, but in terms of consistency and maintaining an elite level his numbers don’t lie and for me his Nadal’s natural replacement as the King of Clay, but I’m sure Zverev and maybe Tstitsipas will have something to say about that. 2019 was a breakthrough season for 21-year-old Tsitsipas from Greece, who as all the attributes to become a future world number one and multiple Grand Slam winner.

In 2019, Tsitsipas broke in to the top-ten for the first time ending the season ranked sixth in the world. He won his first major title at the ATP Tour Finals in London, he reached his first master’s 1000 Series final in Madrid, losing to Djokovic, his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open losing to Nadal and two ATP 250 tournaments at Marseille and Estoril. Like, Medvedev, life will be even harder next season for Tsitsipas, as he now must defend his 2019 achievements and top-ten ranking. How well he copes with this added pressure will determine how quickly he becomes an established top ten star and future Grand Slam winner, as you either embrace the challenge and rise to it, or you don’t and probably never will throughout your career, Dimitrov being a classic recent case in question.

23 year-old Italian Berrettini was the only other NextGen star to break in to the top-ten for the first time in 2019, building on an impressive breakthrough season in 2018 and like Tsitsipas he looks to have all the attributes that are required to make an established top ten star and potential future Grand Slam winner. The French and US Open’s look the most likely at this stage in his career, as he’s already won two ATP Tour clay court titles and he recorded his best Slam result at this year’s US Open reaching the semi-finals.

After a disappointing 2019 season world number seven Alexander Zverev will hope to get his career back on track in 2020 and put the protracted legal proceedings with his ex-manager behind him. I think Zverev fell foul to struggling to cope with the added pressures that follow a breakthrough season, which for him was 2018. Add this to the protracted and stressful legal proceedings relating to his ex-manager that followed him wherever he went In 2019 and it’s fair to say even an experienced professional would do well not to let something like this creep in and start to affect them mentally in some way shape or form. Hopefully, Zverev can finally move on from these matters in 2020, start to re-build his confidence and reputation as the leading challenger to the big three and begin winning big titles again and that elusive first Grand Slam, which is surely just a formality at some stage in his career for someone one of Zverev’s natural talent and ability.

The likes of NextGen stars Shapovalov, Auger Alissiame and De Minaur are knocking on the top-ten door at present and will all hope to achieve further improvement in 2020 by winning more titles, challenging and reaching the latter stages at Masters 1000 Series and Grand Slam tournaments and ultimately, breaking in to the top-ten for the first time. All three look well placed to achieve at least one, if not all three, of these feats and if he handles the pressure an expectation of his home crowd, then it could be worth trading De Minaur for next seasons Australian Open, as the conditions suit his game perfectly, as he’s proven already by winning three ATP Tour hard court titles on quick surfaces at the age of 20 at Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai.

Outside the top-ten the likes of former top-ten players Goffin, Fognini, Nishikori, Wawrinka, Khachanov and Isner are all in the top-twenty and well placed to break back into the top-ten again. NextGen stars Shapovalov aged 20, De Minaur aged 20 and Auger Alisiamme aged twenty were the two most improved players on the ATP Tour in 2019 and as a result, both are in the top-twenty and well placed to challenge for a top-ten place next season. Eighteen-year-old Italian Sinner was the breakthrough NextGen star of 2019 breaking in to the top-100 for the first time, finishing the season at seventy eighth and winning the year-end NextGen Finals in Milan as a reserve and eighth seed.

Veteran Stan Wawrinka, a former top-ten star and multiple Grand Slam winner, was the injury comeback player of 2019. He started the season ranked outside the top-fifty and ended it back in the top-twenty finishing the season at sixteen. Hot on his heels was Sir Andy Murray, who after potential career ending hip surgeries, including a new titanium replacement and after only a short time back on the ATP Tour since June, he miraculously did the unimaginable and won his first ATP Tour tournament in over two seasons at Vienna, a feat even Wawrinka couldn’t manage in his first season back.

Finally, from a remaining British player perspective, Kyle Edmunds 2019 season was one to forget and he ended up finishing ranked outside the top-50 as a result. Hopefully, he will have addressed his troublesome knee injury and taken the risk of having surgery, as otherwise it will only get worse and could easily end his career early. Dan Evans is the new British number one as he ended the season ranked in the top-50 for the first time at forty-two. He is still searching for his first ATP Tour title win having gone close as a losing finalist at Sydney in 2017 and Delray Beach this year, but it’s nothing to be overly concerned about as many professional top-100 players ended their career without winning a main tour title.


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