As the rhythm of the ATP becomes more and more demanding, the top players began to sense the weight on their bodies. It’s also an important factor that most of the top players are over or close to the 30 years old mark.
In 2017 we had big absentees like Novak Djokovic (elbow), Andy Murray (hip), Stan Wawrinka (knee), Kei Nishikori (wrist), Milos Raonic (multiple), Thomas Berdych (back). These players competed in 2017, but were hampered by their body pain. So they couldn’t compete at their best and had to withdraw in order to recover.
What will 2018 bring? The World number 1, Rafa Nadal, is already in big trouble with his recurring knee issues. The Spaniard’s knee problems means a lot, as his fantastic movement on the court is one of his main qualities. These things could mean already that it will be very hard to at least keep the same level as this year.
With the leader of the ATP hurt, let’s look at the signs of other top players.
Roger Federer came back after a half of year break, as he recovered after a knee surgery from 2016. And he took the Tennis world by storm, claiming a tour leading of 7 titles (Australian Open, Wimbledon, Indian Wells, Miami, Shanghai, Halle and Basel). Having a reduced schedule because of his age, the Swiss Maestro wasn’t hidden from injuries.
The 19-times Grand Slam champion’s problems started during the Canadian Open, when his back hampered his movement. He reached the final there, where he had to capitulate against a spirited German, Sascha Zverev.
His back pain continued to haunt him during the US Open, when he had a lot of struggles and a lot of up and down performances.
Attending the match Federer – Zverev from World Tour Finals, I could notice that the 36 years old had difficulties in moving and serving sometimes in the match. That can’t be a good sign.
Marin Cilic was in severe pain during the Wimbledon final, where he said he had blisters. Besides that, he had a few tournaments that he skipped.
David Goffin, another dominant figure this year, played the last months with a strap on his left knee. How serious it is? I hope it’s not and it’s just due to the hard courts and playing loads of hard matches.
Pablo Carreno Busta had a nasty fall during his last match as an alternate from World Tour Finals. Playing against the eventual champion, Grigor Dimitrov, he tried to reach a ball at the net and fell badly on his knees.
Juan Martin del Potro is another player that had dominant periods this year. But also struggled with fitness through out the year. He didn’t play that many matches and when he did, not at his fullest.
Most of the year he was just slicing his backhand, as his wrist was still recovering. The wrist issue never stopped fully. He didn’t went to London as an alternate claiming that he is in severe pain from his legs, back and wrist. That can’t be a good sign, considering that he didn’t play that much to begin with.
How many of the absentees will come back stronger and how many can have an immediate impact?