2017 was an exciting year, that can’t be denied. A lot of surprises, a lot of heart invested by the players, a lot of success underdog stories.
But this year’s ATP Tour resembled more with WTA Tour than in a long time. I can’t recall in 15 or 20 years time when we had such an odd year.
So much inconsistency, the only constants of the game were still from the old generation, players on the verge of their career sunset. Rafa Nadal (31 years old) and Roger Federer (36 years old) dominated for most of the big titles. They split the Grand Slams and had the most titles won.
As vintage as this sounds and as nostalgic as we might be, that was alarming. Worrying for the future of ATP.
The new generation started to make their mark, but mostly too shy and with loads of inconsistency during the important tournaments.
The absence of many of the big champions showed how close are most of the players from top 100.
Nothing lasts forever and most of the big champions are over 30 years old or close to that mark. Pete Sampras retired at 30 and most of his kind the same. And people expect now from them to play until 36. It’s not humanly possible, as good as technology became and the medicine evolved. Human body is still the same. The crazy level that Tennis reached the last 10-15 years made its mark eventually.
The plethora of injuries from this year it’s not random. The players are 30+ and gave a lot to the game.
Tennis suffered without the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Tomas Bedych or so. David Ferrer was another great player in terms of consistency that got lost due to injuries and age.
Losing all this champions, Tennis got really opened. And as good as it sounds in theory, it got really chaotic. Nobody really managed to dominate. Not someone new.
We got to the point when players could win big tournaments without playing a top 20 player, like it happened in US Open.
The level decreased. When the competitiveness is not that high, the level will drop. Yes, we had spectacular matches and new faces having a few highlights. But a lot of unforced errors or so.
If you look at top 20, it’s kind of worrying. Players which had many months of weak tennis got to be close to the summit. It was not happening in the last 15 years. You had to be constant all through out the year to make it to top 10.
The uncertainty that loomed this year allowed inconstant players to grab some titles and to get back up to the top.
Juan Martin Del Potro managed to get back up, even though most of the year couldn’t hit a proper backhand, playing mostly slices. Kevin Anderson or Diego Schwartzman became familiar faces in the last stages of big events as well.
As versatile as he is, David Goffin lacks power and that’s why he was shy on winning titles in the recent years. But this year he had one of the most dominant year on the tour.
Dominic Thiem managed to finish in top 5, even though besides the clay court swing, he showed a poor form.
The biggest surprise is Grigor Dimitrov. We can’t deny his huge talent and power to adapt on all surfaces, but until a year ago, he was struggling to be in the top 20 and had problems closing big matches. He finished the year as the World number 3, even though he had a big period in which was losing mostly in the first round.
Jack Sock must have one of the weakest forehands and movements on the court at this level. He managed to win the Paris Masters and had a great run in the elite World Tour Finals. A player that a year before was struggling to stay in top 30.
The biggest asset of this year has to be for sure Alexander Zverev. Being so young, he showed great mental strength and maturity to record great success. He was second only to Federer and Nadal in titles won. And he is so young, that he still has loads of time to improve. Having some weak periods is only normal for this age. He was the only one besides Federer and Nadal to win multiple Masters, claiming them in front of Federer and Djokovic.
Even though the young generation showcased great talent, none other managed to have consistency and really make their mark on the big stages.
Nick Kyrgios was plagued by injuries and anyway his mind is not in the right place, as he is not hungry to make his mark. He admitted that he is not motivated and that he is not willing to fight.
Denis Shapovalov is another great hope, as he proved great determination and improvement. I believe that he is the second best asset in terms of new faces from this year. He is an all around player and incredibly young. He just needs to improve his attacking game and his patience.
Andrey Rublev showed great maturity and I believe he will make his mark in 2018 if he stays healthy and humble. Borna Coric is a great talent, but was plagued with injuries from this young age and struggled to have any consistency. Also, his serve is too weak yet.
In 2018 all the big absentees will return to the game, with their rankings all over the place. I just hope that the new generation will have the power to start making their mark and push the old generation out. If not, when the big champions retire, ATP’s level will drop alarmingly.