2017 will go down as one of the most unpredictable seasons on the ATP World Tour. None of the 2016 Top-5 managed to maintain their position there and we had the 2016 year end #9 and #16 dominate the season. We are experiencing a transition stage at the moment in men’s tennis so anything could happen. Will Roger Federer and Rafael Nadalcontinue to dominate? Will Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray get back to the top? Here is my top-10 ATP predictions for 2018.
1. Novak Djokovic (2017 Rank: #12)
Many people will be surprised that I think the Serbian will finish the season at the peak of the rankings. The former world #1 has not played a match since Wimbledon and there are doubts over whether he will be in Melbourne for the Australian Open after he withdrew from Abu Dhabi and Doha. Can a player finish #1 if they miss a Slam? Absolutely, Rafael Nadal achieved the feat in 2013 so it is definitely possible.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion will obviously take some time to find his best again and but once he does he will be unstoppable. I can see Djokovic creating some serious momentum over the clay season as a result of all this match play expirience. I believe that the Serb will win a Slam and dominate tennis again after Wimbledon as he will rack up the titles at the tail end of the season just like he did in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
2. Rafael Nadal (2017 Rank: #1)
Rafael Nadal enjoyed a sensational 2017 as he picked up six titles, including two Grand Slams, and he reclaimed his spot at the top of the world rankings. The Spaniard’s triumph at Roland Garros was historical because he became the first player ever to win a single Grand Slam event on ten different occasions. While there are concerns over his fitness early on, no one can bounce back from injury better than Rafael Nadal.
The world #1 will still dominate the clay season just like he has done since 2005 and this is where the bulk of his points will be won. Nadal will still do damage on the other surfaces although I suspect the Spaniard will play a lighter schedule in order to peak for the biggest events. I am confident that Nadal will claim his eleventh French Open title and end a season inside the top two for the tenth time in his outstanding career.
3. Roger Federer (2017 Rank: #2)
The Swiss legend had a resurgent season last year as he captured two Grand Slams, three Masters titles and he only lost five times all year. Not bad for a thirty-six year old. Age is just a number for Roger Federer and he does not seem like he will fade away. With so many doubts over his main rivals early on, we may see the Swiss claim Grand Slam number 20 at the Australian Open.
At the moment, Roger Federer at his best is superior to anybody in the world. He goes into every match he plays as the favourite right now due to his astonishingly high level. The only reason I do not have him ranked higher is simply down to the fact that he plays a very limited schedule. I definitely see Roger Federer adding another Grand Slam to his collection this year and create a bit more tennis history.
4. Andy Murray (2017 Rank: #16)
As you can see, I believe that the ‘Big Four’ will hold each position of the year end top four for the first time since 2012. Like Djokovic, Andy Murray has not played an official match since July 12 last year in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. There were serious signs of rust in his exhibition match in Abu Dhabi, which is expected after such a long injury layoff. There are also doubts on whether he will compete in Melbourne for the first Grand Slam of the year.
The Scot has said that he will play a more limited schedule which will tremendously help him and makes me believe that we will see his best tennis once again. I think that Andy Murray may take several months to find his form but I think he will be firing on all cylinders come the British grass court season where I believe he will win Wimbledon. I am positive that the former world #1 will be back to his best for the second half of the season and he will cement himself back at the top of the game.
5. David Goffin (2017 Rank: #7)
There is no doubt that the talented Belgian is playing the best tennis of his career and his 2017 season was harshly interrupted by injury. He started the year by making the Australian Open quarterfinals and ended it by winning two titles in the Asian swing and making the finals of the ATP Finals and the Davis Cup (where he won both of his singles rubbers in straight sets). A freak injury at the French Open forced him on the sidelines and he missed Wimbledon. What can David Goffin do if he stays healthy?
The current world #7 is a threat to all players and he has a legitimate chance to win a Grand Slam. I am confident that this will be the year that David Goffin reaches a Grand Slam final and potentially wins a Masters title. Last year, the Belgium wanted to get to the top, now he knows he belongs there. This self belief will help Goffin achieve great things this season.
6. Alexander Zverev (2017 Rank: #4)
The confident German was arguably the most improved player of 2017. This time last year, Alexander Zverev was ranked #24 and now he is the world #4 (he has even been as high as #3). This rapid climb in the rankings was helped by five titles including two Masters titles in Rome and Montreal. The German is only twenty years old so expect some more serious improvements to his game for 2018.
Many players struggle in the season after their breakthrough but I am confident that the twenty year old will carry on producing consistent, high level results. Zverev has proven himself on the ATP World Tour but not so much in the Grand Slams, he is yet to reach a quarterfinal and he has never beaten a top-50 player in one of these prestigious events. We seem to forget how young Zverev is because of how good he has become but I think that he will reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 2018 and perhaps win a third Masters title.
7. Nick Kyrgios (2017 Rank: #21)
The enigmatic Australian is one of the most talented players in the world and he should be much higher ranked than his current position that is #21. At his best, Nick Kyrgios has the ability to defeat anybody and be proved that to us last year with two wins over Djokovic, a victory over Nadal, and a very narrow defeat to Federer in Miami which the ATP named match of the year. Inconsistent results are the reason for his relatively low ranking yet I believe that this is the year we see Nick Kyrgios at his best over a much longer period of time.
This year, I can see Kyrgios doing some real damage at the Slams which will boost his ranking significantly. He possesses such an attacking game which is deadly on all surfaces and he can be a major threat to the top players over the course of the whole year. I think 2018 will be the year that Nick Kyrgios reaches a Grand Slam final and the year that he claims a maiden Masters title.
8. Grigor Dimitrov (2017 Rank: #3)
Grigor Dimitrov enjoyed the best year of his career last season as he went within five points away of making the Australian Open final. As well as this he won five titles including his first Masters title in Cincinnati and his biggest triumph to date as he won the ATP Finals. Dimitrov also scored eight top-10 victories in 2017 (three in the first week of the season and five in the final week). In the space of a year he has transformed himself from an unfulfilled talent, to a genuine Grand Slam contender.
I am confident that we will see Grigor Dimitrov back in London at the end of the year to defend his title. However, I struggle to see him finish 2017 in the top-5 because of certain players returning from injury. Ending another season in the top-8 would be a tremendous achievement for Dimitrov, although he will not see it this way. I believe that we will see Dimitrov in another Grand Slam semifinal this year and perhaps in a final.
9. Dominic Thiem (2017 Rank: #5)
The Austrian powerhouse was remarkable during the clay court season and was the only man to defeat Nadal on the red dirt all year. Thiem continued this hot form into Roland Garros where he knocked out the defending champion, Djokovic, to reach the semifinals. The clay court specialist also posted consistent results at the other three Grand Slams where he lost in the fourth round of each of them. It is worth mentioning that he was one point away from reaching the US Open quarterfinals before Juan Martin del Potro produced a sensational comeback to deny him.
Dominic Thiem is arguably the second best clay court player in the world, behind Nadal, and the clay court season will make or break his season. Two poor results can see his ranking fall down and I fear that may happen and lead to him failing to directly qualify for the ATP Finals for the first time since 2015. I can see Dominic Thiem reaching the semifinals of Roland Garros yet again and maybe the quarterfinals of one of the other three Slams.
10. Juan Martin del Potro (2017 Rank: #11)
The ‘Tower of Tandil’ went through a 2017 of two halves. The first half was mediocre to say the least and this was not helped by the fact that he was forced to miss the Australian Open. However, at the US Open it all clicked as he made the semifinals – defeating Thiem and Federer along the way (the only time Federer lost in a Slam all year). From then he maintained this hot streak by reaching the last four in Shanghai, winning Stockholm and making the final in Basel. This unbelievable run put him one match away from qualifying for the ATP Finals but he valiantly fell to John Isner.
Juan Martin del Potro does not have many points to defend up until the US Open so he can play without pressure and improve his ranking. If he can stay fully fit, I believe that the Argentine can reach at least two Grand Slam quarterfinals and maybe even a semifinal. One thing is for certain though, that formidable forehand will be causing havoc for the top players.
Predicted 2018 ATP Rankings
- Novak Djokovic
- Rafael Nadal
- Roger Federer
- Andy Murray
- David Goffin
- Alexander Zverev
- Nick Kyrgios
- Grigor Dimitrov
- Dominic Thiem
- Juan Martin del Potro
This upcoming season is due to be a highly entertaining and compelling one. Tennis is such an unpredictable sport and no one knows how this year will pan out. I will revisit these ATP predictions at the end of the year to see how successful (or unsuccessful) I was.
Do you agree with this list? Have your say in the comments below or tweet in your predictions to me on Twitter (@JedTennis) or to Last Word On Tennis (@LastWordTennis).