Hot or Not? The Winners and Losers in 2018
Posted on October 09 2018
The tennis season has reached its final leg, with the Asian stretch of the tour leading up to the end of season tournaments. With the year drawing to a close, it gives us time to reflect on all that has happened and put into context some of the big winners, and big losers from the 2018 season. We have picked out our 8 who have had a year to remember in 2018, and a few who are probably best forgetting it ever happened at all.
Although there were 4 different female Grand Slam winners this year, and 3 men’s Grand Slam winners, only one of each makes our list of 2018’s high flyers. Contrastingly, a former Grand Slam winner and child prodigy make our year to forget list.
Tennis is a fickle sport where you are out there on your own, when things are going well, you can look like a hero, but when things are going wrong, it can be the loneliest place in the world. While celebrating those who achieved success is easily done, it’s far more difficult to comment on those who have not reached their normal high standards. However, we’ve picked out 3 people whose years really don’t reflect their ability on the tennis court, and so, while we note that this year might not have been the best for them, we are expecting them to make moves in 2019. So let’s start with the good, and work our way to the bottom, for 2018s high flyers, and year to forget contenders.
1. Novak Djokovic - Going from the top of the list of years to forget in 2017 to the top of the list of high flyers for 2018, Djokovic has had a fantastic 2018 and returned to the peak of his powers. When he’s at his very best, Djokovic can look simply untouchable, and that has been the case for the second half of this 2018 season. Following on from victory at Wimbledon, the Serb won his first Cincinnati Masters tournament, completing his career set of all 9 Masters 1000 events. This was followed up by another dominant display in the US Open where he defeated Juan Martin Del Potro to take his third title. With the end of season Masters Finals taking place indoors in London, expect Djokovic to crown his year with victory.
2. Naomi Osaka - Continuing with the US Open winner theme, Naomi Osaka makes our list of high flyers at number 2. The 20-year-old Japanese started the year ranked number 68 in the world, but after her maiden Grand Slam victory at the US Open, she sits menacingly at number 6 in the world, with high expectations of continuing her rapid rise. As Osaka showed in the Open final, she clearly has the mentality to succeed in the biggest of matches, and at such a young age, expect her to be at the top of women’s tennis for some time to come. Her first Grand Slam victory might have been overshadowed by Serena Williams’ outburst, but expect Osaka to be casting a large shadow of her own next year thanks to her high power tennis.
3. Juan Martin Del Potro - The friendly giant of men’s tennis, Del Potro is one of those people that everyone seems to support. The Argentine clinched his first Grand Slam title back in 2009, beating Roger Federer to take the US Open, but has been ravaged by wrist injuries in years since. Del Potro however, has persisted, and in 2018 has really been rewarded. 9 years after his first Grand Slam victory, Del Potro reached his second Grand Slam final in New York, to cap what has been a fine year, and a fine comeback. As well as reaching the US Open final, Del Potro achieved success throughout the year, reaching the semi-finals of the French Open, quarterfinals of Wimbledon and winning his first Masters 1000 event in the BNP Paribas Open. His massive fan base will be hoping that Del Po can improve on his excellent 2018, and achieve his second Grand Slam success in 2019.
4. Aryna Sabalenka- Another 20 year old who has made fine progress in 2018, rising from number 73 in the world at the beginning of the year to number 16 today. Sabalenka struggled to showcase her improvement early in the year at the big tournaments, losing early on in the first three Grand Slams but appeared to make a breakthrough in making the 4th round at the US Open. Sabalenka has had an excellent end to the season, picking up victories in the Connecticut Open, and the Wuhan Open, adding 7 wins against top ten players in the second half of the season. Having made such moves in the second half of this year, Sabalenka is primed for a big year in 2019, and don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more about the Belarusian.
5. Kyle Edmund - To see Kyle Edmund hanging around the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the Laver Cup says everything you need to know about Kyle Edmund’s 2018. The 23-year-old Brit is ranked 16 in the world, having made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, defeating Novak Djokovic in Madrid, and reaching the final in Marrakech. Edmund’s year did tail off slightly in the second part of the season, but a Grand Slam semi-final and a world ranking of 16 can only be seen as a great year.
6. Rafael Nadal - Given the high levels of success that Rafael Nadal is accustomed to it might seem strange that in a year where he ‘only’ won the French Open he appears on the high flyers list. But what puts Nadal into the mix is his Wimbledon renaissance. Since losing in the 2011 Wimbledon final, Nadal failed to make it past the fourth round before this year, playing some pretty average tennis in the process. This year however, the Spaniard played some scintillating tennis on the grass and was just a whisker away from making a final which he would most likely have won. The Nadal vs Djokovic semi-final was one of the best matches of the season, and it has been an absolute pleasure to see Nadal playing his best tennis on all surfaces once again. If he can remain fit through the 2019 season, Nadal has the ability to take home any of the Grand Slam titles next year.
7. Stefanos Tsitsipas - Tsitsipas has had a wonderful rise in the rankings this year, and while few tennis fans would have known his name going into 2018, he has created a big buzz over a year which saw him make the Canadian Open final. The 20-year-old Greek started the year ranked 91 in the world but finds himself well inside the top 20 at number 15. The youngster has had pundits purring with his exciting brand of tennis, and great things are expected from him in the future. 2019 will be a real test of Tsitsipas’ credentials, however, he will have a lot of points to defend, putting added pressure on. But if Tsitsipas can continue his wonderful rise the sky’s the limit for this talented young man.
8. Borna Coric - Coric has really taken his game to the next level in 2018, establishing himself as a top 20 player, and putting in some consistent performances throughout the season. Coric’s highlights include a last 16 run in the US Open, a quarterfinal appearance in Miami, a semi-final in Indian Wells, and victory over Roger Federer in the Halle Open final. Having started the year ranked number 48, Coric has risen to number 18 in the world, and has shown that he has the ability to push on towards the top 10. One area Coric can really look to improve on in 2019 is his performances in the Grand Slams, Coric suffered first round defeats in Australia, and Wimbledon and he will look to take heart from his last 16 performance at the US Open. Coric’s rise in the rankings, and general consistency over the year earn him the last spot on the high flyers list for 2018.
Year to Forget
1. Bernard Tomic - Once tipped for greatness, the Aussie has had another year to forget. You may not have seen him much and that is largely because he has failed to make it to half of the Grand Slam main draws, and didn’t make it past the second round in the others. During the year, Tomic reached a world ranking of 243, his lowest since 2010, continuing a downward trend that has been all too familiar in recent times. Credit to Tomic though, he has worked his way back up to number 76 in the world, and showed real signs of improvement this past month, winning the Masters 250 in Chengdu, beating Fabio Fognini in the final. Tomic’ past couple of years might have been a nightmare, but he knows where to look if he wants to change that. Tomic has the ability to be on the year to remember next year if only he gets his head in the right place, but don’t hold your breath.
2. Maria Sharapova - Having returned from her doping ban in early 2017, it was bound to take Sharapova time to get back to her very best, and many people expected that she would really push for big titles in 2018. This has not been the case, and 2018 has been more of a year to forget for Sharapova. The 31 year old is ranked 25, and that, coupled with a sole Grand Slam quarterfinal equates to a very poor year for someone of Sharapova’s quality. It seems like Sharapova’s glory days are firmly behind her, but first round Wimbledon loses to qualifiers is hardly befitting of Sharapova’s legacy. Nonetheless, she continues to persist, and will be hoping that 2019 is a happier year than 2018.
3. Johanna Konta - Konta had an excellent 2016 and 2017, making the semi finals at the Australian and US Open, and reaching a career high number 4 in the world in July 2017. 2018 has not been a good year for the Brit though, and she finds herself at number 44 in the world. This is due to a string of 1st round losses and poor performances in a year where she had plenty of points to defend. The 27 year old’s breakthrough came as a big surprise to many, and certainly there were few who picked her out as a potential number 4 in the world. Perhaps Konta was simply outperforming her capabilities in 2016 and 2017, but the biggest difference seems to be mental. Whether Konta can rediscover her best form remains to be seen, and 2019 will be an important year for her if she is to bounce back after a year to forget in 2018.
It just goes to show what a difficult sport tennis is, and how achieving success year in, year out is near impossible. Some of those on the high flyers list could easily have featured on the year to forget list in recent years. Likewise Konta, just goes to show how quickly things can take a turn in the opposite direction.
Those on the high flyers list will be determined to use their good 2018 to propel them on to even better things in 2019, but those on the year to forget list will be doubly determined to make next year their year.
Of course the season is not completely over yet, and there are still some pre Christmas tennis gifts to be handed out on both the ATP and WTA tours. These will culminate in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, the ATP Finals in London, and the WTA Finals in November.