The top 32’s in 2015: Who’s hot, who’s not? Tomic & F Lopez, Keys & Wozniacki (No. 20-17)

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No. 20

Dominic Thiem

Only 22 years old, the Austrian Thiem really improved this year, winning four matches in Miami, upending Feliciano Lopez and Jack Sock before falling against Andy Murray on hard courts. On clay, he won Nice by over stroking Nick Kyrgios, John Isner and Leonardo Mayer. After he lost early at Wimbledon, he went back on clay again, winning the title at Umag, and at Gstaad he beat David Goffin in the final. Thiem is flashy and can be very powerful. However, he did very little after August until the end of the season. He lost a lot of close contests and if he wants to go very far, he needs to improve and add more variety.

No. 19

Benoit Paire   

France has so many good players, but can any of them win a major? Hmmm. However, Paire has come out of nowhere beginning 2015 at No. 135 and ended the season ranked No. 19. That is pretty darn good. It took him a while to be able to go toe-to-toe with the elite, but he won three Challengers in France, and during the summer, he kept at it. The 26-year-old won Bastad by beating Tommy Robredo in the final, and at the US Open he stunned Kei Nishikori in the first round. In Tokyo, he bested him again, jumping on the ball and attacking early. But, Paire played too many tournaments – 32 events mind you – and he has to rest once and a while, but if he continues to improve, a top-10 is ripe on the picking.

No. 18

Bernard Tomic

For the first time, the 23-year-old Aussie has been much more consistent. Yes, he can get emotional off the court and he can be emotional when he is upset, but overall, he has improved and he has not given in on court, perhaps that’s the first time since he started out on tour in 2009. He does have a big first serve, he can rip his forehand and backhand, and he is pretty good at the net. However, the reason why he has yet to crack the top 10 is because his second serve is too soft, and, while has a fine slice, he pushes it around too much and he doesn’t attack early enough. Without a doubt, he has a lot of variety, but he doesn’t always dictate and if he wants to be able to knock down the big guns he has to be stronger physically and mentally. If he does in 2016, he can go very deep. How about the 2016 Aussie Final?

No. 17

Feliciano Lopez

Talk about the veterans improving all the time? How about the Spaniard Lopez, who for so many years was good, but not exactly great. Over  the past year, he has become a legitimate top 20. He moves well to the net and can put away his volleys (while nailing 743 aces this year). The 34-year-old reached the US Open, knocking off Mardy Fish in five dramatic sets, and beat Milos Raonic and Fabio Fognini before he fell in four tough sets against Novak Djokovic.

He also reached the finals at two 250s ATPs at Kuala Lumpur and Quito. Sure, he won’t win a major, but he is pretty efficient and in 2016, could find his way into the semis at one of the Slams.

THE WTA WOMEN

No. 20

Sarah Errani

Two years ago, it looked like the Italian would be a little more powerful, go for her shots and potentially dominate the clay. Not so. While she has been OK this year, she has moved back a little bit. Yes, on hard courts, she did upend Petra Kvitova and Vika Azarenka, which was excellent work, but on clay, she had not be able to rise up in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. Yes, she beat a bunch of young competitors by schooling them, which is fine, but her second serve is incredibly slow and, while she is a very good volley, she doesn’t come in often enough. In 2016, she will have to if she will ever returns back to the top 5 again.

No. 19

Elina Svitolina

Quietly yet steadily, the Ukrainian cracked the top 20, playing nearly every week, knocking out the likes of Angie Kerber, Lucie Safarova and Genie Bouchard. She is very fast, she rarely gets tired and when she pushes forward, she can kiss the lines. Without a doubt, the 21-year-old still needs a lot to learn. But she is smart and ambitious and, if she progresses, she has a real chance to reach the top 10 for the first time.

No. 18

Madison Keys

At times, Keys had a few tremendous tournaments: at the Aussie Open, she reached the semifinal, knocking out Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams and then fell against Serena Williams; in Charleston, she reached the final and lost to Angie Kerber; at Wimbledon she reached the quarters before she went down against Aga Radwanska in a terrific match; at the US Open, she got some revenge when she beat Aga in the third round, but then Serena pounded her in the fourth round. However, other than that, she did very little. She is one of the strongest young players out there, but she can get down on herself. She gets very frustrated when she isn’t all right, and she consequently sprays the ball. Without a doubt, Keys is good enough to win a major someday, but the 20-year-old has to take a deep breath and realize you can’t play perfectly all the time. If she plugs away, eventually she will become better and better and discover how exactly to play the correct way.

No. 17

Caroline Wozniacki

This has been ‘Caro’s’ toughest year since she began 10 years ago. Back then when she was No. 1 in 2010, she was exhausting nearly every opponent. She was not only super quick, but she never felt tired, she was incredibly steady and nailed her backhand from wherever direction. But now, she has been hurt too much, she has slower, she is constantly struggling about which way she is going and she has been too far back behind the baseline. She always shows up and tries, which is admirable, but if she doesn’t reconstruct her forehand, or become more aggressive on her returns, or charge towards the net, she is never going to win a Grand Slam. The 25-year-old has to change, or she will never reach the top 5 again.

 

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