The top 32: John Isner got better, but did Jo Tsonga improve?

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The top 32, 2015, ATP, Nos. 12-9

No. 12

Kevin Anderson

The South African really improved this year, adding some new shots, mixing it up and, of course, blasting away with his massive serve. He has been fairly consistent over the season, but he has been unable to knock out the big boys at the majors. However, at the US Open, he out fought Andy Murray and then went down against Stan Wawrinka.

At Wimbledon, he reached the fourth round and he was so close, winning the first two sets against Novak Djokovic. But then the Serbian surged and, in the fifth set, Anderson had some chances but he lost 7-5. Yes, the 6-foot-9 Anderson has had trouble overcoming the top 10 opponents – like falling against Rafa Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer, Murray, Wawrinka and Djokovic – but at least he was pretty aggressive and solid. If he locks in early, perhaps the 29-year-old can reach a semifinal at a major and stun another one of the so-called Big Four-plus 1 (Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Nadal and Wawrinka).

No. 11

John Isner

In 2009, Isner cracked the top 10 and reached No. 9, his highest ever. Is he ready to go further in 2016? Why not? The American was not spectacular every week this year, but he has been fairly consistent when he was feeling confident. At Miami, the 30-year-old Isner knocked off Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori before losing against Djokovic. In Madrid, he bested Nick Kyrgios and reached the quarters, when he fell against Tomas Berdych 7-6 in the third. He won Atlanta again; and he reached the final in Washington. At Paris/Bercy, he stunned Federer and then went down against David Ferrer.

Those are the positives. However, the 6-foot-10 man must improve. Without a doubt, first and foremost, he must do something with his return, which really hurt him. His backhand has gotten better, and his volley is more respectable, too. We all know that his serve is mind-blowing, as is his forehand. But if he cannot break, then he has to go to the tiebreaks all the time, and emotionally, that can get him down. That is why he has yet to reach a semifinal at the major. The good thing is he did get better in 2015. During the off-season, if he pushes himself, maybe we will see him surge at Australian Open for the first time. Now that will be a whole lot of fun.

No. 10

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Tsonga IW 12 TR MALT3267In 2008, when the Frenchman reached the final at the Australian Open, I really thought that he was going to win a Grand Slam for sure. Yes, he lost against Djokovic, but still, he was young and he had crushed Nadal in the semis. He was leaping around, he was nailing his forehand and he was dominating the net.

But unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do it again. He is hurt all the time, especially with his sore knees, and while he can get close – like he did in 2015 when he reached the semis at Roland Garros, overcoming Berdych and Nishikori before Wawrinka whacked him in four sets – he didn’t cross the finish line. At the US Open in the quarters against Marin Cilic, he was right there, but he went down in five sets. He did win Metz, and he reached the final in Shanghai, beating Nadal in the semis and then Djokovic cruised past him.

Just like the other two men above (Anderson and Isner), they can crush their forehands and serves, but there backhands are so-so and they do not return efficiently. At least ‘Jo’ has reached the Top 5 once, and when he is feeling right, he truly believes in himself. But can he go all the way at a major? I am not sure anymore.

No. 9

Richard Gasquet

Here is another 30-year-old player. We have to ask the question: Will the Frenchman even win a Grand Slam, or even a ATP Masters 1000? Maybe, but now, I doubt it. Yes, he has won 12 titles over the years, but he has yet to be able to knock off the highest competitors. He has a wonderful backhand and forehand, he can be creative, and he can hustle, but is just a little bit short. In 2015, he did reach two quarters in the ATP Masters 1000, and he did reach the Wimbledon semifinals once again, overcoming Wawrinka 11-9 in the fifth set. That was a classic. Unfortunately, he was somewhat tired and then he lost against Djokovic. He can be flashy, so perhaps he will change it up in 2016. If he does, Gasquet may push into a Slam final.

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