Top 30s in 2018: Men, 5-1

Novak Djokovic

No. 5: Juan Martin del Potro
When he is healthy, and he has no pain, then he can beat anyone. However, every year, the Argentine gets hurt and he cannot play up to his potential. In 2018, in the first nine months, he was just fine. His body was OK, which is why he won a bunch of matches against some very excellent players. At the US Open, he reached the final, he beat Fernando Verdasco, Borna Coric, John Isner and Rafa Nadal (who retired) but lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets. It was pretty close, though. For the first time, he won an ATP 1000 at Indian Wells, outlasting Federer 7-6 in the third. He also won Acapulco, beating Kevin Anderson. DelPo is so committed. Now, he has regained his two-handed backhand because, for years, after he underwent his surgery (three times), he could only hit a one-hander, slicing a lot. Now, he can hit both of them. He has won a major before, in 2009 at the US Open. But, can he do it again? I would think that the 30-year-old still has a chance, but he has to stay healthy in 2019 and truly focus for two weeks.

No. 4: Alexander Zverev
The youngest player in the top 10 is spectacular when he is on. He is only 21 years old, and the German can crush his first serve, forehand and backhand. He can be very focused. He has yet to go very deep in the Grand Slams, and while he really tries, he still doesn’t get it because there are moments when he starts to get foggy. Eventually, he panics and he loses focus and matches. But Zverev is so young and each year, he will get better. But, he has to learn how to excel at the Slam with their three-out-of-five-set format. At the end of the year, he won the ATP Final, upsetting Roger Federer and Djokovic to grab it. That was super impressive. In 2019, we will find out how calm he is at the Australian Open. If he does, he has a legitimate chance to snag it.

No. 3: Roger Federer
I would think that the 37-year-old Swiss had a pretty good year, but I am sure he was not happy at times, because he still wants to win everything. But he is aging, a little bit, so he cannot be expected to run over everyone. He has been around for a very long time, and most people have watchd him for so many hours. He brilliantly mixes it up on his serves, his forehand is one of the best ever, his returns are phenomenal, his backhand has improved a lot of the past two years, and he is very intelligent at the net. He won the Australian Open again, and he won three more, at good events. But, he was not delightful when he lost in the quarters at Wimbledon, and then he lost in the round of 16 at the US Open. The same thing at the ATP Finals in London. At times, he was pissed off. Regardless, Federer will try super hard to win a major again in 2019. In a couple of weeks, he will be in Melbourne, and right there, his confidence will rise immediately. Because of that, he is one of the favorites, but to win it, he has to figure out about how to beat Djokovic, who has beaten him a lot. Fascinating.  

No. 2: Rafael Nadal
Through Roland Garros for five months he played about as well as he could, when he was healthy, that is. The Spaniard rarely retires, but he was forced to do it, retiring at the Australia Open against Marin Cilic. On clay, he was unbeatable, winning Paris at the Grand Slam, 11 times now. Totally locked in. He came very close on grass at Wimbledon, losing 10-8 in the fifth to Djokovic. Nadal certainly had some chances there by he barely missed it. The 32-year-old admitted that. This has happened many times. He went back on hard courts again, and he looked good, winning Toronto. He went to the US Open and, unfortunately, in the second week, he had to play for many hours against Dominic Thiem. Nadal won, but it was 7-6 in the fifth. So, in the semis against Del Potro, he couldn’t move. He yelled. There was tremendous pain, so he retired. That was it and he stopped for the rest of the year. Nadal knows his body is breaking down more and more, you have to wonder if he will retire in the next couple of years. But even so, when he is playing wonderfully, he will win another Grand Slam — one of two. His heavy forehand is his best, ever. No doubt about it.  

No. 1: Novak Djokovic
In the first five months, the Serbian was unsure of himself. He had been hurt in 2017, and he returned in 2018, but he was shaky. On court, he had to trust himself and go for it on the lines. Finally, at Wimbledon, he was more comfortable, he ran and ran, hit it deep, crosscourt and down the line, he pounded it, especially with his backhand. He would wait until he had a legitimate opportunity, and would jump on it. He won the Big W on grass, and after that, he was the best player once again. He won Cincy, the US Open and Shanghai. He beat the Slam winners, so many great players such as Nadal, Federer, Cilic and Del Potro. He didn’t win Paris Masters or the ATP Final, but so what? He came back, he was right in there, and while he can get frustrated, still, he is so darn good. Try to pass him, really try, because he is so quick that he can pick the ball up and crack it. Djokovic is No. 1. He has done that for a long time. Can anyone pass him again in 2019 if he is healthy and playing when he wants to? Right now, that will be extremely difficult. At this point, he will win a major again, and maybe two this year. That’s how good he is.