Archives for December 2018

Top 30 in 2018: Women 25-21

No. 25: Dominika Cibulkova
The 29-year-old Slovak has played so many tournaments, with winning 446 and 280 losses. Can she eventually hit 1,000 total? Possibility, for sure, but she will need more than a few years more on tour. Sure, she isn’t tall, but is super intense when on court. She is still swift, she celebrates and she can yell. Her serve is marginal, but both her forehand and backhand can be deep. She believes in herself, most of the time, and when she isn’t playing well, she will still try and try again. Cibulkova did reach the 2014 final at the Australian Open. Can she do it again next month? You have to give her an opportunity, at least a little bit.   

No. 24: Mihaela Buzarnescu
What a year by the 30-year-old, who was out for years because she had a shoulder and knee injuries. In July, she won San Jose and upended Elina Svitolina at Roland Garros and Birmingham. She is a big hitter and he’s hitting her stride. Buzarnescu started the year ranked No. 59, and now she is close to reach the top 20, or even further. Not bad. Good, in fact. 

No. 23: Carla Suarez Navarro
The 30-year-old veteran had a fine year. Yes, the Spaniard won’t be able to win a Slam, but she is always out there, trying, re-tooling her tactics. Years ago, this one-hander was way back behind the court. For sure, she was very steady. But, in order to upend the most important players, she had to run forward. She didn’t do it enough, but only once in a while. Now, she can attack while remaining steady. Suarez Navarro has been around for 15 years. Give her another five years, because clearly, she loves playing the sports, win or lose.

No. 22: Jelena Ostapenko
At times, the Latvian is so, so good. In 2017, she won Roland Garros, moving quickly and blasting off of both sides, nailing on top of the lines. Sure, she can rack up a ton of errors. But, when she is excited and thinking on court, she can lock in. However, this season Ostapenko dropped, and she lost a number of important matches starting in August. Good thing she reached the semis at Wimbledon, but she lost in the first round in Paris to Kateryna Kozlova. She wasn’t there. The 21-year-old is still young, so in 2019, she will play great at times, but still, she has more things to improve, and to figure it out. 
  
No. 21: Anett Kontaveit
The Estonian had some terrific wins, outside in the Grand Slams, but she did reach in the final in Wuhan, upsetting the 2017 US Open champ Sloane Stephens and she finally lost to the young riser Aryna Sabalenta. In Rome, she knocked off Venus Williams and Carolina Wozniacki before she went down to Elina Svitolina. Kontaveit can be very aggressive, and she can crack her forehand, but on court, she can get alarmed and she can totally lose it. The 22-year-old should get better next year, and improve her backhand and net play. If she does, she can reach the top 10 in 2019, at some point. And then?   

Top 30s in 2018: Men 30-26

No. 30: Gilles Simon

The 33-year-old Frenchman will go on and on, tournament after tournament, city after city, rarely stopping. Yes, he has never won a major, and it is unlikely that he can do it now, but still, at least he has changed his tactics, which is why he can compete against very good players. Simon has never won a huge event, but he has won a bunch of 250s. In 2019, maybe he can reach the final at the ATP 1000s? Possible.

No. 29: Gael Monfils

Another Frenchman, the 32-year-old has come close to grabbing an ATP 1000, but he has yet to do it. When he is healthy, then he is very competitive and hilarious. But he has been hurt a huge amount over the last 10 years, his legs especially. His forehand and his first serve are forceful, and his backhand is a little harder now. Monfils has reached the final of the ATP 1000 in Paris twice. Can he do that again in the fall next year? Sure, why not, if his legs hold up.   

No. 28: Fernando Verdasco

The Spanish veteran is very similar to Monfils, who has a tremendous forehand, his first serve and he is still very quick. Years ago, in Australia, in the semis, he was close to upending Rafa Nadal. It took more than five hours, which was a fantastic contest, but in the end, Rafa pulled through. The 35-year-old Verdasco has played 909 matches — which is a lot — and he has beaten some fine players. However, while he is very good, he is not great, which is why he won’t win a Grand Slam. In the ATP 1000s, he does have one small chance next year. If he did prevail, he would totally thrilled.
 
No. 27: Denis Shapovalov

The Canadian is young — 19 years old — but he is very, very good already. He hustles, he has a big first serve, forehand and backhand. He can get frustrated, and he loses the control. After May, he lost a lot of matches, and it appears that he played too much because he is so young. I would imagine, though, that he is practicing a lot, so in 2019, he will be smarter and wiser.

No. 26: Richard Gasquet

The third Frenchmen in the group, Gasquet is 32-years-old, he has heavy topspin, he still can be quick, and once again, he plays a tremendous amount. Eleven years ago, he reached No. 7 and it looked life he would win a major, but at the Grand Slams, he gets too nervous. At least he reached a few ATP 1000s, twice in Canada. Gasquet does like hardcourt, grass and clay. His all-around abilities are admirable but can he even get better in 2019? Question mark.

Top 30s in 2018: Women 30-26

Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

No. 30: Aliaksandra Sasnovich
The 24-year-old Belarussian didn’t play great at the Grand Slams, but she did reach the final of Brisbane, and at Wimbledon she upset Petra Kvitova and Daria Gavrilova before falling to Jelena Ostapenko. She can be forceful, and at times, she can be powerful, but at the US Open, she was double-bagled by champion Naomi Osaka. Ouch! Still, Sasnovich moved up, so in 2019, maybe she will be calmer on court and crack the top 20.

No. 29: Maria Sharapova
The five-time Grand Slam champion had a so-so year. When she was healthy, she looked pretty good — and very good at times — but once again, she was hurt a lot. Mentally, on court, she is up and down, being confident or confused. Hopefully, in 2019, Sharapova will be healthy, patient and a little bit faster. And how about this? Maybe she will come in more at the net and actually put away a few volleys. That would make her extremely happy, because over the past 17 years, she has backed off at the net. One way or another, when she is feeling good, she can beat just about everybody.

No. 28 : Su-Wei Hsieh
Another long-time veteran, the 32-years-old has won a number of big contests in doubles, but in singles, she was hesitant. Now, in singles, she is finally aggressive and steady. In September, she won Hiroshima, but without facing the best players. At the start of the year, she was ranked No. 103. She upended Garbine Muguruza and Aga Radwanska at the Aussie Open before losing to Angie Kerber. Perhaps Hsieh can reach the top 15 in singles? Hmmm.

No. 27: Lesia Tsurenko
There are so many veterans who keep trying to move up — way up. At the US Open, during an extremely hot day, in the fourth round, the Ukranian was collapsing. She could barely move. She was almost puking. Somehow, she stayed in there and, in the middle of the second set, she started feeling better. The 29-year-old won it, beating Marketa Vondrousova 6-7, 7-5, 6-2. “You need to survive,” she said. She sure did. However, Tsurenko did nothing during the fall; so next year, she has to be more solid.

No. 26: Camila Giorgi
The Italian did improve a good amount this year. She won 38 matches, and she lost 20. For her, that is pretty darn good. She won Linz, at the end of the fall, saying that, “I think it’s very important for the future.”  Giorgi had a terrific and tough match against the great Serena Williams at Wimbledon, losing 6-4 in the third. The same thing occurred at Roland Garros; she was so confident in nearly upsetting Sloane Stephens, very deep in the third, but she went down 8-6. Close, but no cigar. Giorgi has always been super aggressive, but now, she is a little bit more patient, which is a good thing. In 2019, she has to go even further.