Top 32: Rafael Nadal is ‘only’ No. 5, Nishikori has to be healthy

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The top 32, ATP Nos. 8-5

No. 8

Kei Nishikori

The youngest player in the top 10, Nishikori has years ahead, but is he finally ready to win a major? Possibly, but he has to get a little bit better than that. The Japanese might be the fastest player out there, and he is very forceful with his forehand and his backhand, but mentally, he can become disturbed on court when he isn’t hitting the right way. He does have a fine first serve, but his second serve is marginal, as is his net game.

Yes, he has been able to win a few tournaments – Memphis, Barcelona and Washington – which are just fine. But he wasn’t able to take down the world best. He lost against Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. At Roland Garros against Jo Tsonga at the quarters, he had a legitimate chance to go further, but he hiccupped.

He is in aggressive person and can hustle, but in 2015, he became hurt again (he is always hurt) and if he wants to go far and win a Grand Slam in 2016, he must be perfectly healthy.

No. 7

David Ferrer

Good for the 33-year-old who keeps going and going. He may not ever be able to win a Grand Slam, but he never quits. Without a doubt, over the years, he should have mixed it up more, returned more aggressively and take over the net, but that is not his way.

In 2015 he won five titles, in Doha, Rio, Acapulco, Kuala Lumpur and Vienna. He wasn’t able to go super deep in the ATP Masters 1000s or the majors, but still, outside of the top 10, he was able to beat back almost all the youngsters.

Maybe in 2016, he will try to change it up a little bit, but that is unlikely because he would rather sit on top of the baseline and whale away until he retires.

No. 6

Tomas Berdych

I am not sure where the Czech is going. Sure, he was fairly consistent in 2015, but is he really going to move ahead? The 30-year-old Berdych has improved over the past 10 years or so. He is smarter; he can be cagey and, while he isn’t that fast, he is pretty strong going baseline to baseline.

He has won 12 titles, and back in 2005, he won the ATP Masters Series 1000 in grabbing Paris/Bercy, but other than that, is he good enough now to win a major? Perhaps, but he is going to have to find a way to overcome the Big 4 plus 1 (Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Rafa Nadal and Stan Wawrinka)? The only way he is going to do that is to consistently rip the ball and charge the net. He will stay in the top 10 in 2016, but that doesn’t mean he will win a Grand Slam unless he truly changes.

No. 5

Rafael Nadal

Here are the positives in 2015 for the 14-time Grand Slam champ Nadal: for the first time in years, he was not hurt, he was fairly healthy, and overall, he was substantially better during the last couple of months. He didn’t win a major or an ATP Masters 1000, but he kept trying all the time, even though he left the ball too short against the other top competitors.

Look, in 2016, if he is much more confident, then he will be more aggressive. When he is facing the other best of the rest, he will get right in their face.

Nadal’s phenomenal lefty forehand can dominate anyone, but his backhand is still a little weak, especially down the line. His first serve has been strong enough, but he can be predictable. The same goes with his return and net play: he can be very effective, but as he says, that is only when he is feeling completely right.

Nadal can win a major in 2016, or even a couple more Grand Slams next year, but he absolutely has to change a little bit if he is going to stop Djokovic, who has beat him every time in 2015. Head to head, they are now 23–23. The Serbian has improved significantly this season, so if Nadal wants to catch him, he must go right at him and get into his head. He has done it before, but now he has to do it once again.

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