The men’s grade, from AO: Djokovic was way up, Rafa way down

Nishikori IW 15 TR MALT2903

The 2006 Australian Open


Novak Djokovic

The No. 1 came in as a heavy favorite at the AO and with the exception against Gilles Simon in the fourth round, when he needed to push in the fifth set, he absolutely nailed against three fine folks: Kei Nishikori, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. There are no holes. He is relentless, he can smack side-to-side and the minute he can go forward, he puts it away.

He owns 11 Grand Slams now, and given that he has won four out of the last five majors, in 2016, he will be seriously driven to win his first crown at Roland Garros. If he manages that, he will have a legitimate shot to win all four Slams. If he does, he’d be tied with Pete Sampras with 14 Slams. Wow!


Milos Raonic

The Canadian has improved so much in the past month: his backhand, his return, his aggression and his volley. Given that his huge serve and massive forehands, he was very close of reaching the final. He out-punched Stan Wawrinka, he smoked Gael Monfils and in the semis against Andy Murray, he was up two sets to one, but he hurt himself and then he dropped significantly, losing in five sets. Before the year started the 25-year-old said he will win a major this year. I bet he is right.


Andy Murray

Even though Murray has lost four times against Djokovic in the Aussie Open finals, still, he fought hard and there were times when he looked pretty close. Still, his serve has improved a little bit and he is very comfortable at the net. He can use tactics to his advantage and he understands what he has to do. However, Djokovic is flat-out better than he is, especially with his forehand and maybe his famous backhand, too. Murray has to realize that.

Roger Federer

The all-time great (well, very close, at least) played beautiful tennis until he faced Djokovic, who destroyed him for the first two sets, battled in the third set, and in the fourth set he couldn’t figure it out. In some ways the 34-year-old has improved in the last couple of years, but otherwise he is declining physical. It happens to every one eventually.

Gilles Simon

When the Frenchman is locked in, he is incredibly consistent and smart, dragging Djokovic into their fifth set. He played terrific, until the end, when he backed off.


Tomas Berdych

The Czech scored two significant wins over Nick Kyrgios and Robert Bautista Agut and he looked very driven, but against Federer, he didn’t know which way to go. If he is ever going to reach a Grand Slam final again, he must find some more strengths and reduced mistakes.

Kei Nishikori

Yes, Nishikori played fairly well until he reached quarters, smacking Jo Tsonga. But, against Djokovic, it was very clear that he has a lot of work to do if he ever is going to wins a major title some day.

Bernard Tomic

The Aussie was very controlled in the first three matches, and he was somewhat close against Murray, but he lost in three sets. He has always played pretty well in Australia, but for the rest of the year? Hmmm. He has to prove it.

David Goffin

The Belgian danced around when he bested the rising Dominic Thiem in four sets. However, Federer tore him apart.

Robert Bautista Agut

Nice to see the veteran Spaniard to reach the fourth round for the first time. Does he actually like the hard courts now?

Jo Tsonga

Jo appears ready to go once again as he was hurt during the fall. He reached the fourth round before Nishikori dusted him, but at least he can reach the top 5 again. However, the clock is ticking.

Gael Monfils

Like Tsonga, he is always hurt, but at least he reached the quarters, beating the Russian Andrey Kuznetov before Raonic hit the heck out of him.

David Ferrer

Good for the Spaniard, who reached the quarter once again, needing three hours before he fell against Murray. He always tries, but maybe the 33-year-old can serve and volley once in a while?


Stan Wawrinka

Coming in, it was Stan the Man who had a legitimate chance to win the tournament again. However, he was a bit sick and, against Raonic, he was a little off. Next year.

Nick Kyrgios

The 20-year-old won a couple matches and, at times, he was very flashy and skillful when he fell in four sets versus Berdych. Give him more time.

Grigor Dimitrov

Some think that the Bulgarian didn’t play well in Australia, but that is wrong as he almost won Sydney. But, he lost in Brisbane and the AO against Federer, in two fairly tight matches. Good enough for now.

John Isner

Big John scored a huge win over Feliciano Lopez who has always gave him a lot of trouble, but he could not figure out what to do when he faced Ferrer in the fourth round. Ranked No. 11, he has to continue to improve significantly if he is ever going to reach the top 5.


Steve Johnson

The USC standout has improved every year and reached the third round, so maybe soon he can reach the second week this season.


Fernando Verdasco

There is no doubt that Verdasco played amazingly well to upset Rafa Nadal in five sets in the first round. However, he lost in the next round, which mean he was unable to go deep at all.

Jack Sock

The rising Sock came through in the first round against the very good 18-year-old Taylor Fritz in five sets, but then he went down against Lukas Rosol in the second round. Yes, he had been sick, but he had a really chance to go deep. Next time?


Marin Cilic

The 2014 US Open champion have said that he can reach the top 5 in 2016. He didn’t reach in the second week. I am waiting …


Rafael Nadal

It is impossible to know why he lost in the first round against Verdasco, given since October he had beat everyone with the exception of Djokovic. He wasn’t aggressive enough. He simply cannot do that anymore or he will never win another Slam.

Benoit Paire

The Frenchman had a fine 2015, but then he was totally shocked against the young American Noah Rubin.

The top 32’s, ATP: Goffin better, but must improve all around. Same goes with Raonic. Where’s Cilic?

Raonic SJ 13 TR


2015, ATP from Nos. 16 through 13.

No. 16

David Goffin

Talk about flashy? The Belgian dances around, jumps on the ball, nailing his forehands and backhands down the line. He is pretty decent on the net too, and he can belt his first serves. So why has the 25-year-old gone further yet? He is so-so at the majors, as well as the ATP 1000s. He has lost against Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, and Kei Nishikori – everybody against the top competitors. He just needs to improve all around, that is as simple as that.

No. 15

Gilles Simon

Who doesn’t love Simon when he is on? He is incredibly versatile, he can stroke his shots from behind the baseline, moving forward and smoking the ball, or sneaking to the net and putting it away. The 30-year-old has been in the top 20 for a long time, and nearly six years ago, he had cracked into the top 6, but he was unable to continue and push into the top 5. He had a real chance to reach final at a major. He is a very intelligent person, but he over-plays and he loses early way too much. But he is still young enough and if he truly believes in himself, maybe the French can go super deep at a Grand Slam in 2016. But he has to prove that.

No. 14

Milos Raonic

The Canadian had a rough year, becoming injured in May and after that, he really struggled. He has a gigantic serve, he has a phenomenal forehand, and he hustles. But he must improve his backhand, his volley, and certainly, return of serve.

He is only 25 and he still has miles to go, so there is no panic yet. However, he has to smile more on court, and when he gets it in his face, yell a little bit. Raonic will go back into the top 10, but if he wants to reach the top 5, he has to change it up and add more style.

No. 13

Marin Cilic

Did the Croatian have a decent year? Sure, if you consider that he was still hurt at the beginning of 2015, and had the 2014 US Open champion was fully healthy, then maybe he would have entered the Australian Open and taken down all the big boys.

But since he returned in March, he has played a number of tournaments, but he had been unable to knock off the most significant competitors. For instance, when he played a terrific match and beat Jo Tsonga in five sets in the quarters at the 2015 US Open, but then he went up against Djokovic, who destroyed him.

However, at least he had reached the semis and it appeared that he was going to play even better during the fall. But he did not overall. He did win Moscow over Roberta Bautista Agut in the final, but in the bigger events, he lost to Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and Rafa Nadal.

Cilic has all the tools, and if he can manage to be healthy all the time, and stay under control, then he will be right there. The 27-year-old will have another chance to win a major again. But in 2016? Hmmm.

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