Monday, July 27, 2015

What to Expect at the BB&T Atlanta Open?

The BB&T Atlanta Open, aka "grown ups Kalamazoo", may be lacking the world's best players, but has more than enough Americans to draw in the Atlanta fans.  Lots of young Americans were in qualifying, and the main draw has a collection of Americans young and old.  Mardy Fish is making an appearance as he goes on his farewell tour this summer, and is also teaming with Andy Roddick in the men's doubles.   

In the top half it's hard to see anyone stopping John Isner and Jack Sock from meeting in the semifinals.  Steve Johnson could give Isner some trouble in the quarters, but this is practically Isner's home tournament and he always bring his best game to Atlanta.  Jack Sock's section includes Denis Kudla and Ryan Harrison, and it's hard to find anyone who 3 years ago would have picked Harrison as the one from this group to be outside of the top 100 in 2015.  Fish is also in this part of the draw, and may have a shot to win his first round match against Dudi Sela.  Look for Sock to reach the semifinals without dropping a set. 

In the semifinals, Isner should be able to squeak past Sock for the third time in his career in Atlanta, after previously knocking him out of the event in 2012 and 2014.  Sock's a much better player than in year's past, but picking against Isner in Atlanta is like picking against Federer at Wimbledon or Nadal at the French Open (maybe a slight exaggeration). 

The bottom half should be a little more open. Canadian Vasek Pospisil is the number two seed, and is looking to back up his run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.  However, outside of Wimbledon he hasn't done much of note all year, and is hardly a sure thing to make a deep run.  Emerging young American Jared Donaldson had an impressive run through qualifying, and opens up against former NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman in a match that could go either way. 

Fourth seeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino just reached the finals of a 250 event in Bogota last week, and look for him to take out seventh seed Gilles Muller on his way to the semis.  Muller already destroyed Donald Young in his first round match, who has once again forgotten how to win matches at the ATP level after a promising start to the year. 

In the bottom section 17 year old American Frances Tiafoe is in with a wild card, and opens against big hitting Australian Sam Groth.  Tiafoe could have a bright future down the road, but it's hard to see him being competitive in this match given that he's been struggling at the Challenger level over the last couple of months.  Expect Pospisil to get past Marcos Baghdatis on his way to the semis, before knocking out Mannarino in the pair's first career meeting in the final four. 

In the finals, Pospisil may have a 2-1 head-to-head edge over Isner, but beating Isner in Atlanta and anywhere else in the world are two different stories.  It should be a big hitting and entertaining match up to watch, with the American prevailing in a third-set tiebreak to capture his third straight Atlanta title.   

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Next (And Better) John Isner?

17 year old American Reilly Opelka just won the junior Wimbledon boys title, and one thing is clear: he better get used to being compared to fellow American John Isner.  Like Isner, Opelka is over 6'9" and possesses an extremely powerful (and high bouncing) serve.  But where Isner has been limited by deficiencies in other areas of his game, it looks like Opelka may be the player we hoped Isner could develop into.

As was evident during the Wimbledon boys final, Opelka has much more than just a big serve to offer.  The junior world number four's backhand is surprisingly good, though it shouldn't be such a surprise anytime an American has a decent and technically sound backhand.  He doesn't seem to have any trouble hitting strong rally shots off that side, and seems comfortable going for backhand winners as well.  And while it's less of a surprise, he's certainly no slouch off the forehand side either.  It's unlikely movement will be the strength of anyone as tall as Opelka, but he seemed to move pretty well for someone his height.

As has been said many times before, it's always risky to predict pro success based on a player's junior career.  The vast majority of junior grand slam champions find little success in the pros, and only a select few make it big at the next level.  But given all the free points Opelka should win from his serve combined with a solid ground game, it looks like he's a much safer bet than many other junior prospects.  Sure he'll have his growing pains as he transitions to the pro tour, but in this day and age that's inevitable.  More importantly, he has a game that should translate well at the next level even if the results don't really show for a couple more years.  He also should be able to avoid much of the pressure that comes with being the next big thing in American men's tennis, as he's got about 6 other fellow American prospects to share the attention with.

When watching Isner play, it's easy to imagine how much success he'd be having if he were only slightly better in other areas of his game.  He's improved since he first came on tour, but not to the degree many fans of American tennis had hoped.  In a sport where the margins are so small, if Isner's backhand, movement, hands, etc were just a few percentages better, maybe he'd be a staple in the top 10 instead of the top 20.  With the emergence of Opelka, we may not have to wonder any longer.  We may finally get to see just how far a 6'10" serving machine can go when he's got the rest of the game to back it up.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

How High Can Djokovic Climb on the Grand Slam Title List?

With his Wimbledon title Novak Djokovic now has nine grand slam singles titles to his name, and there's no reason to believe he can't add several more to his total.  He'll be the heavy favorite to get his tenth at the US Open, and should have a good chance at further adding to his total in Australia after that.  While it's risky to predict that anyone will win five more grand slam titles, it doesn't seem crazy to think Djokovic could make a run at Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras' total of 14. 

While Djokovic just turned 28, he appears to have at least a few years remaining in which he can rack up multiple grand slams per year.  The rest of the Big Four isn't nearly as much of threat to his slam chances as they used to be, and it's not clear who else is going to stop him.  Federer is nearly 34, and if he didn't beat Djokovic at Wimbledon it's hard to see where he's going to beat him.  Djokovic has solved the Nadal riddle as well, as he dispatched him easily at Roland Garros and has beaten him 6 out of the last 7 times.  He also has been dominant against Murray, having beaten him 8 straight times.  Wawrinka has given him trouble as of late (most notably denying him the career grand slam at the French Open), but Wawrinka is inconsistent and often loses earlier in tournaments. 

It's true things can change quickly in tennis, as a player can be on top of the world one moment and then quickly fall down a few pegs without much warning.  Nadal's decline has been pretty drastic, and he's only one year older than Djokovic.  However, Djokovic isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and it's hard to see his level of play dropping much in the next two years.  

Fortunately for Djokovic, there's not a particularly strong group of younger players ready to knock him off his perch either.  There's simply not many players in the 23-26 age group who look like they're ready to become a serious challenger to the world number one.  Cilic, Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov are all very good players, but they're up and down, injury prone and simply not at Djokovic's level.  While there's a more talented group of younger players on their way up (i.e. Kyrgios, Thiem, Coric, Kokkinakis, etc), they're probably a couple years away from hitting their peaks and won't be much of a threat to Djokovic anytime soon. 

Even if Djokovic doesn't age as gracefully as Federer, if he can remain at this level until he's 30 we may be viewing him in an entirely different light at the end of his career.  It always seemed like Djokovic was going to end up in the same conversation with the likes of Agassi, Lendl, Connors, Borg, and a few others who are considered legends but not quite in league with Federer, Sampras, Nadal, Laver and Emerson.  He's still got some work to do, but it looks like he may get a lot closer to joining that latter quintet than many of us thought.          

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What to Expect at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport?

The casual tennis fan may think the grass court season ends after Wimbledon, but the hardcore fan knows the tour turns to the grass at Newport for the Hall of Fame Championships.  Newport may not be a particularly menacing field even for a 250 level tournament, but there should still be plenty of intrigue.  The draw is led by the tour's two best servers and tallest players- John Isner and Ivo Karlovic, and the rest of the field will have to hope they bring their best return games to Newport.

The seeds in the top half are Isner, Adrian Mannarino, Bernard Tomic and Steve Johnson.  37 year old wild card Tommy Haas may have a shot to upset Mannarino, but he's playing just his third tournament back since coming back from a long injury layoff.  Otherwise, it's a fairly weak half and hard to see the seeds having much trouble.  Look for Isner to reach the semis, as he should get past the winner of the Mannarino/Haas match without too much trouble.  

Waiting for Isner will be American Steve Johnson, who will be looking to get his season going with a strong run.  Johnson's quarterfinal opponent Tomic may be the higher ranked player, but Johnson just beat Tomic in straight sets on grass a couple of weeks ago.  He should be confident heading into the rematch, and will be comfortable now that he's back playing in the United States.  In the semis, the big serving Isner should be too much for Johnson.  Isner leads the head to head 3-1, and Johnson has only taken one set in their last three meetings.  Also of interest for fans of American tennis- 18 year old up and comer Jared Donaldson faces off against American Austin Krajicek in the first round, and newly turned pro/NCAA runner up Noah Rubin opens up against Tatsuma Ito of Japan.

The seeds in the bottom half are Karlovic, Jack Sock, Tim Smyczek and Sam Querrey.  In the first quarterfinal on this half, look for Sock to power past fellow American Smyczek without too much trouble.  In the bottom quarter, Querrey will likely half to take on Rafael Nadal conqueror Dustin Brown in the second round.  Querrey's beaten Brown the last two times, and should be able to squeak past the entertaining Brown once again.  In the quarters, look for Querrey to top the second seeded Karlovic, against whom he has a surprising 5-1 career record.  In an all-American semifinals matchup, the more talented Sock should be able to overcome his older countryman. 

In the finals, expect Isner to get revenge for his loss to Sock at last year's Hall of Fame Championships.  That was the only time Sock has beaten Isner, although Sock has recently raised his level of play a good amount.  Still, Sock will struggle to make inroads on Isner's serve, and may still be suffering some effects from an apparent knee injury that hampered him at Wimbledon.  Isner generally has a busy and fairly productive run in the U.S. during the summer months, and he should be able to start things off on the right note in Newport.   

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Previewing the Wimbledon Men's Final

In a rematch of their classic 2014 men's final, Novak Djokovic will look to beat Roger Federer in the finals of Wimbledon for the second straight year.  Djokovic eased past Richard Gasquet in the first semifinals, and Roger Federer surprisingly did the same against Andy Murray in the second.  Federer looked to be the sharper of the two, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the favorite heading into the finals. 

Federer dictated play against Murray, and he'll look to take control of points early against Djokovic as well.  Djokovic may think he can beat Federer by playing great defense and relying on deep, steady groundstrokes, and maybe he can if Federer isn't at his best.  But as sharp as Federer has looked, Djokovic may need to be a little more aggressive than normal off the ground.  Djokovic often leaves a little something in reserve, as he doesn't like to go for riskier shots than he has to in order to win.  Against most players this isn't a problem, but an in-form Federer may require Djokovic to come out firing. 

Djokovic seems to have the most pressure heading in.  He's the world number one, is still in his prime, and just let a massive opportunity slip away by falling to Wawrinka in last month's French Open final.  If he loses another grand slam final he's supposed to win, the critics will get a little louder.  Fair or not, some will wonder why he gives away so many major titles when he's clearly the best player in the world.  Even though Federer is at the point of his career where anything else he accomplishes is just a bonus, he does have some pressure knowing this may be his last realistic shot to win a major.  However, no one's going to knock Federer for falling to the world number one in the Wimbledon finals when he's nearly 34 years old. 

It's hard to see either player running away with this match, and fans will be hoping for another five set battle.  Djokovic managed to avoid a letdown after his failure to capture the career grand slam in Paris, and he'll be extremely motivated to get a nice "consolation" prize by winning the most prestigious tournament in the world.  He knows losing to a 33 year old Federer won't look good, nor will losing in the finals of back to back grand slams on the European swing.  Djokovic knows the crowd will be pro-Federer, but he won't be happy about it.  All this should give Djokovic enough motivation where he's simply going to refuse to lose.  The tennis world may have been buzzing after Federer's phenomenal performance against Murray, but Djokovic will remind everyone on Sunday that he's pretty good at this tennis thing too. 

Prediction: Djokovic d. Federer: 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.    

What (or who) Could Keep Serena From Winning the Grand Slam?

Nerves:  If the end of her Wimbledon finals match is any indication, Serena will be nervous in New York.  She looked to be running away with the second set, but a patch of nervous play allowed Muguruza to get back in the match (albeit briefly).  If she got tight at this stage, it's possible she gets even more nervous when faced with the pressure of completing the calendar grand slam.  (She also tightened up in the French Open final against Safarova).  It didn't end up costing her at Wimbledon, as Muguruza was just as nervous as she was.  But if she's playing a more experienced player in the later stages of the US Open and succumbs to her nerves, she might not get off so easy.

A top player who finds "the zone":  Serena's usually so much better than everyone else that it doesn't matter if her opponent is having a particularly good day.  But there are a couple of players who could trouble her if they get in the zone for a day.  World number two Petra Kvitova has already beaten Serena this year in straight sets on her worst surface, and may finally believe she has what it takes to beat Serena.  Victoria Azarenka has been slowly rounding back into form after missing much of 2014 with injuries.  She's already taken Serena to three sets three times in 2015, and may be fully back in shape by the time the end of the hard court season rolls around.  If Azarenka keeps gaining momentum throughout the next month or two, she could be a very dangerous opponent.  It would certainly take an excellent performance by Kvitova or Azarenka to actually pull the upset.  But it's conceivable that if Serena comes out flat and they find the zone for a long enough stretch, they just might be able to get it done.

A dangerous early or mid round opponent:  When Serena loses in a grand slam, it's usually before the semifinals.  In 2013 her grand slam losses came to Sloane Stephens (Australian Open quarters) and Sabine Lisicki (Wimbledon Round of 16).  In 2014 she lost to Ana Ivanovic (Australian Open Round of 16), Garbine Muguruza (French Open second round) and Alize Cornet (Wimbledon third round).  Thus, if she's going to lose in New York, it looks like it's as likely to happen in the early to mid rounds as it is in the semifinals or finals.  It's hard to say why she loses more in early rounds than late, but maybe her focus isn't always as good against lower ranked opponents early on.  With so much on the line it's unlikely she'll overlook anyone, but if history is any guide surviving week one will be the key or Serena. 

Injury/playing with wooden racquet/ giving opponents the doubles alleys:  Maybe Serena rolls an ankle Sloan Stephens style and isn't able to play at full strength.  Or maybe she comes into New York playing with a wooden racquet because she decides she needs a real challenge.  If the US Open decides to give Serena's opponents the doubles alleys to make matches more competitive...well that still probably wouldn't matter.  But seriously, there is always a risk of some fluke injury slowing her down, and nothing should be taken for granted. 

Prediction:  It won't come without drama, but expect Serena to capture the Grand Slam.  She'll likely drop some sets along the way as she did at the French Open and Wimbledon, but should be able to manage her nerves just enough to avoid an upset.  Let's just hope the rest of the field rises up and doesn't let her coast to the title, as it would be great TV if she's in a tight third set battle in the semis or finals.    

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wimbledon Men's Semis: What to Expect

Novak Djokovic vs. Richard Gasquet

Gasquet hasn't had much success against any of the "Big Four", but Djokovic has been a particularly bad matchup for the Frenchman.  He's 1-11 against the world number one in his career, and most of their matches haven't been close.  Gasquet may be flashy and fun to watch, but Djokovic is simply too steady for Gasquet to gain any traction in their matches.  Grass theoretically gives Gasquet his best chance to win, as it makes it tougher for Djokovic to play defense and rewards creative shotmaking.  However, it's hard to imagine Gasquet can play at a high enough level in a three out of five set match to actually pull the upset.  Unlike Wawrinka who can trouble Djokovic with his powerful shots off both sides, Gasquet doesn't possess a strong enough forehand to consistently get Djokovic on defense.

Gasquet may be in better shape than he used to be, but he's coming off a grueling 11-9 five set win over Wawrinka in the quarters.  As if he wasn't a big enough underdog already, the fact that Djokovic is the fresher of the two doesn't even seem fair.  Gasquet needs to start strong and find a way to put some pressure on Djokovic- to at least make Djokovic think there's a chance he could lose.  If Djokovic wins the first set, it's simply hard to see the match even being competitive.  Hopefully Gasquet isn't happy just to have made the semis, but it probably won't matter either way.  Look for Djokovic to win by the score of 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray:

This is widely expected to be the more competitive of the two semis, as Federer and Murray are clearly the second and third best players in the world in some order (Federer is 2 in the official rankings, Murray is 2 in the year end race).  Both are in extremely good form heading in, and a meeting in the semis was largely inevitable.  They each won their grass court tune-ups leading into Wimbledon, so neither has lost a match on grass this year.

Federer knows he has to dictate play and take control of the points early on.  He'll try to attack Murray's second serve and finish points at net when it makes sense to do so.  While he's certainly capable of hanging with Murray in long baseline rallies, he realizes his best chance to win isn't by out grinding Murray from the back of the court.  Murray will try to be the steadier of the two and break Federer down with his defense and consistency, but he'll need to be aggressive when the opportunities present themselves.  If he's simply content to hang back and play defense the entire match, an in-form Federer may not let him off the hook.

While there are good reasons for picking both players to win, Murray gets the slight edge here.  As good as Federer has looked heading in, many of his recent losses in slams have come when people least expect it.  If Federer is off his game even the slightest bit, Murray's defense will make his day extremely difficult.  It hasn't gotten that much attention, but Murray hasn't even lost a tennis match to anyone besides Djokovic since February (not counting a withdrawal to Goffin).  It will definitely be interesting to watch, and could even be a classic, but Murray is the pick: 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6.      

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The "Big Four" That Could Have Been

The men's semifinals at Wimbledon are set, and it consists of the "Big Four" of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and ... Richard Gasquet?  Okay, so maybe not quite the "Big Four" as we've come to define the term, but there was a time about ten years ago when Gasquet was expected to fit right in with this legendary group. 

Gasquet is similar in age to Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, and was as highly touted of a prospect as any of them.  In 2002 he was the number one junior in the world, and he won a match on the ATP Tour when he was only 15 years old.  When he was just 18 he beat Federer on clay, and seemed well on his way to becoming a grand slam champion. 

While by most accounts Gasquet has had a very successful pro career, he clearly didn't develop into the superstar many thought he could become.  He's been a perennial top 20 player who occasionally makes some noise at bigger events, but generally tops out in the Round of 16 or quarterfinals. 

As talented as Gasquet is, in hindsight he lacked some of the tools that became valued in today's game.  He doesn't possess a killer forehand, is a good but not great athlete, and at times lacks focus and self belief.  In a different era he may have been able to overcome some flaws and win a slam based on his talent alone, but not where all-time greats are waiting at the end of every major. 

If Wimbledon is any indication, Gasquet may be like Wawrinka and play some of his best tennis in his late 20s and early 30s.  His game should age well, and his mental game seems to be improving.  He looked to be breaking through a couple of years ago, but his progress was interrupted by some injuries.  It may be too late for Gasquet to change the fact that he didn't become a member of the "Big Four" (or had he joined, the "Big Five"), but it's not too late for him to make us remember what could have been. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Some Well Deserved Attention for Denis Kudla

22 year old American Denis Kudla has been a professional tennis player for about four years, but he's never been one to grab headlines.  He came up around the same time as Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison, who between them garnered nearly all the attention from American tennis fans waiting for the next big thing.  In the last year or two much of the focus has turned to the even younger group of Americans (deservedly so), as fans continue the search for the next American star.  Meanwhile, Denis Kudla has continued to grind it out playing Challengers and other low level ATP events, all while hovering around 100 in the world. 

Kudla's game is solid but not flashy, and his results haven't done much to raise his profile.  He spent time in the top 100 a few years ago, but just as it seemed he was gaining momentum he suffered some injuries which set him back.  He's struggled for much of the year, with his notable results consisting of making the round of 16 in Memphis and winning a grass court Challenger right before Wimbledon.    

Kudla recently left the USTA, and is now training with his own private coach.  The move seems to be paying off, as he's followed up his strong showing in pre-Wimbledon grass court Challengers by reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon.  He may have benefited from a favorable draw, but at least he was good enough to take advantage of it and become the last American remaining in the men's tournament.  Without a strong serve or a big weapon to speak of little comes easy for Kudla on tour, and he has to fight hard for every win he gets.

Maybe Kudla builds off his success at Wimbledon and makes a run toward the top 50, or maybe he reverts back to form and continues to hover around the top 100.  Either way, it's nice to see Kudla get something he's been missing throughout his career up to this point- attention.     

Does Nadal Actually Need a Coaching Change?

After another early defeat at Wimbledon, calls for Rafael Nadal to shake up his coaching team began to take shape.  John McEnroe led the charge, claiming it may be time for Nadal to move on from the legendary "Uncle Toni".  While there may be merit in this argument, there's also no denying how big of a role Uncle Toni has played in Nadal's success.  Moreover, it's not like Nadal has remained the same player over his career- under the guidance of Uncle Toni he has continued to evolve and improve as a player. 

The easiest solution may be a combination of both arguments.  While Nadal has worked with other coaches in addition to Uncle Toni, he may want to keep Uncle Toni on board and bring in another big name on the side.  Nadal may only have a couple of years left as a top level player, so if he's ever going to make a move now is the time.  This way he doesn't have to deal with "firing" Uncle Toni, but still gets the benefit of a fresh perspective from a new coach.  (And besides avoiding an awkward situation, he gets to retain one of the most successful coaches of all time as a member of his team).

It's extremely rare for a player to remain with a coach as long as Nadal has stayed with Uncle Toni.  Many players leave their junior coaches behind soon after reaching the pro tour, and those that stick with them rarely do so for more than their first few years on tour.  Even players who are coached by family members generally move on to new coaches at some point.  It may be a bit awkward, but it's a move that is regularly made.  The fact that Nadal is yet to make the move is a testament to how good Uncle Toni has been at developing Nadal's game. 

But despite Uncle Toni's brilliance as a coach, Nadal has been struggling for a relatively long period of time (for at least over a year at this point).  Some think the tactics Nadal employed in the past are losing their effectiveness, and he is becoming vulnerable to the big hitters who pounce on any ball that they can.  His forehand has also become less of a strength, as he's clearly lost confidence in his best shot.  It may not be fair to put too much of the blame on Uncle Toni for Nadal's recent failures, but if he's going to be given credit for his nephew's success he has to take some responsibility for Nadal's struggles.

Whether Uncle Toni would be willing to take a bit of a backseat (or at least give up complete control) remains to be seen, but he may do so if he realizes it would be best for Nadal.  And if he refuses and Nadal decides he wants a new voice in his coaching box, Nadal has every right to move on from his Uncle completely.  But unless egos get in the way, it doesn't seem like there's any reason why Nadal can't have it both ways.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What We've Learned During the First Week of Wimbledon

Kyrgios' 2014 run was no fluke:  While Nick Kyrgios' run to the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals was a big shock to the tennis world (including upsets over Nadal and Gasquet), it's now looking like it was merely the first of many deep Wimbledon runs.  After knocking out Milos Raonic, all that stands in the way of another Wimbledon quarters for the young Australian is a familiar foe- Richard Gasquet.  Kyrgios' antics may rub some tennis fans the wrong way, while others like the excitement he brings to the game.  Either way there's no denying the talent Kyrgios possesses, and it shouldn't be long before his talent shows through at more than just a few big events throughout the year.

Challenging Serena and beating her are two very different things:  Serena's dramatic win over Heather Watson looked like a flashback to her Roland Garros run to the title.  Once again Serena's opponent was right there and had an opportunity to pull the upset.  However, like always Serena managed to escape, and her hope of winning the 2015 Grand Slam remains alive.  She next faces her sister Venus, who may he less intimidated at the prospect of closing her out in a tight match.  The question is, can she put Serena in that position in the first place? 

Not much-in terms of the men's favorites:  So far, other than the "surprising" upset of Rafael Nadal, the top men's seeds have largely done what they were supposed to do.  Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Wawrinka have looked good, but it's hard to say we've learned anything new.  It looks like we'll be seeing these four in the semifinals, though Berdych may have something to say about that in a potential quarterfinal matchup against Federer.  Despite his Roland Garros title Wawrinka seems to be flying a bit under the radar, which is where he is his most dangerous.  If anyone outside of these four is holding the trophy on the final Sunday, it will definitely be a big shock to the tennis world.

The ATP's "Next Generation" still has some work to do:  There's no denying there's a talented group of young players ready to break through on the ATP tour.  Borna Coric, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexander Zverev, Hyeon Chung, and even an emerging group of Americans all have bright futures.  But other than 20 year old Nick Kyrgios, there's not exactly a lot of young faces remaining in the Wimbledon men's draw.  This group of young players may not be too far away, and several members are either in or making runs at reaching the top 100 in the world.  However, in terms of being ready to make deep runs at grand slams, it looks like they're still a couple of years away. 

2014 was a very long time ago:  One of the bigger stories of 2014 was the breakthroughs of Grigor Dimitrov and Eugenie Bouchard.  Their success combined with their marketability made many think they would become stars that could carry the sport forward over the next decade.  Fast forward a year, and wins have become hard to come by.  Bouchard fell in the first round (citing a stomach injury) after reaching last year's finals, and Dimitrov went down meekly to Gasquet in the third round after reaching last year's semis.  Both are young enough that they can turn their careers around, and we shouldn't necessarily overreact to what may end up being a minor blip in otherwise fine careers.  But there's no denying both have hit a serious rough patch when it looked like they were on a straight path to the top.  Their rankings will fall drastically after losing points from last year's Wimbledon, and it will be harder to hide the fact they have serious work to do to get back to where they were.