As we get ready for the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals comprised of the top 8 players in the world, here's a way too early prediction of what the 2016 field will look like (assuming everyone stays healthy- except for Juan Martin Del Potro, in which case we have to see it to believe it):
The sure things:
Novak Djokovic: In all likelihood, Djokovic won't be as dominant in 2016 as he was in 2015. While it's not easy to see who will challenge him, Djokovic won so many slams and Masters tournaments this year that it will be a nearly impossible task for him to have the same amount of success next year. But unless he trots out in 2016 sporting a flashy new one-handed backhand just to make things interesting, he's finishing 2016 well inside the top 8 (and very likely once again at number one).
is simply too consistent and good on every surface for this to even be a
question. He's settled in at number two
in the world, and should stay in the two-three range for much of 2016. His focus for 2016 will be on adding another
major to his total, as he can't be thrilled with having the same amount as Stan
Wawrinka. With Federer and Wawrinka
getting up there in age, Murray
will be in a good position to pounce should Djokovic have a rare slip up along
The almost sure things:
Roger Federer: Were it just for his performance in 2015 Federer would be in the above group, but he will be turning 35 during 2016. It's possible that whenever Federer does decline it happens swiftly, and Federer won't give himself much room for error with the limited schedule he's likely to play. Given his incredibly high level of play over the last year or two Federer is a risk to take a slight step back in 2016. But even if the consistency isn't what it was (losses at the end of this year to Isner and Albert Ramos-Vinolas are a bit troubling), he should post enough strong results at the big events to finish well inside the top 8.
Rafael Nadal: Even in a year when Nadal was widely assumed to be struggling, he still managed to finish around 5 in the world (pending the ATP World Tour Finals). Nadal started playing well toward the end of the year at a time when he's struggled in the past, and this is encouraging for his prospects in 2016. Even if Djokovic is in another league, Nadal should rack up plenty of points on the clay to challenge for a spot in the top 4, let alone the top 8.
Stan Wawrinka: Wawrinka had another strong year in 2015 and currently sits at number 4 in the world. He's still not the most consistent guy on tour week in and week out, but shows up at enough big events to rack up significant ranking points. Wawrinka is 30 years old, but should have at least a couple of good years left (even if there's a slight decline). Even if he continues to have some surprising losses in 2016, it's hard to imagine he won't make enough deep runs at important tournaments to finish inside the top 8. While it would have sounded unimaginable just a few years ago, Wawrinka is now trying to boost his resume for a bid into the tennis Hall of Fame.
Kei Nishikori: Nishikori took a bit of a step back in 2015, but overall still had a pretty solid year. A withdrawal at
Wimbledon and first
round loss to Paire at the US Open (when he may not have been 100%) hurt his
ranking, but he was otherwise pretty consistent throughout the year. Nishikori will look to improve his
performances at the big events in 2016, and it won't be surprising if he does
so. He should just be entering his
prime, and has some of the best ground strokes in the game. If Nishikori fails to finish in the top 8
next year he'd consider it a major disappointment, and it would be a pretty big
surprise in the tennis world.
Tomas Berdych: It says a lot about Berdych that he had a somewhat up and down 2015 but still is currently 6 in the world. He didn't do as well as he would have liked in some important tournaments, notably the US Open and
but always seems to pick up enough points in smaller events. Berdych generally seems to finish in the 5-8
range, and until he fails to do so it's hard to pick against him. Sure there's some younger talented players on
the way up who will at some point take Berdych's spot, but the bet here is
Berdych makes the World Tour Finals once again in 2016.
Just missing out: David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet, Marin Cilic