Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who Exceeded Expectations on the ATP Tour in 2015?

The following is a look at a few players on the ATP Tour who exceeded their expectations heading into the 2015 season:

Novak Djokovic:  Djokovic had ridiculously high expectations heading into the year, and he more than exceeded them.  Any questions about why he seemed to let some grand slam titles slip away were put to rest, and he continued to rocket his way up through the record books.  Winning 3 grand slams and 6 Masters titles is nearly impossible to achieve, and in doing so he destroyed any notion that the "Big Four" as we have come to know it still exists.  Djokovic came within one match of winning the 2015 Grand Slam, and would anyone really be surprised if he pulls it off in 2016?    

Benoit Paire:  Benoit Paire ended 2014 ranked around 100 in the world, and at one point early in 2015 nearly fell down to 150.  A once promising career seemed to be slipping away, in part based on injuries and a questionable mental game.  However, Paire managed to show some serious resolve and grinded his way all the up to 19 in the world at the season's end.  He showed more mental toughness along the way than most of us thought he had in him, notably fighting off match points to knock out Nishikori at the US Open, and winning 4 consecutive 3 set matches against tough competition to reach the finals of the 500 level Japan Open.  Paire put himself in a great position to take off in 2016, and will definitely be someone to watch going forward.

Hyeon Chung:  19 year old Hyeon Chung increased his ranking by over 100 spots in 2015, and finds himself just outside of the top 50 in the world.  He's part of a talented group of young teenagers getting ready to make their move on the ATP Tour, and will look to continue his rise in 2016.  Most of Chung's ranking points came in Challengers, and he didn't do much at the ATP level.  This isn't unusual or overly concerning for a teenager trying to break through, but Chung will need to fare better against ATP level competition in 2016 or he risks taking a step back.  Regardless of where he goes from here (and the bet is he'll adjust and be ready to make another jump next year), he took a major step forward this season.

Bernard Tomic:  Tomic started the year outside of the top 50 in the rankings, and quietly ends the year with a spot in the world's top 20.  Just when it seemed like the off-court drama surrounding Tomic would derail his career, he seems to have righted the ship in 2015.  While he's long been projected as a future star and it may seem strange to say a 23 year old Tomic "exceeded expectations" with a mere top 20 finish, it just shows how far he had fallen.  Tomic likely benefited from reduced attention given the emergence of other young Australian stars- notably Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, and should just be entering his prime in the next few years.  

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