Saturday, December 26, 2015

Some Predictions for the 2016 ATP Season (part 1)

Andy Murray will win his third grand slam title:  Murray has accomplished nearly everything a tennis pro could ask for (grand slam champion, Olympic gold medal, Davis Cup title), but the knock on him is that as good as he's been he "only" has two grand slam titles.  Look for Murray to capture his third major in 2016, though he may need a slip up by Djokovic along the way to make it happen.  Murray has worked his way up to number two in the world, and will benefit from avoiding Djokovic until the finals at every big event.  While Murray will be a threat at every major he plays, Wimbledon stands out as his best bet to get it done.  Australia should also present a good opportunity if he can ride the momentum from leading Great Britain to the 2015 Davis Cup title.

Dominic Thiem will reach the next level:  Thiem has been on everyone's radar for a while now even though he's just 22.  He finished 2015 at number 20 in the world, and won multiple 250 level tournaments.  However, he wasn't much of a factor at the bigger events.  This isn't particularly unusual for a younger player, but Thiem should be ready to step up his results at Masters and grand slams in 2016.  With a powerful game that resembles Stan Wawrinka's, Thiem has the point ending power and versatility that seems necessary to challenge for slams in today's game.  With all the physical tools he needs, Thiem's mental toughness and focus will determine how far he goes in 2016.  Expect Thiem to be more comfortable on tour and in the bigger events after his experiences over the last couple years, and a spot in the top 10 seems ascertainable for the talented Austrian.

Alexander Zverev will become the game's top young player:  The 18 year old ended 2015 just outside the top 80 in the world, but he was a bit overshadowed by fellow teen Borna Coric who finished nearly 40 spots ahead of him in the rankings.  Don't be fooled by the current rankings discrepancy, as Zverev seems better suited to reach the game's top level.  While it's hard to see Coric not becoming a perennial top 10-15 player, his lack of a weapon and average forehand are potentially worrisome.  Zverev has no such weaknesses, and has world class power.  Further, he moves well for his height, and his ground strokes should only become heavier as he bulks up.  While there's several talented young players on the ATP Tour, Zverev seems like the best bet to win a grand slam title.  He may already be known by serious tennis fans, but it won't be long until he's more of a household name. 

Young American men will surge up the rankings:  2015 was a promising year for the young Americans, notably Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Jared Donaldson and Tommy Paul.  Others such as Noah Rubin, Ernesto Escobedo, Stefan Kozlov and a few others also showed some positive signs.  Now that this group has some exposure to what life is like on the pro tour, many of them should be ready to take the next step.  That will mean different things to each of them based on their varying talent levels, but Fritz, Tiafoe, Paul and Donaldson should all have their sights set on a spot in the top 100.  After a full off-season to train following a year in which many of them just turned pro, expect big things from this talented group in 2016.   

No comments:

Post a Comment