2010 will be a transition year for the ATP Tour even though the winners may look the same. Here are my predictions for the ATP men again ranked where I think they will end up at year’s end.
1. Roger Federer. To think that “Fed” won’t win another Slam or two next year is highly unlikely. Federer’s consistency week in and week out will help keep his top ranking intact. But this could be his last year of total domination. The real question for Federer, especially after winning the French Open, is what will motivate him to keep going after winning everything. Maybe a chance at a true Grand Slam?
2. Juan Martin Del Potro. That’s right. The big man from Argentina will be chasing Federer all year. Injuries and still a nagging lack of belief could hinder him but I expect Delpo to win another Slam. Could the French be next?
3. Novak Djokovic. The “Falcon” has returned with the fire and belief that was lost for most of 2009. He could win a Slam but he’ll have to keep up the balancing act between being “the class clown” and his intensity which rubs some fans the wrong way. Look for him to come into Australia with a vengeance.
4. Rafael Nadal. I know. I know. The Nadal fans are going to attack me for this but I believe that the Nadal “mystique” is over and the top guys on tour have finally figured out how to play him. I like him in the French for sure but how his body holds up will be the story next year.
5. Andy Murray. I don’t understand the obsession with Murray. He’s a talented player but it’s been proven if you attack him ala Marin Cilic, Roger Federer you will win. His mental toughness is still an issue and he needs a big shot to help him win cheap points. I’m still not convinced Murray has the game to win a Slam. He’ll get close, maybe even a final, but I doubt he’ll win one next year.
6. Nikolay Davydenko. Is this the year the hardest working man on tour finally wins a Slam? Maybe. He certainly proved in Shanghai and the ATP Finals that he can beat anyone especially with his improved serve and net play. But how he holds up in best 3 of 5 matches is the real question. Plus, will fans finally get behind the “unsexy” Russian? I like his chances in Australia better than anywhere else.
7. Andy Roddick. As the ’09 Wimbledon final was a defining match for Roddick, I feel like 2010 is the last hope for him to win one more Slam. He’s in great shape more or less (unless the knee becomes a bigger issue) and coach Larry Stefanki has got him playing better, but if he’s going to do it, this is it. Maybe the U.S. Open?
8. Robin Soderling The lanky Swede proved his French Open runner-up spot was no fluke as he continued his strong play late in the season. He certainly believes he can beat the top players, but does he have the game to prevail in the later stages, especially against Federer? He might get close this year at the Slams but I don’t see him breaking through yet.
9 through 15. Take your pick. Tsonga, Verdasco, Gonzalez, Simon, Monfils, Haas. All these guys have gotten close but no cigar. 2010 could be their “this is it” moment to finally breakthrough. But don’t count on it. Anyone of them could make a Slam final but Jelena Jankovic has more chances than these guys.
Wildcards – Sam Querrey. Querrey certainly had a decent 2009 and I can see him getting into the top 15 but winning a Slam feels out of reach.
Marin Cilic – Could the super tall Croat have a Del Potro like year and finally break into the top 10? Watch out for him at Wimbledon where his big serve and volley game should pay dividends.
Lleyton Hewitt – With his health restored, Hewitt finds himself back in the top 20 again. Can he finally win the Australian Open? Sure, if Federer gets knocked out early.
Richard Gasquet – Now that he’s back on tour, 2010 will be the year when we find out if he has what it takes to get back into the top 10 or just be the punchline to one of the more bizarre storylines of 2009.
James Blake – For all the talent, Blake has never lived up to his potential. Something could happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 2010 is his last year.
John Isner – He’s got the big serve and had a breakthrough win against Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open but he needs a bigger game overall if wants to even crack into the top 20.
David Nalbandian – He finally returns after enduring hip surgery. But has the highly talented Argentine been eclipsed by the younger Del Potro?
Plenty of other players I could mention as well with their own chances at glory next year. Let me know what you think!