Tennis Abides 2015 Power Ranking #12
This is a tough list to produce becuse Novak devoured so many ranking points in 2015 especially at the end of the year
- Novak Djokovic – Novak Djokovic won 3 majors, the World Tour Finals, 6 Masters 1000 events, and won Beijing, a 500 level event, in 2015. Nole put together one of the greatest, if not the greatest year in the Open Era.
- Roger Federer – Roger was twice 2 sets away from major title #18. Federer won 6 titles and was runner-up at 5 events. He finished the year 3-5 versus Novak Djokovic losing their 3 biggest matches in 2015. While Novak got the better of Federer in 2015, Federer still held his own versus the dominating world #1.
- Andy Murray – Andy finished 2015 ranked #2 in the world. His wins in Canada and Madrid as well as his strong showings at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon prove Murray to be the most consistent player of 2015 not named Novak Djokovic. Still, Murray lacked the overall bite that Roger Federer displayed at Wimbledon, the US Open, and World Tour Finals. Change since last ranking + 3
- Stan Wawrinka – The Roland Garros champion pushed Novak to 5 sets in Melbourne, beat Novak in the Roland Garros final, and won a set off of Novak at the Bercy. Stan’s power game gives him a puncher’s chance versus Novak. This is something Federer and Murray lack when facing Nole. Stan’s inconsistent week-to-week results place him behind Federer and Murray despite being a more problematic opponent for King Novak. Change since last ranking – 1
- Rafael Nadal – I was tempted to rank Rafa #4 because he is clearly trending upward. Rafa blasted bother Stan and Andy in London. Can Rafa find the needed weapons to challenge Novak in 2016? Change since last ranking +5
- Richard Gasquet – His semifinal showing in Basel paired with some other decent results in 2015 have Gasquet holding the 6th spot. Change since last ranking – 2
- Marin Cilic – Cilic won in Moscow after his Wimbledon quarterfinal and US Open semifinal finishes. If he gets healthy and starts serving and moving at 2014 levels, Marin could return to the top 10 in the ATP rankings. Change since last ranking – 2
- Feliciano Lopez – The attacking Spaniard stays in a holding pattern to end the year.
- David Goffin – With Novak having devoured so many ranking points, everyoe after Nadal on this list could easily be swapped out for someone else. I am putting Goffin here as he gears up for a Davis Cup clash with the UK. Change since last ranking – Not ranked
- Kei Nishikori – He did win a match at the World Tour Finals versus Berdych and took a set off of Federer in a loss. Change since last ranking – Not ranked
Biggest Mover – Rafael Nadal + 5
Entered the Poll – David Goffin
Dropped Out of the Poll – Kevin Anderson and John Isner
Will their head-to-head be even soon?
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal
This match is about as big as it gets. Novak Djokovic took the world of tennis over in 2011 only to see Nadal claw his way back into contention in 2012. In 2013, Rafa seemingly broke Djokovic’s will at the US Open. Nole added Boris Becker and has won 4 of the previous 6 Grand Slam titles, dominated Masters Series events, and the tour in general. Rafa is starting to play more like his 2013 form, but has yet to really land a huge win in his comeback trail. Novak can maintain his recent mental edge on Rafa heading into 2016. Rafa can send the message that the Djokovic monarchy may have a serious roadblock. In short, this is a huge match.
For Rafa to win, he will have to serve well, make sure he does not surrender too much real estate by playing closer to the baseline than he has for most of 2015, and will need to make judicious forrays inside the court to either crush ground strokes or knock off volleys.
For Djokovic to win, he will need to return well, control court positioning by making Rafa run while he dictates play, and will need to show mental fortitude when Rafa gains any momentum.
Prior to Rafa’s match versus Ferrer, I was leaning toward Rafa to pull an upset and make a bid to win his lone World Tour Finals when it seemed most unlikely even 4 weeks ago. Rafa will have to play much better than he did against Ferrer to challenge Djokovic. Rafa also does not get a day to rest and mentally prepare for this clash. I think Djokovic’s return of serve will give him too many looks at breaking Nadal for Rafa to be favored.
My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-4
Andy Murray vs. Rafael Nadal
Andy Murray is #2 in the world and playing in London versus Rafael Nadal who is playing his best tennis of 2015. Each man is 1-0 in round robin play so a win will put either man in the driver’s seat for winning their round robin. These two players meeting typically means a good match is forthcoming. The crowd is going to be strongly behind Murray, but Rafa has to be feeling great after avenging his Paris loss to Wawrinka in a one-sided beating.
How this is likely to play out? Murray will not play like Stan did. Murray’s speed and return will mean a lot of extended rallies. This will be a nice test for Rafa. Nadal’s consistency and willingness to step inside the court have been absent at times in 2015. Murray will force Rafa to do both if Rafa is to win.
I like Murray’s chances if his first serve percentage is high enough. If Rafa gets to look at a lot of second serves, I think Rafa takes this match.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Andy Murray 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, but both men advance to the semifinal round.
Rafael Nadal vs. Stan Wawrinka
Rafa has played the best tennis of his season since the US Open ended. Stan Wawrinka has posted his best year in 2015. Wawrinka won Roland Garros and posted a 20-3 record in Grand Slam play reaching the final 8 or better of each major. Rafa and Stan have traded Masters 1000 wins this fall. Both men have to like their chances of advancing to the semifinal round from their round robin, but a win on Day 2 gives one of them an inside track to reach the final four. Wawrinka showed he had closed the gap with Rafa in a tight loss at this event in 2013. In early 2014, Stan won his first major title by defeating Rafa in Melbourne. Stan has won 3 of his 4 most recent matches with Rafa after never having won a set off of el rey de clay (Bud Collins knows Spanglish).
Rafa tends to rebound well after a tough loss. Rafa says he is enjoying tennis again and has spoken positively about his preparation for this event. I think this match is pretty much 50-50. The surface slightly favors Wawrinka. My gut says Rafa wins, but my head says Stan wins. My head has been better lately than my gut.
My Prediction: Stan Wawrinka d. Rafael Nadal 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
Predicted Winners in BOLD
 Andy Murray (GBR) vs.  Richard Gasquet (FRA) H2H – Their rivalry changed when Murray won from 2 sets down at Wimbledon 2008 vs. Gasquet. Murray has been rolling in Paris. Gasquet has had a nice year in 2015, but I think Murray dominates.
 David Ferrer (ESP) vs.  John Isner (USA) H2H – Ferrer is a better player than Isner across nearly every metric except for serving. I think Isner on this surface will be unbreakable and will likely clock one ot two forehands in tie break sets to win this match in 2 or 3 long sets.
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs.  Tomas Berdych (CZE) H2H – Berdych has his moments, but I cannot see him winning this match.
Rafa: “Stan, we combine for 10 Roland Garros titles.”
Stan: “Rafa, we also combine for 2 Australian Open titles.”
 Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs.  Rafael Nadal (ESP) – I think Wawrinka will get a little revenge for his loss to Rafa in Shanghai. This could go either way, but I think the surface favors Stan a bit.
Predicted Winners in BOLD
A Huge Slate of Matches in Paris Today
 Andy Murray (GBR) def  David Goffin (BEL) 61 60
 Richard Gasquet (FRA) def  Kei Nishikori (JPN) 76 (3) 41 retd
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs.  Gilles Simon (FRA) H2H – I think Nole wins this one. Simon is always a tricky opponent, but Novak is #1 for a reason.
 Roger Federer (SUI) vs  John Isner (USA) – I could see Isner winning this match as he may be unbreakable on an indoor court. I would like to see Roger try the SABR on a second serve.
 Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) – Home court edge?
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs.  Kevin Anderson (RSA) – Rafa looked great yesterday. Anderson has a chance if he can keep Rafa in a defensive posture, but Rafa is the clear favorite.
Predicted Winners in BOLD
A Great Slate of Matches
 Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Jérémy Chardy (FRA) H2H – Nishikori needs to be sharp as Chardy has had a few good results over the past 4 months. If Nishikori returns well and gets to Chardy’s backhand, the 6th seed will advance. If Chardy’s serve and forehand dictate play, watch out for an upset.
 Richard Gasquet (FRA) vs. Leonardo Mayer (ARG) H2H – Gasquet won two 250 level events and reached the Wimbledon semifinal and US Open quarterfinal to post a nice 2015. He also played well in Basel last week.
 Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Borna Coric (CRO) H2H – Coric posted a relatively easy win over Verdasco. That was not what I expected. The good news for Coric is that I really do not expect him to defeat Andy Murray in this match.
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Lukas Rosol (CZE) – I half expect Rosol to win this match, but Rafa beat him last week and played through other tough matches in Basel as well. Rafa’s runner-up finishes in Basel and Beijing as well as his semifinal finish in Shanghai have given him some momentum as 2015 reaches its conclusion.
 Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Andreas Seppi (ITA) H2H – I cannot discount what happened in Melbourne earlier this year, but I think Federer wins in a fairly routine indoor match for the 3rd seeded Swiss.
 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) H2H – Agut is the form horse in this match. Tsonga on an indor court in Paris is too much for me to pick against though.
 David Goffin (BEL) vs. [Q] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) H2H – The youthful Goffin should advance.
 Marin Cilic (CRO) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) H2H – This match could go either way, but I think Cilic’s serve is more reliable so I am picking him.
 John Isner (USA) vs. [Q] Aljaz Bedene (GBR) H2H – Isner will live and die by his serve. Since this is indoors, I think Isner lives.
 Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. [Q] Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) H2H – Berdych had a good start to 2015. He seems to be putting together a nice ending to 2015. The middle portion of the year was a bit soft for the Big Czech.
 Feliciano Lopez (ESP) vs. Viktor Troicki (SRB) H2H – FLo is playing solid tennis.
 Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs. Dominic Thiem (AUT) H2H – If Thiem takes care of his own serve, I can see an upset. I had to pick one upset even if I think Anderson is a favorite on this surface.
- Agnieszka Radwanska claimed her first title of 2015 with style by claiming the WTA Finals in Singapore with a 3 set victory over Petra Kvitova. Aga’s year openned in an odd fashion as she had hired Martina Navratilova and saw her results plummet. Radwanska’s unlikely Wimbledon semifinal came after she parted ways with Navratilova. Aga’s year turned around as she played in many enjoyable matches throughout the second half of the season. This was rewarded with a big title heading into 2016.
- Roger Federer won his hometown event in Basel by defeating Rafael Nadal 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. I would not list this as one of the least important matches in Nadal and Federer’s rivalry that started in 2004, but one wonders if this was their last clash in a tournament final. Federer now holds 88 career titles leaving him 6 tournament wins behind Ivan Lendl for the second most titles for men in the Open Era. At 34, I wouldn’t bank on 6 more titles for Federer, but his odds seem reasonably good for tying or surpassing Lendl’s tournament title total.
- Joao Sousa won his second career title by gutting out a tough three set win over Roberto Bautista Agut in Spain. Sousa and Agut should enter 2016 with some momentum.
Tennis Abides 2015 Power Ranking #11
- Novak Djokovic – Nole claiming his 10th major title and wrapping up his 4th year at #1 is about as comprehensive of a way to be #1 in my ranking as any. Novak was runner-up in Montreal and Cincinnati, but it all built toward his 2nd US Open crown.
- Roger Federer – Roger played great tennis to reach the final and had some great moments in the championship match, but Novak Djokovic is a bad match-up for everyone these days including the ageless Roger Federer.
- Stan Wawrinka – Stan did not appear to be at his best in New York, but he won 5 matches. Stan’s physical style of play allows him to do better in 3 of 5 set events than his 2 of 3 set lead-in events might suggest. Change since last ranking + 2
- Richard Gasquet – Gasquet followed his unexpected Wimbledon semifinal run with a somewhat expected US Open quarterfinal run. Change since last ranking + 3
- Marin Cilic – The big man gets this spot largely due to so many players flaming out earlier than expected at the US Open. Following-up his 2014 title with a semifinal finish in 2015 should not be overshadowed by his one-sided injury plagued semifinal loss to Djokovic. Change since last ranking + 4
- Andy Murray – Andy looked like a title contender after winning Montreal. Cincinnati did not go perfectly, but one figured with a week of rest and a day off between matches that Andy would be ready for NY. Instead, Andy played a lot of long matches and looked too passive in his matches. Change since last ranking – 3
- Kevin Anderson – The South African won in North Carolina and then blasted his way to the quarterfinal round at the US Open. It was a great 2 1/2 weeks of tennis for Anderson even if fatigue impacted his meek play versus Stan Wawrinka. Change since last ranking – not ranked
- Feliciano Lopez – The attacking Spaniard took Fognini out in New York and played pretty well versus Novak Djokovic despite it being a terrible match-up for him. Change since last ranking + 2
- John Isner – The Big Bulldog may play a style of tennis that is pretty dull, but he proved that he can be a tough out for everyone on tour. Isner won Atlanta, was runner-up at Washington, DC, and played well in his round of 16 finish at the US Open. Change since last ranking – 3
- Rafael Nadal – Rafa did not look great through two rounds and then surrendered what seemed like an insurmountable lead versus Fabio Fognini. Still, Rafa won a title after Wimbledon on red clay. Rafa says his game is close to being where he wants it. We probably will not know if this is true until Melbourne 2016, but the verbage is positive. Change since last ranking – 2
Biggest Mover – Marin Cilic + 4
Entered the Poll – Kevin Anderson
Dropped Out of the Poll – Kei Nishikori
On the Cusp – No one. People can step up and perhaps when Raonic gets healthy he will return to the fold, but Nishikori, Dimitrov, Thiem, Kyrgios, Pospisil, Sock, and others could make some noise before the season ends.
Predicted Winners in BOLD
A rematch could happen soon
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs  Andreas Seppi (ITA) – Novak has looked quite sharp to this point.
“This seems like a good time to get in the face of one of the grittiest fighters tennis has ever produced” – Things few of us have ever said/done
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs  Fognini (ITA) – Fognini’s game can actually bother Rafa, or the current version of Rafa. My question is about Fognini’s temperment over a 3 of 5 set match. Fognini recently entered into a changeover versus Rafa with a break lead and a chance to hold serve and force a 3rd set. He decided this was the time to get into a verbal altercation with the umpire AND Rafa. Of course, Rafa won the next 3 games including two breaks of serve to end the match. Rattling the cage of an all-time great is never smart, but at that moment? Eh …
 Marin Cilic (CRO) vs. Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) – Marin is by no means a lock to win this match. However, his chances of a solid second week run in NYC keep improving.
 David Ferrer (ESP) vs  Jeremy Chardy (FRA) – If Chardy can bully Ferrer with big serves and forehands, Chardy will win. If Ferrer can consistently find Chardy’s backhand, Ferrer will breakdown Chardy’s game and win. I think Ferrer’s scenario is more likely.
 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) – I am picking a lot of chalk.
 Milos Raonic (CAN) vs  Feliciano Lopez (ESP) – This should be a fun match and perhaps the match of the day. I think Raonic is slowly returning to his 2014 form after a rough few months healthwise.
 Tommy Robredo (ESP) vs Benoit Paire (FRA) – I have to pick at least one upset. Also, I think Paire has the tools to overpower Robredo. I do think every young pro could learn a lot from Robredo’s commitment to fitness and professionalism. Tommy never gives a bad effort. If the heat becomes a factor, reverse this pick as Robredo is quite fit.
 David Goffin (BEL) vs.  Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) – Goffin should win as he is sneaky good, but Bautista Agut will make Goffin earn it.