Our New Journalist Niall Clarke: What to Watch For in the 2015 ATP Season
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
January 5th is the date that tennis fans across the globe have been waiting for. It is the start of the ATP World Tour 2015 season. The very best that the sport has to offer will be showing their talents to a worldwide audience, in what promises to be an action packed year full of thrills, spills and excitement.
2014 was the year of Novak Djokovic. The Serbian clinched the Wimbledon title, 4 ATP Masters 1000 titles, and The ATP World Tour Finals crown on the way to ending the year as world number one.
However, despite Djokovic’s brilliance, 2014 may best be remembered for the surprises it threw our way. The year began with a shocking bang by Stan Wawrinka, who rose above all in Melbourne to win his first Grand Slam title. But Wawrinka wasn’t the only one to defy the odds and win their maiden slam. Perhaps even more shockingly, Marin Cilic put on a string of outstanding performances to win the US Open. Which hardly anyone predicted.
And these were only two of the many memorable moments from 2014. So that may leave you wondering, how can 2015 possibly top that? Well, i can guarantee you that there is plenty to look forward to in the upcoming year.
After finishing 2014 as the world number one, Novak Djokovic will want to finish 2015 in the exact same position. The Serb is well on his way to cementing his status as one of the all-time greats, but there is one thing missing on his list of honors. The French Open crown, and there is no doubt that is the title he wants the most at this point in his career. Djokovic has already won the other three Grand Slams, but has never lifted La Coupe des Mousquetaires. That is largely down to one man’s domination of the tournament, Rafael Nadal. Novak has defeated Rafa on clay before, including handing the Spaniard his first ever loss at Monte Carlo in 2013. The Serb will be confident he can finally overcome Nadal at the French Open this season. As well as seeking the ‘Career Grand Slam’, Djokovic will also be looking to be the first player to win the ‘Career Golden Masters’. He has reigned supreme at every Masters 1000 event, bar Cincinnati. Add that on top of looking after his wife, and son, 2015 is going to be a busy year for Novak.
Speaking of a man busy with wife and kids, Roger Federer was ‘Mr Consistency’ in 2014. The 17 time Grand Slam champion failed to win his 18th major, but he had a steady season that saw him end as world number two. A lot of talk surrounding The Swiss is when he will start declining, but he has shown improvements under Stefan Edberg and continues to be one of the top players in the sport. Federer fans will be hoping that he will win a record 18th Grand Slam in 2015, but at the age of 33, one wonders if he has enough left to do so. Roger’s best chance will come at Wimbledon, where he was a finalist in 2014, and a seven time champion. But with the rise of younger players, and Federer not getting any younger, it is hard to see him winning yet another Grand Slam.
His compatriot, Stan Wawrinka shocked the world in 2014 by winning his first Grand Slam in Melbourne, and his first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo. Stan had his best season yet, which saw him finish the year at number four, his highest year end ranking to date. However despite the dizzying heights, there was also the lowest of lows in 2014. A round one loss to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez at Roland Garros, was one of many disappointing results as Stan seemingly struggled to cope with the pressure of being the hunted rather than the hunter. The Swiss number two did rally to finish the year strong by reaching the semi-finals in the season ending championships, and he helped his country win the Davis Cup. A lot of tennis fans and commentators expect Stan to fall down the rankings in 2015, mainly due to the fact they don’t see him retaining his titles in Melbourne and Monte Carlo. But under Magnus Norman, Wawrinka has been playing the best tennis of his career, and with the level he is capable of showing, you can’t count the 29 year old out just yet.
2014 saw two new names to the Grand Slam honours list, but it also saw the emergence of 3 young stars. Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and Grigor Dimitrov all had a breakthrough 2014, which saw them finish number 5, 8, and 11 respectively. They will look to continue that momentum in 2015, where they could be fighting for the major titles. Nishikori has already come within one win of becoming a grand slam champion, but an inspired Marin Cilic stopped the Japanese number one in the US Open final. Nishikori has always had the talent to challenge the best, but injuries have prevented him from making a breakthrough. With a clean bill of health, Nishikori will be looking to establish himself amongst ‘the big 4’ in 2015.
Milos Raonic has perhaps the biggest weapon of the three, with a booming serve that he can hit over 140mph on a consistent basis. The Canadian had a stellar 2014, where he reached the World Tour Finals for the first time in his career. However, Raonic will be looking to turn his consistency into big results in 2015. Grigor Dimitrov took himself towards the top 10 in 2014, but just feel short in the end. The 23 has been nicknamed ‘Baby Fed’ by many due to the similarity in technique between himself and Federer, and has shown glimpses of the talent he possesses. But Grigor will be looking to make his big breakthrough next year, with the main target of finishing in the World Tour Finals spots.
Two of the sport’s biggest names will be making their return from injury in 2015. Rafael Nadal missed the end of the season due to an appendix surgery, but the 14 time Grand Slam champion will be back in 2015, and will be looking to regain the number 1 ranking. The Spaniard will no doubt be favourite for all the clay events he enters, but there may still be question marks on his performance on other surfaces. As the only member of the current top 4 not to have a ‘supercoach’, he will be looking to prove that ‘family knows best’ as he continues to be under the guidance of Uncle Toni. But despite his recent injuries, only a fool would count Rafa out in 2015.
Juan Martin Del Potro’s 2014 season was cut short due to yet another wrist problem. Surgery kept him out of action for most of the season, and boy did the tennis world miss him. The Tower of Tandil is one of the biggest threats to the top players, with his huge forehand being the signature shot. The 2009 US Open champion is back in 2015, and is one of the most interesting stories heading into the New Year.
These players, plus the likes of Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, and David Ferrer are going to make the 2015 season one of the most interesting ever. However, the stories are not all on the court, because there is plenty going off the court as well. One of the major stories of 2015 will be the future of the Barclays ATP World Tour finals. The contract with the O2 Arena in London ends after the 2015 event, and the ATP have to decide where it’s future lies. Will it remain in London, where it’s been a roaring success since 2009? Or does it’s future lie elsewhere? It is rumoured that we will know the decision early next season, with 4 competing cities to trying to take the right to host the event from the O2. Between 2000 and 2009, the World Tour Finals was hosted at a variety of cities including Houston and Shanghai.
There are so many storylines to follow, and so many potentially classic match-ups that could take place in the upcoming season. It promises to be one of the best yet. You can follow the tour on Tennis Atlantic, where you will receive the latest news, views and reviews about the ATP tour and more.