ATP Year in Review: Rank 40-50

MASON, OH - AUGUST 19: Borna Coric of Croatia hits a return shot to Marin Cilic of Croatia during a quarterfinal match on Day 7 of the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 19, 2016 in Mason, Ohio. Coric retired after Cilic won the first set 6-2. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Our ATP Year in Review concludes with a look at how the seasons for players ranked 40-50 in the year end ATP rankings went. In this segment, we’ll take a look at both young guns looking to move up the rankings next year, and experienced veterans who continue to play ATP caliber tennis.

40. Paolo Lorenzi

The 34 year old Italian had a career best year in 2016, reaching a career best ranking of #35 in September, and claiming his first ever ATP title on clay in Kitzbuhel. The Italian dirtballer went 14-10 on ATP level clay (18-4 below that level on the surface), but also made huge strides on hard courts, posting a combined 15-12 record on outdoor and indoor hard court surfaces across all levels, his best ever. He improved his ranking from the high 60s, al the way into the top 40 by year’s end. Lorenzi took home two challenger titles as well and reached the third round of the US Open.

Lorenzi doesn’t play the most stylistic tennis, and without major weaponry it’s going to be tough for him to repeat his feats this year, but after grinding away for years at the challenger tour level, his efforts finally paid off this season.

41. Federico Delbonis

Delbonis, a lefty, went a positive 24-23 in 2016 and played exclusively at the ATP tour level. It was his best ever year on tour, and at 26 he still has multiple seasons of his prime left to show further improvements. The Argentine dirtballer won an ATP title in Marrakech, stunned Andy Murray at Indian Wells, and reached two more clay semifinals. He struggled off of clay however, and for his ranking to rise further he’ll need to up his game on the other tour surfaces.

42. Fernando Verdasco

The former top 10 Spaniard struggled to make his mark at the top tier of the ATP tour this season, and at 33 his career looks to be winding down. Dasco still went 29-26 playing exclusively ATP level tournaments but was poor on hard courts, and also struggled on grass, a surface he’s found success in in the past with his powerful shotmaking ability. Verdasco reached just two ATP semifinals or better in 2016, taking a lone title in Bucharest on clay, his first ATP title since 2014. Outside of a third round showing in Paris at Roland Garros, Verdasco was mediocre in the Slam tournaments, as evidence by losing a match after beating his rival Rafael Nadal in Melbourne, and his serve was off this season.

Unless he can get his career rebooted, we could see Verdasco playing more challenger tour tournaments next season.

43. Joao Sousa

The pride of Portugal played 58 ATP matches in 2016, and the grueling schedule resulted in him posting a losing record of 25-33. Sousa struggled on faster surfaces and failed to accomplish anything better than an ATP semifinal on the season. Sousa is a two time ATP champion on hard courts, but he failed to have the consistency needed at the tour level to take home a third title.

A lone bright spot for him this season was the fact he won a match or more in all four Grand Slam tournaments. Sousa has the talent, but he needs to work on mentally strengthening himself if he’s going to make the top 30 or even top 20.

44. Nicolas Almagro

Lower body injuries have marred the career of the 31 year old Spaniard who is a powerful shotmaker in his own right. In 2016 he broke even at the ATP level (22-22), and went 8-3 below that level, showing signs he can still be a force on the ATP tour, even if he’s unlikely to ever make the ATP top 10 again.

Almagro had his best results on clay, as he took home the title in Estoril and showed his prowess on the surface. He also reached an ATP final in Buenos Aires with two wins over top 10 players, and won at least one match in all four grand slams this season. To build on the success of 2016, Almagro will need to manage his schedule and rely on his experience to help him win matches against younger, more athletic competition.

45. Kyle Edmund

Edmund made massive strides below the ATP Tour level, going 23-4, and that, combined with a 19-19 tour level record help him reach a career high ranking inside the top 50 in 2016. The 21 year old British #2 is kept out of the media spotlight in large part due to Andy Murray’s exploits, but he’s growing his own skillset, and a pair of challenger titles, along with a first ever ATP semifinal highlight his results this year.

Edmund showed all-court ability, but he’ll need to learn how to battle with the ATP’s best as he struggled when facing top 10 players this season. Look for even more from this ATP young gun next season.

46. Andrey Kuznetsov

Being Russian, and 25, doesn’t bode well for Kuznetsov getting a lot of fanfare and publicity, but he made huge strides in 2016, reaching a career high ranking inside the top 40 at one point, and was 29-21 overall on the season. Kuznetsov reached the round of 16 in Melbourne was solid in all of the Grand Slams this season, showing his all court ability.

Kuznetsov also stunned Stan Wawrinka in Miami for a top 5 win and showed enough consistency to defeat players at or below his ranking level. I’m bullish on Kuznetsov’s stock, and see him rising in 2017.

47. Benoit Paire

The talented former ATP top 20 Paire continued to suffer for his attitude and mentality on and off the court, and finished the year ranked outside of the top 45, with a losing 26-33 record overall in 2016. Paire had negative results on every surface, and failed to reach an ATP final, despite reaching the semifinals at four different tournaments. He claimed his only ATP title in 2015, but his game has not improved, as opponents seem to realize that hitting to his weak forehand helps neutralize his world class backhand.

Paire was kicked off the French Olympic team for poor off-court conduct, and had just won top 10 win, against his buddy Stan Wawrinka early in the season. The 27 year old faces a pivotal year in 2017, if he can find his focus, he should be a threat on tour, if not he may find himself back on the challenger tour like Ernests Gulbis sooner, rather than later.

48. Borna Coric

The 20 year old Coric was a stalwart for his country’s Davis Cup team, and posted another solid year at the ATP level, going 20-21. His season wasn’t quite as good as last season, but he showed the ability to avoid a sophmore slump in 2016, and if he works on his strength and conditioning in the off-season he has a shot at the top 20 next year.

Coric made it three career ATP finals without victory in 2016, as he reached finals in Chennai and Marrakech without taking home the title in either tournament. He also posted just one top 10 win, as he seems to struggle when his game can be overmatched by superior competition. If Coric can find a new gameplan for big matches, he should capture a maiden title in 2017.

49. Fabio Fognini

The charismatic Fognini went a positive 25-22 on the season, and showed signs of pulling his game back together, after previously being a top 15 player. Fognini was miserable in big matches but won an ATP title and reached a final in 2016. The Italian would have been ranked higher if he hadn’t missed time on tour this season due to injuries, and in 2017 his ranking is likely to improve. At 29 though, time may be running out for him to reach the top 20 again.

50. Florian Mayer

The former ATP top 20 player didn’t make his return from injuries to the ATP tour until well into the season. With a limited body of work, funky Flo still made the best of his opportunities as the 33 year old wont two challenger titles, and took home the title in Halle on Grass, a home tournament that brought him much joy and was just his second career ATP title.

Mayer should improve in 2017 just because he’ll be healthy, but at 33 he still has a limited ceiling in what is left of his career, and I suggest you check out his unique style of play while you still can.

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