Our look at the 2018 ATP season for players ranked in the top 50 concludes with a look at the year end top 10. This (generally) veteran group continues to produce their best tennis year in, year out, and look set to once again lift the vast majority of the big trophies up for grabs in 2019 including the Grand Slams. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal are notable in this group. A look at players ranked 11-15 can be found here.
10: John Isner
33 year old John Isner remained the American #1 in 2018, lifting a pair of trophies and at one point reaching a career high of #8 in the world before finishing just inside the top 10. The big server again made the bulk of his points on American soil, winning Atlanta and Miami. He also had semis in Stockholm, and at Wimbledon where he came up just short from making a slam final in a tough loss to rival Kevin Anderson. Isner dominates with his serve against lesser competition, putting together a 34-22 record, but his struggles against the game’s best have held him back. Outside of 3 wins in Miami, he was 0-7 against the top 10 in 2018.
9: Kei Nishikori
Former top 5 player Kei Nishikori had a disappointing 2018, he didn’t win a title despite a 43-21 record, losing three ATP finals, the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, and the semifinals at the US Open. At 28 Nishikori has not made strides towards winning his first slam as he was an underwater 7-10 against fellow top 10 players. Though he did well to overcome a wrist injury that sidelined him in 2017 and early 2018, he’ll need to quickly show he’s going to be a competitive force in early 2019 to remain in the top 10.
8: Dominic Thiem
Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem was unable to return to the top 5 in 2018 but did well to finish in the top 10 with 3 titles (Lyon, Buenos Aires, and St. Petersburg) and a 54-20 record. Thiem posted a huge result reaching the Roland Garros final, adding to a great clay season that saw him reach the final in Madrid. Thiem was 5-7 against the top 10 in 2018, with a notable win against Rafael Nadal in Madrid. Thiem has the talent, and now 25, he’ll be angling for a maiden Grand Slam in 2019, with the French Open representing his best shot.
7: Marin Cilic
30 year old Marin Cilic helped his nation win the Davis Cup, and during the season reached a career high ranking of #3 before finishing the season with a 44-20 record and another top 10 year end finish. Cilic won just one ATP title (London Queen’s), but reaching the Australian Open final and two Masters semifinals (plus the quarterfinals or better in three of four slams) did a lot to boost his ranking. A win against Rafael Nadal in Melbourne overshadowed an otherwise mediocre run of results against fellow elite players though, and the question remains as to whether Cilic can raise his level back to that of a slam winner.
6: Kevin Anderson
South African #1 Kevin Anderson has blossomed into a top 10 player and after a 47-19 record in 2018 with a pair of titles, he’ll be aiming to win his first slam and secure top 5 positioning for the first time in 2019. The big server won New York and Vienna, dropping the Wimbledon final and two others. He also reached the semis at the year end finals and two other Masters stops. A big win against Federer at Wimbledon was the highlight of his 2018 season, and showed why he’s such a dangerous player on a fast surface.
5: Juan Martin Del Potro
The 30 year old Argentine reached his career high ranking of #3 during the season, winning a pair of titles with a 47-13 record. The biggest accomplishment for Del Potro was staying healthy, he’s always been a massive talent and it was great to see him playing some of his best tennis in 2018 without getting seriously hurt. JMDP won Indian Wells and Acapulco, dropping the US Open final and three other finals. He also reached the semis in Miami and the French Open. Del Potro was also positive against the top 10 (7-4), claiming wins over Nadal, Federer, and Zverev who are all ranked above him. Del Potro has to be seen as a potential slam champion in 2019, especially at the Australian and US Open.
4: Alexander Zverev
The 21 year old Zverev remained in the top 5 in 2018 thanks to 4 titles and a 58-19 record. The young gun played a heavier schedule than most of his top 10 peers. He won the World Tour Finals, Madrid, Munich, and Washington, losing Masters finals in Rome and Miami. Despite his ATP success, Zverev continued to woefully underperform at Grand Slams, as best of 5 tennis has not been kind to him. Zverev lost 7 matches to players ranked outside of the top 50, undermining his positive 8-6 record against the top 10. To avoid a fall from the top 5, Zverev must consistently reach the later rounds of the Grand Slams in 2019, and manage his schedule better to avoid upsets. The future is bright regardless.
3: Roger Federer
The 37 year old ageless wonder, Federer was just 4-6 against the top 10 in 2018, but he won 4 titles, including the prestigious Australian Open to add to his historic slam count. Basel, Stuttgart, and Rotterdam were Federer’s other 2018 triumphs in a 48-10 season, while he lost three other finals. A warning sign for Federer was the fact he posted just one semifinal or better in a slam, losing at the quarters of Wimbledon and the round of 16 at the US Open. Federer should continue to ease past lower ranked players in the early rounds, but it’s going to be tough for him to remain in the top 5 with the light schedule he plays if anyone behind him in the rankings steps up. The big question for Federer in 2019 is whether he can win another slam, adding to his slam count is his main goal, as he has nothing left to prove at this point in his career.
2: Rafael Nadal
45-4 with 5 titles, Rafael Nadal’s main opponent in 2018 was injury as the 32 year old world #2 remained part of the game’s elite. Nadal won all 5 of his final appearances, including another French Open, The Rogers Cup, Rome, Monte Carlo, and Barcelona. Presuming he can stay fit and manage his schedule, he should add at least one more slam to his resume in 2019, given his 10-3 record against fellow 10 players in 2018 shows he’s still incredibly tough to beat when near his best. Nadal reached the semfinals of Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 as well.
1: Novak Djokovic
53-12 with 4 titles, Djokovic completed a return to world #1 after surgery, staking his claim as the world’s best player thanks to titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, plus two Masters, Cincy, and Shanghai. Djokovic got better as the season went along, and became a real threat when it mattered. He went 7-1 in semifinal matches on the season and was 15-4 against the top 10. As long as his fitness remains, Djokovic will remain in the world’s top 2 for at least the 2019 season.