STARNBERG, July 18, 2019
After the recent drama of Wimbledon, just one Grand Slam in the calendar year remains. It’s hard to know where 2019 has gone, but we’re already preparing to enter the final quarter of the season. With that in mind, some players will already have one eye on their qualification for the ATP Tour Finals.
As the season finale, the ATP Tour Finals has become a real showpiece event. All of the leading sportsbooks focus on it to see which player finishes on top for the calendar year. Even the newest sportsbooks like FOX Bet, set to launch this fall, will almost certainly offer markets at the ATP Tour Finals in London’s O2 Arena. While the usual suspects, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have already qualified for the Nitto ATP finals, the tournament also offers a chance for one or two outsiders to finish the season strongly and sneak into the top eight of the men’s world rankings.
At the time of writing, Novak Djokovic is almost certain to end the year in top spot, earning almost double the amount of points of second-placed Rafael Nadal and third-placed Roger Federer. There’s also a growing ranking points gap between seventh-ranked Kei Nishikori and current eighth-placed Russian, Karen Khachanov. Just over 500 ranking points separate the eighth and final qualification spot for November’s ATP Tour Finals and 13th. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five players that could yet gate-crash the top eight with a good U.S. Open and hard court season.
Enigmatic Italian, Fabio Fognini has never really enjoyed playing on grass and his third-round exit to American, Tennys Sandgren didn’t raise too many eyebrows. Nevertheless, the 32-year-old has enjoyed one of his most consistent seasons in tennis to date, and recently broke into top 10 ATP rankings. He became only the fourth player to defeat Rafael Nadal on clay to win the Monte Carlo Masters 1000. His speed and movement on court also give him a shot at a solid U.S. Open in the weeks ahead. If he can win an ATP tour title in between or after the U.S. Open that could also put him in pole position for that eighth spot.
Booming South African, Kevin Anderson went into Wimbledon seeded fourth, but failed to live up to his high ranking status, falling in the third round to Argentine, Guido Pella. It’s certainly
been a quiet 2019 compared with the previous year, when Anderson made a Wimbledon final and bagged two ATP tour titles. Whether his fitness is up to the task of winning ATP tour title number six between now and the fall remains to be seen. Nevertheless, his serve remains a powerful weapon which could do some damage at Flushing Meadows.
Juan Martin del Potro
The hugely talented Juan Martin del Potro has had very little luck with injuries through the years and 2019 has been no exception. The BBC confirmed that the Argentine sustained a fractured patella at the Queen’s Club Championships in the build-up to Wimbledon. He underwent surgery and is already underway with his rehab. He’s still ranked 12th, just 400 points off Khachanov, so if he can return to some kind of form in the fall, he could yet chase down the Russian.
Big-serving 34-year-old John Isner – a man who has served more than 10,000 aces in his career thus far – will be looking forward to making his mark on home soil at Flushing Meadows in the coming weeks. A disappointing second round exit to journeyman, Mikhail Kukushkin at Wimbledon hampered his chances of moving up the world rankings, but a good U.S. Open could see him recover from 15th back into the top ten at least. First, Isner is looking to right the wrongs of Wimbledon and get back to winning ways on the grass in the Hall of Fame tournament at Newport.
Promising Russian, Daniil Medvedev cracked the top ten of the men’s world rankings prior to Wimbledon, but only managed a third round finish in SW19. This was a major disappointment for the 23-year-old, who was a semi-finalist at the Queen’s Club Championships the week beforehand. Medvedev is just a couple of hundred points behind eighth-placed Khachanov at present and knows that to overtake his compatriot he’ll need a solid U.S. Open. He’s shown aptitude on hard courts already, reaching round four in this year’s Australian Open, so it can be done.
The ball is still very much in Karen Khachanov’s court. If he can improve on last year’s third round finish in the U.S. Open, he might just cement a place in London after all.