4 things we have learned from the 2019 ATP Tour so far
1. Tsitsipas leads all Next Gen players
Stefanos Tsitsipas kicked off his 2019 season in style with a semi-final run at the Australian Open. His most notable game of the year so far saw him take down Roger Federer in the fourth round of the opening grand slam of the year, which many people see as the gradual passing of the torch from one great tennis generation to the next.
Flashbacks to Wimbledon 2001 come to mind when Federer (aged 19) beat ‘Pistol Pete’ Sampras in 5 sets during their fourth-round match. It was this win over Sampras that really put Federer on the map, despite him not winning his first grand slam until two years later, at Wimbledon 2003.
It is hard not to see the similarities between these matches, especially considering how young Tsitsipas still is, aged 20. Coming off his maiden ATP tour title in Stockholm last year and winning the second ever edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals in November, Stefanos is playing some great tennis and has an exciting year ahead of him on tour. Seeing how disappointed he was after losing to Nadal in January, it shows just how much he believes in himself to be able to perform against the best. He has openly said that one of his goals for this year is to win an ATP 1000 event and honestly, this is not out of the question. He reached the final of Toronto (ATP 1000) last summer and could easily go a step further this year.
2. Stan the Man is on the rise again
Stan Wawrinka made his first final (Rotterdam) on the ATP tour this past week since he lost in straight sets to Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2017. Wawrinka, coming back from a double knee surgery, looked extremely impressive in Rotterdam, where he beat Canadians, Raonic & Shapovalov and Japanese tennis star, Kei Nishikori.
During his training session on Sunday before the final in Rotterdam, Wawrinka looked as relaxed as any professional player I have ever seen warm up before a match. He was laughing, smiling and began his warmup session with a fun game of mini tennis. It was promising as a tennis fan to see him enjoying his time on a tennis court so much, especially while playing at such a high level in match settings.
Although not winning the final against Monfils, Stan has proven that he can compete at some of the highest levels once again. Don’t be surprised to see him shoot up in the rankings and start competing for bigger titles this year! If he can improve his ranking even further before the slams, he has a real chance – due to the likelihood of an easier draw.
Prediction: Wawrinka will go deep at this year’s Roland Garros
3. Khachanov has so much potential, yet is still so inconsistent
Karen Khachanov finished his 2018 season by defeating Novak Djokovic in the final of the Rolex Paris Masters, the final ATP 1000 event of the year. Ever since that victory, Khachanov has done nothing but disappoint and underperform. He lost in both the opening rounds of Sofia and Rotterdam and has now pulled out of this week’s ATP 250 tournament in Marseille, where he is the defending champion. His reason for pulling out of the tournament is due to ‘health issues’ that he has been having recently.
Khachanov has a huge game. When he is in form, he can compete with any player on the tour, just like we saw when he beat four top 10 players on his way to the Paris title. It’s tough to know why he hasn’t performed this year, maybe it’s down to pressure? When you win a big title on the tour in the way that he did, it’s always going to be difficult to back it up.
It’s also important to consider his health issues as a reason for his recent poor results. Khachanov plays a full schedule, meaning that he may be pushing his body too hard. Although we don’t know exactly what health reasons caused him to withdraw from Marseille, he needs to get his tennis game back on track to where it was in 2018, where he picked up 3 titles.
4. Djokovic could win all slams this year
What else needs to be said? Djokovic had one of the greatest comeback seasons of all-time last year. He has won the last three grand slam events (Wimbledon, US Open & Australian Open) and will have the opportunity in Roland Garros to hold all 4 grand slam titles at the same time. He is undoubtedly the best returner on tour and his stamina on court is unmatched. The way he beat Nadal in the final of the Australian Open was out of this world. It was the only grand slam final that Nadal played where he has not won at least one set.
Despite his form recently, beating Nadal on clay will be no easy task. Nadal has only ever lost to two people in Paris, with Djokovic being one of those. With the start of the European clay season approaching, it will be interesting to see if Djokovic can carry his recent results from the hard court onto the red dirt of Spain, Italy & France. Before that happens though, we will get to see him in Indian Wells & Miami the week after!