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TTI Talks: State of the ATP (2015 Edition)

The TTI Staff came together to answer a few questions, cast a few votes, and ultimately diagnose the state of the ATP and WTA Tours heading into the new season. What will become of our 2014 Year-End No. 1s? Which players will rise from obscurity, and which will fall from grace to take their place? Who will emerge as Style Icon, Class Clown and, most importantly, Grand Slam champion? Check out the crew’s full picks compiled into a grid at the bottom.

Of the ATP, Who is “Most Likely To:”

1. Win a First Grand Slam title?

CHRIS

With the big shake-up of the Big Four in 2014, I believe we’ll have another surprise on the manicured lawns of Wimbledon, courtesy of one Grigor Dimitrov. Wimbledon is the site of the Bulgarian’s best Grand Slam performance to date. This year’s victor, Novak Djokovic, barely scraped past him in a four-set semifinal thriller; with a favourable draw, I predict Dimitrov to go two rounds further.

ANDREW

I’m going to go with Milos Raonic. I don’t know if Dimitrov is mentally ready to win a major, and I’m not sure if Kei Nishikori’s body will hold up. That really only leaves the Canadian.#BelieveInTheSleeve

NICK

Nishikori has all the tools necessary to win a Grand Slam. I would not be surprised in the least if he gets it done in 2015.


There’s no player on the planet that Nishikori can’t beat when he’s playing at his best. In 2014, he beat Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and led Rafael Nadal 6-2 4-2 before getting hurt in Madrid. When he’s in the zone, all an opponent can do is weather the storm.

DAVID

It’s an exciting time to be a fan of men’s tennis; there’s hardly a death of talent capable of challenging for the best trophies in the world. Precious few have, however, proven to have the durability of a Big 4 man, to play their best against the best over a seven-match, two-week stretch. In that way, I find it harder to pick one of this year’s rising stars and instead think of those in between.

Once one of the fiercest threats to Big 4 dominance, Tomas Berdych had a largely forgettable year, losing rather limply to eventual champion Marin Cilic at the US Open and appearing dazed and confused in press afterwards. For someone like Berdych, a year as full of first-time major champions as ever has to inspire the long-foretold fifth member of the Big 4. It may be another slow start, but look for the deceptively amiable Czech to come full circle in Flushing in 2015.

JEFF

Stan Wawrinka had an excellent 2013, but I could have never predicted him to make a major breakthrough in 2014 – just as I wouldn’t have guessed Marin Cilic would find his form for the full length of a major and win it. It’s hard to imagine, then, who might be the major underdog story for 2015. Tennistically speaking, Kei Nishikori has everything it takes to beat the players with an ostensible stranglehold on the game’s biggest titles – but I don’t trust his fitness or longevity over two weeks and seven matches, let alone an entire season. If it does happen for Japan’s tennis superstar, it’ll be in Australia, when he’s at his freshest.

I’d sooner pick Grigor Dimitrov, then, one of the most undeniably talented youngsters who, each year, has shown a remarkably positive curve of improvement. He was great last year, and he might be excellent in 2015; it’s not unimaginable that he could make a real breakthrough at the majors.

RENÉ

When Svenja Mastroberardino asked me to make a few predictions for 2015, I picked Kei Nishikori to win his first Grand Slam title – possibly even in Australia – and I’m going to stick to my guns.

With a high seed, his draws are going to be significantly softer this year. But the one big question mark is whether his body can hold up. At his best, he’s already managed to get everyone on the ropes. Other than Nishikori, I don’t see any possible new Slam winners in 2015.

VIKA

I’m going to chime in with the majority here – I feel that Nishikori has a great chance to be the next first-time Grand Slam winner on the ATP. As René mentioned, his Top 5 ranking will be an advantage for him next season, and he did his best to silence the doubters re: his fitness in Flushing Meadows. He’s come a long way from “Project 45,” and while nothing’s ever a sure bet in this sport, a major title could certainly be the logical next step in his ascent.

2. Become the Tour’s Hottest Rising Star?

CHRIS

David Goffin jumped a ridiculous 91 spots in the rankings to reach No. 22 in 2014. I predict he’ll progress even more rapidly in 2015, and break the world’s Top 15 by the run up to the mid-season grass swing.

ANDREW

Nick Kyrgios. Yes, he’s flashy and arrogant and not particularly consistent. But…a little flashy arrogance could take him a long way early in his career. He’s a different character to throw into the mix too. With shots like this, I’m all for it:

NICK

Kyrgios is currently ranked No. 52 in the world. It’s fairly obvious that the Aussie is better than that, and it would be a major shock if he does not move up at least 20-25 more ranking spots. His game is simply too dangerous and explosive for him to be finishing outside of the Top 50 in 2015.

DAVID

If the American women ushered in the era of Big Babe Tennis, it might be up to one Austrian man to trademark a Big Boy equivalent. When he’s on, Dominic Thiem plays a fun and flat game that took him to some major victories last season, and into the second week of the US Open.

The 21-year-old is well-liked by his colleagues, but should he catch fire in 2015, Thiem could post some mean or – dare I say it? – mega results.

JEFF

It’s easy to buy stock in the fresh crop of young, under-20 talent sprouting up on the ATP Tour. Kyrgios and Borna Coric have shown that they have the competitive instincts and the physical gifts to compete with the game’s best and it’s likely that they will only improve their form in 2015. However, neither are used to the grind of a full season at the elite level, with both absent for large chunks of last season, making me question just how much higher they’ll rise in the coming year.


Given the recent trend concerning players finding their Rising Star in their less formative years, I suspect Bernard Tomic (gasp!) will make the biggest stride. An extremely talented ballstriker, Tomic has struggled to put it all together for reasons ranging from the silly to the serious, but showed in spurts through 2014 that with proper drive, the young Aussie can make major waves in the men’s game.

RENÉ

Kyrgios has already made his move, and if you bet on Coric, Thanasi Kokkinakis and/or Alexander Zverev, you probably lose money in 2015; however, Kokkinakis would be my choice for biggest jump.

The young Aussie turned heads when, as a wild card, he won his first main draw match at a major before losing an entertaining (if not competitive) three-setter to eventual finalist, Rafael Nadal. Plagued by poor play and an even poorer attitude in Flushing, Kokkinakis failed to qualify for a second major main draw. But with an ideal head start during his country’s hard court season, look for the two-time junior Grand Slam finalist to make his way to a televised court near you.

 VIKA

I’m going to think a little bit outside the box here and choose Czech Jiri Vesely. While he might’ve not gotten the attention some of his peers did in 2014, he was the youngest player in the Top 100 to start last season.

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He reached his first ATP World Tour semifinal in Düsseldorf last season, but his highlight was beating Gael Monfils in a 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-7(3), 6-4 thriller en route to the third round of Wimbledon. There, he lost to none other than…Nick Kyrgios. His other win at Grand Slam level came against Lukas Rosol at Roland Garros, and his losses were to Kevin Anderson, Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka. The 6’6″ lefty is at a career-best ranking of No. 66, and his steady progress could signal the beginnings of something more in 2015.

3. Take a Major Tumble?

CHRIS

It’s fair to say Kei Nishikori had a pretty exemplary year in 2014, reaching his first major final and defeating an impressive 11 Top 10 players – including No. 1 Djokovic. I’m not predicting a huge fall from grace, but I think he will find it hard to follow up on a year with so much success. He’ll probably fly under the radar and on the cusp of the Top 10.

ANDREW

Marin Cilic. Winning the US Open was exciting, but I don’t think he’s necessarily here to stay. I also don’t think he’ll immediately adjust to the kind of pressure that befits a new – and surprising – major champion all that well.

NICK

Stan Wawrinka‘s patches of inconsistency in 2014 could cost him dearly in 2015. The Swiss currently has 5370 ranking points, 3,000 of which he will have to defend in two events, the Australian Open and the Monte Carlo Masters. Wawrinka’s inability to show up every week may put a major dent in his ranking by the time May rolls around.

DAVID

With Wawrinka having such an up-and-down season, it is difficult to determine how he will begin a season where he will well and truly need to hit the ground running. All it would take is one bad performance – and there were many sprinkled across 2014 – to undo all of his hard work. More than physical practice, it is essential that the Swiss is in a proper frame of mind from Day 1 of the season to come.

JEFF

Given Nishikori‘s propensity for injury and his results the past year to defend sporadically throughout the new season, a couple of poor showings at big events could see him tumble down the rankings – although he has almost everything to gain at the Masters 1000 tournaments – four 2014 withdrawals and two early round exits – which could offset any tournaments he fails to defend.

RENÉ

Roberto Bautista Agut had a career year, but I struggle to see him eclipsing his 2014 results in any way. Rather, 2015 may well see his ranking neutralized as he heads back into the Top 30 region.

VIKA

It’s an easy choice, but with Cilic forced to withdraw from Brisbane due to arm and shoulder issues, the Croat’s 2015 already looks uncertain. It remains to be seen how he’s going to handle the title of reigning US Open champion, and starting off the year with injury concerns might foreshadow struggles to come. There’s no time to “rest,” either, as his ranking is book-ended by big results; he made three finals in three weeks last February (two titles), while US Open and Kremlin Cup wins highlighted his autumn.

4. Wear the Most Eye-Catching Outfits?

CHRIS

I have a feeling H&M will outfit Tomas Berdych in some hip and hilariously retro designs for 2015. If the Adidas and Nike color palettes are anything to go by, we’ll should expect some mind-boggling neon shades and psychedelic prints come Down Under.

ANDREW

Grigor Dimitrov is quickly becoming a fashion icon, if your favourite style is comprised of outfits rejected by Harry Styles.

So there’s that.

NICK

Tomas Berdych‘s current stint with H&M has been odd, to say the least. He’s worn some interesting outfits and has raised some eyebrows in the process. 2015 should give us much of the same.

DAVID

I’ve personally enjoyed the stylistic evolution of Rafael Nadal. Though it seems we never know what to expect physically from the King of Clay, we’re equally in the dark when it comes to his fashion. As one who fondly remembers the clam-digger days, I’m always interested to see what the Spaniard picks out – no pun intended.

JEFF

I think many eyes will be on Andy Murray‘s outfits this year, having just recently signed as the first notable male player with popular American brand Under Armour. They’ve come up with some flashy but simple kits for Sloane Stephens on the women’s side – and who can deny their probable desire to see Andy Murray in form-fitting electric pink at next year’s US Open? Other more “hipster” brands like New Balance and Uniqlo have provided some of the game’s best with interesting outfits in 2014 – maybe a little more variety and creativity could make them 2015’s fashion dark horses.

RENÉ

Step forward Tomas Berdych. I really do hope H&M pay you some good money to wear some of those weird, occasionally horrible kits.

VIKA

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Simone Bolelli gave us skulls, stars and stripes in 2014. What could possibly come next?

5. Start an On (or Off)-Court Feud?

CHRIS

We’ve missed Rafael Nadal in our lives since his disappearance during the second half of the season, but I expect his diva-like whinery to return in full force come the Australian Open. I’d also like to see Roger and Novak get into a slanging match over who is the better tennis dad.

ANDREW

I don’t think we’ve seen enough on-court sniping between Djokovic and Roger Federer lately. I feel like there’s room for a little more of that…Federer shade is always entertaining.

NICK

Not even a contest. If there is anything to place a bet on in 2015, it’s that Fabio Fognini will get into some kind of altercation with (many) other individuals on (or off) the tennis court. The only other option would have been Ernests Gulbis, who couldn’t touch Fognini with a 10-foot pole as far as on-court theatrics are concerned.

DAVID

If you’re not above calling your opponent a “spoiled princess,” I think you’re the one to watch when it comes to hilarious – and ultimately harmless – drama. Ernests Gulbis has, for all intents and purposes, taken the crown from Marat Safin and wears it proudly – whether he’s taking out Federer at a Grand Slam tournament or going down in a blaze of arm-flailing glory. Shine on, Crazy Ernie.

JEFF

I mean, we all want to see a sequel to the legendary Mirka vs. Stan encounter, right? But if we’re looking for new match-ups, then I’d like to see a dramatic love triangle gone south (or “Down Under”) with Nick Kyrgios, former WTA No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Also fun would be Fabio Fognini finding some sort of maturity or apologetic temperance, a conflict at the net between Ivo Karlovic and Goffin, and a revival of the Federer vs. Djokovic’s family rivalry.

RENÉ

As much as it disappoints me to say it, I’m convinced that there’s going to be further trouble in Spain. There have been some really dire, sexist remarks about Gala Leon Garcia’s appointment as Davis Cup captain. What with players having to make themselves available the year before the Olympic Games in Rio, I’m anticipating further spouting of nonsense from some players or coaches.

No one’s looking at you, Toni Nadal.

VIKA

I, for one, am eagerly anticipating a schedule where Fognini and Gulbis play every week. Make it happen, draw gods.

6. Finish 2015 Ranked No. 1?

CHRIS

I don’t think there will be much shakeup in the Top 3, let alone the top spot on the ATP tour. Novak Djokovic seems as focused as ever following the birth of his first child, and with an aging Federer, an out-of-sorts Murray and a recovering Nadal, there aren’t many players who will stand in his way of retaining the World No. 1 ranking for yet another season.

ANDREW

I can’t help but feel Novak Djokovic will actually have a better 2015 than his 2014, so I’m willing to bet he’ll stick at No. 1. The only other person I could pick as a contender would be Nadal, but I doubt he’ll play a full calendar, not to mention the Spaniard already admitting that No. 1 is no longer a priority.

NICK

I expect Novak Djokovic will retain the No. 1 ranking and, once again, be the most consistent player on tour. Standing in his way is the fact that he has to defend quarterfinal points at the Australian Open, runner-up points at the French, semifinal points at the U.S. Open and, of course, the 2,000 points he secured by winning Wimbledon. I’d also be remiss not to mention two guys named Roger and Rafa who will surely be gunning for him early and often in 2015.

DAVID

I’m going to break up the monotony and say Roger Federer. I’m totally kidding; I pick Novak Djokovic too. When you’re talking about 2015 and the Big 4 as it exists today, none of Djokovic’s closest competitors have the Serb’s consistency. If Andy Murray can recover the form that took him to No. 2 in 2013, he could potentially challenge, but there’s been little proof of that being a possibility.

JEFF

It’s hard to pick against Novak Djokovic. He’s still in his athletic prime. Neither fatherhood nor marriage have slowed his motivation or concentration. He still has highly attainable goals, and his tennis style is still superior on every surface. Rising players have had little luck against Djokovic, and the Serb seems to be holding the upper hand over primary rivals like Nadal – who recently stated that No.1 wasn’t his priority anymore – and Federer who, despite the wishes of pundits worldwide, cannot fight the intangibly objective denominator of time.

RENÉ

Novak Djokovic will remain No. 1 the end of 2015. There might be some closer moments throughout the year, but trust the Serb to get a hold of the top spot by the time the Asian Swing rolls round next Autumn.

Barring any injuries, that is.

VIKA

I also joined Svenja Mastroberardino to make some predictions for 2015 – including choosing my ATP and WTA year-end top 10. Before a ball’s been struck this season, I picked Novak Djokovic to finish the year at No. 1. His exceptional consistency comes with exceptional results, and it’s the perfect formula for longevity in the top spot.

TTI’s Picks:

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.08.09 AM

Who would you have chosen? Sound off in the comments!

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About David Kane (138 Articles)
23-year-old tennis writer. Long Island raised me, @Twitter made me. My hindrances are deliberate; my whole life is thunder. @DKTNNS

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