The new tennis season is fast approaching, with the first event of 2016 less than three weeks away and the Australian Open coming round soon after. While a new year always brings a certain element of unpredictability, there is plenty to be gleaned from recent performances on the men’s tour.
The ATP rankings may provide a breakdown of performances over the past year, but the following power rankings aim to offer a clearer picture of where the top players truly stand.
1. Novak Djokovic
There can be no debate about the man currently on top of men’s tennis. Novak Djokovic dominated in 2015, winning three of the four Grand Slams, six Masters 1000 titles and finished by claiming the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. Other than in the French Open final, the Serbian was simply unbreakable, either mentally or physically, and it is difficult to envisage his superiority wavering over the next 12 months. Already with 10 Grand Slam titles to his name, it would be a surprise were he not to add at least another two in 2016, starting at the Australian Open, a tournament he has already won on five occasions.
2. Roger Federer
Yes, Federer finished the year at No. 3, and, yes, at the age of 34, there is only one player older than him in the word’s top 96, but he also still looks to be the biggest threat to Djokovic. The Swiss held winning records over the rest of the top 10 in the rankings in 2015, and gave Djokovic some real moments of discomfort in the finals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. While it may be difficult for him to repeat the success of the past 12 months, Federer certainly isn’t resting on his laurels. By bringing in Ivan Ljubicic to replace Stefan Edberg as coach, he has suggested he remains open to new ideas and determined to still garner every drop from his game.
3. Andy Murray
Although he didn’t add to his tally of two Grand Slams, the year ended on a real high note for Murray, as he finished as the year-end No. 2 for the first time. More significant seemingly for the Scot was leading Great Britain to its first Davis Cup title in 79 years earlier this month. His involvement in the team competition increasingly took priority for Murray, but there will still have been major disappointment at a fourth-round exit at the U.S. Open. He will now hope to follow in the path of Djokovic, who parlayed Davis Cup victory into a sensational season the following year. But getting past Djokovic, who beat him six times in 2015, looks like a very tall order.
4. Rafael Nadal
Nadal will be happier than most to welcome in 2016 next month. The past year has been a physical and psychological travail for the Spaniard, as even after getting his fitness back, his once steely confidence failed to return. For the first time since 2004 he was unable to land a single Grand Slam title, including losing his grip on the French Open. Yet there were positive signs toward the end of the year that the 29-year-old is ready to get firmly back among the elite in 2016. A strong performance at the ATP World Tour Finals, with wins over Murray and Wawrinka, means he should head into the new season with a spring in his step.
5. Stan Wawrinka
For the second year, the late-bloomer Wawrinka came away with a stunning Grand Slam triumph. His performance in beating Djokovic at Roland Garros was a sensational example of his powerful hitting off both wings and again proves that when he is at the top of his game, he is difficult for anyone to stop. Since that victory, though, the 30-year-old has been somewhat inconsistent, suffering convincing losses to Murray, Nadal and Djokovic. Still, you wouldn’t write off the Swiss from making another major run at a Grand Slam in the year ahead.
6. Kei Nishikori
It was a strange year for Nishikori. On the plus side he won three titles on the tour, however he failed to make any real impression at the Grand Slams. After making his breakthrough in reaching the 2014 U.S. Open final, not making a Grand Slam semifinal in the past 12 months should count as a significant disappointment. But the Japanese star should be entering his prime with his 26th birthday approaching. And, if he can stay injury free, he has the ability to see sharp improvements in 2016.
7. Tomas Berdych
At the start of 2015, there was real hope that Berdych may be about to follow the example of Wawrinka and finally make the transition from regular top-10 member to a real Grand Slam threat. With a new coach in his corner, Berdych ended a 17-match losing streak to Nadal to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. But the Czech failed to build on that success, and finished the year adding just one more win over a player who finished in the world’s top 10. At the age of 30, it now looks unlikely that the big-hitter will be able to take that next step.
8. David Ferrer
At the age of 33, Ferrer continues to prove doubters wrong, finishing 2015 safely ensconced in the world’s top 10 for a sixth consecutive year. His admirable consistency and stamina led him to No. 7 in the rankings, despite missing Wimbledon and almost all of the North American hardcourt swing due to injury. While the days when it appeared he could make the breakthrough to being a Grand Slam contender appear to have gone, he should remain in the top 10 for some time to come.
9. Marin Cilic
Cilic became arguably the most unlikely Grand Slam winner of the past decade when taking the crown at the 2014 U.S. Open. There was much interest to see whether the Croatian could build on that success, but he spent the next few months on the sidelines with injury. Having started to get back to his best, he then twisted his ankle when defending his title at the U.S. Open, showing plenty of guts to still make the semifinals before being crushed by Djokovic. If he can stay healthy, Cilic can be a contender once more.
10. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
It certainly wasn’t the best year for Tsonga in 2015, and missing out on the ATP World Tour Finals will have been a particular disappointment. Yet he still had some significant results, notably reaching the final of the Shanghai Masters event in October. Consistency may now elude the 30-year-old, but with his big serve and blazing forehand he can still be a threat to the very best.