WATCH—Stefanos Tsitsipas wins the Next Gen ATP Finals:
The ATP’s year-end Top 10 saw five players retain their place among the game’s elite from the year prior, with the rest of the spots filled by names that had been there before or close to that level recently.
This current crop will face a wide swath of challengers for those lofty ranking spots in the year ahead.
The 2018 season saw eight players in the No. 11-to-20 range finish at a career high in the rankings, with two of them—Karen Khachanov and Borna Coric—right on the cusp of the Top 10. Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, at No. 18 and No. 19, respectively, have cracked the Top 3 in their careers.
The eight players represent a mix of youth and experience, with one thing in common: They don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon in their rankings ascent. Here’s a look at five of them and how they can shake up the standings a year from now.
Rank: No. 13
Seven of the world’s Top 10 players are past the age of 30, while Fognini is the only one in that age group in the 11-to-20 range. The veteran, who’s been Italy’s best male player for several years now, was in the mix for a spot at the ATP Finals until the end after winning three titles in 2018. Among those was his first ever on a hard court, as he triumphed in Los Cabos by defeating Juan Martin del Potro in the final. And in a surprising development, Fognini was joined in the Top 20 by his countryman Marco Cecchinato, who reached the semifinals of the French Open this year. They’re the first two Italians to finish in that group in 45 years.
Rank: No. 14
Great Britain’s streak of at least one player in the Top 20 continued in 2018, but it wasn’t the usual standard-bearer that kept it alive. Edmund succeeded Andy Murray as the top player competing under the Union Jack behind a stellar campaign that included him reaching his first career Grand Slam semifinal and winning his first singles title. In Melbourne, the powerful baseliner topped Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov en route to the final four. Edmund also showed he could find success on surfaces other than hard courts: His first singles final came on clay in Marrakech.
Rank: No. 15
Stacked up among his peers a few weeks ago at the Next Gen ATP Finals, Tsitsipas dominated from start to finish, winning all five of his possible matches. While that event is considered an exhibition, it provided the perfect capstone to a breakout season. Only 20 years old and already Greece’s best-ever male player, Tsitsipas reached the finals of the Barcelona Open, an ATP 500-level tournament, and the Masters event in Canada. In both championship matches, it took world No. 1 Rafael Nadal to stop him. Tsitsipas joined the winner’s circle in Stockholm, his third career final under as many different playing conditions.
Rank: No. 16
While Khachanov is currently Russia’s top-ranked player, his fellow 22-year-old is right on his heels. Medvedev started 2018 off strong, winning his first career title in Sydney after coming through the qualifying rounds. The young Russian had a solid finish, too, with a title at the Japan Open (again, advancing through qualifying) and reaching two semifinals. He also captured the title in Winston-Salem, N.C., right before the US Open. Regarding the majors, his best results were third-round finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open. Shoring up his performances on the game’s biggest stages could propel him further up the rankings in 2019.
Rank: No. 17
Defying the conventional train of thought that the men’s game belongs to the giants, Schwartzman has carved out a place among the game’s elite. During the year, the Argentine reached his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal at the French Open, where he was the only player to take a set off Nadal the whole tournament. Earlier in the season, Schwartzman claimed the biggest title of his career at the Rio Open, a 500-level event on clay. Provided he improves on other surfaces, the 26-year-old could possibly surpass his career-high No. 11 ranking and break into the game’s upper echelon.