ATP 2016 First Quarter Review Djokovic Dominates, the Young Guns Start Firing
The ATP Tour is a quarter of the way through its 2016 season now that the Australian Open- Miami stretch is done. The Tennis Review looks back at a first quarter which featured a familiar narrative of a dominating Djokovic as his main challengers suffered, and some less familiar exciting sub-plots featuring up and coming players and a very popular return to the tour.
Novak Djokovic dominated
The Djokovic domination of the ATP’s biggest events, and the tour overall as a consequence, becoming the first player to have twice as many points as the world No.2, was the headlining story of the first quarter.
Djokovic’s march to the Doha, Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami titles were all trademarked with a pattern he has made his own- some patchy performances until the semis and finals where he produced his very best.
The Serb broke record after record- tying Roy Emerson for most Australian Open titles ever with six, and holding the record for most AO titles in the Open era, breaking the all time record for prize money, becoming the first man to win the Indian Wells-Miami double three times, and leading the all-time ATP 1000 title race with 28.
There was a moment of imperfection though- the Serb had to withdraw during his Dubai quarter-final versus Feliciano Lopez with Ivan Lendl’s record of 18 consecutive finals just two matches away. Well, you cannot win them all, after all, except of course, when, if you are Djokovic, you do.
The Young guns started firing
There were some signs that a group of young players are getting ready to start making breakthroughs at the top of the game. Thiem beat Rafa Nadal on his way to the Buenos Aires title and won his first ATP 500 trophy in Acapulco, Kyrgios won his first ever ATP title in Marseille and reached his first ATP 1000 last eight in Miami, and Zverev beat Cilic and Simon in Montpellier and Rotterdam and held a match point versus Nadal at Indian Wells.
David Goffin also progressed as he finally got a win over a top player, beating both his own mental demons and Stan Wawrinka in Indian Wells in a final set tiebreaker after leading the third set 5-3.
Check out Wawrinka’s missed shot at 1:06 in the video below that helped Goffin seal his first ever win over a top player.
Some not so new faces but players yet to fully realize their potential also popped up on the game’s big stages. Bernard Tomic made some noise, beating Kei Nishikori in Brisbane, reaching the Australian Open fourth round, and contesting the Acapulco final, and Martin Klizan took his first ATP 500 title in Rotterdam with some truly memorable fight-backs and on-court antics.
Meanwhile, one of 2014’s young guns, Milos Raonic, made a successful comeback from an injury-hit 2015 to beat Federer in Brisbane, reach the Australian Open semis, make the Indian Wells final, and reach the Miami quarters.
Djokovic’s main challengers struggled.
While Djokovic thrived, some up and comers progressed, and a dark horse won big, Djokovic’s main challengers suffered.
Federer’s woes could not be helped as the Swiss went down with a knee injury and had his first ever career surgery., forcing him off the tour for the rest of the quarter.
Nadal struggled to get back to form, but he did show glimpses of his old self, especially on the forehand down the line, when he took Djokovic to a first set tiebreak in the Indian Wells semi. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, whatever momentum that run gave him was blown over when he went out early in Miami with fitness issues.
Murray was destroyed in the Australian Open final and then dropped 3-1 final set leads as he was upset early in both Indian Wells and Miami.
Meanwhile Wawrinka was his usual self, winning in Chennai, going out in the Australian Open fourth round, getting upset by Paire at the Open 13, winning Dubai, beating Marcos Baghdatis in an entertaining final, and then winning just one match in the North American Spring Swing.
Watch highlights of Wawrinka’s win over Baghdatis in the Dubai final in the video below.
Tsonga was as wildly inconsistent as ever losing to world ranked 338 Thiago Monteiro in Rio and then pushing Djokovic to two tiebreakers in the Indian Wells last eight, Berdych failed to reach a single final and did not win a set in his seven defeats, and Kei Nishikori took a step forward making the Miami final only to take two steps back as both fitness issues and mental toughness failed him when he needed them most.
Juan Martin del Potro returned to the tour.
After playing just 14 matches the entire 2014-15 seasons, del Potro returned to the tour at Delray beach where he made the semis losing to Sam Querrey, reached the Indian Wells second round where Berdych defeated him, and went out in the Miami first round to the tricky Haracio Zeballos when he thought until just prior to the match he would be battling old friend and on-court foe Roger Federer.
del Potro’s return had its high and lows- his serve and forehand were in tune, but his backhand was still struggling though it improved as his comeback went on.
Whatever his results, the tennis scene was definitely better off for having the 2009 US Open champion back in main draws.
Indian Wells!!! 😀🌴☀️🏜🎾 pic.twitter.com/yypyEnmbQN
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) March 7, 2016
Where does this leave us for the clay season?
Djokovic does very well in the Clay season, but he has yet to win the French Open despite being the favorite the past few seasons. He should continue to dominate the Clay ATP 1000s he enters, but he will be more susceptible to upsets, and he may skip Madrid, too, where the courts are a touch faster.
Nadal and Wawrinka should pick up their games in the clay swing, Nishikori should do better if he meets Djokovic on the red stuff than he did in Miami, and players such as Zverev, Goffin and Thiem will be even more of a threat to Djokovic and those ranked above them.
In the first quarter of 2016, Djokovic and the young guns have set themselves up nicely for a successful clay season. How they get on, how Djokovic’s main rivals manage to pick up their games and see to it that it is not only Djokovic’s poor eyesight that gets in his way on the tennis court, how del Potro fares on a surface most favorable to him, and whether or not Djokovic can finally win the Roland Garros trophy will be stories we can look back on in our second quarter review.
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