The Rearview Mirror: The ATP in 2016

by Savannah

According to the tennis press we should all be celebrating the ascension of Andrew Barron Murray to the number one ranking in mens tennis. After all he’s been part of the “Big Four” for years now. Finally the tennis media has someone they can rally behind and promote as the best of the current crop and hope that fans will keep flocking to see mens tennis.

The thing is during the WTF’s there were Tweets sent out that there were still tickets available for purchase. In London. With the British Number one playing to secure his spot at the top. And no matter the celebration and positive press afterwards that has to be troubling for the people who run men’s tennis.

It also has to be worrying that the year end top ten are not players who will have the fans rushing to the tennis courts.

The Top 10 of 2016

1. Andy Murray (GBR) – First Brit and 17th different year-end No. 1 continues 13 years of Big 4 dominance at the top of Emirates ATP Rankings
2. Novak Djokovic (SRB) – Finishes in Top 2 for sixth straight year and in Top 3 for 10th consecutive year
3. Milos Raonic (CAN) – Made biggest jump to No. 3 from previous year (14) since Djokovic in 2007 (16 to 3)
4. Stan Wawrinka (SUI) – Finishes No. 4 for third straight year and in Top 10 for fourth season in a row
5. Kei Nishikori (JPN) – Second Top 5 finish in three years and third straight year in Top 10
6. Marin Cilic (CRO) – Second Top 10 finish in three years and best Croat year-end ranking since Ljubicic (5) in 2006
7. Gael Monfils (FRA) – First time finish in Top 10 and ninth Frenchman in year-end Top 10
8. Dominic Thiem (AUT) – The 23 year old is youngest in Top 10 and first Austrian in year-end Top 10 since Muster (9) in 1997
9. Rafael Nadal (ESP) – Top 10 for 12th year in a row and one of six players with 12-more Top 10 finishes
10. Tomas Berdych (CZE) – Seventh consecutive finish in the Top 10

To be honest Raonic as the #3 player in the world only shows how weak men’s tennis has become. His ranking shows that it’s possible to play yourself into a top ranking just like they do in the WTA. The women are still criticized for utilizing that tactic to get to the top. When the men do it no one says a word.

The ATP, unlike the WTA, is working to develop interest in it’s up and coming players. They’re staging a Next Generation tournament, the “Next Gen ATP Finals” to be held after the WTF in 2017 in Milan and feature the top eight under 21 players. To quote from the release the event will be hold at the Fiera Milano stadium from 7-11 November, 2017, and will remain in Milan for a five-year period, through 2021. The top 7 in the race plus one wild card will make up the field.

There’s no sense saying anything more about a process that will start in January. It’s an interesting way to create interest in future players and it has the potential to do exactly what the ATP wants this event to do. It’s a good move for a tour that is looking at a drop in the level of tennis played by its members.

And we’ll be able to see men’s tennis. For a few weeks, outside of the Slams, it’ll be the only tennis fans can see. That will be enough time for fans to pick an up and comer to follow.

Once again the ATP shows why it’s the better managed of the two tours.

The Best of 2016

The other odd thing about 2016 was that the best tennis was not played in top tournaments. Instead you had to watch the Olympics, Fed Cup and Davis Cup to see great tennis. That has to be worrying to both tours and gets back to what I said about the current ATP top ten, and what can be said about the WTA top ten as well. Marin Cilic vs Juan Martin del Potro was the best mens match I saw in 2016. That it happened at the DC Final only adds to the cachet the match had. And debunks another issue tennis media has been pushing – that the DC Final should be held at a neutral site. That means that instead of the heated atmosphere in Zagreb where plenty of Argentine fans made their way to the stadium causing an atmosphere rarely seen in tennis these days.

Monica Puig defeating Angelique Kerber at the Olympics Final was the best women’s match of the year. There was also Barbora Strycova’s performance at Fed Cup, the second year in a row she’s played above her rank.

Kerber took advantage of Serena Williams playing injured for most of the year to take over the top ranking.  I have to say that the WTA was unseemly in its rush to crown Kerber and act as if Williams was a rapidly fading memory while promoting a doper’s return as if it’s something to be proud of.  While the WTA turned over its official site to a doper and her publicity team it couldn’t find the time to work out television rights for 2017 and on.

Priorities. It’s why the ATP will always see itself as superior to the WTA

End Notes

At the end of December I’ll post who my must watch players will be for 2017. This year I chose Taylor Fritz and Naomi Osaka. I’ll talk about them and the year they had at that time.

©2016 SavannahsWorld. All Rights Reserved.

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