There has been some upheaval in the top ten over the last year, due primarily to injury. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka,Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer and Milos Raonic have all fallen out of the top ten. The vacancies created by their absence were quickly filled with a crop of younger players: Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, David Goffin and Jack Sock.
The above mentioned injured players have the potential to return to the top ten; however, it may not happen this season given the period of time needed for recuperation. Once their bodies are fully healed, they will also have to regain their match toughness, mentally and physically, and it is not always that easy as the player ages. While I fully believe that a few will return to the top ten, I have my doubts about a couple of them ever getting back to the top ten. The game began changing even before they were injured. As to be expected, there is a new crop of younger players that are hitting the ball harder and challenging the veterans daily.
Nick Kyrgios if he can get fitter, avoiding all the niggling injuries that have plagued him recently, can be a potential top ten. Diego Schwartzman can be the new Ferrer. Lucas Pouille has the game; however, once again, he too has been plagued by injury and inconsistency. There is no doubt that Denis Shapovalov will get to the top ten. He is hungry and once he strengthens his backhand and volley, he will get there; perhaps by the end of this season.
While I believe Andrey Rublev has a lot of potential to be a top ten player; he has to add some dimension to his game and become more consistent. Hyeon Chung also has potential; however, he needs a more reliable serve. Karen Khachanov is slowly growing into his game; however, he too has top ten potential. Now that Frances Tiafoe has finally won his first title, he too can breach the top ten barrier.
The current number ten player, Jack Sock, has 2,650 ranking points. In fact, the current number eight to ten ranked players all have less than three thousand points. That is significant because if there is a surprise winner in a major or a few Masters 1000 events this season, there can be some more reshuffling of the top ten members at the end of this year. I believe every player ranked between eleven and twenty has the ability to get to the top ten; however, that being said, it takes a lot to stay there.
There are also currently quite a few players (Taylor Fritz, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, to name a few) with enough potential, who can breach the top ten barrier; however, can they play consistently week in and week out to remain long-term as a top ten player? It is not so easy to do what Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have done. Nadal has consistently been a top ten player since April 4th, 2005 and counting (almost thirteen consecutive years to date). If not for injury, Federer’s reign in the top ten would have been even more amazing. He was consistently a top ten player from October 14th, 2002 to November, 2017 (fifteen consecutive years in the top ten) and is currently the number one ranked male player on the ATP World Tour.
SOURCE OF IMAGES: serveandrally originals (Denis Shapovalov)