Mission Impossible II: Predicting the Top 10 Americans at the end of 2014

An annual tradition was born in 2013 when a five-team panel tackled—albeit unsuccessfully—the task of predicting the year-end order of finish for the Top 10 American men. They are back at it again for the 2014 installment, in which only a top two of John Isner and Sam Querrey appears to be a sure thing.

2013 predictions

2013 results

2014 predictions

Ricky Dimon (The Grandstand):

1. John Isner
2. Sam Querrey
3. Ryan Harrison
4. Tim Smyczek
5. Donald Young
6. Jack Sock
7. Michael Russell
8. Denis Kudla
9. Steve Johnson
10. Rhyne Williams

John Isner should have the No. 1 spot on lockdown. He took it comfortably in 2013 despite missing the Australian Open and basically all of Wimbledon (where he had a great draw to go as far as the semis) due to knee problems. There are too many big events on American soil for Isner to slip below any of his countrymen. I’m nowhere near giving up on Ryan Harrison, who will turn 22 in May. He had somewhat of a junior slump in 2013 after relative breakouts in 2011 and 2012, but he has the work ethic and motivation—and the talent—to bounce back in 2014. The start of the upcoming year is big for Donald Young; he is finally playing with confidence again and he can’t let it get away from him. Jack Sock, Michael Russell, Denis Kudla, Steve Johnson, and Rhyne Williams should all be bunched up once again, separated by only a few ranking spots.

Steen Kirby (Tennis East Coast):

1. John Isner
2. Sam Querrey
3. Bradley Klahn
4. Tim Smyczek
5. Donald Young
6. Jack Sock
7. Rhyne Williams
8. Michael Russell
9. Denis Kudla
10. Steve Johnson

Isner and Querrey should remain the top-two duo in 2014. Bradley Klahn, who primarily played Challengers in 2013, has a lot of growth potential ranking-wise. If he can get into ATP events/Grand Slams (he already has direct entry into the Australian Open) and perhaps make a few nice runs of either one main-draw round or more, he should break into the top 70. Tim Smyczek and Young are likely to continue their good-but-not-elite level of play. I see Sock remaining stagnant, similar to Williams. Russell is aging and may struggle to keep up his points pace of the past few years, dropping him down some in the ranks but still probably remaining in the top 150. Meanwhile, more of the same can be expected for Kudla. Johnson should have a solid year of improved play and round out the American Top 10.

Romi Cvitkovic (Tennis View Magazine):

1. John Isner
2. Sam Querrey
3. Tim Smyczek
4. Jack Sock
5. Bradley Klahn
6. Ryan Harrison
7. Donald Young
8. Michael Russell
9. Rhyne Williams
10. Tennys Sandgren

Alas, where to start? Barring any injury (mental and/or physical), Isner and Querrey are pretty much a lock for top American men honors once again. Then from there, it’s a complete toss-up. With most of the remaining 2013 year-end Top 10 currently clustered between Nos. 89-102, I could as easily switch Williams to No. 4 and Sock to No. 9 if the trend continues into next year. However, after missing the main draw in two of the four Grand Slams in 2013, Sock’s ranking now gives him direct entry into slams and I expect him to win a few rounds throughout the year, quickly boosting up his ranking. I’m also reinvesting in a somewhat resurgent Young and am still holding out hope that things will come together for Harrison after some health issues earlier this past season. Klahn, a former NCAA champ, was the relative breakout American of 2013 and his lefty topspin forehand could surprise some of his competitors and help him stay near the top of this list. Similarly, Tennys Sandgren—who recently setup a new coaching partnership with Smyczek’s coach Billy Heiser—could continue his successful fall campaign and land in the Top 10 of American men’s tennis.

Ben Rothenberg (New York Times):

1. John Isner
2. Sam Querrey
3. Donald Young
4. Tim Smyczek
5. Ryan Harrison
6. Jack Sock
7. Bradley Klahn
8. Denis Kudla
9. Steve Johnson
10. Rajeev Ram

Predicting for 2014 at least seems easier than trying to do it for 2013, because wild cards Mardy Fish and Brian Baker are on the outside looking in rather than slipping from the inside. I have Isner at No. 1 because there’s no other choice, is there? He should at least Eskimo kiss the Top 10 by the end of Miami if he doesn’t have a horrendous start to 2014. Querrey is in a stratus of his own, rankings-wise. Any shift from second place would take a lot of doing. Now this expletive deleted gets tricky. Young is simply put the most talented of this group; should be top 50 by year’s end. Smyczek is the most reliable of this group; I think he’ll be able to hold his ground roughly in the 70-90 range. Klahn is the second most reliable. Johnson may just sneak into the Top 10, but he could easily be as high as No. 4.

Josh Meiseles (The Sixth Set):

1. John Isner
2. Tim Smyczek
3. Jack Sock
4. Sam Querrey
5. Michael Russell
6. Denis Kudla
7. Donald Young
8. Ryan Harrison
9. Steve Johnson
10. Alex Kuznetsov

In 2013 I erroneously sided with the old guard of Baker and Fish to register improbable resurgences, and my Top-10 predictions suffered. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the nostalgia pick. As the calendar flips to 2014, I’m calling for the young guns to make their move. Here’s looking at you, Sock and Kudla. Having ascended to a career-high of No. 78 in October, Sock continues his push toward the top American spot with a strong 2014, vaulting to the mid-50s in the rankings by year’s end. I was the only member of the panel to pick Kudla in the American Top 10 this year and I’ll move him a step further, finishing No. 5 in 2014. Isner capitalizes on another deep hard-court Masters 1000 run to retain his throne atop the American ladder. Say what you want about his all-around game, when you have a weapon as potent and increasingly clutch as Big John’s serve, titles will follow. I was quite impressed with what I saw from Smyczek in 2013 and I think he continues his good form. I could say the exact opposite for Querrey, who drops out of the top 60 and falls to the No. 4 American slot. Russell stays in the mix and Young, who seemingly revived his career with a solid run through U.S. Open qualies and subsequent 12-match win streak, remains just inside the Top 100.

Matt Cronin (Tennis Reporters):

1. John Isner
2. Jack Sock
3. Sam Querrey
4. Ryan Harrison
5. Steve Johnson
6. Tim Smyczek
7. Donald Young
8. Bradley Klahn
9 . Tennys Sandgren
10. Denis Kudla

This is a critical season for both Sock and Harrison to make at least top-40 year-end moves and show the world that they won’t end their careers being afterthoughts. I expect Johnson to solidify himself in the top 50, too. Isner will enter the Top 10 at some point, but it’s unclear whether he can sustain that level for an entire season.

OVERALL:

1. John Isner (1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1)

2. Sam Querrey (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4)

3. Tim Smyczek (2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 6)

4. Jack Sock (2, 3, 4, 6, 6, 6)

5. Donald Young (3, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7)

6. Ryan Harrison (3, 4, 5, 6, 8, unranked)

7. Bradley Klahn (3, 5, 7, 8, unranked, unranked)

8. Michael Russell (5, 7, 8, 8, unranked, unranked)

9. Denis Kudla (6, 8, 8, 9, 10, unranked)

10. Steve Johnson (5, 9, 9, 9, 10, unranked)

Join the fun in the comments section and try to beat the “experts.” We’ll revisit this piece again at the end of 2014!

Comments

  1. Ricky Dimon says:

    WHO YA GOT?

  2. The Tennis Nerds American Top 10:
    1)John Isner
    2)Sam Querrey
    3)Tim Smyczek
    4)Denis Kudla
    5)Jack Sock
    6)Donald Young
    7)Ryan Harrison
    8)Bradley Klahn
    9)Rhyne Williams
    10)Tennys Sandgren

    First off, love that you guys are doing this and I hope you continue this for years to come. I think Isner and Querrey are somewhat reliable picks, and although I don’t like the direction Sam is headed, he should be able to get inside the top 35 by the end of the year. After that, I think Smyczek has the most solid and consistent game, followed closely by Denis Kudla, who could have a serious breakout year. Sock, Young, and Harrison all fall in the same area for me, somewhere in the 70-80′s. Klahn is a nice player, but has played basically no tour events thus far in his career, and the competition will surprise him. Rhyne Williams ceiling isn’t all that high, and I threw in Sandgren because he seems to be a guy that really wants the success.

  3. Have to agree that Isner should have the # 1 spot on lock-down, but it’s a free for all after that. I don’t have high hopes foe either Querry or Young, but I do think that Steve Johnson gets into the top 5, maybe Rhyne Wms as well.

  4. Boy, the predictors really seem positive on Young: “Donald Young; he is finally playing with confidence again.” “Young is simply put the most talented of this group; should be top 50 by year’s end.” Wow, all this made me want to look at Young’s recent results.- hmm, 2 losses to 25 year old journeymen in challengers, including a bagel set. Sounds like the same old Young. No way he makes the top 50 this year – talent alone does not make a great tennis player. He will barely squeak into top 10 in this list

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Grandstand tries to envision a tip 10 American group by a finish of […]

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