2018 year-end championship predictions

The 2018 tennis season is here, which means it is time to predict the field of eight men who will take the court inside London’s O2 Arena for the year-end championship in 11 months. Due mostly to a plethora of injuries, nobody could have foreseen the field that competed for the Nitto ATP Finals trophy in 2017. It was an unexpected field when the tournament began and an even more surprising field when the tournament ended, as Rafael Nadal joined the expansive list of injured superstars just one match into the event.

Predicting this year’s elite eight may be even tougher, because Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, and Milos Raonic are all heading into 2018 at less than 100 percent. And some may not be heading into 2018 at all–at least not for a while.

So here goes nothing…in order from No. 1 to No. 8 to qualify for London.

1. Roger Federer – Federer endured some physical problems of his own in 2017, but compared to just about every other top player these days he is a bastion of good health. The 36-year-old captured two Grand Slam titles last season and based on both his own level and what may be a relative lack of competition, he should be in line for at least one more in 2018. He is really the only man going into the year with no real question marks–not even his age.

2. Dominic Thiem – Thiem has been a borderline disaster on hard courts and grass in recent years, at least relative to his results on clay. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are two different clay-court seasons–one in February and another in April and May. Three Masters 1000s on the slow stuff plus the French Open should once again be more than enough for the 24-year-old Austrian to accrue a boatload of points. And he is bound to get better on other surfaces at some point…. Maybe? Hopefully? No?

3. Grigor Dimitrov – The only question with Dimitrov is if he can build on his stellar 2017 campaign and take the next natural step in his career, which would be winning a Grand Slam. Although he has never reached a major final, he is now a two-time major semifinalist (2014 Wimbledon, 2017 Australian Open). The Bulgarian took advantage of a depleted field throughout the second half of last season to capture the Cincinnati title and lift the year-end championship trophy. Will he be the one to capitalize on opponents’ injuries once again?

4. Rafael Nadal – Nadal is limping into 2018 with yet another dreaded knee injury, which forced him out of the Nitto ATP Finals following a loss to eventual runner-up David Goffin. The world No. 1 withdrew from both the six-man Abu Dhabi exhibition and the season-opening tournament in Brisbane, so he remains in doubt for the Australian Open–and in general. If Nadal creates a smart schedule for himself and dominates clay to the extent that he does not have to chase points elsewhere, he should remain in the top four.

5. Andy Murray – So much of the year-end rankings will be predicated on injuries, or–cross your fingers–lack thereof. Whereas Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori are beginning this season on the shelf, Murray has given himself the green light to play in Brisbane. That is at least some kind of a good sign for the 16th-ranked Scot, who has been sidelined by a hip problem since Wimbledon. If he can play close to a full season in decent health, Murray will be back in the top five.

6. David Goffin – Goffin suffered an injury of his own in 2017, but that was a freak fall at the French Open that forced him into a third-round retirement and kept him out of the grass-court swing. Despite that time off, the Belgian still managed to qualify for London (where he upset both Nadal and Federer before losing a three-set final to Dimitrov) and carry his nation to within one match win of the Davis Cup title. Goffin may not have the firepower to win a slam, but he is otherwise a stone-cold lock to remain in outstanding form.

7. Novak Djokovic – Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic all have No. 1 potential along with Federer if they get healthy and stay healthy. Of course, that is a big “if” right now. Djokovic has not played since Wimbledon and his lingering elbow issue forced him to pull out of the upcoming event in Doha. His Australian Open prospects seem questionable at best, which is especially bad news because the Aussie is his best tournament. Djokovic is 2018’s biggest wild card.

8. Juan Martin Del Potro – It’s not often that Del Potro is one of the healthier players on tour, but that is the case at the moment. He scheduled smartly in 2017 and a semifinal showing at the U.S. Open followed by consistently impressive fall results put the Argentine one win away from qualifying for London. It didn’t quite happen, but it would have with ease had he not skipped the Australian summer. This time around, all systems are go for Delpo right from the start.

Alternates

9. Alexander Zverev – In his first slam with real expectations, Zverev suffered a disastrous second-round U.S. Open loss to Borna Coric. The fast-rising German still went into his year-end championship debut at No. 3 in the world after winning the first two Masters 1000 titles of his career. But sustaining that kind of success will be tough…if most or all of the presently injured stars come back with a bang.

10. Nick Kyrgios – Like Zverev, Kyrgios has never done anything in majors–aside from playing a few five-set thrillers Down Under. If he can get off to a strong start by treating the Melbourne faithful to some Australian Open heroics, the 22-year-old could be off to the races. All signs point to Kyrgios have the best season of his career, but he may get bored during the fall swing to just barely miss out on London.

7 Comments on 2018 year-end championship predictions

  1. Not sure we wouldn’t all do better to throw darts blindfolded at names on a wall.

    In no particular order:

    Rafa, Roger, Andy, Novak, Delpo, Dimi, A Zverev, Thiem for the “Elite Eight”.

  2. I like Fed at the top in 2018, but after that it’s just too much of a guess…for me….but I like Zverv in the top 4 for sure, 7 probably Dimitov and Murray as well. Just unsure about health of both Rafa and Joker…and Goffin in Top 8 again!

  3. 1) Fed
    2) Dimitrov
    3) Rafa
    4) Zverev
    5) Djokovic
    6) Goffin
    7) Murray
    8) Thiem
    Alternates:
    9) Cilic
    10) Kyrgios
    No clue honestly this has gotta be one of the toughest ever to predict. All depends on the health of the big guns.

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