Power Ranking the Top 20 Men's Players Heading into the 2013 French Open
It's been a tumultuous tennis season for the men.
Rafael Nadal has come back from his injury layoff and surged, Roger Federer has shown signs of aging, Novak Djokovic has revealed that he's not superman and Andy Murray has been very, well, Andy Murray.
We've seen new faces emerge, familiar faces struggle and 35-year-olds shock the world. It's so easy to get caught up in the what-have-you-done-for-me-this-week world of tennis, and forget that John Isner, Lukas Rosol and Marin Cilic are 2013 title-holders and Roger Federer is not.
So how does everyone stack up? Here's a non-computerized look at the top 20 men playing tennis right now.
20. John Isner
ATP Ranking: 21
Why He's Here: John Isner is a threat on every surface. He has three titles in the past year and career wins over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. He's a former Top 10 player whose powerful serve and aggressive groundstrokes make him extremely dangerous, but the small margins in his game mean that he can beat anyone—or lose to anyone—on any given day.
Early French Outlook: Isner remains the only person to ever push Rafael Nadal to five sets on clay. Unfortunately, it happened in the first round in 2011. After winning Houston on green clay to start this clay season with promise, he's struggled mightily in Europe, going just 1-4. Winning two rounds would be a good result for him at this point.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: If Isner can find his form and confidence and make a run at a Grand Slam or Masters Series event, he can get back to the Top 15 where he belongs and supplant his friend Sam Querrey as the top American. To do this he has to learn to schedule properly and, most importantly, maintain confidence in himself.
19. Jerzy Janowicz
ATP Ranking: 23
Why He's Here: Jerzy Janowicz stunned the tennis world last year when he made the final of the Paris Masters, taking out five Top 20 players—including Andy Murray—along the way. The 22-year-old struggled to back up the run earlier this year, but proved he's still a factor by knocking out Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Rome last week.
His killer serve, phenomenal movement and dedication to variety (drop shots!) make him one of the most exciting prospects on the ATP tour.
Early French Outlook: This is only his second major as a seeded player. He reached the third round in Australia, but created headlines with his wild antics, not his tennis. ("How many times!" has a spot in tennis lore forever.) With his momentum from Rome and the help of a good draw, I think he can make his first Round of 16.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Since this is Janowicz's first year playing full-time on the ATP tour, the key for him is going to be consistency week-in and week-out. He's going to need a few good runs throughout the year to make sure his ranking doesn't tumble after Paris, but I think he will end 2013 firmly in the Top 20.
18. Janko Tipsarevic
ATP Ranking: 10
Why He's Here: Janko Tipsarevic reinvented his career a couple of years ago and went from being a dangerous floater to a Top 10 mainstay. However, his current slump—he's won only four matches in 10 tournaments since the Australian Open—puts him a bit lower in the power rankings.
When Tipsarevic's playing well, his movement, aggression and ability to switch from defense to offense make him a danger to anyone. But when his physical or mental strength are compromised in the slightest, he doesn't have enough weapons to survive.
Early French Outlook: Not good. Tipsarevic is wandering without aim on the court these days, and considering he's lost to Daniel Brands (No. 69), Guillermo Garcia Lopez (No. 87) and Guido Pella (No. 101) in the last few weeks, his high seed might not save him. I'd be surprised if he made it past the first two rounds.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The Serb is 28 years old, and if he wants to hold on to his well-earned Top 10 status, he's going to have to find his form and fitness quickly. It seems more likely that he'll end the year between 15-20 in the rankings.
17. Gilles Simon
ATP Ranking: 17
Why He's Here: The Frenchman has very quietly been having a good year, notching 22 victories and two Top 10 wins already. Though he hasn't won a title in over a year, he has six semifinals since the U.S. Open and has been fairly consistent.
Simon is far removed from his breakout year in 2008 when he beat Roger Federer twice, and his extremely defensive game won't light up the highlight reels, but his ability to get to any ball makes him a tough out for anyone.
Early French Outlook: He goes into his home slam in the shadows of the Big Four, but his higher-profile compatriots such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, and the relative lack of spotlight, will suit the understated Simon just fine. He should be able to match his best-ever result at Roland Garros, the Round of 16.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Simon has a career-high ranking of No. 6 from 2009, and I've been waiting for him to make another push for the Top 10 for the past few years. He seems content where he is now, but if he can find a way to put a little more power into his game, he could potentially threaten for the No. 9 or No. 10 spot at the end of the year. That's a big "if" though.
16. Marin Cilic
ATP Ranking: 12
Why He's Here: The unassuming Cilic has won three titles, made three Masters Series quarterfinals and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in the past year. In 2013 he has notched a win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and won the title in his hometown tournament in Zagreb.
The lanky Croatian has a great serve, a sharp forehand and moves incredibly well for someone who's 6'6". In fact, with his talent he should be threatening the top guys a lot more often than he is.
Early French Outlook: Cilic's clay season has been pretty woeful so far, and his form is very much a question mark heading into Roland Garros. That being said, he's reached the Round of 16 at the tournament twice, and with a good draw there's no reason he shouldn't be able to sneak into the second week this year as well.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Cilic has a lot to defend the next couple of months, and if he doesn't step up his game quickly he could find himself in danger of falling out of the Top 20. While he certainly has the game to get back to the Top 10, right now the string-bean in sneakers would be doing good just to hang onto his place in the Top 15 in 2013.
15. Ernests Gulbis
ATP Ranking: 39
Why He's Here: The talented but enigmatic Ernests Gulbis has decided to bless us with his tennis presence this year, and oh, how much better our lives are for it. He started the year well outside the Top 100, but flipped a switch—and coincidentally stopped drinking and smoking—in February.
He then delighted the tennis world as a qualifier in Delray Beach with a phenomenal run to the title. Since then he's continued his good form, pushing Rafael Nadal to the brink in Indian Wells and Rome.
Early French Outlook: Gulbis will be unseeded at the French Open and is certainly the most dangerous floater in the draw. It's hard to predict how he'll do, since he could potentially draw a top player in the first round. But with his current form I wouldn't be surprised to see Gulbis in the quarterfinals. I also wouldn't be surprised to see him lose in the first round. It's a coin flip.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: If Gulbis isn't in the Top 20 by the end of the year, then something is seriously wrong. He has little to defend and is more talented than most other professionals. It just remains to see if he can stay interested in the sport for the entire year. If he can, then the sky is the limit.
14. Milos Raonic
ATP Ranking: 16
Why He's Here: The big-serving Canadian has followed up his 2011 breakthrough with remarkable consistency. At just 22, he's already managed to win at least one title for the past three years and has notched three Top 10 wins in the past 12 months.
He's especially done a great job leading his country in the Davis Cup. His impressive wins over Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini in Canada's tie versus Italy earlier this month led his team to the World Group semifinals.
Early French Outlook: Raonic is still not very comfortable on clay, where his inability to return serves sticks out like a sore thumb. He did make the semifinals in Barcelona a few weeks ago, but didn't beat a Top 40 opponent along the way. With the plethora of clay-court specialists floating around the draw, I'd be surprised if he made it past the first week.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Now that he's established consistency, it's time to see if Raonic is ready to take his game to the next level and become a Top 10 player who's a factor at the Masters Series and Grand Slams. If he can improve his returning ability and movement, and keep beating the players he's supposed to beat, he could make a push for the Top 10 by the end of the year.
13. Kei Nishikori
ATP Ranking: 15
Why He's Here: The Japanese tennis sensation has been making headlines since he was a teenager ranked well out of the Top 100, but in the past two years he has made real strides at establishing himself as a consistent threat.
Just 23 years old, Nishikori has two titles and wins over Roger Federer and David Ferrer in the past year. When he's healthy, he has a combination of variety, movement and power that is nearly unbeatable.
Early French Outlook: Clay is not Nishikori's best surface, and he has never made it past the second round of the French Open. That being said, after shocking Federer in Madrid, expectations are higher—as they should be. Still, I probably see him bowing out around the third round, especially since he struggled with his back in Rome.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The key for Nishikori is health. He has been beyond snake-bitten by injuries in his young career and has to prove that his body can hold up throughout an entire tennis season before he's really ready to go to the next level.
If he is healthy all year long, there's no reason why he can't make a push for the Top 10. That's certainly where he belongs.
12. Nicolas Almagro
ATP Ranking: 13
Why He's Here: Nicolas Almagro and his frame-worthy, one-handed backhand have become one of the most clear-cut cases of how important the balance between mental strength and talent is to success.
He's made two finals, won 23 matches and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year. Unfortunately, he's probably best known for his collapse in the Australian Open quarterfinals to David Ferrer after serving for the semifinals three times and his inability to challenge the top players on the big stages. He's a really good player. He should be better.
Early French Outlook: Almagro is at home on the clay and has made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open three times, each time losing to compatriot Rafael Nadal. His clay-court season has been subpar, but it would still be a disappointment if he didn't make the quarterfinals again this year. If he does, hopefully Nadal won't be waiting.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The 27-year-old Spaniard had a reputation as an underachiever earlier in his career, but now he has been inside and outside the fringes of the Top 10 for the better part of the last two years. While he is certainly capable of pushing himself back into the Top 10, at this point in his career he should keep his focus on getting some big-name wins at big tournaments.
11. Richard Gasquet
ATP Ranking: 9
Why He's Here: Richard Gasquet has become one of the most consistent players on tour. After a two-year drought, he's managed to win three titles and make the final of a Masters Series event in the last year.
He's made the fourth round of the last five majors, and his elegant backhand and great court sense allow him to beat almost all players outside the Top 10 week-in and week-out. The problem is that he doesn't seem to have the desire or the drive to do much more.
Early French Outlook: The Frenchman has had a lackluster clay season, losing early in both Madrid and Rome, but given his consistency at majors, he seems to be a sure bet to make the Round of 16.
But since the withdrawals of Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro will give him a top-eight seed, I can see him finally snapping his streak and making it to the quarterfinals in front of his home crowd.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Gasquet should now be aiming to make it to the World Tour Finals in London this year, an honor for the Top Eight players at the end of the year. He's going to need to stay consistent and actually get a few big wins, but it's certainly an attainable goal.
10. Tommy Haas
ATP Ranking: 14
Why He's Here: Tommy Haas has been nothing short of transcendent this year, turning back the clock and playing some of the best tennis he's ever played. He has 20 wins and one title in 2013, along with wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the last year.
Did I mention he's 35 years old? Well, he's 35 years old. He's a veteran who is dangerous on any surface against any opponent, and with his wife and daughter looking on and cheering, he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Early French Outlook: This time last year Haas was ranked No. 112 and had to play qualification rounds to even make it into the French Open. This year he'll be the No. 12 seed. Incredible. I see him making the fourth round, with a shot to make it to his first ever French Open quarterfinal if he stays healthy and gets a decent draw.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Can a 35-year-old get into the Top 10? Well, if anyone can do it, it's Tommy Haas. He hasn't seen the Top 10 since 2007, but if he stays healthy he just might find himself back there in 2013.
9. Stanislas Wawrinka
ATP Ranking: 11
Why He's Here: Stanislas Wawrinka captured our attention at the beginning of 2013 with a truly epic match against Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, and we haven't been able to look away since.
He's defeated five Top 10 players in the past year, won the title in Estoril and made the final in Rome. He is incredibly solid off of both wings, and his game has just the right balance between offense and defense. Most impressively, with his recent appointment of Magnus Norman as his coach, he's making the commitment to get even better.
Early French Outlook: There were rumors that Wawrinka was going to have to pull out of the French Open with a thigh injury, but according to his Twitter, he has made the trip to Paris. If he's healthy and plays the way he's been playing the last few weeks, he has a great chance to make it deep into the second week.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The oft-forgotten Swiss has never made it to the World Tour Finals before, and with his improved game and new coach he has to have his eyes set on London. He's No. 7 in the Race rankings right now, so he's off to a great start, but he has to do well at the majors to keep his place.
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
ATP Ranking: 8
Why He's Here: Tsonga is as talented as they come, and is—or rather should be—a threat to the top players on every surface. In the past year he's won two titles and made two other finals, reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and Australian Open and even crashed the semifinals of Wimbledon.
He has a great serve, a phenomenal forehand and when he's playing aggressively he is one of the best in the world. He'd be ranked a lot higher if he had some consistency and a game plan.
Early French Outlook: Four match points. Last year in the French Open quarterfinals, Tsonga had four match points against Novak Djokovic and couldn't convert. He hasn't shown any improvements this clay season, but the support of the hometown crowd and his seeding should launch him into the second week. He won't make it past the quarterfinals though.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Tsonga has been working with Roger Rasheed since the offseason, but besides a title in Marseilles he has little to show for it. His talent belongs in the Top Five and competing in major semifinals and finals, but that feels a long way off right now. With the points he has to defend in the upcoming months, his focus now has to be hanging onto his Top Eight position.
7. Juan Martin Del Potro
ATP Ranking: 7
Why He's Here: Oh Delpo. He won 65 matches and four titles in 2012 and was on pace for similar numbers in 2013 before a virus derailed his clay season. His forehand is one of the best ever, his serve is ridiculous and, once he gets going, he moves around the court like someone half his size.
Delpo has big wins over all of the Big Four and is capable of doing damage on every surface. Unfortunately his game still seems to be missing that extra gear it had when he won the U.S. Open.
Early French Outlook: He had to pull out of the French Open with a virus. It won't be the same without him.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The ATP just isn't as fun when Delpo isn't competing for majors. The Argentinian hasn't made it back to the semifinals of a major since winning the 2009 U.S. Open, and that has to be a priority for him at the remaining majors this year. If he can do that, he should be able to make a push for the Top Five.
6. David Ferrer
ATP Ranking: 5
Why He's Here: David Ferrer and his unparalleled defense just continue to amaze. At 31 years old he is showing no signs of fatigue and continues to compete—and win—on the ATP tour week-in and week-out.
He's made the semifinals in three out of the last four Slams, won the Paris Masters, made the final of the Miami Masters and has the second-most wins on tour this year. His lack of Top Five wins—only one in the past year, over Murray at the 2012 French Open—keeps him from being power-ranked higher.
Early French Outlook: Ferrer got a big break when Murray pulled out, because it guaranteed that he will be the No. 4 seed and can't meet Rafael Nadal until the finals. He should at least make the semifinals—I think Stanislas Wawrinka is the only player who could stop him from getting that far.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: With his inability to challenge the Big Four, it's hard to see Ferrer topping what he's done in the past year. His best bet is to keep playing and winning and to hold onto that Top Five ranking with all of his might.
5. Tomas Berdych
ATP Ranking: 6
Why He's Here: It's been a statement year so far for the 27-year-old Czech, as he's made it to the semifinals of three Masters Series and already notched 29 wins. In just the past three months he's beaten Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, proving that he might finally be ready to put pressure on the Big Four.
No player hits the ball cleaner than Berdych, and his game only shows signs of weakness under intense pressure.
Early French Outlook: Berdych has had a stellar clay season, making back-to-back semifinals in Madrid and Rome.He has an excellent shot to repeat his 2010 semifinal run. Of course, he also might lose in the first week. After all, he's still Tomas Berdych.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: This seems to be shaping up to be a career year for Berdych, perhaps inspired—as so many before him have been—by capturing the Davis Cup in 2012.
He has never been ranked higher than No. 6, but with only fourth-round points to defend at Roland Garros and first-round points to defend at Wimbledon, he has a great chance to gain some ground on David Ferrer. A major final, and perhaps a second Masters Series shield, are certainly possibilities.
4. Roger Federer
ATP Ranking: 3
Why He's Here: It's impossible to think of Roger Federer as anything other than the legend that he is, but outside of winning Wimbledon, the last year has been rather ordinary according to Federer standards.
He looked great in a dazzling five-set win over Tsonga in the Australia quarterfinals, but outside of Oz he hasn't looked very good all year. But, I mean, he's still Roger Federer. At this point, the only thing he could do that would surprise me is beat Nadal on clay.
Early French Outlook: Federer knows how to peak for the majors better than anyone, but it's hard to gauge his clay form after he lost early to Nishikori in Madrid and made the Rome final without facing a Top 15 player.
He'll be the No. 2 seed, and with the right draw—meaning one with Nadal and Djokovic in the other half—he could certainly find himself back in the French Open final. I suspect he'll lose in the quarterfinals though.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: Federer's currently only No. 6 in the calendar-year ATP Race rankings, so he has a lot of ground to make up to get back where he was a year ago. Still, rumors of his inevitable demise have been greatly exaggerated in the past.
Best case scenario, he wins another Slam and has a few more statement wins over Murray, Djokovic and Nadal. He's certainly capable of it. Realistically, he'll be doing great just to hang on to his spot in the Top Four at the end of the year.
3. Andy Murray
ATP Ranking: 2
Why He's Here: It's been a blockbuster year for Andy Murray, as he made the finals of Wimbledon, took gold in the Olympics and finally won his maiden major title at the U.S. Open.
He's had a decent 2013, winning titles in Brisbane and Miami and making the finals of Australia, but an abbreviated playing schedule and a rough clay season have left some question marks. Still, everyone's favorite foul-mouth is one of the favorites in any tournament he enters on grass or hard courts.
Early French Outlook: Murray had to pull out of the French Open due to back troubles, but he hopes to be healthy in time for Wimbledon.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The pressure is really going to be on for Murray to win his first Wimbledon title this year, and unfortunately, anything else will probably seem like a disappointment. But with Nadal coming back strong, Murray will be doing great just to stay in the conversation for the No. 2 ranking.
2. Novak Djokovic
ATP Ranking: 1
Why He's Here: Djokovic's out-of-this world 2011 and nearly-as-great 2012 have set the bar so high that when he looks mortal, as he has multiple times in 2013, it's easy to forget just how great he is at tennis.
In the last year he's won the Australian Open, made the finals of the French and U.S. Open, won three Masters Series events and the World Tour Finals. But the margins at the top are razor-thin, and this year he's looked a little off and hasn't been able to translate his stellar defense into offense as skillfully as he has in the past. Recent losses to Del Potro, Haas, Dimitrov and Berdych have knocked him to No. 2 in the power rankings.
Early French Outlook: Djokovic started the clay season literally as good as he could have hoped, taking out Nadal in Monte-Carlo to win the title, but his form in recent weeks has been suspect.
He was a co-favorite for the French Open title a couple of weeks ago, but he's a firm No. 2 as we head into Paris. Still, it would be a huge upset if he didn't make it to face Nadal, whether that's in the semis or the final.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: The Serb is going to want to hang on to his No. 1 ranking for dear life, and in order to do that he's going to have to keep making the semis and finals of nearly every tournament he enters. It's not getting any easier, but he is still in the prime of his career and should be able to win another major this year.
1. Rafael Nadal
ATP Ranking: 4
Why He's Here: What is there to say about Rafael Nadal that hasn't been said? Since coming back on tour in February after an eight-month injury layoff, he's been nearly unstoppable.
He's made eight finals, won six titles—three of them Masters Series—and taken out nine Top 10 players. Though his world ranking is still only No. 4 because he was out for so long, it's only a matter of time before his ranking matches his form.
Early French Outlook: Nadal goes into the French Open on a 15-match winning streak, and anything less than the title would be a massive upset.
Best Case Scenario for 2013: If he keeps playing like he has the last three months, I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see Nadal run the table the rest of the year and snatch up the remaining majors like it's 2010. At the very least he should win one major and compete for the year-end No. 1 ranking. He's erased a lot of doubts the past few months.