Ranking the Top 10 Men's Players After Wimbledon 2015

Jeremy Eckstein@https://twitter.com/#!/JeremyEckstein1Featured ColumnistJuly 12, 2015

Ranking the Top 10 Men's Players After Wimbledon 2015

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Another great championship bout to close out Wimbledon 2015 leaves Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer well ahead of the rest of the field, but what about the rest of the top 10?

    The ATP World Tour compiles each player’s results for the past calendar year, but it’s less of a barometer for how the players are doing at the moment, although Djokovic and Federer certainly justified their spots at the top.

    Our top 10 power rankings is a snapshot of where the players are at currently to go forward and compete for the rest of the summer, climaxing at the U.S. Open series for the year’s final major.

    We give more weight to players who are proven threats or realistically able to win the U.S. Open. Players who are consistently able to garner points through lightweight tournaments are less impressive than powerful threats who can flex their muscles at a major.

    Let’s count down the best players in men’s tennis.

Just Missing the Cut

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Not everyone gets an invitation to the top 10. For a few it’s agony to feel spurned, like standing out on Jay Gatsby’s lawns, gazing at the mansion’s lights and listening to the big band while the more elite dance and party indoors.

    How serious is the injury to ATP No. 8 Milos Raonic? Nearly two months after having surgery for a pinched nerve in his right foot, the big Canadian (6'5", 216 lbs) is not the same. He fell to Nick Kyrgios in the third round. But his movement was slow, and he acknowledged his difficulties, according to the Star's Rosie DiManno: "I’m just dealing with a lot of things. The foot led to everything else. The feet are the instigators.”

    Maybe he makes it back, moving well and playing pain-free, by the U.S. Open series, but big athletes can be injury-prone and more encumbered by such difficulties. He’s not currently a top-10 threat.

    Frenchmen Gilles Simon (No. 11) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No 12) have continued to hover around the top 10. But the former has not had the firepower to beat the top stars, and the latter fizzled out in the third round.

10. Richard Gasquet

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    ATP Ranking: 13

    For a decade, Richard Gasquet has slinked in and out of the Top 10 like a cloaked pedestrian beneath the street lamps, always obscure but nevertheless a noteworthy figure bearing his one-handed backhand and graceful game.

    Maybe in another era, his more solid strokes and tactics would make him a bigger winner, but at least his modest legacy now includes Wimbledon 2015 semifinalist to go along with semifinal accomplishments at Wimbledon 2007 and U.S. Open 2013.

    It was particularly impressive to watch Gasquet play a clean but smart and aggressive brand of tennis in outclassing Nick Kyrgios and outlasting Stan Wawrinka to land in the semifinals. Time and again he moved in from the baseline to hit an important short ball and move into the net.

    Alas, he was no match for the top-ranked Djokovic who could do everything an in-form Gasquet could do but with far more power and conviction—really the biggest difference between their careers.

9. David Ferrer

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    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    ATP Ranking: 7

    Have racket, will travel. The remarkably fit and durable David Ferrer had to skip Wimbledon with an elbow injury, but he’s still worthy of being in the top 10 thanks to his consistency and point-hawking all over the globe. Ferrer is the ultimate opportunist of mid-majors. There’s no clay-court tournament too remote if he can gain a top seed and a great opportunity to take home some C-level hardware.

    What next for Ferrer? His elbow injury caused the team captain to replace him in upcoming Davis Cup competition, but as soon as Ferrer can get off the stretcher, he will sprint out to his next excursion, always with a hop in his step and plenty of fight. It wouldn’t be overly surprising to see him fighting to stay in the Top 100 when he is 40.

8. Tomas Berdych

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    ATP Ranking: 6

    If Tomas Berdych were a coin, he would have two completely different sides. There’s the silver, shiny tail represented by his athletic frame, solid movement and textbook groundstrokes. Unfortunately, when the heat of second-week majors flips the Czech into the air, it’s that blackened, scuffed side that rears its ugly head. He simply has not proved to be a worthy major contender no matter his consistency.

    Berdych was supposed to challenge Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, but he bowed out to soft-hitting Gilles Simon. No doubt he will be back; he’s too good to suddenly go through an extended swoon, and he’s consistent no matter the surface.

    The Czech has won a handful of big matches over the course of a nice career, but just once can he string together a few enormous matches to win a major? Will the tennis gods flip over his fortunes and watch him roar through on epic second weekend at the U.S. Open? It could still happen, but nobody’s placing his or her bet.

7. Kei Nishikori

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 5

    Is it easier to break new ground as a rising star, or is it easier to keep building with a better seed amid higher expectations? The difference is often how well a great athlete can cope with pressure.

    After a year of Kei Nishikori's rising success as a major contender, tennis fans might feel their enthusiastic appraisal turn to disenchantment. The latest, he had to pull out before Wimbledon’s second round with a calf injury. For all of his hustle and sharp-angled hitting from the baseline, Nishikori would need the perfect storm to legitimately challenge for a major title. He has yet to even win a Masters 1000 title.

    Has the Japanese star already peaked? There may not be anyone left who believes he can match or exceed last year’s performance as U.S. Open runner-up. In the end, the pressure on Nishikori (5'11", 170 lbs) is more physical. Staying healthy is one important factor, but having to hit through larger and more powerful foes is going to require more than tactical guile.

6. Rafael Nadal

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 10

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does Rafael Nadal need confidence for winning, or does he need winning for confidence?

    The means to developing either might be his suddenly wayward forehand. Long the staple of his championship years, he has pressed, overtopped and underwhelmed with erratic aim.

    His detractors can point out that he really has not won a significant tournament since the 2014 French Open. In short, Rafael Nadal has not been much of a factor on the ATP Tour. So why is Nadal ranked No. 6 here, despite being four slots lower in the official rankings?

    The first reason is that the players ranked below him here have not proven themselves as good enough to win majors. Yes, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych have won more points in the last calendar year by virtue of being more healthy and consistent, but who else but our top six is now a legitimate contender for the U.S. Open?

    Nadal has time to rediscover his championship ways. He will need quick feet and loads of energy, but he most needs to win the long grueling points with his reliability. It may or may not happen, but Nadal could be a major contender with a few good weeks ahead.

5. Marin Cilic

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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 9

    Croatian Marin Cilic will always be a major champion, something that took even longer for his compatriot coach, Goran Ivanisevic. For those who might say it’s harder to win a major title now, ask Ivanisevic what it was like to win Wimbledon during the Pete Sampras era.

    Cilic already has a major monkey off his back, but now the task is to use his prime years to win a second major. Unlike Ivanisevic who could savor his 2001 Wimbledon title as a kind of career reward after enough agony and more Sampras, Cilic will now face expectations to win a second major as he enters his physical and mental peak.

    Wimbledon was about what most people expected. He lost to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals in three tight sets, but maybe he lost when he was stretched to five sets in each of the second and third rounds followed by another tough win over feisty Denis Kudla.

    But it looks like the big Croatian (6'6", 180 lbs) is getting in shape again for another promising summer stretch. Few will pick him to defend his 2014 U.S. Open title, but he’s earned the right to be ahead of other more touted bridesmaids.

4. Stan Wawrinka

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 4

    Stan Wawrinka is a heavyweight puncher who can score a knockout in big matches. He’s also vulnerable to more efficient tennis, which is why it was not very surprising that he fell just a tad short against Richard Gasquet’s fine play in the quarterfinals.

    Live by the haymaker, but die by decisions. He’s still the fourth best option to win major titles and one of the most feared opponents on tour.

    Wawrinka has had success on the hard courts in North America. His 2013 five-set semifinal battle against Novak Djokovic foreshadowed that he could compete for a major title. Two years later, he is a battle-hardened two-time major champion.

3. Andy Murray

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    Toby Melville/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 3

    Time and again Andy Murray has persevered through the labyrinth of his career only to find another wall. He’s made progress over the years, picking up a few big trophies and succeeding against Novak Djokovic in 2012-13 for major titles.

    But there has always been more adversity and bigger play from one of his primary rivals. Just when it seemed that Murray was a favorite for Wimbledon, aging lion Roger Federer, 33, torched him with a bolder serving attack that left the defensive-minded Scot unable to sniff more than one measly first-game break.

    Is Murray’s talent enough to be a major favorite at any time in the next few years, or will he continue to be a backup option if chaos ensues? He’s a great player, but he is so often one weapon short in a battle to the death.

    Nothing has really changed as he heads toward the U.S. Open—a good shot for victory if other unnamed superstars can inexplicably have off-days against him.

2. Roger Federer

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    Toby Melville/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 2

    What else could Roger Federer do? He was sensational for nearly two weeks behind a retooled service attack that rolled five opponents and then destroyed Andy Murray. But there was little he could do to play ahead of Novak Djokovic, and for the second year in a row he must accept Wimbledon's runner-up trophy.

    The reason? Djokovic is just better. Period. Federer played well, attacked the net 58 times and repeatedly put away overhead smashes. He was mentally tough to fight back in the second set and certainly did not give anything away. Djokovic just puts so much pressure on a server and usually has the edge in extended rallies. He's tough to crack.

    There's a lot of optimism for Federer's chances moving forward. He will be one of the favorites to win the U.S. Open, and the way he has worked and won the past year bodes well in competing for that elusive No. 18 major. Don't count him out.

1. Novak Djokovic

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 1

    When Djokovic plays his best tennis, he is unbeatable. Even when he doesn't, he is too much. This was not one of the Serbian's greatest matches, but right now his B+ is better than Roger Federer's A-. The key was was his resilience, his mettle in winning the pressure points. Yes, he left several of those on the table in the second set, but he came back with authority to close the door.

    Winning his third Wimbledon title is an elite accomplishment, but Djokovic probably feels better that he clinched his second major of the year because he has not done this since 2011. He's been able to mitigate some of his disappointments in major finals with this ninth major.

    There's no question that as long as he is healthy, he will be the favorite to win the U.S. Open. It will be a deep field of competitors, but he has the most well-rounded control to put pressure on everyone else and deliver the goods with his extraordinary talent.

    How does that grass victory grass now taste to Djokovic? Would he would be willing to to do as much with a French Open championship.