Milestones and domination: ATP first quarter review

Published by tennismash

Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning his third consecutive title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells; Getty Images

Records are tumbling on the ATP World Tour in 2016. We take a look at the story so far in our first quarter review…

Biggest story: Novak Djokovic’s domination. The gap between the world No.1 and the rest of the pack is becoming more pronounced. So far in 2016 the Serb has swished aside challenges from his biggest rivals with mind-boggling ease to win a record sixth Australian Open and surpass Rafael Nadal’s all-time Masters record after securing the Indian Wells-Miami double. His ranking points now unfathomably exceed that of his two closest challengers in Andy Murray and Roger Federer combined – incredible!

Biggest mover: Canadian Milos Raonic can play. That’s no secret – he was ranked as high as No.4 last year, but he has taken his game to a new level in 2016. Playing with an impressive attacking mindset, the 25-year-old has been the form player behind Djokovic. Injuries derailed his Australian Open and Indian Wells chances – but if he can stay fit, a major title breakthrough looks imminent.

Australian Nick Kyrgios has made major inroads too – the newest and youngest member of the world’s top 20 won his first ATP Tour title in Marseille in February by defeating two top 10 players and a Grand Slam champion in the final three rounds and impressed with a semifinal run in Miami, upsetting Raonic to become the youngest semifinalist in the tournament’s history.

Needs to improve: Sam Groth has had a tough start to his 2016 season. The big-serving Australian has a 2-11 win-loss record so far and needs to quickly regain his confidence, or risks sending his ranking sliding further. In doubles, the Bryan brothers have not won a title for the first quarter of the season for the first time since 2003. It’s been a changing of the guard as Brit Jamie Murray rose to the top spot.

Keep an eye on: Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentinean has made a welcome return from a debilitating wrist injury that required multiple surgeries. The US Open 2009 champion might still be lacking some confidence (especially with his two-handed backhands) but a return of five wins from his first three tournaments is promising. Austrian Dominic Thiem fits into this category too – with two titles so far this season, the 22-year-old will be dangerous during his favoured clay swing.

Big question: The second quarter of the season is all about clay – and all eyes will be on Djokovic to see if he can finally complete the career Grand Slam. The 28-year-old is desperate to win the French Open, the one Slam that has eluded him so far. He is a three-time finalist and has lost to the eventual champion seven times at the tournament. After coming so tantalisingly close in the past, is this Novak’s year?

Top 5 report card:

(1) NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Win-Loss record: 28-1

Highlight: Where do we begin? The milestones keep coming for the world No.1, who won an Open Era-record sixth Australian Open title, reached 700 career wins, become the first man to win five Indian Wells titles and collected a record-equaling sixth Miami Open crown.

Lowlight: An eye infection forced him to retire in a quarterfinal match against Feliciano Lopez in Dubai, ending his bid to qualify for a record 18th consecutive final.

(2) ANDY MURRAY

Win-Loss record: 10-3

Highlight: Reached a fifth Australian Open final in trying conditions; off-court, it was the birth of first daughter, Sophia Olivia, a week later that brought the most joy.

Lowlight: Uncharacteristic back-to-back early exits at Indian Wells and Miami, losing to Argentinean Federico Delbonis and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov respectively, in the third round.

(3) ROGER FEDERER

Win-Loss record: 8-2

Highlight: Showed some vintage form to reach the Australian Open semifinals, where he was unfortunate to run into a red-hot Djokovic.

Lowlight: A torn meniscus sidelined the Swiss maestro post-Australian Open, forcing him off tour for seven weeks as he recovered from surgery. Illness then derailed his planned return in Miami.

(4) STAN WAWRINKA

Win-Loss record: 15-4

Highlight: Has won two titles – in Chennai and Dubai. It is the third season in a row the Swiss player has won two titles to start his season.

Lowlight: Lost in the opening round of Miami and was upset in fourth round of both the Australian Open and Indian Wells. The Swiss star should be stepping up more in the bigger tournaments.

(5) RAFAEL NADAL

Win-Loss record: 12-6

Highlight: Reached the semifinals in Indian Wells, saving a match point against promising Alexander Zverev in the fourth round and scoring an impressive win against world No.6 Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals.

Lowlight: For just the second time in his illustrious career, the Spaniard was eliminated in the first round of a Grand Slam. A five-set loss to compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open hurt, especially considering Nadal went into the match with a dominant 14-2 head-to-head record.

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