Which of the ATP's most intriguing players have performed as predicted?
At the end of last year, we presented our 10 most intriguing players to watch in 2014. Today, we revisit those predictions and compare them to reality.
What we said: "He blames his sub-par 2013 season on his back injury, but he's been able to play and practice without pain for the last three months. While 2014 is shaping up to be a battle between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for supremacy, Federer, who turns 33 next year, is hands-down the most intriguing player for 2014."
What he's done: Indeed, 2014 has been a bounce-back year for Federer, who has risen from No. 6 to No. 3 in the ATP rankings thanks to his consistent play. Federer made the semifinals or better at seven of ten tournaments this season, winning Dubai and Halle, and he came tantalizingly close to capturing his 18th major earlier this month at Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have been his stoppers this year, but Federer is putting himself in the position to win the big titles. He's made the final of two ATP Masters 1000s and the semifinals or better at two of the three majors so far, and that's all he can ask from himself at this stage of his career.
Juan Martin del Potro
What we said: "Finally putting his wrist injury woes behind him, del Potro was the only player to beat all four men in 2013, and his destructive forehand looked back on form as the year went on."
What he's done: We spoke too soon. After Del Potro's right wrist that derailed his career after he won the 2009 U.S. Open, his left wrist squelched his momentum in 2013. He shut down his season in March to have have surgery on that bothersome left wrist, which prevented him from hitting through his backhand, and he's been rehabbing ever since.
What we said: "We've seen too many players break through only to fall off the radar and suffer a sophomore slump. Here's to hoping Wawrinka doesn't follow the pattern."What he's done: No sophomore slump here. Wawrinka kicked off the season winning his first 14 matches; seven of those wins came at the Australian Open, when he became just the second man outside of the Big Four to win a Grand Slam since the 2005 Australian Open. He leap-frogged fellow Swiss Roger Federer up to No. 3 in the ATP rankings, making him the No. 1 Swiss for the first time in his career.
The rest of his season has been uneven, but Wawrinka continued to show he's capable of a career milestone in any given week. We saw that at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he came back from a set down to beat Federer and win his first ATP Masters 1000 title.
What we said: "Much like his good friend Federer, there's nothing more intriguing than watching athletes try and succeed in keeping Father Time at bay for (at least) one more year."
What he's done: It looks like Father Time is winning out. Haas, 36, struggled all season with a shoulder injury, retiring from three tournaments before shutting down his season after the French Open to undergo his fourth surgery on his right shoulder. "I don’t want to retire from the tennis stage with an injury but would like to end my career on the court," Haas said.
Grigor DimitrovDimitrov has always been a fun talent to watch, with his one-handed backhand and oddly-effective Bambi-on-Ice-style defense. But now that he's winning titles and competing well against the game's elite, he's no longer just a hype-machine (or Maria Sharapova's arm candy)."
What he's done: Dimitrov took the momentum gained by winning his first ATP title last fall and delivered on his prodigal promise this season. He's already won three titles, all on different surfaces, made his first Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, and his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal in Rome. All that means he's into the top 10 and the perhaps the best thing Dimitrov's improvement is that he still plays tennis with the style and flair that made him such an exciting young prospect.
What we said: "He's easily a top 15 talent if he can reign in his inconsistency, but then again, if he were consistent, reliable and predictable, he wouldn't be Ernests Gulbis."
What he's done: Gulbis finally took control of his game and eliminated (for the most part) the shock losses that marred the last few years. It all came together for him at the French Open, where he knocked out Roger Federer in the fourth round and Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals to make his first Grand Slam semifinal. Add ATP titles to that and Gulbis became what he always believed he was: a top 10 player.
What we said: "He is your new favorite tennis player."
What he's done: Not much. After reach a career high of No. 24 last year, he's now down to No. 96 after a season of injury and disappointing losses. He's won back-to-back matches just once this year, compiling a 7-13 record.
What we said: "The most entertaining man in tennis somehow finished right outside the top 30 after a sub-par year that was marred with injuries and layoffs. Win or lose, he always puts on a show."What he's done: It's never boring with Monfils -- that's for sure. He's up to No. 23 after a solid season so far. The only man who could beat him through his first three tournaments was Rafael Nadal and he looked primed for a strong season after marching to the title in Montpellier in February. His losses haven't been bad ones on paper, but so far Monfils' season will be remembered for three frustrating performances: His five set win over Fabio Fognini and five set loss to Andy Murray at the French Open were two of the weirdest matches of the season. And his behavior during his five set loss to Jiri Vesely at Wimbledon, where he appeared lackadaisical, unfocused, and apathetic, was another head scratcher. You never know what you're going to get with Monfils and that's part of the excitement, but he's bordering on clown territory right now.
Click here to watch highlights of a routine win over Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round of the French Open. Who are we kidding -- nothing is routine for Gael.
What we said: "The 23-year old (yes, he's older than Canada's No. 1 Milos Raonic) shot up the rankings this season thanks to a miraculous run to the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, as well as the semifinals of the Swiss Indoors this fall. He would have risen even higher had a series of tiebreak matches gone his way."
What he's done: Pospisil went on an eight-match losing streak from the Australian Open through the French Open, because he decided to play through a back injury when he probably should have rested to get back to 100 percent. Despite all that he's still ranked in the top 40, but if he can't defend those semifinal points in Canada this summer, he's set for a tumble. But it hasn't been a complete wash of a season for Pospisil. He teamed up with Jack Sock to win the Wimbledon doubles titles, beating Bob and Mike Bryan in the final.
What we said: "After falling out of the top 200 in February he toiled away on the ATP Challenger circuit and worked his way back inside the top 100. His story isn't quite done yet."
What he's done: The 25-year-old is up to No. 73, and though he hasn't had any signature wins or title runs, he hasn't dropped off too far. Making the third round of both the Australian Open and French Open had to help his confidence and he has a big opportunity this summer to keep building.