“The Eight” …. Every week, @tennispig will give his top eight ATP singles players and top eight ATP/WTA doubles teams from the previous week. It’s a great way to monitor who is hot … and who is not. This week, it’s not all about Rafa, but it’s still about Rafa.
1. Alexander Zverev
Titles in successive weeks on the ATP World Tour, including your third career Masters title, will net you the top spot for the week. Sascha was dominant in winning the Mutua Madrid Open this past week. He faced just one break point in five matches and never had his serve broken. Zverev also didn’t drop a single set and has only lost one set during his current nine match win streak. Sascha is firmly entrenched as the #3 player in the world behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He has a chance in Rome to really put himself into that upper echelon talk … which will then be a talking point when we get around to his Grand Slam record.
2. Dominic Thiem
The Dominator earned a spot in “The Ocho” by putting an end to Nadal’s win streaks. Rafa had won 21 straight matches before battling Thiem in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard had also won an astounding 50 straight sets on clay. Thiem’s straight sets win over Nadal 7-5, 6-3 was a big confidence boost for the Austrian who lost 6-0, 6-2 when they faced off in Monte Carlo. Following that up with his first win over Kevin Anderson after six defeats was a nice feather in his cap for the week. It helped negate the emptiness of losing the final in straights to Sascha 6-4, 6-4.
3. Denis Shapovalov
The Canadian was the surprise of the week. Shapovalov has never played a main draw match on clay before this season. Leaving out his split 1-1 mark in Davis Cup play earlier this season, Shapovalov had lost his only two tour matches on dirt coming to Madrid. A semifinal run later and he’s now made two Masters semifinals in the past year. We’ll see if he’s an actual threat on dirt as he heads to Rome this week or if he was helped a bit by the Madrid altitude. Either way, he had impressive wins over Milos Raonic and Kyle Edmund before falling to Zverev. The run boosts him to a career high ranking of #29.
4. Rafael Nadal
All good things must come to an end and that they did for Nadal in Madrid. Twenty-one straight wins. Fifty straight sets won on clay, an all-time record on the ATP World Tour. Think about that for just a second and let that wow factor set in again. To be honest, the straight sets loss to Thiem might be the worst thing that happened to the rest of the tour. I think that loss, which also knocked him out of the #1 spot in the rankings, will burn a fire inside Nadal for the next few weeks.
As if he wasn’t still the firm favorite to take home his 11th French Open title, now you have a man who is on a mission beginning in Rome. Rome is a spot where he has not won a title since 2013, despite having won seven titles in his career at the Italian Open. The fuel for turning that around is that title #8 pushes him back to the top spot in the rankings and gets him on another roll heading to Roland Garros.
5. Bryan Brothers
It’s not often that you can celebrate a little when you’re forced into your first injury retirement ever, but the Bryans can do that today. By verge of getting to the Madrid final, the American twins boosted themselves back into the top spot in the rankings. Unfortunately, a hip injury for Bob led to a retirement in the title match against Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya on Sunday. Despite that, the Bryans slipped ahead of another team dealing with an injury in Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic for the top spot. The Bryans are a mere 235 points ahead of Marach-Pavic who had held the top spot this year since the opening weeks of the season. No word on whether the injury to Bob will cause the twins to skip Rome this week. If they can go, they figure to be in the mix again this week if Bob is healthy. After all, they’ve made the finals of all four Masters events so far this season!
6. Kyle Edmund
The Brit moved inside the Top 20 with a quarterfinal run in Madrid. He’s now ranked a career high #19. The media oversold his win over Novak Djokovic in round two as a monumental win, although it does still count as a good one seeing that Edmund had lost all three previous matches against the Serb. For me, the bigger win was beating David Goffin in straights in round three. Goffin had been in better form and had famously come back from down 0-2 against Edmund in the 2015 Davis Cup final. He beat Edmund in the last three sets in that match 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. So this was a nice bit of revenge. Edmund is now 8-4 on clay and one to watch over the next few weeks as he runs hot and cold on this surface.
7. Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya
This pair has quietly been moving up the rankings, especially since the clay court swing in Europe. Mektic and Peya certainly didn’t like winning a Masters title by default due to injury, but they’ll take their second title together in 2018 as a result. They also won in Marrakech. Unassumingly, they’ve slotted themselves in as the #3 team in the rankings now, a mere five points ahead of Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah at #4. Clay has been their best surface with four finals in six tournaments. They’re a threat, but face a tough opener in Rome against John Isner and Jack Sock.
8. Dusan Lajovic
I love to put consummate “pros” on the list when possible and Lajovic at age 27, fits that description. The Serb is under .500 for the year at 8-11, but he shows the difficult life of players floating in the back end of the Top 100. Lajovic made it to the main draw in Madrid through qualifying and then stunned Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round after beating Karen Khachanov and Richard Gasquet – two quality wins in their own right. He would make his first-ever Masters quarterfinal with the run and sees his ranking boosted nearly 30 spots to #66.
Then what does he do? After losing a tough three set match to Kevin Anderson in the quarters, he turns around and goes straight to Rome qualifying on Saturday. He would beat Florian Mayer in three, before falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final round on Sunday. Unfortunately he is not in the main draw, but earns the respect here for playing eight matches in eight days with a 6-2 record. Oh and that win over Del Potro was his first over a top ten player after going 0-11.