“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 all about putting the finishing touches on Wimbledon.
1. Novak Djokovic
Before Wimbledon started, there was a thought that the Serb was in the right quarter of the draw to at least get back to the semifinals. His quarter was littered with talented seeds like Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios – but they all had question marks, perhaps bigger than Djokovic’s coming to London. Over the course of the first week, Djokovic found little resistance in the form of Horacio Zeballos, Kyle Edmund and Karen Khachanov. The set-up for his first Slam semifinal since the 2016 U.S. Open was even better with popular punching bag Kei Nishikori in his path. Djokovic dispatched Kei in four sets.
That set up the match-up of the tournament, especially in lieu of Roger Federer being knocked out in the quarters by Kevin Anderson. The semifinal showdown against Rafael Nadal did not disappoint. Five sets. Two days to complete. Countless baseline rallies with vintage Nole-Rafa shot making. Djokovic would finish off in style with a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3) win over Anderson in the final on Sunday. At 31, the Serb now has 13 Grand Slam titles with four of them coming at Wimbledon. The run these two weeks have served notice that the Serb may finally be healthy and gaining steam on his reclamation project. At minimum, he’s now going to be a threat headed to the U.S. Open if he can remain healthy. The Serb is now ranked 10th with nothing but points to gain the rest of the season.
2. Kevin Anderson
If we’re being honest, Djokovic might be the Wimbledon champion, but Anderson cemented the two of the most memorable wins of the fortnight. His comeback from two sets down against everyone’s tournament Favorite, Roger Federer, was as incredible a comeback as we may have seen in the last decade. Big Kev is now one of just three players who have ever defeated Fed in the best of five format after the Swiss won the first two sets – Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were the others. It’s quite incredible when you consider that Anderson had dropped ten straight sets against the South African at the time that he took the 2-0 lead.
Oh and Anderson wasn’t done – for an encore, he booked his spot in the final with an edgy 26-24 win in the fifth set over John Isner in a match that lasted about six and a half hours. Not many will have nee surprised that Anderson could not summon the level he showed in those classic five set wins in the last two rounds once he reached the final, but he again reminded us that hard work and a positive attitude an produce fantastic results. Anderson has now made two Grand Slam finals after the age of 30, after never making one prior. He’s an unassuming and appreciative player who sets a great example on what you can do when you’re willing to make change to your game. He’s also set to become the 5th ranked player in the world, a career high.
3. Rafael Nadal
The Spaniard came up short in his bid to make the Wimbledon final for the first time since 2011, but his stay in London showed why he is the world #1. He breezed through the first four rounds before drawing Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals. There, Nadal outlasted a heavy hitting opponent, the type who many thought had a chance to cut down Rafa on grass. Rafa edged DelPo 5-7, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in what many labelled the match of the year … until Nadal played Djokovic in the semifinals. The Spaniard had his chances against the Serb and will have a chip on his shoulder after the roof controversy. The Rafa Army believing their beloved was screwed by the roof remaining closed for those final two sets when the weather was perfectly fine. It was an imperfect tournament with some scheduling question marks down the stretch and we might always wonder “what if” with Nadal preferring the outdoor conditions, while the indoor environment clearly did give Djokovic a better opportunity. In the end, a great player beat a great player and the debate will rage on.
4. Mike Bryan/Jack Sock
One of the more scintillating stories of the tournament came in doubles with Mike Bryan again forced to play without brother Bob due to Bob’s hip injury. After faltering in round one at the French Open with Sam Querrey as his partner, Mike struck gold by partnering up with Jack Sock. The same Jack Sock who can’t win singles matches, but looked perfectly in tune in the doubles environment again. Bryan and Sock took advantage of a draw blown up with the top four seeds missing before the quarterfinals. They would win three five setters en route to the title, including the 6-3, 6-7 (9), 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 win over Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus in the final.
The win gave Mike Bryan a record tying 17th doubles Grand Slam title (John Newcombe) and saw Sock win his second, with both coming at Wimbledon. Mike Bryan played the role of coach and partner throughout this memorable run and deserves a ton of credit for keeping Sock motivated all the way through. Mike returns to the number one spot in the doubles ranking with the win and this won’t be the last time we see Mike Bryan and Jack Sock together. The pair have already been announced as a team for the BB&T Atlanta Open which starts next week.
5. Barbora Krejčíková/Kateřina Siniaková
Giving the ladies their due in this spot as the Czech Connection of Krejcikova-Siniakova have now won the last two Grand Slam titles. The Czechs defeated Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke to claim just their second title of the season, but with both coming at Slams (French Open) – they elevate into the top spot in the rankings. The duo also became the first pairing in Wimbledon history to have won both the juniors doubles crowns along with the ladies titles. There may be a lot of change in the WTA in the doubles rankings right now, but this pair is showing that they are the team to beat right now.
6. John Isner
It wss an uneqivocal success in London for Isner, who had never been past the third round at the All-England Club in his career. His semifinal run was fueled by the most consistent version of his massive serve that we’ve seen since he won the Miami Open in March. Isner has altered his game more-so this year as he looks to shorten points even more at the age of 33. The American is coming to net frequently and has become a better than average volleyist. Isner will continue to reside inside the Top 10 heading into the summer hard court season where his biggest point defense is trying to equal last year’s semifinal showing in Cincinnati. Isner will hope his magical run rubs off on his U.S. Open chances, a place where he has only been as far as the fourth round once since his 2011 quarterfinal appearance. Isner is up two spots to #8 in the rankings.
7. Marin Cilic
The biggest disappointment and surprise for me on the men’s side at Wimbledon was Cilic. Last year’s finalist had looked rock solid in winning the Queen’s Club title and had made the quarterfinals or better in four of the last six Grand Slams. That included two finalis trips, so a second round loss to Guido Pella was stunning. Pella had no career grass court wins before 2018. Cilic also led 6-3, 6-1, 3-2 before Mother Nature delayed play a day and that was the obvious turning point. Cilic falls to #7 as a result fo the early exit, but I would not be overly concerned about a lasting effect from this loss. He’s been pretty solid all things considered in 2018.
8. Grigor Dimitrov
Dead horse time and there’s no bigger lump of horse meat than the Bulgarian who lost to a still rusty Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. Dimitrov now has first-up losses at five of the ten tournaments that he has played since making the Rotterdam final in February. Of course is doing so, he’s rarely losing big points and he didn’t move an inch from his #6 spot in the rankings this week. Outside of the Australian Open, where he has made three of his four career Slam finals, he seems miscast as anything other than a disappointment. Dimitrov has done well for himself at times in the summer hard court swing, until the U.S. Open. There, he’s only been to the fourth round twice in eight visits with first or second round exits the other six trips. His biggest summer tournament is Cincinnati, where he made the finals last year and will need a deep run to avoid looking on the outside in, if he’s bidding to make London at the end of the year.