Will the Big Three be dislodged from their ATP dominance in 2019? That, perhaps, is the most important question with 2019 upon us.
Will there be the much-expected change of guard in 2019?
The emphatic answer to that question would be an equivocal – “maybe.”
There are a few young, and not so young, guys who could threaten the dominance of the Big Three but they have yet to cross over to the other, slam, side, and there are many slips between the proverbial, cup and the lips. The long list of contenders waiting at the gate to show the way out to the domineering trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic includes Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem on the clay, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and, the quite capable, Nick Kyrios – if he can get his head straightened and commit to the sport.
What are Alexander Zverev’s prospects in 2019?
Sascha is now a steady fixture in the top ten, and his back-to-back wins over the Maestro in the semis and Novak Djokovic in the finals at the year-end ATP Finals, in London, makes him a serious threat to the hegemony of the Big Three. It was not just his win but also the utter dominance of Novak Djokovic from the baseline and in long rallies which stood out in his last match of the 2018 season. The improvement in his net game and approaches will be the key to continued progress in his rankings and dominance over master grinders like Nadal and Djokovic.
Sascha’s hits big and serves bigger.
Sascha is a big-hitter, with a powerful serve, and also moves surprisingly well for a tall person. He won some big tournaments and claimed big scalps, including Novak’s and Roger’s in 2018. His game is more mature and put together than Shapovalov’s and Tsitsipas’, and with Ivan Lendl, in his corner, he may be the first of the young guns to claim a slam.
Zverev discovered the way to the net against Djokovic in the 2018 ATP Finals.
Zverev, until his last match against Novak Djokovic, was a pure baseliner and did not like moving into the baseline and towards the net to take advantage of the openings he created as result of the sheer power of his ground-shots. His matches, therefore, dragged on forever and the rallies never seemed to end. Zverev, therefore, was done and dusted by the quarters in the slams and was rarely a threat in them. The net-aggression against Djokovic in the ATP Finals, however, revealed another facet to his game, which we believe will help him win slams and cement his superiority over the retrievers and grinders. Even though Sascha found the way to the net, in that match, against Novak, will he remember its narrow winding lanes, come 2019.
Alexander Zverev has a good shot at winning his first slam in 2019 because Ivan Lendl always delivers.
Dominic Thiem will be a force on the clay.
Dominic Thiem will be a force on the clay and may even challenge Nadal’s claim to a 12th Coupe des Mousquetaire’s.
The 2018 French Open final was a constant battle, between the two, to position for a forehand and take charge of the point. Nadal, quite surprisingly, stayed closer to the baseline and struck that backhand early and in a commanding manner. Thiem needed to move in and intercept some of those loose and floating balls in the air, but allowed Nadal too much time for recovery and paid the price for it. There’s little doubt that Thiem learned valuable lessons from that loss and will employ them, to perhaps exact revenge on Nadal, in 2019.
Thiem’s strengths and weaknesses.
Thiem is a good mover and a big hitter on the court. His single-handed backhand, though not as versatile as the Maestro’s, packs quite a punch and carries enough topspin to handle the rigors of the clay court. We, at 138 mph, feel that he lacks balance on his ground shots and relies too much on strength and athleticism like Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, and much of the current crop. His extended back-swing on the ground shots also makes his game a little less suited for the fast indoor courts as compared to the clay. He, however, makes up for his shortcomings through his athleticism, speed, and the ability to muscle the ball back into play. Like most clay court stalwarts, Thiem too has the tendency to plant himself about 5 feet behind the baseline and avoid the net, like the plague, which invariably results in long drawn out rallies, and leaves him tired and worn out by the business end of the slams.
Dominic Thiem lost the way in 2017 but recovered in 2018.
The match against Juan Martin Del Potro in the 4th round of the 2017 US Open left Dominic Thiem mentally scarred. He lost from two sets up and was not able to recover from that tough 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 6-7 (1), 4-6 loss until the clay season of 2018. Dominic Thiem’s ability to reverse the downward spiral gives us hope that he is due for a big one in 2019.
Can Thiem beat Nadal at the French Open in 2019?
Thiem’s head-to-head against the King of Clay is a respectable 3-7 on the clay. If Dominic Thiem can recreate his 2018 Madrid Master’s, 7-5, 6-3, winning performance against Nadal by standing closer to the baseline, taking the ball early and charging the net without fear, he will dethrone Nadal as the king of clay in 2019. We believe he can beat Nadal on the Clay at the French Open. But, will he?
Will 2019 be the year of Stefanos Tsitsipas.
2019 could be the year of Stefanos Tsitspas. Stefanos may not have the experience to win a slam, he, however, has the talent to win other big tournaments, and take down a member or two of the Big Three at the slams. He enjoyed a break-out 2018, and his talent and the all-court game should help him ride that momentum through 2019.
Tsitsipas is an all round talent.
138mph is a believer in Tsitsipas’ talent and his long term prospects, provided he can stay healthy and injury-free. He plays a game of aggressive, all-court tennis and has a powerful service. He is proactive about moving into the baseline and finishing points at the net. His single-handed-backhand is powerful and the forehand excellent. Tsitsipas is an all-around talent with the potential to win multiple slams.
The single-handed backhand is one of Tsitsipas’ weapons.
The single-hander is a tough shot to learn and even tougher to master. It’s unforgiving and a low margin shot which relies entirely on immaculate timing. The single-handed backhand, therefore, cannot be muscled. It requires exceptional talent to perfect the single-handed backhand, and Tsistsipas’ at 20 is already way better than Federer’s at the same age. It will get even better over the next few years. The single-handed backhand, when wielded by the very talented, is a deadly WMD.
Roger Federer employed the short angled slice to bring home eight Wimbledon crowns, and Pete Sampras for perfecting his net-approach and volleying skills to win seven Wimbledon titles. Stan Wawrinka uses his single-hander, as the hammer of Thor, to bully and punish even the accomplished grinders like Djokovic and Nadal.
Tsitsipas plays an aggressive all-court style like the Maestro.
Tsitsipas is an exceptional all-court player with a strong forehand and an excellent single-handed backhand. His serve is quite powerful and, like the Maestro, he looks to move into the court and towards the net to cut short and finish points. He is also quick and moves well for a 6’4.’’ Stefanos’ backhand, moreover, is better and the first service packs a bigger punch than Roger’s at 21. His service placement may not be as good as Roger’s but can improve over time. Stefanos, however, lacks the balance and ability to take the ball as early as Roger and is a year from maturing into a seasoned pro.
Tsitsipas is better than Zverev and Thiem.
Stefanos Tsitsipas with his aggressive all-court style, a powerful serve, an aggressive single-hander for the backhand, and a powerfully-deceptive inside-in forehand is even better than Dominic Thiem and also Alexander Zverev who, until his last match against Novak in the ATP Finals, had yet to discover the way to the net.
Nick Kyrgios is back in the game.
Nick Kyrgios’ 2018 was uneventful with a 25-13 win-loss record and far-too-many niggling injuries and walk-overs and retirements. He ended the year ranked 35 with only one title at Brisbane, Australia. Nick, however, has acknowledged his flaws and even sought help from sports psychologists.
Nick Kyrgios’ talent and athleticism can make him a force in the ATP.
Nick Kyrgios is highly talented with powerful ground shots and serve. He is deceptively quick for a tall person, and his athleticism is second to none. His game is technically superior to Dominic Thiem’s and Alexander Zverev’s but lacks the discipline to execute the right tactics and shots on the court. Therefore, both Zverev and Thiem are ranked higher in the ATP race.
What can we expect of Nick Kyrgios in 2019?
If Kyrgios can pull himself mentally together, he can reach the second week in all slams except the French Open. Nick Kyrgios has the potential and talent to reach the final of the slams and, if he manages to keep his head glued straight, he could even win one in 2019. The tennis world is holding its breath for the real Kyrgios to show himself. Nick Krygios, therefore, is an enigma which may reveal its true form and radiance in 2019.