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Top 10 ATP players to watch in 2019

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 28 Nov 2018
  • Ten ATP players set to rise in 2019
  • We pin-point 10 players who can make an impact next season
Felix Auger-Aliassime (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

With the ATP World Tour done and dusted for 2018, we thought we’d look ahead to the 2019 season and predict 10 players that have the ability to take the next step in their respective careers.

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Note: We’ve avoided obvious names such as Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric, Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Stefanos Tsitsipas in a bid to shed some light on some lesser names. Do you agree with our choices? Who did we miss out? Let us know and join in on the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Daniil Medvedev - current ranking: No. 16

Daniil Medvedev (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The explosive Russian should be categorised in the aforementioned group above, but I think he’s set to put together the biggest rise of that bunch in 2019. Medvedev has a couple of things holding him back, predominantly his clay-court game, but if he can work on that, he has the ability to dominant large parts of the season. The 22-year-old enjoyed a tremendous 2018 season, winning three ATP World Tour titles and rising to a career-high No. 16 - and I’m backing him to crack the top 10 next year. Medvedev has an enormous game at his disposal when he’s firing on all cylinders, while his defence and capability to remain in a baseline exchange without taking much risks with his groundstrokes is also an underrated aspect of his style. Keep an eye on Medvedev to make a big impact at the slams and Masters 1000 events in 2019.

2. Nicolas Jarry - current ranking: No. 43

Nicolas Jarry  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Equipped with a booming serve and forehand, Jarry was quietly one of the more impressive players on the ATP World Tour in 2018. The 23-year-old has been earmarked as a potential top 10-20 player for the last couple of years now without doing too much, but Jarry finally delivered on that potential this season, achieving a career-high ranking 10 times throughout the year, peaking at No. 39 at the start of November. Before this season, Jarry had only won five tour-level matches, but he emerged victorious on 27 occasions in 2018, including winning his first matches at Grand Slam and Masters 1000 level, reaching his maiden ATP World Tour final in Sao Paolo and earning a career-best triumph over No. 6 Marin Cilic in Shanghai, saving two match points to boot. With further semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro, Hamburg and Kitzbuhel, Jarry certainly plays his best tennis on clay - watch out for the Chilean to break into the top 30 and perhaps even higher next year.

3. Marius Copil - current ranking: No. 60

Marius Copil (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

The oldest man on this list, Copil has all the ingredients to be at least a consistent top 50 player - and it’s actually quite bamboozling that he’s never been ranked higher than No. 57 in his career at 28 years of age. The Romanian has one of the best serves on tour and lethal flat groundstrokes, but has struggled with consistency, which is the primary reason he’s never taken that next step in his career. However, Copil showcased signs this season that he’s ready to rise higher in 2019, reaching two ATP World Tour finals in Sofia and Basel, along with starring in a memorable match with Andy Murray in Washington, which lasted until 3.01am. Copil especially impressed in Basel, posting his first two top 10 wins over No. 5 Alexander Zverev and No. 5 Marin Cilic before losing a tight match in the final against Roger Federer. I’d be very surprised if Copil didn’t break into the top 50 and beyond in 2019.

4. Mackenzie McDonald - current ranking: No. 78

Mackenzie McDonald (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images)

A former stand-out college champion, McDonald has been threatening to breakthrough for some time now after first qualifying for the Cincinnati Masters main draw back in 2013. Now 23 years of age, the American gained some attention in 2018 as he improved his career-high ranking on 12 occasions, climbing from No. 176 in the world to a year-end mark of No. 78 - almost 100 places. McDonald began the year in impressive fashion as he qualified for the Australian Open and pushed Grigor Dimitrov to five sets in the second round, while he also made the second week of a slam for the first time at Wimbledon, going down to Raonic in four sets. McDonald reminds me a lot of Kei Nishikori - he has a compact style and the ability to re-direct effortlessly from the baseline. He’ll be making his way towards the top 50 before too long.

5. Ugo Humbert - current ranking: No. 84

Ugo Humbert (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

You might not have heard of Ugo Humbert because he’s only won two tour-level matches so far in his career, but the Frenchman - in my opinion - is one of the most exciting prospects in men’s tennis and is well-positioned to continue his swift rise up the rankings in 2019. The 20-year-old climbed over 250 spots in the rankings this season, achieving a new career-high ranking 18 times, including his best mark of No. 84 as he finished his breakout year by winning the Andria Challenger without dropping a set. Humbert also qualified for the U.S. Open and pushed Stan Wawrinka to four sets in the second round, while he also won two more Challengers and finished runner-up of three more. Left-handed with a swinging serve and pristine groundstrokes, Humbert will undoubtedly add to his tour-level winning tally in 2019.

6. Christian Garin - current ranking: No. 85

Christian Garin (Photo by ANDRES LARROVERE/AFP/Getty Images)

Even more so than his countryman Jarry, Garin was widely tipped for superstardom early on in his career as he beat Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev in straight sets to win the Roland Garros junior title in 2013, while he also became just the fifth player aged 16 years or under since 2000 to win an ATP World Tour match that season when he defeated Dusan Lajovic in Vina del Mar. Unfortunately for Garin, he has so far failed to hit the heights of Zverev and Coric, but the Chilean ended 2018 in sensational fashion, winning three Challenger titles in a row in Campinas, Santo Domingo and Lima to reach a career-high ranking of No. 85. Set to gain direct entry into Grand Slams and big Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami for the first time, look for Garin to consolidate his spot in the top 100 and start to deliver on his immense talent.

7. Reilly Opelka - current ranking: No. 100

Reilly Opelka (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Despite dealing with a bout of mono and a back injury throughout 2018, the giant American - who stands at 6’11” tall - still managed to put together the best season of his young career. Opelka naturally has one of the biggest serves on tour and if he can continue to improve his groundstrokes, there’s no reason why he can’t achieve similar levels of success to the likes of John Isner and Ivo Karlovic. The 21-year-old earned his first top 10 win by beating No. 8 Jack Sock to reach the Delray Beach quarter-finals in February, while he also won three Challenger titles, including two on the trot to end 2018 in Knoxville and Champaign. Don’t be surprised if Opelka goes on a run at one of the ATP 250 events in USA next year and challenges for a title.

8. Felix Auger-Aliassime - current ranking: No. 109

Felix Auger-Aliassime (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)

Arguably the biggest talent on this list and in men’s tennis in general. Auger-Aliassime is the second youngest player behind Richard Gasquet to win four Challenger titles and this year, the Canadian started to make an impact on the ATP World Tour proper, becoming the first match winner born in the 2000s to win at ATP Masters 1000 level when he did so at Indian Wells. The 18-year-old hit a new career-high ranking nine times in 2018, peaking at No. 108 in November after reaching his first ATP quarter-final as a lucky loser in Chengdu the previous month. Auger-Aliassime also made his first Grand Slam main draw at the U.S. Open, where unfortunately he was forced to retire against close friend Denis Shapovalov in the opening round with illness and exhaustion. Barring injury and illness, expect Auger-Aliassime to crack the top 100 in January and rise even higher as the year progresses.

9. Alexei Popyrin - current ranking: No. 153

Alexei Popyrin (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

One of the biggest movers on the ATP World Tour in 2018, look for the 19-year-old Australian to break into the top 100 at some stage in 2019. In fact, don’t be surprised if Popyrin puts together a somewhat similar season to what his countryman Alex de Minaur did this year, starting with the Australian summer. A completely different player to de Minaur, Popyrin has a massive serve and booming groundstrokes at his disposal - and those two parts of his game helped him rise from No. 613 at the start of the year to a year-end mark of No. 153. Popyrin, who has been working with Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou, claimed his first Challenger title in Jinan and earned a maiden tour-level win in Basel in October, beating fellow Australian Matt Ebden before falling to Alexander Zverev. Expect to see much more of Popyrin in 2019.

10. Yosuke Watanuki - current ranking: No. 188

Yosuke Watanuki (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Ranked No. 381 in April of this season, the 20-year-old Japanese rising star finished 2018 at No. 188 in the world, improving his ranking nearly 200 spots in the last six months or so of the season. Beginning the year on the Futures tour, Watanuki ended it by reaching the Challenger final in Kobe, while he also successfully qualified for two ATP 500 main draws in 2018. The inevitable comparisons to Kei Nishikori have already began for Watanuki, but the youngster has more weapons in his arsenal, including a booming serve and superb versatility on his forehand, which he can either flatten out or hit with large amounts of topspin. I think Watanuki has what it takes to make a top 100 debut at some stage in 2019.

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Top 10 ATP players to watch in 2019

With the ATP World Tour done and dusted for 2018, we thought we’d look ahead to the 2019 season and predict 10 players that have the ability to take the next step in their respective careers.

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