Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Guessing the top 10 USA men - and young men - for 2015

The 2015 ATP season starts in a few days with qualies for various tour-level, challenger, and Futures tournaments, and so we cannot wait any longer. Today we are pleased to present the first official On the Rise (a tennis blog) prediction game: Name That Year-End Ranking.

Your friendly blog proprietors invited a cast of stalwart tennis fans, bloggers, and a big-name reporter to predict who will finish 2015 as the highest ranked Americans in three categories: ATPers, ATPers 21 & under, and WTAers.  Not every participant felt like participating every category, so at the end of the year, prizes (by which I mean "props") will be given separately for each category.

Today we bring you the predictions in the first two categories.  Please note that I didn't mention to anyone anything about including the final overall ranking of the players.  That said, I include my own, both for fun and for my personal remembering. If any of the participants - or anyone else - would like to say where they think various players will finish among all ATPers, please let us know in comments!

Our thanks to Baseline Bagels, Lang, Patrick, Parsa, and Courtney for taking the time to think about this and send their picks in a timely fashion. And major thanks to The Grandstand for pioneering this idea, which this blog shamelessly appropriated.


Baseline BagelsLangPatrick RourkeParsaCourtney NguyenJonathan Kelley
1. Isner1. Isner1. Isner1. Isner1. Isner1. Querrey (20)
2. Sock2. Querrey2. Sock2. Johnson2. Sock2. Isner (21)
3. Querrey3. Johnson3. Querrey3. Querrey3. Querrey3. Sock (35)
4. Johnson4. Sock4. Johnson4. Young4. Johnson4. Johnson (40)
5. Harrison5. Young5. Kudla5. Smyczek5. Young5. Young (50)
6. Kudla6. Kudla6. Young6. Sock6. Kudla6. Kudla (80)
7. Young7. Smyczek7. Smyczek7. Kudla7. Smyczek7. Smyczek (90)
8. Smyczek8. Donaldson8. Sandgren8. Klahn8. Ram8. Krajicek (120)
9. Kuznetsov9. Klahn9. Buchanan9. Sandgren9. Klahn9. Donaldson (130)
10. Klahn10. Williams10. Klahn10. Krajicek10. Russell10. Klahn (140)

Average picks: 
1. John Isner (1.17) - was #1 in 2014
2. Sam Querrey (2.5) - was #2 in 2014
3. Jack Sock (3.17) - was #4 in 2014
4. Steve Johnson (3.5) - was #3 in 2014
5. Donald Young (5.3) - was #5 in 2014
6. Denis Kudla (6.0) - was #7 in 2014
7. Tim Smyczek (6.8) - was #6 in 2014
8. Bradley Klahn (9.3) - was #9 in 2014

Others receiving votes: Donaldson (2), Krajicek (2), Sandgren (2), Buchanan (1), R. Harrison (1), Kuznestov (1), Ram (1), Russell (1), Williams (1)

Searing analysis: It's interesting that all 6 prognosticators agreed on exactly 8 of the top 10, and the other 2 were all over the map. Also that those 8 roughly align with where they finished 2015 - interestingly Rajeev Ram, who finished 2014 at #8, was included in only Courtney's picks.  Nobody thinks 2015 will be a year of massive transition, and nobody sees any huge jumps by up-and-comers (Jared Donaldson being the exception).  Personally I love that Baseline Bagels has kept faith in Ryan Harrison. I mean, I assume he has, unless he thinks Denis Kudla and the rest will finish outside the Top 200...

Also some notable names left off everyone's list: Jarmere Jenkins, Bjorn Fratangelo, and Wayne Odesnik.


Baseline BagelsLangPatrick RourkeParsaJonathan Kelley
1. Donaldson1. Donaldson1. Donaldson1. Donaldson 1. Donaldson
2. Kozlov2. Escobedo2. Kozlov2. Kozlov2. Krueger
3. Mmoh3. Kozlov3. Escobedo3. Krueger3. Kozlov
4. McDonald4. Krueger4. Krueger4. Escobedo4. Escobedo
5. Krueger5. Mmoh5. Fritz5. Mmoh5. Baughman
6. Escobedo6. Baughman6. Mmoh6. McDonald6. Mmoh
7. J. Hiltzik7. Fritz7. McDonald7. Baughman7. Tiafoe
8. Tiafoe8. Rubin8. Baughman8. Rubin8. McDonald
9. Rubin9. McDonald9. Rubin9. Tiafoe9. Fritz
10. Halebian10. Tiafoe10. Santiago10. Fritz10. C. Harrison

Average picks:
1. Donaldson (1.0) - was #1 in 2014
2. Kozlov (2.4) - was #3 in 2014
3. Krueger (3.6) - was #2 in 2014
4. Escobedo (3.8) - was #4 in 2014
5. McDonald (6.8) - was #6 in 2014

Others receiving votes: Baughman (4), Fritz (4), Mmoh (4), Rubin (4), Tiafoe (3), Halebian (1), C. Harrison (1), J. Hiltzik (1), Santiago (1)

Searing analysis: Jared Donaldson is head and shoulders above his contemporaries (defined here as anyone born 1994 or later) at this point in his career, our analysts agree.  He's pro, he's motivated, and he showed flashes of sublime ability in 2014. Plus his ranking will get him into lots of Challengers, which hold far more points than Futures. Stefan Kozlov should also get a shot at a lot of those tournaments, whether through wildcards or, later in the year, direct entry. 

Beyond those two it's a huge guessing game - some of the players are in college (McDonald, Rubin), others are still playing lots of juniors (Mmoh, Fritz), one may not play a point in 2015 (Harrison), and still others are pretty unknown quantities. Ernesto Escobedo clearly tantalizes our panel ... such power. Frankly, a big concern is his ability to stay healthy. Finally, a shout out to #slimrising (Deiton Baughman) who only one person left off his list, and that was clearly an oversight. :D

Tomorrow: The Women.

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