The 2015 ATP season has not been one that has been riddled with surprises. Novak Djokovic entered the season carrying the weight of expectations and he has answered the call, losing just four matches through the Canadian Masters. However there have still been a few surprises on tour this season.
One major surprise has been the play of Ivo Karlovic. Dr. Ivo, now 36 years old, has been almost as effective as ever on tour. The 6’11” Croat continues to serve up aces and he continues to do damage in tournament draws. For example, Karlovic, who turned professional way back in 2000, made the Newport final through Jack Sock. Karlovic also made the Wimbledon fourth round through both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Alexandr Dolgopolov. Furthermore, Karlovic won a title in Delray Beach, a 250-series event on the ATP Tour.
The 36-year old has match-wins this calendar year over numerous Top 20 players, including Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, and Milos Raonic. Heading into the Cincinnati Masters, Karlovic is ranked 21st in the world at an age where so many talented players are already five years into retirement. Currently he is the eldest player in the Top 100 and his ranking of World No. 21 shows that he is not just scrounging around for ranking points in challenger events. He is a player that few will want to see next to them in any ATP or Grand Slam draw.
Another surprise this season was how the 2015 French Open played out. Rafael Nadal entered the tournament cold as ice and perhaps it was not all that surprising to see him lose to Djokovic in the quarterfinal round. However Stan Wawrinka came out of nowhere in the final to claim the Roland Garros title.
The long-time Swiss No. 2 was priced at 25 to 1 to win the clay court Grand Slam with Stan James during the early rounds of the tournament. Heading into the final Wawrinka was about 8 to 1 to 9 to 1 with most firms. By all measures, the stage appeared to be set for Djokovic to complete the career Slam but instead he received one of the most shocking losses of his career in losing to Wawrinka in Paris.
The most surprising titlist this year is unquestionably Rajeev Ram. Ram is a player that has never really been a major factor on tour. Now aged 31, his peak in the rankings occurred in November of 2009 when he ‘surged’ to the World No. 79 position a few months after winning ATP Newport.
Starting 2015 ranked 140th, Ram was as much of an afterthought for a title on tour as anyone. Therefore it was completely shocking to see his name as the champion of the grass-court event in Newport once again. Ram has often had to play quallies to get into major events however, thanks in large part to his result in Newport, he should be a direct entry into the 2015 US Open.
Another surprise, albeit in a bad way, has been the poor season so far of Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov. The current World No. 17 has long been tipped for the top of men’s tennis and yet, at the age of twenty-four, he is giving up plenty of losses to players that one would think that he would be defeated if he was in fact the chosen one. Judging by Dimitrov’s results in 2015, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Gilles Muller, and Fabio Fognini all appear to have the Bulgarian’s number. The Wimbledon 2014 semifinalist even turned in a laughable loss to Ryan Harrison at the ATP Acapulco event, another young player that hasn’t lived up to early-career hype.
In my opinion, Dimitrov needs a stellar run at the 2015 US Open in the worst way. His ATP profile states that his “Ambition is to be World No. 1” and that’s just fine, in fact, it’s admirable. However, the heir apparent to the World No. 1 position in the 25 and under crowd appears to be Kei Nishikori more than anyone with 21-year old Dominic Thiem showing some promise as well.
Other noteworthy surprises this season: