Lessons from Week 1 of the 2016 ATP Tour Season

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We’re just one week into the 2016 ATP Tour season, but we’re already seeing signs of how the year will play out from the opening trio of 250 tournaments in Brisbane, Doha, and Chennai. Here is a look at lessons to take from these tournaments.

Novak Djokovic remains unstoppable on hard courts

Djokovic demolished a crop of competitive and experienced ATP opponents in Doha, winning his first title there. The tournament result is his sixth consecutive title going back to last season. All of those tournaments coming on hard courts. Djokovic handled top 10 players Tomas Berdych, and Rafael Nadal in the semis, and final. Surrendering just three games to Nadal to capture the overall h2h lead against the Spaniard. He also blasted Fernando Verdasco in round 2.

Going into the Australian Open and beyond, it’s hard to see Djokovic losing, and it’d be an accomplishment to take a set off the world #1 right now. Presuming he can stay healthy we should be in for another special year for the Serbian superstar. Djokovic could potentially capture a calendar year Grand Slam.

The Spanish Armada could see a changing of the guard

A full contingent of Spaniards took part in the ATP tournaments this week with mixed results. Rafael Nadal looks to be improving, he reached the final in Doha after a solid fall campaign, though he didn’t beat any top players en route. However, with the exception of Chennai quarterfinalists Roberto Bautista Agut, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the rest of the Spanish contingent struggled. Including seeds David Ferrer, and Feliciano Lopez in Doha. Both of those veterans stumbled against unseeded journeymen, and Fernando Verdasco was also relatively poor.

In Chennai, Nicolas Almagro lost in the opening round, as the former top competitor continues to struggle in his quest to return to the top 50 after injuries.   Time will tell if these results are a sign of things to come for these veteran, hard court skilled, Spaniards, or an aberration.

By contrast, Pablo Carreno Busta continues to show signs of improvement on hard courts, after his best ever year on the surface in 2015, PCB pushed Nadal to three sets in Doha. His results look to be on the upswing, especially if he can parlay better hard court results, into a consistent clay court season, his best surface.

Federer remains an ageless wonder

Roger Federer, and his entire family, were suffering from the flu in Brisbane, but that didn’t stop the Swiss legend from reaching the final, and potentially capturing another Brisbane title. Federer battled past Grigor Dimitrov in three sets, and then dispatched Dominic Thiem in the semifinals without dropping a set. Without watching his body language you wouldn’t have known he’s 34 and sick. As long as he can get healthy, Federer looks primed for another good run down under in Melbourne.

Aussie men to be performing well on home soil

Nick Kyrgios helped team Australia capture the Hopman cup, as he scored wins over fellow young gun Alexander Zverev, top 5 player Andy Murray, and Alexandr Dolgopolov in the final. Nick is known to be mentally volatile at times, but he looked focused in Perth. With the crowd behind in Melbourne, the talented young gun should be able to create even more special moments. Kyrgios looked especially powerful, and on point vs. Murray.

Bernard Tomic also had another solid result on home soil in Brisbane. Bernie won a third set tiebreak over Radek Stepanek in a tough early test, then dispatched top 10 player Kei Nishikori in a three set dismantling, where he proved his mettle after getting breadsticked in the second set. The semifinalist fell to Milos Raonic in a close match, but Tomic has a reasonable shot at reaching the second week in Melbourne. Tomic looks to be a bit of a dark horse with his junkballing game. It’s just one week of matches, but Tomic also appeared to be focused and calm, having improved his mental game.

Young Guns continue to improve

Along with Kyrgios, young guns Dominic Thiem, Kyle Edmund, and Borna Coric all posted strong results this week. Thiem was a semifinalist in Brisbane, a “mega” result for the Austrian who normally excels on clay. He scored a key three set win over Marin Cilic in the quaterfinals. Edmund reached the quarters in Doha as a qualifier, as he looks to build his reputation beyond team GB’s Davis Cup victory in 2015.

Coric is in his first career ATP final in Chennai, and if he can earn a win over Stan Wawrinka, he’ll have his first ever ATP title. The 19 year old Croatian has won three deciding sets this week, and notched a win over the aforementioned Roberto Bautista Agut. With a game that has found success on multiple surfaces, Coric could reach the top 20 by this summer.

Lastly, a shout out to Oliver Anderson, who posted his best ever result when he qualified for ATP Brisbane as a 17 year old ranked outside the top 800. Anderson showed enough talent and mettle that we should be seeing him more at the ATP level before long.

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