This offseason, Last Word On Tennis will be looking back at the seasons of the top 50 players on each tour. This installment includes the ATP 2016 players ranked 21-25.
31. Sam Querrey
Querrey had what has become a quintessential Querrey season full of ups and downs, making predicting his results usually difficult. Of course the highlight of the season was his third round win over then world #1 Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon where he advanced to the quarterfinals. A win that was both terribly satisfying and perplexing for American fans in that it highlighted all of the natural promise, talent and athleticism of the big hitting American, showing the world what Querrey was capable of. Perplexing for the American fans as he followed that up with a rant about the useless nature of Olympic tennis and a first round loss to Santiago Giraldo at an ATP 250 in Los Cabos. What followed were first round losses in 6 out of his final 7 tournaments in 2016.
As usual, the American is filled with talent and power and agility. If he can harness these advantages and couple them with confidence in 2017, there is no reason to think he couldn’t land in the top 25 easily; however, if his confidence and dedication wain, it wouldn’t be hard to see him outside the top 50 either. American fans are hoping for the former.
32. Philipp Kohlschrieber
The 33-year-old German continues to have a sneakily impressive professional career as he finishes inside the top 40 for the fifth straight year. Although, 2016 saw him drop out of the top 30 for the first time in several years, he still posted several quality wins and proved to be a tough out more many opponents. Although he had a good spring and early summer with a semifinal run at Madrid, and making the finals of the BMW Open and the Mercedes Cup, the end of the season was less productive. With a game that is based on terrific movement, speed, and flat groundstrokes, Kohlschrieber may be beginning to fill the wear and tare of a long and successful pro career. 2017 may prove to be a crucial year for Kohlschrieber as retirement thoughts have to be present in the corner of his mind.
33. Steve Johnson
Johnson’s strong summer performance lifted him to his highest ranking ever at #21 in the world in 2016. At the time he was also the highest ranking American in the world. After a strong grass season that saw him win the Aegon Nottingham open and reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon, Johnson followed that up with great performances at Washington, the Rio Olympics and Cincinnati. Johnson received much attention for comments in the media about how many American tennis players and fans would be upset if the USTA granted returning ATP hero Juan Martin del Potro a wildcard into the main draw at the US Open and it cost an American a chance in the draw. And because of how life works, Johnson met with del Potro in the second round and was defeated by the powerful Argentine.
Johnson finished the year poorly and was unable to defend any of his points from the European Indoor season causing his ranking to drop back into the 30s. Johnson is a hard worker, has a powerful forehand, a strong serve and moves well. If his confidence can continue to grow and match his work level the top 20 would be a great achievement for him in 2017.
34. Gilles Muller
Muller road a wave of success throughout the season to all time career highs in 2015. The 33-year-old from Luxembourg, made the semis of 6 tournaments this year, and progressed to two ATP finals. The year was highlighted with wins over the likes of Dominic Thiem, Ivo Karlovic, David Ferrer, John Isner, Thomas Berdych, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Muller’s level of play tailed off slightly at the end of the year, but if he can stay healthy in 2017 and use his serve and aggressive attacking style effectively, a spot in the top 25 is not without question.
35. Martin Klizan
Klizan had an uneven year – mostly because of injury. Klizan surprised many by winning two ATP 500 tournaments this summer – Rotterdam and Hamburg. In Rotterdam, Klizan showed the guile and ability of a top 20 player in defeating Gael Monfils. However, the rest of the year was full of first round losses, often to lower ranked opponents. A healthy and positive Klizan should make for a successful combination on tour in 2017.