2050 Season Preview
In which I take a look at the likely results in the new year, and update the overall ratings.
1. Prakash Mooljee(93%, 8.75, +0.02)
Mooljee has one more year of improvement to go, and should peak roughly late in this season. He should still continue his run at the top for a couple more years, though I expect the overall level of the competition to improve gradually.
2. Girish Girsh(82%, 8.49, -0.13)
This will be Girsh's last season; he'll be fired at year's end so I can bring in another young prospect and keep Mehul going on the trainer's path. I expect he'll drop, could be anywhere from 3rd to 8th depending on how things go. Definitely losing a couple steps each year.
3. Tomas Niklas(92%, 8.51, +0.01)
Niklas is still quite a good athlete, and has slowly increased his technical abilities. He looks poised to move into the role of distant #2 as Girsh and Iglar fade.
4. Antonin Iglar(75%, 8.33, -0.09)
The strong mental game is keeping Iglar relevant, but I think that probably ends this year. I thought he would fade more than he did in '49 though -- was definitely an overachieving season, and who knows how much he has left.
5. Gustavo Caratti(83%, 8.17, -0.13)
As usual, it all hinges on whether he can keep going on the dirt. Showing up for all the Masters would probably help also.
6. Shreya Ujjaval(89%, 8.39, +0.03)
The serve never got quite as good as it was needed to be, but Ujjaval is an above-average athlete with an elite baseline game. That'll keep him in the mix, and there's every reason to think he has a chance at crashing the Top 4 if he's smart about his schedule.
7. Johnny Browne(95%, 8.42, ??)
Once every year or so there's a guy I don't track who shows up in the Top 10 and makes me look foolish. This time it's Browne. His rally ability is completely inadequate, but he's got a good serve, excellent power, and off-the-charts mental ability in the clutch. Add to that the normal US advantadge in a partisan crowd at several tournaments, and he's not a guy to ignore. Merely by continuing to do what he's done so far he should be able to move up as the older players slide by, but definitely needs a lot of work from the baseline to be a contender. There's still some time for that to improve.
8. Khasan Zakirov(92%, 8.43, +0.04)
Zakirov is just about at his prime now. He's got one of the best serves in the world and is a very good athlete, but has the same problem as Browne to a lesser extent; baseline game isn't there. Both of them put too much work into doubles, hurting their progression some.
9. Blagota Cojanovic(93%, 8.28, +0.02)
Another guy coming into his best years. Quality serve, fast but not particularly strong. Good mental game, but once again the rally situations are fairly weak.
10. Luc Janin(97%, 8.57, +0.15)
One of our favorite prodigies, Janin unquestionably underachieved last year, esp. in the second half of the season. Hopefully he's ready to step forward in 2050, because he's better than anyone except for Mooljee. Time to start showing those kind of results on the court.
11. Gillo Fangio(99%, 8.50, +0.28)
Slashing his ranking from 42nd to almost Top 10 in a year is most impressive. His abilities showed a massive leap as well. They'll increase more slowly now that he's reached physical maturity, but I've still got him as 4th-best and soon to be third. This should be the year of Fangio and Janin casting aside the old guard. We'll see if that pans out.
12. Tiosav Srbulovic(94%, 8.35, +0.11)
Tiosav only moved up three spots last season. He's roughly where he should be though, and will eventually be a guy in the middle of the Top 10 or a bit lower. Not quite good enough yet to force his way upwards.
13. Anil Mehul(76%, 8.13, -0.18)
Now that Mehul's switched to focusing on doubles, his singles fortunes will continue to plummett. He's already made significant progress in training on that front, and as of right now projects as a 4.63 trainer. That's about 0.15 ahead of where Anil Manohar retired at. The easy part is getting the doubles ability trained up, at which point he'll have reached 'super-trainer' status at around 5.1, then improve at a snail's pace further from there. Seven years of this grinding work remain. He'll still play the big events as long as he's in the Top 32, but will enter in both singles and doubles. Sometime this year I expect him to join the national team as a doubles representative. The last phase of Mehul's playing career is now in full swing.
15. Juan de los Santos(94%, 8.26, +0.02)
Santos actually dropped a few spots this year. He's got a top-notch serve but is another guy without enough technique from the back, and compared to a few of the guys his age is not the best athlete. Needs good clay results to be successful, and aside from winning Barcelona not much of that happened for him.
18. Jake Jolland(93%, 8.20, +0.13)
Good progress on his technical skills this year for Jolland, up from 24th a year ago. I still don't think he's got the ability to quite be a Top 10 guy, but he's still working and improving.
24. Andres Guardado(95%, 8.01, ??)
Guardado is not a top talent, lacking the necessary footspeed and mental game. He's done pretty well technically though, esp. with a fantastic serve, and deserves a mention for that reason.
26. Phillippe Besson(94%, 8.23, ??)
Besson is another of those who has spent too much time early on working on doubles. However he's very strong and has no major weaknesses as a player. Should be a Top 15 player even a little better this season. Phillippe is unquestionably the top Swiss right now.
27. Lars Kroese(96%, 7.97, ??)
Kroese is a guy who hasn't translated his success from challengers to the bigger events, and with his average-at-best athleticism and not-there-yet technical skills, I'm not sure he will. For my money he's not as good as his ranking says.
31. Ruslan Strelkov(98%, 7.62, ??)
Strelkov is only 22 which is why he's included here, but another guy who could have trouble sticking in the Top 32.
33. Mateo Kaspar(99%, 8.41, +0.49)
I double-checked this calculation after I made it to be sure I was right. Kaspar is 21, up from 57th last year, and definitely looks ready to make his move. He's too good not to almost compared to some of those ahead. 7th overall in my calculations and will definitely improve on that this season. I don't know if he jumps all the way up to the Top 10, but Top 16 at a minimum I would think. The only thing you can pick on here is that his technical abilities aren't quite there yet ... but of course they're not, he's still at his physical peak! I think NevStar was right; Kaspar should be the best of the new breed, surpassing Janin and Fangio most likely. A year of two from now, that trio could make Mooljee very uncomfortable ...
40. Guus Dirckx(101%, 8.01, ??)
Dirckx is one of those occasional players who rose fast immediately after coming out of juniors. He's just 19, the only teenager higher than 95th! And also, FWIW, Mehul's doubles partner. Technique, particularly on the serve, is a joke for a Top-50 player ... but athleticism and mental abilities are elite across the board. Probably doesn't move up that much further this year, and endurance isn't very impressive, but to be this good this soon is incredible nonetheless.
A number of players who were once 'up-and-comers' have sort of settled into position and aren't mentioned here: Tristan Benitez(19th), Sava Cirakovic(21st), Hugo Jurco(22nd), etc. They're all at least 25, so not much more is expected. No reason to keep tabs anymore on Shyam Senepathy at this point either.
510. Ritwik Dudwadkar(98%, 7.13, +0.91)
Dudwadkar really should be seeing rapidly improving results at this point. Almost to his physical peak, his goal will be to move through the remaining futures levels as quickly as possible and try to start establishing himself in challengers by the end of the year. Senepathy, for example, doesn't grade all that much higher at 7.44 and has been a Top 100 staple for several years. Really looking to see Ritwik snap out of his funk and start playing like he can. He did win his last eventat the end of last season, so that's a good first step.