While it doesn’t look likely that Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will move out of the “Big Four” penthouse atop the ATP Tour rankings anytime soon, that doesn’t mean that they won’t face some worthy challengers during the new season. So let’s take a look at some of the players ranked outside of the top ten who could make some big moves of their own in 2013.
Milos Raonic – Some feel that the big serving Canadian should have been in the top ten by now. But it’s probably best that Raonic has taken a few years to improve his game and his confidence, especially against the elite players. Reaching the last eight of a Major and a final of a Masters event should be among his goals for next year. Could Melbourne be his big breakthrough like it was a few years ago?
John Isner – Now that “Big John” is the face of American men’s tennis after Andy Roddick’s retirement, he’ll have to deal with more expectation from hungry U.S. tennis fans. Isner’s definitely got the game to beat the very best any day, but he’s got to avoid getting involved in early round five set marathon matches at the Majors if he wants to improve his results. The hard courts of America may be where he finds his groove late in the summer.
Kei Nishikori – Now a national hero in Japan for having recently won the ATP event in Tokyo, Nishikori has a solid all-around game that should keep him a mainstay of the top 20. But if wants to crack the top ten, he’s got to keep injury free. He may not be a contender at the Majors next year, but expect “Special K” to hoist a few more trophies on tour this season.
Sam Querrey – The lanky Californian made a nice rebound from injury in 2012 and is closing in on his career high ranking from a few years ago. Now playing with more confidence and resolve, especially in tight matches, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Querrey finish up the season as the top American on tour.
Jerzy Janowicz – The surprise finalist at Bercy, Janowicz proved he could play and beat the big boys with a game featuring explosive power and deft touch. But can he replicate that success next year? If he can, watch for Janowicz to possibly close in on the top ten late in 2013. Melbourne will be an early sign of what his year may bring.
David Goffin - After becoming the toast of Paris for his run to the fourth round of Roland Garros, “La Goff” then settled into a respectable near top 40 finish at the end of 2012. Despite his slight frame, Goffin has a clean game that will help him rise even higher next year. An ATP 250 or 500 title next year is definitely within his reach.
Benoit Paire – The mercurial French talent can be amazing and awful at the same time on court. Paire has the game to reach the top 30, but would he be able to handle the pressure once he got there? Will Guy Forget put him on the Davis Cup team next year? Definitely a player to watch if only because you never know what to expect from “La Tige”.
Grigor Dimitrov – Long touted as the “next big thing”, the Bulgarian has recently forced many to lower their expectations of him despite all his of talent. Now training with a Swedish tennis academy, Dimitrov could be poised to make a move in 2013. At 21, Dimitrov still has plenty of time to improve in all areas. A top 20 finish by end of year is doable, but he’ll have to do better than reaching only the second round at a Major to get there.
Ryan Harrison – The young American recently said that reaching the top 20 is one of his goals for next season. But 2012 was a year filled with high and lows along with some really rough draws at the Majors. Harrison’s game is still coming into shape and his recent coaching changes may or may not help him with that. Better results at the ATP 250 and 500 events should be his real focus this year.
Gael Monfils – With his ongoing injury woes, it’s hard to know what to expect from Monfils next year. Even if he does miss Melbourne as some in France are saying he will, it would only give him more time to heal for the rest of the season. A rejuvenated Monfils, who now knows that he can’t play forever, may actually see him spend less time diving to reach balls and more time in the later stages of events. If that happens, we could then be in store for a real treat from “La Monf”.