The 2018 season is coming to a close, and what a season it has been, with a massive amount of change in the tennis rankings – just ask Andy Murray.
In many ways, 2018 has been the story of comebacks. Novak Djokovic has returned to the top and his brilliant best. Serena Williams has battled back to two Grand Slam finals despite just returning from child-birth.
However, there are plenty others out there who have disappointed in 2018 – and in some cases longer – for a variety of reasons.
Here, we take a look at those in most need of a strong 2019, with Murray among some very strong company among the ATP Tour stars looking to climb the rankings, and Maria Sharapova the biggest name WTA Tour star on the list.
1. Johanna Konta
Konta finished both 2016 and 2017 in the world top ten, but she hasn’t beaten a top ten player for well over a year now.
That highlights, even more so than her current ranking of 44, how much of a disaster 2018 has been for her.
It sort of feels like a case of bounce back or bust for Konta in 2019.
2. Nick Kyrgios
The Australian of course appears on this list, because we’ve been waiting for a genuine big breakout year from him all his career.
His top career ranking of 13 is way below his level of talent and way higher than his current one of 27.
Kyrgios needs a big 2019, but tennis also needs him to have one.
The Frenchman’s energy and character have certainly been missed from the biggest stage.
His peak was two years ago now, when he climbed to sixth in the world rankings.
He won Doha in 2018, which could be signs of encouragement, but at 32 it feels like 2019 is his last chance to make his way back to his best.
4. Maria Sharapova
There is no question that Sharapova would have expected to to be higher than her current ranking of 25 this far into her comeback after the doping ban.
She was in the top ten before her enforced absence, and the way that Serena Williams has been able to get herself back above Sharapova in the rankings so quickly will certainly rankle with the Russian.
She’s another who has ended her 2018 season early in the hope of getting a running start next year.
5. Grigor Dimitrov
The Bulgarian is still in the top ten in the world but just barely, and he’s looking nothing like the player who was ranked third in the world at the end of 2017.
He won four titles in 2017 but none this year.
There is no question that Dimitrov has the talent, but 2019 will probably conclusively answer the question of whether he’s a good player or a top player.
6. Kei Nishikori
Nishikori climbed to as high as fourth in the world rankings in 2017 but a wrist injury has seen him having to do it all again.
2018 was a progressive year for the Japanese icon, in fairness, especially considering he was as low as 39 back in April.
A strong US Open showing has seen him get himself back up to 12th, but we all know he should be higher than that.
7. Milos Raonic
Another former world number three who didn’t have enough to sustain it.
That was back in 2016, when the Canadian also reached his first Grand Slam final.
Injuries have taken hold since then, and he currently sits in 20th spot in the ATP rankings and in need of a big 2019.
The Spaniard ended 2015 ranked third in the world and 2017 at number two, which makes her current ranking of 15 feel a little uncomfortable.
Muguruza is a streaky kind of player, so it may simply be a case of her not hitting the right rhythm this year. It can happen.
2019 will give more definitive answers though about her real quality.
Murray ended his comeback season early to allow himself to fully focus on 2019 and it was probably the right decision.
The signs were good for the former world number one when he finally got back on court, with only really Fernando Verdasco proving to be a thorn in his side.
With Murray, you get the sense that he doesn’t necessarily need a great 2019, but a full 2019. If he can get that much tennis under his belt, the rest will surely follow.
For Wawrinka, read Andy Murray. The situations there are very similar, with the Swiss another three-time Grand Slam winner trying to battle his way back to his best after injury.
He’s currently ranked 74 but has made strides in the second half of 2018, indicating there may just be something left in the 33-year-old’s tank yet.