Ten players picked up their first titles in 2011. Some such as Janko Tipsarevic, Andreas Seppi and Florian Mayer were long overdue.
Others came out of nowhere with Ryan Sweeting, Ivan Dodig and Milos Raonic among those who triumphed at long odds.
(You can see how my predictions went here. A mixed bag is the nicest thing you can say.
It will no doubt be a similar story in 2012. Here are ten contenders:
The Top 40s
Alex Bogomolov Jr
At number 34 in the world, Bogey is currently he highest ranked player without a title to his name. In fact he’s never even been in a final and including him on such a list this time last year would have been unthinkable.
He’ll play a lot of weak events in North America which will do his chances no harm but you get the feeling that 2011 was about as good as it gets for the Russian number one (try saying that out loud without laughing) and a title could be a step too far.
As with Bogomolov, 2012 will be the first year that Young will feature on the main tour from the get-go.
He’s stopped working with USTA coach Mike Sell and will once again be keeping it in the family and that could be a decision that will heap a lot of pressure on him if he starts the year badly.
The pre-clay North American swing should represent his best chance of grabbing a trophy but I won’t be rushing out to put money on it.
If titles were handed out based on entertainment value, The Fog could win a slam.
When he can be bothered, he’s capable of some exhilarating tennis. When he can’t, he’s more likely to give out an absolute masterclass in the arts of pouting, tanking, and generally being a dick on court.
He showed his ability on clay by reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros so if he can bring that sort of form to the South American swing and the European dirt he’s more than capable of picking up a title.
The man from Luxembourg finally cracked the top 50 for the first time last year and showed he’s a force to be reckoned with on faster surfaces by reaching the semi-finals in Metz where he lost a tight match to Ivan Ljubicic.
When he’s on, he’s virtually unbreakable and he’s shown in the past he can be a mental giant when it really matters.
If those stars align at the right time he can pick up an indoor title in Europe at some stage in 2012.
2011 was another year of so near yet so far for the Frenchman and his reaction to a narrow defeat to John Isner in the Winston Salem decider showed what that elusive first title means to him.
He sobbed openly during the trophy presentation after watching his record in finals slip to a dismal 0-5.
He should have a lot more going for him this year as he starts the year healthy and his versatility means he should be there or thereabouts at the back end of several tournaments throughout the year.
Similar to Benneteau, the Italian reached another final in 2011 but couldn’t quite get across the finishing line, losing out to Pablo Andujar in Casablanca.
His options are limited by the fact that he can’t even be bothered showing up for non-clay events a lot of the time so again he’ll be looking to the likes of Casablanca, Bucharest and Umag.
The Next Generation
If his alleged beefing up in the off-season has cured some of his movement issues then Tomic will be the real deal in 2012.
A title should be his if he’s prepared to get over his apparent sense of entitlement and knuckle down in the smaller events.
With a couple of tournaments in his own country to start the year he could be the first new member of the club and send his Australian Open hype into overdrive.
The 19-year-old might have flopped towards the end of 2011 but he showed with consecutive semi-finals in Atlanta and Los Angeles that he’s not too far off picking up one of the smaller North American hardcourt events.
He has the game and the maturity off court. He just needs harness his on-court aggression a bit better and quit beating himself up when things aren’t going his way.
The Personal Wishlist
Berlocq makes this list for two reasons. One is his ranking. The second is simply that I really like the guy.
He’s one of the biggest fighters on tour and his attitude to the sport was displayed on the biggest stage when he gave his all just to avoid a triple bagel against Novak Djokovic at the US Open, and appeared to have an absolute ball in doing so.
However, his ranking is based largely on his successes on the Challenger tour with five titles at that level in 2011. He had almost zero impact on the main tour but we can dream.
Let’s face it, his ship has probably sailed.
With the slowing down of conditions across the season and the practically non-existent grass court swing, his chances at glory will be severely limited.
If he can get on a run then he has the game to win Eastbourne or Newport but in all probability he won’t get as close to that elusive title as he did at Queens in 2007 when he held a match point against Andy Roddick in the final.
The Gun to head best bets:
- Bernard Tomic
- Santiago Girlado
- Fabio Fognini