Power Ranking the Top 20 Men's Players After the 2014 French Open

Jeremy Eckstein@https://twitter.com/#!/JeremyEckstein1Featured ColumnistJune 8, 2014

Power Ranking the Top 20 Men's Players After the 2014 French Open

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    Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

    French Open 2014 was another heavyweight final that featured Rafael Nadal holding off Novak Djokovic for the championship and for No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Nadal collects his ninth Musketeers' Cup and his 14th Grand Slam title.

    Now that the action at Roland Garros will be set aside for another 50 weeks, we can sort out the effects for the top players in tennis, specifically those who have gathered momentum to stand out as worthy of the Top 20.

    The following power rankings acknowledge the ATP official rankings, but we will sort them out according to recent play and tennis viability. We will evaluate how well the players have picked up their momentum on clay and forecast how this could play out at Wimbledon.

20. Richard Gasquet

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    ATP Ranking: 14

    French Open Momentum: When discussing contenders, Richard Gasquet's name is a reminder of the hype that once surrounded him nearly a decade ago. He was crushed in straight sets in the third round by Fernando Verdasco and nobody blinked an eye.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Credit Gasquet for being consistent, but don't expect a run to Wimbledon's quarterfinals. We know he has a beautiful backhand and is a throwback to Old School tennis fundamentals, but his lack of a big weapon makes him irrelevant as a Grand Slam contender.

19. Gael Monfils

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    ATP Ranking: 20

    French Open Momentum: At least the French watched one of their own heroes make another run for the second weekend. We gave Monfils props for one of the most entertaining matches of the first week, and he did not disappoint through four sets of the quarterfinals. Then he was dealt a bagel by Andy Murray, which hardly seemed fitting, given that his style is as pleasing as a chocolate croissant.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Grass has never been a great surface for Monfils, but it will be a friendlier surface if he tries more Superman dives. Four times (2005, 07, 10, 11) he has been ousted in the third round at Wimbledon. With the right draw and good health, Monfils has the athletic reflexes that can pick up low-skidding balls and send them back.

18. Fabio Fognini

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    ATP Ranking: 15

    French Open Momentum: Losing to Gael Monfils was a minor upset and a disappointment for Fabio Fognini. He might have been the one to duel Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, and he certainly would not have performed worse than the Scotsman versus Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. But how do we call him a clay-court specialist with a wild performance that saw him make 81 errors?

    Wimbledon Outlook: Not a lot is expected from Fognini at Wimbledon. He will dig in and see if he can take a few rounds, but for him grass will be a bothersome nuisance that interrupts his clay-court schedule. Look for his best momentum in July as he tries to defend Stuttgart and Hamburg.

17. Juan Martin del Potro

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    Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 8

    French Open Momentum: Did not play in the French Open. Last month, it was reported by ATP World Tour that his surgery was a success.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Juan Martin del Potro pushed Djokovic to five sets in the 2013 Wimbledon semifinal. He played with heart and desire, and he might have been the X-factor in helping to soften up Djokovic in his fatigued final performance against Andy Murray. Unfortunately, Del Potro will lose another 720 points in his ranking, and we are still not sure when he will next compete.

16. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    ATP Ranking: 17

    French Open Momentum: Tsonga did have two strong matches in sweeping Jurgen Melzer and Jerzy Janowicz, but he was then hammered with a pair of breadsticks, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 by Novak Djokovic. No shame in losing that match, which was about 99 percent guaranteed, but it was not in the draw for him to repeat last year's semifinal run.

    Wimbledon Outlook: It was his loss in Wimbledon's second round that saw Tsonga injure his left knee. He was sidelined for several weeks. Since then, he has hardly flashed his best tennis, and he has not been close in competing against the very top players. Roger Federer hammered him in Australia and Djokovic closed the door in Paris. Can he make it back to the Top 10, or have we already seen his best tennis?

15. Kevin Anderson

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 18

    French Open Momentum: Kevin Anderson had a nice path to the fourth round but fell to David Ferrer in four sets. The hard-working veteran has been unnoticed but reliable in 2014. He is 15-6 on hard courts, but he will be happy to use his serve on grass instead of clay—only a 2-4 record on the crushed red brick.

    Wimbledon Outlook: He has continued to improve his baseline game, and though it buckles on clay, it's good enough to back up his big serve and improved composure. Plus, the shorter points and matches should help his rhythm against those pesky grinders. Give him a good draw and he could be a second-week candidate at Wimbledon.

14. Marin Cilic

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    Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 26

    French Open Momentum: How many players can say they had their momentum stopped by Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal? Marin Cilic had to be looking at the draw thinking, I have to play Djokovic in the third round? Seriously? So Cilic swept his first two opponents, took the third set from Djokovic and was finished. And we have to rightfully call this a success.

    Wimbledon Outlook: The big picture with Cilic is his steady play in 2014. For the year, he is actually the No. 12 player in the Race to London standings. Cilic also has fine skills and power to be a dark horse on grass. Last year, Andy Murray called Cilic one of the best grass-court players in the world. He will have to do better than the second-round exit he had last year.

13. Alexandr Dolgopolov

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    Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 19

    French Open Momentum: Dolgopolov had an excellent run in March, including a semifinals appearance at Indian Wells. Clay slowly sapped away some of this momentum. His slight frame, which can counter with put-away power on hard courts, cannot generate anything special on clay. Call him the poor man's Lleyton Hewitt.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Look for his skills to translate better on grass. He is a good retriever with quick reflexes, and the power will be there on the counter strokes. Last year in Wimbledon's third round, Dolgopolov dueled David Ferrer to five sets but ran out of gas.

12. Grigor Dimitrov

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    ATP Ranking: 13

    French Open Momentum: Any momentum Grigor Dimitrov had on his way to the Italian Open semifinal was obliterated by Rafael Nadal's pasting there, and then by the straight-sets loss in the first round to Ivo Karlovic. That's five straight sets lost and a disappointing end to the clay-court season.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Nobody can deny that Dimitrov has excellent talent, but perhaps the expectations are just too much. Things should quiet down for him as Wimbledon approaches. He has not been past the second round in four attempts, so he's not exactly the next Pistol Pete Sampras. Maybe if we look the other way, he can put together a nice run. Eventually, if he is to penetrate the Top 10, he must transform from streaky to consistent.

11. John Isner

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    ATP Ranking: 11

    French Open Momentum: Big John Isner played eight tiebreakers in 11 sets through his first three matches at the French Open. Two of the other sets were decided by 7-5 scores. In the fourth round, Tomas Berdych gave him a triple killing of 6-4 defeats.

    Wimbledon Outlook: The curious thing about Isner is why he cannot do as well at Wimbledon. Even with all the attention of his marathon match against Nicolas Mahut in 2010, he has been a bust, splitting all of his eliminations in either the first or second round. His career record at the French Open is 8-6, but at Wimbledon only 3-5. Why? Besides the fact that his returns and defensive skills are poor, his footing on grass is much more cumbersome than on hard courts. On clay, he has time to recover, but on grass the ball is already by him. Don't bet the house on Isner as a dark horse.

10. Milos Raonic

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    Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 9

    French Open Momentum: Raonic took out a couple of young potential stars in Nick Kyrgios and Jiri Vesely. He outlasted clay-courter Gilles Simon in five sets, and he forced his way past Marcel Granollers. Of course, the run ended in the quarterfinals, courtesy of Novak Djokovic. All in all, his clay-court season was a rousing success with semifinal appearances at Monte Carlo and Rome.

    Wimbledon Outlook: But like Isner, Raonic has had difficulties on grass. He has been eliminated in the second round all three times he has participated at Wimbledon. He needs time to set up for his defensive baseline game, and he is still a work in progress trying to finish at net. Depending on the draw, he does look more likely than Isner to advance to the second week this year.

9. Kei Nishikori

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    David Vincent/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 12

    French Open Momentum: It's been a season of promise for Kei Nishikori. The Japanese star played some of his best tennis during the clay-court season, winning the Barcelona Open and finishing as runner-up at Madrid. Unfortunately, he injured his hip late in the second set at Madrid, leading to his retirement early in the third set. At the French Open, he was ousted in the first round, admitting that he did not have the proper practice and health to fully compete.

    Wimbledon Outlook: How far can Nishikori go at Wimbledon? The last two years, he has been stalled at the third round. This time, health permitting, he should have greater confidence. Although he does not possess a big serve, he can take the ball early with his defensive game. He has shown greater offensive power this year. We don't get to see players play much on grass, but Nishikori will be one of the more interesting players to compete on this surface.

8. Ernests Gulbis

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    ATP Ranking: 10

    French Open Momentum: Now that Ernests Gulbis has cracked the semifinals at the French Open, will he continue to build on his success? We can also welcome him to the Top 10, where a carousel of players rotate around the fringe. The best thing about Gulbis' run was watching him respond after nearly going down two sets to Roger Federer in the fourth round. He followed this up with a dominating quarterfinals win over Tomas Berdych and a strong four-set effort versus Novak Djokovic.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Although he outlasted an injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round at Wimbledon last year, Gulbis was subsequently whitewashed by Fernando Verdasco. He will have a much better seeding this time, and he never lacks the confidence to believe he can end the Latvian deficit of Grand Slam champions.

7. Tomas Berdych

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    ATP Ranking: 6

    French Open Momentum: If there was an all-time list of ugliest tennis shirts, Berdych's French Open disaster has to rank right up there with the best of them. It's telling that it even overshadows another quarterfinals appearance. There, he went down in defeat to streaking Ernests Gulbis.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Can Berdych conjure up a ride to the Wimbledon final, like he did in 2010? He has at least been comfortable there, getting to the fourth round or better in six of the last eight years. He has a big serve, clean groundstrokes and is well-suited to play short points. Maybe with the right draw, a semifinal appearance is not out of the question.

6. David Ferrer

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    ATP Ranking: 7

    French Open Momentum: Ferrer had his usual tough run on European clay, but once again came away empty-handed from getting a coveted title there. It had to feel like a lost opportunity to see Kei Nishikori cart away the Barcelona trophy.

    Wimbledon Outlook: We talk a lot about Ferrer's toughness and never-say-die attitude, so it was a little surprising to hear him admit that he "threw in the towel" in his quarterfinals spanking by Rafael Nadal. Expect the little Spaniard to bounce back with a strong effort at Wimbledon. He is human after all, and he is a great professional with a lot of pride.

5. Stanislas Wawrinka

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    ATP Ranking: 3

    French Open Momentum: Wawrinka should be fresh for the grass-court season—which will be gone as quickly as it begins. His first-round loss in the French Open was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the tournament, the complete opposite to his Australian Open high. There's a growing sense that he may have peaked with his No. 3 ranking, and there are legitimate questions as to whether or not he will truly contend again for another major.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Although he made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2008-09, he has tanked out with three first-round exits and one second-round appearance. Grass does not let the ball sit up with the high hops and time he needs to uncoil his more protracted strokes. He can add more points to his ranking by getting into the second week, but not a lot of pundits will seriously expect him to contend for the Wimbledon trophy.

4. Andy Murray

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    ATP Ranking: 5

    French Open Momentum: For all of the highs and lows with tennis' top stars, order seems to have been restored with the Big Three at the top followed by Andy Murray. Murray did his job in handling a pair of five-setters on his way to the semifinals, but he was then crushed by Nadal, losing 18 of the 24 games. From the outset, Murray looked sapped as the sun beat down. Then Nadal joined in and delivered a vintage performance that had everyone chirping about the gap between Nadal and everyone else.

    Wimbledon Outlook: A tall order coming up for Murray just to retain his ranking. It will be difficult to defend his Wimbledon crown, but at least the curse of Fred Perry and all of its former pressures are now history. Plus, Murray is starting to look like himself for the first time in about a year. He looks to garner a No. 4 seed to try and pull off the repeat.

3. Roger Federer

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    ATP Ranking: 4

    French Open Momentum: The days of competing for the French Open title may have truly concluded in 2011-12, but Federer was still solid, nearly winning Monte Carlo and dodging around the birth of his youngest children to get to the fourth round at Roland Garros. He has also steadily improved his ranking and should be ready for the Wimbledon stretch ahead.

    Wimbledon Outlook: It may be his very best shot at an 18th major. As long as he is fresh and sharp, Federer can attack behind what is still one of the best serves in tennis. His work with Stefan Edberg could also pay dividends at the net. He is the player that can create the easiest points on grass. Although Djokovic might be the odds-on favorite to win the title because of his absolute consistency at the top, Federer's best day in dealing out serves, forehands, slice and excellence at net are a very solid chance to win it all.

2. Novak Djokovic

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 2

    French Open Momentum: Pretty cruel, but there's only one trophy to give out, and Novak Djokovic must feel heartbreak once again. He was clearly not able to bring his A-game, due to both Rafael Nadal's heady play and to some of his physical depletion and untimely errors. Say this for Djokvic: He always battles, regardless of the circumstances, and he still had a shot to send the French Open final to a fifth set. Right now, this will not feel so good, but most tennis fans would still bet that he will one day get his French Open title.

    Wimbledon Outlook: While 2011 remains his gold standard, including the Wimbledon title, Djokovic has followed that up with a semifinal and final appearance. At the moment, he probably stands as the arguable favorite to win Wimbledon, but despite his brilliance he has not been the champion in five straight majors. He will be defending a final appearance, and Nadal will look to add points from last year's first-round exit. Depending on the points they pick up prior to Wimbledon, Djokovic may have to win it in order to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.

1. Rafael Nadal

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    Thibault Camus/Associated Press

    ATP Ranking: 1

    French Open Momentum: What else can be said about Rafael Nadal? There are no other superlatives to add about a champion who now has won five consecutive French Open titles and nine in one decade. A few weeks ago, he was looking up at Novak Djokovic, yet somehow, someway, he found his groove and turned back the clock for another victory over Djokovic, reminiscent of the past two years.

    Nadal showed plenty of guts to battle in a match in which both players had physical struggles and some loose tennis. He also used his forehand up the line very effectively and kept his rival from controlling the court. Simply amazing, and we will not see the likes of this ever again.

    Wimbledon Outlook: Nobody needs to remind Nadal of his Wimbledon disasters the past two years. Both times he has appeared weary and unable to assert himself. The transition from clay to grass may be more difficult as he has aged, so this will still be a question mark as he tries to rebound there.

    The grass is also faster and slicker the first week, and he might have to battle through a couple of matches and hope that the sun bakes the grass and weakens his opposition. He could win it all, but he might only be the fourth favorite behind Djokovic, Federer and Murray.