With the end of the ATP Finals, comes the end of the ATP Tour-level regular season, and the big final moves at the top of the pack.
Of course, there are still some Challengers to play, and goals to shoot for, for lower-ranked players. Notably, that includes entry into the Australian Open in January, and the guaranteed prize money that goes along with that.
There are still two weeks of Challengers left to try to get that done.
ON THE UPSWING
Casper Ruud (NOR): No. 4 =========> No. 3 (On the title side, his resumé is a little thin for a year-end No. 3. But Ruud made TWO Grand Slam singles finals, and he reached the final of the ATP Finals as well. No one else did anything close).
Novak Djokovic (SRB): No. 8 =========> No. 5 (Had the points from Wimbledon counted, as they should have, Djokovic would have ended the year world No. 2, just 180 points behind Carlos Alcaraz. And that’s after leaving some 8,000 potential ranking points on the table with his decision to remain unvaccinated. Despite all the tournaments he missed, an incredible year – made even more incredible by the fact that, at 35, he had to stop and start all season long).
Christopher O’Connell (AUS): No. 84 =========> No. 79 (The unheralded Aussie moves up into the top 80, and another career high, after making the semifinals at a Challenger in Kobe, Japan).
Facundo Bagnis (ARG): No. 103 =========> No. 93 (A nice bump after making the final of a Challenger in Sao Leopoldo. The former No. 55, now 32, gets back into the top 100 and shouldn’t have to worry about qualifying at the Australian Open. He’s playing another Challenger this week on that gruelling season-ending clay swing in South America).
Ben Shelton (USA): No. 108 =========> No. 97 (Three straight Challenger wins put the 20-year-old American into the top 100 and straight into the Australian Open. When the streak began three weeks ago, he was at No. 156 in the world. Then he pulled off 15 straight wins – including over Christopher Eubanks in the first two finals, and then against Aleksandar Vukic in the Champaign final Sunday. He had lost the first set 6-0. Shelton was at No. 547 in late May, when he began playing tournaments – all of them in the U.S. –after competing his year at the University of Florida. He made the decision not to return this fall which, in his case, seems like a pretty solid decision).
Vasek Pospisil (CAN): No. 115 =========> No. 100 (Pospisil wins a tough, tough week at the Drummondville Challenger. And it’s just in time, too; it may well be enough to get him into the Australian Open. He’s headed to Davis Cup in Malaga this week).
Tomas Machac (CZE): No. 112 =========> No. 104 (Machak, 22, made the final at the Helsinki Challenger and is giving himself a good shot at the AO main draw. He moved up five spots the previous week as well. He’s playing in Andria this week to try to seal the deal. It would be his eighth major, his first straight in after qualifying successfully in four of his first seven).
Juan Pablo Varillas (PER): No. 119 =========> No. 107 (The Peruvian wins the Sao Leopoldo Challenger, to get himself within range for the AO main draw. He’s not playing anywhere this week, though, so it’s going to be tight).
Christopher Eubanks (USA): No. 129 =========> No. 124 (Were it not for his friend and young mentee Ben Shelton, Eubanks might well have been looking at an AO main draw, the way he’s been playing. But he lost to Shelton twice in Challenger finals. But then, Shelton did him a solid; he won a third Challenger last week in Champaign – and with that, is into the top 100 and into the Australian Open on his own ranking. Eubanks and Tennys Sandgren were tied for 2nd place in the reciprocal USTA wild card race. And as it happened, they met in the second round in Charlottesville. Eubanks won that, and went to the semis. And now he’ll be straight into Melbourne and just four spots from his career high).
Leandro Riedi (SUI): No. 277 =========> No. 197 (Riedl, 20, has joined Dominic Stricker as a new 1-2 punch for Switzerland. He’s into the top 200 for the first time after going from the qualifying to the title at the Helsinki Challenger, and will easily roll into the qualifying in Melbourne and make his Grand Slam debut, at age 20. Riedi and Stricker were the finalists at the 2020 junior French Open two years ago).
Alexis Galarneau (CAN): No. 214 =========> No. 204 (Another career high for the congenial québécois, who lost to Pospisil in the Drummondville quarterfinals but gets to another career high – just four points out of the top 200. He, as well, is headed to the Davis Cup finals this week).
Alec Deckers (NED): No. 604 =========> No. 544 (The 22-year-old is flying under the radar because he’s using his mother’s maiden name, but he’s the son of former Wimbledon champion and current Rotterdam tournament director Richard Krajicek. Deckers won an ITF in Heraklion Greece, to move to a new career high)
Justin Boulais (CAN): No. 589 =========> No. 555 (The Canadian lefty, son of former top player Patricia Hy-Boulais and noted Canadian coach Yves Boulais, moves up to a career high after winning a round in Drummondville. His career best was No. 540 – three years ago. He’s been studying at Ohio State and was an OSU scholar-athlete and academic all-Big Ten in his sophomore and junior seasons).
Taha Baadi (CAN): No. 834 =========> No. 747 (Baadi, one of the few boys out of Tennis Canada’s national program to make the junior Slam level in recent years – he was followed by Jaden Weekes this past year – moves up to a career high after making the quarterfinals of an ITF in Winston-Salem two weeks ago, and winning a round at the Challenger in Drummondville last week. Baadi has been playing at Wake Forest).
ON THE DOWNSWING
Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE): No. 3 =========> No. 4 (Tsitsipas went 1-2 at the ATP Finals, so he drop. But mostly it was Ruud adding 800 points that drops him one spot).
Daniil Medvedev (RUS): No. 5 =========> No. 7 (How unlucky was Medvedev, in the end, at this year’s ATP Finals? He went 0-3. And he lost all three in third-set tiebreaks. He doesn’t lose ground as much as fall down because other rises. But in a year where he became No. 1 back in February, it’s been a ride).
Holger Rune (DEN): No. 10 =========> No. 11 (Rune, who was in Turin as first alternate because of his late-season run, but didn’t play, finds himself eked out of the top 10 at year end because he drops 23 points from a semifinal effort in the Pay Challenger. He’s 17 points out of that 10th spot; and that will probably cost him some bonus money from his sponsors. That’s definitely a first-world problem, though; he’s one to watch in 2023).
Jiri Lehecka (CZE): No. 75 =========> No. 81 (Lehecka might well have kept going on the Challenger side to end this season. But he qualified for the Next Gen finals, at age 21. And the nice cheque from that event will more than make up for any drop in ranking. Lehecka made it to the final, losing in the round-robin and in the final to Brandon Nakashima. He left with nearly $300,000 US).
Radu Albot (MDA): No. 79 =========> No. 103 (Tough for Albot, who drops 100 points from winning the Pau Challenger a year ago and finds himself just outside the top 100 at the worst time – a couple of weeks before the deadline for the Australian Open. There are special rankings in there, but the 33-year-old might squeeze in).
Dominic Thiem (AUT): No. 102 =========> No. 106 (Thiem ended his season with a few events left to play. And he may have fallen just short of making the AO main draw with his ranking. Does he have any options left with his protected? We’ll check on that).
Henri Laaksonen (SUI): No. 155 =========> No. 171 (After getting to a career high of No. 84 back in February it’s been tough going for Laaksonen, who lost in the first round of the Helsinki Challenger).
Stefan Kozlov (USA): No. 158 =========> No. 196 (Kozlov was a top junior, but his pro career has been a struggle – even though he got very close to the top 100 (No. 103, as recently as July). He makes most of his hay on the U.S. Challenger circuit but after winning in Champaign a year ago, he lost in the first round this year).
Feliciano Lopez (ESP): No. 662 =========> No. 825 (Lopez, 41, has played some in 2022 when he’s been able to get wild cards. But he drops 18 points from a quarterfinal effort in Pau a year ago, and only has 20 left – from a first-round loss at last year-s Australian Open and a qualifying win at Queen’s – before he falls off the computer entirely. There’s been no retirement announcement, though; he clearly still loves to compete).
THE RACE FOR THE AO MAIN DRAW
The deadline for entry for January’s Australian Open is Dec. 5 – two weeks away.
And so for those who are outside the top 100, it’s a last-minute scramble to try to get there and be among the top 104 (and protected rankings higher than that push that number up even higher).
Here’s where the contenders are playing, if they’re playing, and where they stand.