Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the Top 5 ATP World Tour upsets of 2018. On Tuesday, return to learn about the Top 5 Grand Slam upsets.
(5) Marius Copil d. Marin Cilic & Alexander Zverev – Basel 2R & SF
For Marius Copil, it was a surreal experience under the bright lights of the St. Jakobshalle in Basel. Competing in his last tournament of the year, the Romanian put a giant bow on his campaign. Not only did Copil reach his biggest final, but he claimed the first Top 10 scalps of his career along the way.
Just three days after celebrating his 28th birthday, he entered the ATP World Tour 500 event as a qualifier, in search of a strong finish to the season. With one win in his past six matches, Copil was far from the favourite to come through his half of the draw, but his big game translated to the speedy indoor hard courts in the Swiss city.
All it takes is one tournament to change a player's fortunes and this was that week. Copil did not drop a set in breezing through qualifying and reaching the second round of the main draw, where he would stun World No. 6 Marin Cilic 7-5, 7-6(2).
The Romanian entered the week at the Swiss Indoors Basel with an 0-6 record against Top 10 opponents in his career. And he would not settle for just one. After dismissing Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals, he battled past World No. 5 Alexander Zverev to reach the championship. Considering that the German would go on to lift the trophy at the Nitto ATP Finals, the 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 victory was a massive moment for Copil.
Copil stunned Zverev in two hours and 31 minutes, becoming the lowest-ranked finalist in Basel since Patrick McEnroe in 1994. He frustrated the German throughout the match with his aggressive tactics, frequently serve and volleying as well as mixing up his shot selection. The World No. 93 would be rewarded in the ATP Rankings, soaring to a career-high No. 60 and capping a breakthrough season that saw him reach his first ATP World Tour finals. Also the runner-up in Sofia in February, his magical run in Basel would come to an end at the hands of nine-time champion Roger Federer.
"I would love for it to be the beginning of my career at this level," Copil added. "After this amazing week, I've just gained a lot of confidence in myself and I saw that I can play a much higher level of tennis and I could keep it up."
(4) Lamine Ouahab d. Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6, 6-0, 7-6(3) – Marrakech 1R
They say that home is where the heart is. This couldn't be closer to the truth for Lamine Ouahab. Spurred on by the Moroccan faithful, the 33-year-old sprung one of the biggest upsets of the year in his home ATP World Tour event of Marrakech in April.
Ouahab entered the week at the Grand Prix Hassan II at No. 617 in the ATP Rankings and he would leave with a stunning victory over 34th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber. It goes down as the fifth-biggest upset of the year (by ranking) at the tour-level, behind only Pablo Andujar's win over Gerald Melzer in Rio de Janeiro and a resurgent Andy Murray's trio of Top 100 triumphs at the Citi Open.
This is certainly not the first time Ouahab has conjured moments of magic on home soil. In seven appearances at the ATP World Tour 250 event, he owns four wins against Top 100 players, including a standout victory over then-No. 24 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in 2015.
Biggest ATP World Tour Upsets Of 2018 (by ATP Ranking)
|No. 1821 Pablo Andujar||No. 110 Gerald Melzer||Rio de Janeiro
|No. 832 Andy Murray||No. 18 Kyle Edmund
|No. 832 Andy Murray||No. 80 Mackenzie McDonald||Washington|
|No. 832 Andy Murray||No. 93 Marius Copil||Washington|
|No. 617 Lamine Ouahab||No. 34 Philipp Kohlschreiber||Marrakech|
|No. 654 James Duckworth||No. 105 Jason Kubler||Washington|
|No. 426 Jurgen Melzer||No. 22 Milos Raonic||Vienna|
In this year's first round, Ouahab provided the shock of the tournament in defeating Kohlschreiber, rallying from a set down in his first ATP World Tour match in two years. The German was coming off an appearance in the final in 2017 and he would fall after one hour and 34 minutes.
"I was quite tense at the beginning," admitted Ouahab. "This is my only chance to play an ATP World Tour-level event and it means a lot to me with a lot at stake."
(3) Borna Coric d. Roger Federer 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-2 – Halle final
On June 24, Roger Federer attempted to achieve something for the first time in his storied career: Win 10 titles at a single tournament. His dominance of the Gerry Weber Open is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Entering this year's edition, Federer had prevailed in nine of 11 finals on the lawns of Halle. Only former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt (2010) and former No. 2 Tommy Haas (2012) had gotten the better of him in championship clashes. But that would all change as the 37-year-old entered the Gerry Weber Stadion, bidding for a 10th trophy at the ATP World Tour 500 event.
Enter Borna Coric. If 2018 was the Croatian's big breakthrough on the ATP World Tour, his victory over then-World No. 1 Federer in the Halle final was his breakout moment. Coric opened the tournament with just two wins in nine tour-level matches on grass, but he would streak to the title with the loss of just one set.
"[I am] just really surprised... I had not even dreamed of this," said Coric.
Coric, who also beat second seed Alexander Zverev in the first round, snapped Federer's 20-match win streak on grass after two hours and six minutes. After splitting sets, the 22-year-old would take charge midway through the decider. He stepped up his aggression to secure a 4-2 lead before breaking once more, two games later, to clinch the biggest title of his career.
"It is the most unbelievable feeling, [to beat Federer]," Coric added. "I looked up to him when I was younger, watching his matches back at home with my mum, my dad and my sister. Just playing him here today was a very special moment and beating him just makes it even bigger for me."
Halle was just the start for Coric, as the Croatian would go on to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final later in the season in Shanghai. His opponent in the semis? Federer once again. Coric carried the momentum from his victory in Halle to the Rolex Shanghai Masters, stunning the reigning champion 6-4, 6-4.
Coric would go on to finish his 2018 campaign at a career-high No. 12 in the ATP Rankings, appearing at the Nitto ATP Finals as an alternate.
(2) Thanasi Kokkinakis d. Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) – Miami 2R
Thanasi Kokkinakis' 2018 campaign was a microcosm of his career thus far. The highest of highs have thrust him into the spotlight as one of the ATP's brightest young talents, while chronic injuries have frequently derailed his aspirations.
As the season got underway, groin and pectoral strains were followed by a rolled ankle at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Mexico. Competing in just his fifth main draw in seven months, the 22-year-old Aussie was sitting at No. 175 in the ATP Rankings as he entered the Miami Open presented by Itau. And he would provide one of the biggest shocks of the season on one of the ATP World Tour's biggest stages.
After marching through qualifying and blasting Calvin Hemery 6-1, 6-2 in the first round, Kokkinakis stunned Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in a marathon two hours and 21 minutes. He stormed back from a set down to defeat the World No. 1, using his crisp movement and flowing forehand to shock the Miami faithful on a packed Stadium court.
Lowest-Ranked Players To Upset A World No. 1 (since 1984)
|No. 238||Daniel Nestor d. Stefan Edberg||1992||Davis Cup|
|No. 205||Karim Alami d. Pete Sampras||1994||Doha|
||Andrei Olhovskiy d. Jim Courier||1992||Wimbledon|
|No. 178||Francisco Clavet d. Lleyton Hewitt||2003||Miami
|No. 175||Thanasi Kokkinakis d. Roger Federer||2018||Miami|
|No. 161||Sandon Stolle d. Thomas Muster||1996||Dubai|
Kokkinakis secured his second Top 10 victory and first over a Top 5 opponent, dethroning the defending champion and handing Federer his earliest defeat in Miami since 2000. But perhaps the most jaw-dropping stat is this: Kokkinakis became the fifth-lowest ranked player to upset a World No. 1 (since 1984) and the lowest since No. 178 Francisco Clavet stunned Lleyton Hewitt in Miami 2003.
Both players were trending in opposite directions as the tournament got underway. Federer, who was competing in his second event since returning to the summit of the ATP Rankings, was carrying great momentum. The Swiss put together a career-best 17-0 start to the season, and his only loss came in the BNP Paribas Open final, where he held three championship points before succumbing to Juan Martin del Potro.
That good form showed, as the trademark Federer swagger was on full display in the early stages. A sublime behind-the-back volley saw him surge to a one-set lead.
But proceedings suddenly swung to Kokkinakis' side of the court, as Federer's first-serve percentage plummeted and the Adelaide native refused to falter with the match in the balance. In the third set, he would survive a 5-6 0/30 deficit and battled to victory in the deciding tie-break.
"This is nuts," said Kokkinakis. "It's an unreal week for me. I've trained with [Federer] a bunch of times and he's a great role model for the sport, but I took what I learned and played my game and executed. I didn't put a lot of scoreboard pressure on him, but I was playing on my own terms today.”
Kokkinakis would fall to Fernando Verdasco in the next round, but his story of 2018 would not end there. In August, the Aussie clinched his first ATP Challenger Tour title in three years in Aptos, California, and he would close his campaign with another trophy in Las Vegas in October, rising to year-end No. 152 in the ATP Rankings.
(1) Stefanos Tsitsipas d. four straight Top 10 players – Toronto
It's only fitting that Stefanos Tsitsipas' historic run to the Rogers Cup final would register at No. 1 on our list. Tsitsipas earned Most Improved Player of the Year honours in the 2018 ATP Awards presented by Moët & Chandon, and it was in Toronto where he made his biggest stride.
Tsitsipas entered the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event with three wins over Top 10 opposition and he would more than double that in just one week. Victories over World No. 8 Dominic Thiem, No. 10 Novak Djokovic, No. 3 Alexander Zverev and No. 6 Kevin Anderson sealed his place in the record books. The 20-year-old is the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990. His reward? A berth in his first Masters 1000 championship against Rafael Nadal.
"Playing in a Masters 1000 final is the best thing that can happen on your birthday," said Tsitsipas. "I cannot believe it... I couldn't achieve anything better in one tournament, beating all those high-ranked players, playing amazing tennis," Tsitsipas said. "I'm pretty sure the crowd didn't expect that. I personally didn't expect that."
After breezing past Damir Dzumhur in the first round, Tsitsipas kicked off his Top 10 assault with a 6-3, 7-6(6) win over Dominic Thiem. It was his fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting with the Austrian this year, having also prevailed over his new rival en route to the Barcelona final.
Considering how Djokovic finished the season, Tsitsipas' next win was arguably his most impressive. He overcame the eventual year-end No. 1 by a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 score, handing Djokovic his first of just three post-Wimbledon defeats. The Athens native faced two break points and saved them both, emerging victorious in two hours and 18 minutes.
In the quarter-finals, Tsitsipas would stun defending champion Zverev for his first Top 5 win. He produced a stunning comeback, saving two match points to triumph 3-6, 7-6(11), 6-4. The Greek hit 28 winners to come from 3-6, 2-5 down and avenge a semi-final defeat to the German a week prior in Washington.
The final piece of the puzzle came a day later in the semi-finals, when Tsitsipas rallied from a set down once again. He denied a match point to stun Anderson 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(7), securing his spot in the title match.
It was the shining moment of Tsitsipas' season and the catalyst to even bigger things. The #NextGenATP star would cap his campaign at No. 15 in the year-end ATP Rankings, clinching his maiden ATP World Tour trophy in Stockholm and capturing the title at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com reflects on the storylines that shaped the ATP Challenger Tour in 2018...
Youth Movement In Focus: 29 #NextGenATP Winners
The 2018 season was unlike anything we've seen from the stars of tomorrow. The #NextGenATP contingent accounted for a staggering 29 titles from 20 different players, with Felix Auger-Aliassime, Ugo Humbert, Reilly Opelka, Michael Mmoh, Jaume Munar, Lloyd Harris and Hubert Hurkacz all lifting multiple trophies.
A total of eight teenagers emerged victorious, with Germany's Rudolf Molleker becoming the youngest champion of the year, at 17 years and six months, on home soil in Heilbronn. Having concluded the 2017 season at No. 600 in the ATP Rankings, Molleker is now the youngest player in the Top 200 after finishing the year at No. 194.
While Molleker became the youngest German winner since a 17-year-old Alexander Zverev in 2014 (Braunschweig), Austrian teen Jurij Rodionov became the youngest from his country to lift a trophy since 1986. That year, an 18-year-old Thomas Muster and a 17-year-old Horst Skoff both prevailed.
Youngest Challenger Titlists In 2018
|Rudolf Molleker||17 years, 6 months||Heilbronn, GER|
|Felix Auger-Aliassime||17 years, 10 months
|Felix Auger-Aliassime||18 years, 2 months||Tashkent, UZB|
|Alexei Popyrin||19 years||Jinan, CHN|
|Jurij Rodionov||19 years, 1 month||Almaty, KAZ|
|Miomir Kecmanovic||19 years, 2 months||Shenzhen, CHN|
|Alex de Minaur||19 years, 4 months||Nottingham, UK|
|Corentin Moutet||19 years, 5 months||Istanbul, TUR|
Breaking Through With Top 100 Debuts
The ATP Rankings welcomed a new class of Top 100 debutants this year, with a total of 18 players breaking into the elite club. Sixteen of them won titles on the ATP Challenger Tour, kicking off their transitions to the next level.
Among all players to make their Top 100 debuts, Ugo Humbert (+290 spots), Christian Garin (+220), Alex de Minaur (+177) and Hubert Hurkacz (+150) enjoyed the biggest jumps. De Minaur's rise was arguably the most impressive, having soared from outside the Top 200 to a career-high No. 31, behind a maiden title in Nottingham. Humbert, Hurkacz and Garin finished in the Top 10 among Challenger win-loss percentage leaders.
Meanwhile, Garin and Reilly Opelka provided the late-season drama, with both cracking the Top 100 behind consecutive titles. Garin finished his season on a 15-0 run with victories in Campinas, Santo Domingo and Lima, peaking at No. 85 in the ATP Rankings. Opelka capped his campaign on a 10-0 run with indoor crowns in Knoxville and Champaign, rising to a year-end No. 100.
From Dallas To London: Kei's Comeback
It is quite improbable for a player to punch his ticket to the Nitto ATP Finals less than a year after sitting on the sidelines with a debilitating wrist injury. Considering that player opened his campaign on the ATP Challenger Tour, it makes the feat even more impressive. Kei Nishikori created quite the stir when he opened his season in Newport Beach and Dallas, giving fans the opportunity to see the Japanese star up close in an intimate setting.
In search of confidence and match play, Nishikori would kick off his run to the year-end Top 10 with a title at the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas. Getting match experience and rediscovering his rhythm was essential for Nishikori in that moment, as he dropped just one set en route to lifting the trophy.
"There were two reasons behind playing the two Challenger events at the start of the year," Nishikori reflected. "It was to build my confidence and also identify how well my injury had recovered. I needed to play tournaments in my comeback from injury. When I look back to January and February, it's amazing that I was able to return to the Top 10."
In the past 20 years, only three players have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals after winning an ATP Challenger Tour title during the season. Ivan Ljubicic did it in 2005, Robin Soderling in 2009 and this year it was Nishikori's turn to pull off the feat.
Challenger Stars Translate Success To ATP World Tour
The ATP Challenger Tour is the launching pad for the stars of tomorrow of the ATP World Tour. Regardless of age, players are plotting their ascent at the Challenger level and the 2018 season saw a bevy of success stories.
A 19-year-old Alex de Minaur reached a trio of finals before streaking to the Citi Open title match and finishing runner-up at the Next Gen ATP Finals. A 26-year-old Marco Cecchinato won his fifth Challenger title in Santiago, Chile, before claiming his maiden ATP World Tour titles in Budapest and Umag and blasting to the semi-finals at Roland Garros. And a 29-year-old John Millman advanced to his first ATP World Tour final in Budapest and first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open after competing for a decade on the Challenger circuit.
De Minaur, Cecchinato and Millman are just a few of the fascinating stories of the season. Eight players won titles on both the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour this year, including Pablo Andujar, who went back-to-back at the Alicante Challenger and Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech. And 22-year-old Matteo Berrettini and 23-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka blasted to their maiden tour-level titles after enjoying breakout Challenger campaigns.
Felix Makes More History
Felix Auger-Aliassime continued his record-breaking charge up the ATP Rankings in 2018. A year ago, he became the eighth-youngest player to win a Challenger title when he prevailed in Lyon, France. And this year, the Canadian became the youngest ever to successfully defend a title with yet another victory in Lyon.
In October, Auger-Aliassime added a fourth trophy to his career haul, joining elite company as just the sixth player aged 18 & under to claim as many titles. Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych, Hyeon Chung, Mario Ancic and Guillermo Coria are the only others. Up to a career-high No. 108 last month, he is poised for a Top 100 breakthrough in 2019.
Ivo Blasts Into The Record Books
While the #NextGenATP contingent stole the majority of the headlines, the old guard made quite the statement as well. Ivo Karlovic claimed a historic title on the indoor hard courts of Calgary, Canada, becoming the oldest ATP Challenger Tour champion ever. Seeking a late-career resurgence, the former World No. 14 and 'ace king' etched his name in the record books at the age of 39 years and seven months. Dick Norman previously held the honour for nearly a decade, having prevailed in Mexico City in 2009 at the age of 38 years and one month.
Just two weeks prior, Karlovic and David Ferrer created another slice of history with their final match-up in Monterrey, Mexico. At 76 years and one month, it was the oldest combined final on the Challenger circuit.
Demon, Thommo Lead Aussie Assault
The Aussies dominated on the ATP Challenger Tour throughout the 2018 season, with 12 different players accounting for a total of 17 titles.
Jordan Thompson won 52 matches, second-most in a single season in Challenger history, while lifting a trio of trophies. Alex de Minaur, Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans led the #NextGenATP contingent in claiming their maiden titles, while 26-year-old Maverick Banes also notched his first crown.
There were plenty of feel-good comeback stories to go around as well. Jason Kubler (shoulder, knee), Thanasi Kokkinakis (knee, groin), John Millman (shoulder, groin), James Duckworth (foot, shoulder, elbow) and Matthew Ebden (knee) all led the resurgence. Kubler made his Top 100 debut in August after sitting outside the Top 900 one year prior, completing a magical rise up the ATP Rankings. Kokkinakis won his first title in three years, while Duckworth prevailed in Cary after undergoing five surgeries since early 2017.
Australia wasn't the only country to boast 12 different titlists. Players from the United States achieved the same feat, with Reilly Opelka leading the way with three crowns and Noah Rubin, Michael Mmoh and Bradley Klahn also claiming multiple victories.
Opelka and Mmoh were joined by fellow #NextGenATP stars Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul and Ulises Blanch in lifting trophies. Paul and Blanch were the lone lucky loser winners of the year on the ATP Challenger Tour. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Christopher Eubanks and 23-year-old Mackenzie McDonald were victorious, as were Bjorn Fratangelo, Denis Kudla and Dennis Novikov.
Bolivian Blur: Dellien Puts Bolivia On The Map
Hugo Dellien hopes that his achievements in 2018 will inspire his native Bolivia and signal a shift in its sporting culture. In April, Dellien became the first from his country to win a Challenger title since 1983, when he triumphed in Sarasota. He would add a second crown two weeks later in Savannah and eventually a third in Vicenza, Italy. And in July, he joined Mario Martinez as the only Bolivians to crack the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. Exactly 34 years after Martinez first put the nation on the tennis map, Dellien is following in his countryman's footsteps.
All Eyes On South America
We've revisited the rise of Chile's Christian Garin, who marched to the Top 100 behind three straight titles to conclude the season. And we've looked back on the ascent of Bolivia's Hugo Dellien, who also lifted a trio of trophies en route to the Top 100. But Garin and Dellien weren't the only players from South American making great strides on the ATP Challenger Tour.
In Argentina, Guido Andreozzi and Juan Ignacio Londero added their names to the list of emerging stars. Andreozzi won a tour-leading four titles this year, all on clay, while boasting a 38-15 record. He rose to a career-high No. 78 in the ATP Rankings last month. Londero, meanwhile, is breaking through at the age of 25. He posted a 40-win season (40-17) with titles in Mexico City and Marburg, Germany.
Pablo Andujar: Comeback Story Of The Year
In 2018, there was arguably no storyline more captivating than that of the 32-year-old Andujar. The Spanish veteran was sitting at No. 1,701 in the ATP Rankings one year ago and he would take the ATP Challenger Tour by storm behind three titles and a 21-8 record. After undergoing three elbow surgeries, Andujar never imagined that such a successful comeback was possible. He would rise 1,619 spots to a year-end World No. 82, also lifting an ATP World Tour trophy in Marrakech.
With singles titlists from 38 different countries, including a first winner from Bolivia in nearly 35 years (Hugo Dellien), players from all corners of the globe tasted success on the ATP Challenger Tour.
The 2018 season also featured a total of 159 tournaments in 40 countries and territories, including the return of Challenger tennis to Tunisia. After a four-year absence, the African nation hosted the Tunis Open. With the goal of bringing exposure to the game in various locales throughout the world, the circuit continues to expand and grow.
New Challenger Era Announced
In July, the ATP announced that the ATP Challenger Tour will undergo wholesale changes from 2019 that will further professionalise the sport, unlock significant investment and growth in prize money at the lower levels of men’s professional tennis, and lead to a greatly enhanced player pathway.
Some notable changes include the singles main draw sizes increasing from 32 to 48 players, hotel accommodations provided to all main draw players, wholesale prize money increases, as well as increased on-site serviced offered. From 2020, ATP Ranking points will begin at the ATP Challenger Tour only.
Trio Of Tournaments Take Top Honours
In February, the ATP announced the 2017 ATP Challenger Tournaments of the Year, with players voting German events in Braunschweig and Heilbronn, as well as Vancouver, Canada, as the top events.
Braunschweig’s 24-year-old Sparkassen Open has won the award every year since 2014 and has long been a player favourite. The Neckarcup, staged in Heilbronn, Germany, for the last four years, and Vancouver’s Odlum Brown VanOpen, relaunched in 2017, have also been rewarded with the player vote after ambitious improvements each year.
Nadal, Ferrero Host New Tournaments
Former World No. 1s and Spanish legends Rafael Nadal and Juan Carlos Ferrero hosted new Challengers at their academies this year, as they hope to continute growing the game in their home country. In April, the JC Ferrero Challenger Open featured home hope Pablo Andujar as its winner. In August, the Rafa Nadal Open Banc Sabadell celebrated Bernard Tomic as its inaugural champion.
Mexico Surging Into Spotlight
With a total of seven tournaments, Mexico is steadily expanding its footprint on the ATP Challenger Tour. New events in Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta sparkled in their debuts and the country's commitment to growing the game at the Challenger level has not gone unnoticed by the players.
Organised by the same group that runs the popular ATP World Tour 500 event in Acapulco and sharing the same tournament director, Raul Zurutuza, the CDMX Open in Mexico City received rave reviews. It is held at the Centro Deportivo Chapultepec, the oldest tennis facility in the country.