Saturday School: Best qualifiers of the 2018 ATP season

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In the main draw of a tennis tournament, one of the most crucial components is the inclusion of players who are called Qualifiers. These players had to win two or three matches consecutively against other opponents who too are fighting for a spot in the main draw of a given tournament. Getting past the qualifying draw is like setting yourself up to gradually become completely cognized with the rest of the top players in the draw. It is always a headline if a seeded player loses to a qualifier or when a qualifier or a lucky loser goes on to win the tournament. The 2018 ATP season has seen a noticeable number of qualifiers winning tournaments and getting the better of seeded players in tournaments of higher tiers. The best qualifiers of the 2018 season were selected based on the criteria that the player should have played at least 9 matches and won with a win rate of more than 50%. Here are the players who had appreciable win rates as qualifiers:

 

DANIIL MEDVEDEV (Win-Loss: 14-3, Win Rate: 82.4%)

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Daniil Medvedev began his 2018 season ranked No.65 in the world. However, on the first day of the year, he lost his opening round match at the Playford Challenger and was thus dropped to No.84 in the world. He thus had to make it through the qualifying draw before entering into the main draw at his next tournament in Sydney which was an ATP 250 event. Medvedev made it to the main draw and defeated two seeded players before reaching the finals. The Russian was victorious in the title match where he defeated Alex de Minaur after dropping the first set. The win at Sydney helped Medvedev climb to No.53 in the world. At Rotterdam, Medvedev made it past the qualifying draw and lost in the quarter-finals losing to lucky loser Andreas Seppi. Till August Medvedev stayed within the Top 60 rankings but had to yet again go through the qualification draw at Rogers Cup. He got two three-set victories in the first two rounds of the main draw but lost in the third round to second seed Alexander Zverev. At Cincinnati, Medvedev yet again made it past the qualification rounds but lost in the first round of the main draw to World No.21 Borna Coric. Two months later, Medvedev, now a Top 50 player flew to Tokyo and entered the event as a qualifier. The Russian displayed the best tennis he played in the entire season, defeating players like Diego Schwartzman, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic en route the finals. In the final, he defeated third seed Kei Nishikori to win his maiden ATP 500 title.

 

MARTIN KLIZAN (Win-Loss: 13-6, Win Rate: 68.4%)

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Martin Klizan is a former Top 25 player but the Slovak ended his 2017 season outside the Top 100 due to a slew of injuries that slowed down his progression of the circuit. In 2018, he began by playing the challenger event at Quimper as the sixth seed, but lost to a lucky loser in the second round. Now placed at No.147, Klizan entered the ATP 250 event at Sofia as a qualifier. He made it to the main draw but fell in the Round of 16 against top seed Stan Wawrinka. The following week, he made it to the main draw of Rotterdam as a qualifier but lost in the first round to Feliciano Lopez. This led to his ranking go even more downhill to No.181. Mid-way the clay court season, Klizan had improved to No.140 and was through to the main draw of the ATP 500 at Barcelona. The Slovak’s run was halted by top seed Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals. The following week, Klizan entered the main draw of Munich, once again as a qualifier. For the second consecutive week he made it to the quarter-finals but lost to fourth seed Hyeon Chung. Two months later, Klizan played another clay court event at Umag. As a qualifier, he reached the second round but lost to sixth seed Robin Haase in three sets. After a week’s gap he played at the qualifying draw of Kitzbuhel and made it to the main draw. In the second round, he created a massive upset by defeating top seed Dominic Thiem and later went on to face fellow qualifier Denis Istomin in the finals. Klizan won the match comprehensively with a scoreline of 6-2 6-2 to win his sixth tour level title. During the Asian swing, he got into the main draw of Tokyo as a qualifier but lost to eventual champion Daniil Medvedev in the second round. Klizan is currently ranked No.49 in the world.

 

NIKOLOZ BASILASHVILI (Win-Loss: 7-3, Win Rate: 70%)

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Nikoloz Basilashvili was ranked No.59 at the start of the season. However, a five-match losing streak after the Australian Open dropped him thirty spots below to No.89 in the world. Before the Madrid Masters, Basilashvili hustled his way to No.77 in the world by playing five tournaments within two months. He still had to go through the qualifying draw in order to get to the main draw of Madrid. He eventually fought off the qualifying draw opponents and was drawn against Gael Monfils in the first round. Basilashvili lost the match in three sets but it pushed him three spots above to No.74 in the world. At Rome, he was yet again one of the qualifiers who made it to the main draw. However, he was ousted in the second round by eleventh seed and eventual semi-finalist Novak Djokovic. Later, first round losses at Roland Garros and s’-Hertogenbosch made Basilashvili lose his spot within the Top 80 yet again. In the grass court season, the Georgian was the lucky loser at Halle but lost to eventual champion Borna Coric in the second round. After Halle, Basilashvili lost three consecutive first round matches at Antalya, Wimbledon and Umag. What followed next, completely changes Basilashvili’s career. He was a part of the qualifying draw at Hamburg and made it to the main draw dropping only one set. In the first round he defeated fifth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber and in the quarterfinals he got the better of third seed Pablo Carreno Busta. In the semis and the finals, he defeated Nicolas Jarry and Leonardo Mayer respectively to win his first ever tour level title. Mayer was the defending champion and was leading 5-3 in the decider. However, Basilashvili fought through and won the match to become the first Georgian to win a tour level match and the first qualifier to win an ATP 500 level event since 2008. Basilashvili later went on to win his second ATP 500 title at China Open. He currently sits at a career high ranking of No.21 in the world.

 

MARCO CECCHINATO (Win-Loss: 6-3, Win-Rate: 66.7%)

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One of the highlights of the 2018 ATP season was an unseeded Marco Cecchinato defeating Novak Djokovic in four sets at the quarter-finals Roland Garros. However, in order to make it to the main draw of the Roland Garros without playing the qualifying draw, the Italian did a lot of work as a qualifier in the beginning of the season before rising to the big stage. Cecchinato began the season ranked outside the Top 100. After the first four months of the season, he broke into the Top 100. As a qualifier, he lost in the first round at Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. He then made it to the qualifying draw at the Monte Carlo Masters ranked No.100. There he lost in the second round to Milos Raonic. The following week, Cecchinato lost in the final round of the qualifying draw but was later registered in the main draw as a lucky loser after Laslo Dere’s withdrawal. In the main draw, Cecchinato began with straight sets win over Bosnian opponents – Damir Dzumhur and Mirza Basic. He then defeated three seeded players and set up a clash with John Millman in the finals. Cecchinato defeated the Australian in straight sets to become the ninth player in the history of ATP tour to win a title as a lucky loser. After this win, Cecchinato broke into the Top 60, won his second title of the season at Umag and is currently placed at No.20 in the world.

 

DUSAN LAJOVIC (Win-Loss: 6-5, Win Rate: 54.5%)

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Dusan Lajovic was ranked No.75 at the beginning of the season. After failing to win two consecutive matches for the first three months of the season, he dropped out of the Top 100. However, a title win at the Le Gosier Challenger helped him regain his spot within the Top 100. Lajovic made it to the main draw of the Monte Carlo Masters after getting through the qualifying rounds. However, he lost in the first round to ninth seed Novak Djokovic. The following month, Lajovic yet again won his qualifying round matches to reach the main draw of Madrid. Here he produced some of his best tennis of the season and reached the quarter-finals after defeating Juan Martin Del Potro in the Round of 16 in a final set tiebreaker. In the quarters, he lost to Kevin Anderson in three sets. He then reached the semifinals at Lyon and was ranked No.60 before Roland Garros. Unfortunately, the Serbian won only two of his next five matches thus ending a below par grass season. The American hard court season saw Lajovic make it to the main draw of the Cincinnati Masters as a qualifier. He was defeated by Milos Raonic in the first round. During the Asian Swing, Lajovic made his fourth appearance at the main draw of an event as a qualifier at the China Open. He defeated third seed Grigor Dimitrov en route his quarter-finals run where he lost to fifth seed Kyle Edmund. At Basel, Lajovic lost in the final qualifying round to eventual runner-up Marius Copil but the Serbian entered the main draw as a lucky loser after Stan Wawrinka pulled out of the tournament. In the first round Lajovic defeated Adrian Mannarino after dropping the first set. In the next round, he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut after winning the first set. The Serbian is currently ranked No.49 in the world.


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