2017 IN REVIEW: For Some, It Was a Very Good Year – Others, Not So Much

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

By David Renteria

It seems reductive to wrap a player’s entire season in a box and slap a “Winner” or “Loser” label on it – because it is. But “Players Who Left Us With an Overall Feeling of Positivity or Negativity” isn’t as catchy or concise (and it probably wouldn’t fit on a box). Here are Inside Tennis’ picks for the biggest winners and losers of 2017.



Grigor Dimitrov

Starting rank: 17
Year-end rank: 3
Match record: 49-19

Had career-best season capped by biggest title of his career at the World Tour Finals, backing up first Masters title in Cincinnati. White-hot start to the year, reaching semis in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets in one of the best matches of the year and clinching titles in Rotterdam and Sofia. Went undefeated in WTF matches (5-0) and beat David Goffin in final.

Roger Federer

Starting rank: 17
Year-end rank: 2
Match record: 52-5

Federer only lost before the quarterfinals when he wasn’t playing a Slam or a Masters. He played an abbreviated, 12-tournament schedule and walked away with seven titles, his highest total in a decade (he won eight in ’07) including his title run in Australia as the 17th seed, a record ninth Wimbledon, his third Miami-Indian Wells double (first since ’06), a second Shanghai Masters, eighth Basel title and ninth Halle title. Only lost one final he appeared in (Montreal), and all of this at 36 years old. Was voted ATP Comeback of the Year.

Rafael Nadal

Starting rank: 9
Year-end rank: 1
Match record: 67-11

Overcame his 2016 injury struggles to win six titles and regain the world no. 1 ranking with his first two-Slam season since 2013. Nadal left only a speck on his clay-court mantle, losing to Dominic Thiem in Rome. Otherwise he claimed a fifth Madrid title and completed the “triple decima” with his tenth(!) titles in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Roland Garros. He won his first non-clay Slam since 2013 at the US Open. Aside from injury, it seemed only Federer could stop Nadal: of the four finals he lost this year, three were vs. Federer. Injury woes reappeared at the Paris Masters and he pulled out after a loss to Goffin in the World Tour Finals.

Jack Sock

Starting rank: 23
Year-end rank: 8
Match Record: 38-21

Sock trudged through mediocre performances in the middle portion of the season to a late-season sprint. He won his maiden Masters title in Paris and qualified for the World Tour Finals in the process. Then he backed up the Paris win by reaching the semifinal stage at the WTFs, losing to eventual champion Dimitrov in three sets. His eleventh-hour results bolstered his breakout start to the year, when he won titles in Auckland and Delray Beach and reached the semifinals in Indian Wells.

Alexander Zverev

Starting rank: 24
Year-end rank: 4
Match record: 55-22

Breakout season saw the 6’6″ German win two Masters titles (he was the first non-Big-4 player to do so since Nalbandian in ’06) and five overall. Zverev peaked at career-high No. 3 ranking and proved he can take on the Big 4 – and win – taking out Djokovic and Federer in the Rome and Montreal championships, respectively. He remains inconsistent: he is 9-9 since winning Montreal, and went 1-2 at the WTFs, where he lost in round-robin play. He also needs to improve his atrocious results at the Slams. This year he advanced past the third round only once, and has yet to make a quarterfinal.

David Goffin

Starting rank: 11
Year-end rank: 7
Match record: 59-24

Was in the middle of building a career-best season when he injured himself after sliding into a tarp at Roland Garros. Goffin played himself back into shape in the late season, culminating with his first World Tour Finals appearance, where he reached the final and to Dimitrov in three tight sets. He also led Belgium to Davis Cup final, going 6-0 in singles matches.

Dominic Thiem

Starting rank: 8
Year-end rank: 5
Match record: 49-27

The Prince of Clay needs to expand his kingdom. He is an abysmal 5-7 after losing a two-sets-to-love lead against Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth round of the US Open. His prowess on clay only exaggerates his losses off it: he beat Nadal, Djokovic and Murray during the clay court swing; reached the finals in Barcelona and Madrid; and the semis at the French for the second year in a row. Part of his problem might be exhaustion: he played 28 tournaments, the most of the top 10 players who completed the season. The next-highest are Zverev and Goffin, who each played 25 (excluding Davis Cup).


Sloane Stephens

Starting rank: 957
Year-end rank: 13
Match record: 15-10

It’s been a streaky season for Sloane. After winning seven in a row for the US Open title, she ended the season on a six-match losing streak. But the numbers in her favor are more impressive: she won her maiden Slam on the comeback from a left foot injury and dug out of a subterranean no. 957 ranking.

Coco Vandeweghe

Starting rank: 36
Year-end rank: 10
Match record: 35-18

Posted solid-to-great results year-round with new coach Pat Cash, including semis in Australian Open, quarters at Wimbledon, and semis at US Open. Reached finals of Bank of the West Open, and WTA Championships at Zhuhai. Although she didn’t win a singles title, led the United States to a Fed Cup championship with an undefeated 6-0 record.

Venus Williams

Starting rank: 17
Year-end rank: 5
Match record: 38-14

Filled the requisite Williams spot at the top. Played only 12 tournaments and made an impact in the biggest ones, with finals in Australia and Wimbledon and a semifinal at the US Open (her first major final since 2009 Wimbledon). Finished season with a final at the WTA Finals in Singapore beating Ostapenko, Caroline Garcia, and Muguruza before losing to Caroline Wozniacki for the first time in her career. Featured in some of the best matches of the year, including vs. Ostapenko in Singapore and vs. Stephens in New York. All this and she’s 37.

Caroline Wozniacki

Starting rank: 19
Year-end rank: 3
Match record: 60-21

Overcame winless head-to-head records against Svitolina and Venus to claim biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals. It was her second title of the year after going 0-7 in finals until her victory in Tokyo. High-profile finals included Doha, Dubai, Miami, and Toronto. Didn’t make a dent in slams; her best performance was a quarterfinal in Roland Garros where she lost to eventual champion Ostapenko. Played a whopping 23 tournaments.

Martina Hingis

Starting rank: 4 (doubles)
Year-end rank: 1 (doubles)
Match record: 60-11

Only active Hall of Fame inductee capped a second HoF-worthy career in her final season. She paired with Taiwanese partner Yung-Jan Chan to win nine titles (including Madrid, Rome, Cincinnati, and the US Open) and her first year-end no. 1 ranking since her comeback. Also won mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon and US Open with Jamie Murray. Bonus: went 6-1 against former high-profile partner Sania Mirza. All at 37 years old.

Jelena Ostapenko

Starting rank: 44
Year-end rank: 7
Match record: 48-20

Young Latvian won Roland Garros as an unseeded player for her maiden slam (she turned 20 during the tournament). Backed up her first Slam with quarters at Wimbledon, and solid runs in Asia including a title in Seoul and semis in Tokyo, Wuhan, and Beijing. Made her WTA Finals debut and went 1-2 in round-robin matches. Is especially notable for her low-margin game, which leads to plenty of three-setters.

Garbine Muguruza

Starting rank: 7
Year-end rank: 2
Match record: 47-21

If you’re going to bet your house on the WTA’s next high-profile star, you can do a lot worse than gambling on Muguruza, who in 2017 solidified her place at the very top of women’s tennis. Her highlights of the year included winning her second Slam at Wimbledon and first Premier 5 event in Cincinnati during summer hard court season. Reached No. 1 ranking for a brief period before being overtaken by Simona Halep. Also made quarterfinals in Roland Garros and Australia.



Andy Murray

Starting rank: 1
Year-end rank: 16
Match record:

Ended 2016 on the highest possible note, defeating Djokovic in the WTF championship to claim the year-end No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career. It capped a career-best season that saw him snag a second Wimbledon and defend his gold medal at the Olympics. But he struggled out of the gates this year, losing to Mischa Zverev in the third round of Australia as recurring injuries scuttled him out in the early rounds mid-season. He managed to reach the semis of the French before pulling the plug on his professional season after losing to Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic

Starting rank: 2
Year-end rank: 12
Match record: 32-8

Engaged in a season-long contest with Murray to see which could underperform the other. After the multi Slam-winning highs he’d earned since 2011, Djokovic fell off precipitously, crashing out of the Australian Open to Denis Istomin in the second round – his earliest exit there in more than a decade – getting thumped out by Thiem in the quarters of the French, and continuing the champions tradition of ending his season after Wimbledon with a retirement to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. An off season for one of the best players in history is alright by normal player standards, but we don’t think that’s the standard Djokovic wants to be held to. He also parted with his entire coaching staff (save for spiritual guru Pepe Imaz) and added Andre Agassi and former No. 8 Radek Stepanek to his team.

Bernard Tomic

Starting rank: 26
Year-end rank: 142
Match record: 10-19

Outspoken Aussie backed up his talk of being bored on the court by ending his year with a loss in the second round of the Slovak Open (a Challenger event) and a ranking outside the top 100. Tomic has said money is his biggest motivator; he’s going to need better than a 10-19 record to keep the checks flowing.


Angelique Kerber

Starting rank: 1
Year-end rank: 21
Match record: 29-24

It’s hard to believe now, but Kerber started the year ranked No. 1 after winning the Australian Open and the US Open and reaching the finals of Wimbledon in 2016. This year, the floor fell out from under Kerber; she didn’t reach the quarterfinals in any Slams, and her best results were three semifinal showings. Currently on a four-match losing streak. Hopefully this is a blip for Kerber rather than a return to the mean.

Eugenie Bouchard

Starting rank: 46
Year-end rank: 82
Match record: 13-21

Bouchard fell out of the top 50 for the first time since 2011, and ended 2017 with a losing record for the season. Just how many things have gone wrong on and off the court for Bouchard since her top-ten piercing 2014 season? At this point, the bigger mystery may lie in trying to find what ever went right. Ends 2017 on a four-match losing streak.


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