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The 2022 Most Improved Player Nominees: Draper, Alcaraz, Cressy, Rune

  • Posted: Dec 09, 2022

The 2022 Most Improved Player Nominees: Draper, Alcaraz, Cressy, Rune

Four nominees made significant moves in Pepperstone ATP Rankings

Cut through all the specialised training programmes and every ATP Tour player has one ultimate, yet simple goal for their game: make it a little bit better each day they step on the court or hit the gym.

The four men nominated for Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2022 ATP Awards succeeded in that pursuit more than most this season, their climbs up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings proof positive of their breakthrough years.

Up for the award this year are: Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune, Jack Draper and Maxime Cressy. The winner will be announced later this month.

Player  Age 2021 Year-End Ranking Current Ranking
Carlos Alcaraz  19 32 1
Holger Rune 19 103 11
Jack Draper 20 265 42
Maxime Cressy 25 112 34

Carlos Alcaraz, 19
Billed as a budding superstar on the heels of a strong finish to 2021 — one that saw him reach the US Open quarter-finals and later claim the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals title — Alcaraz had a lot to live up to this season. The Spaniard not only met those lofty expectations, he exceeded them in record time.

After winning the first of his five titles on the year at the ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro to break into the Top 20, Alcaraz showed he could deliver on the game’s biggest stages by winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami after a semi-final run in Indian Wells. He then brought the show to his home fans, claiming a Spanish trophy double in Barcelona and Madrid, beating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in succession in the latter event.

More success put Alcaraz in position to reach the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings at the US Open, and he took the chance with aplomb to become the youngest World No. 1 since the rankings began in 1973.

“For me it’s a dream come true being No. 1 in the world, to be a Grand Slam champion,” Alcaraz told the ATP Tour after the US Open.

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“Everything has come so fast. I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that I’m going to have the year that I’m having right now,” he continued. “I always believe in my team and in my work, so this is something that came with the hard work that I put in every day, the hard preseason, the work during the year with my team. Everything pays off.”

Holger Rune, 19
Rune completed his rise from outside the Top 100 into the Top 10 with a stunning run to the biggest title of his career at the Rolex Paris Masters. By beating five Top 10 players in a row, including Djokovic in the final, the Dane earned himself a place in that elite group — and alternate status at the Nitto ATP Finals — before finishing the year as World No. 11.

It was a fitting end to a stellar indoor season for Rune, during which he reached four straight finals and won two titles (Stockholm, Paris). But his season began to sparkle long before the final months.

During the European clay swing, which he started with an ATP Challenger Tour title in Sanremo, Rune won his first tour-level title in Munich to break into the Top 50 for the first time. He backed that up with a breakout run to the Roland Garros quarter-finals, beating 2021 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round. 

“It’s crazy in every way” Rune said of his season, speaking with ATP Media in Turin. “It’s been a lot of improvements, beginning the year as World No. 103, and now Top 10. I had a goal to finish Top 25 and now I’m Top 10, so it’s even better.”

Asked to pick out the biggest of those improvements, Rune pointed out his serve and first-serve percentage, his mental game and his physical development.

Jack Draper, 20
Great Britain’s Draper was the lowest-ranked of the four Most Improved nominees at the start of the year, entering 2022 as World No. 265. He put in the hard yards on the ATP Challenger Tour to kickstart his season, winning four titles in three months before taking his powerful lefty game to the ATP Tour.

He splashed onto the scene at tour-level with Top 20 wins against Taylor Fritz at The Queen’s Club and Diego Schwartzman in Eastbourne, going on to reach his first ATP Tour semi-final in the latter event on home soil. 

Draper built on those results during the hard-court swing, beating Top 10 opponents Stefanos Tsitsipas in Montreal and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the US Open. Both of those wins made our lists of best upsets of 2022 on the ATP Tour and at the Grand Slams, respectively.

“I think the most satisfying run was [at] the US Open,” Draper told ahead of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, where he reached the semi-finals. “I feel I beat two players in [Emil] Ruusuvuori and Auger-Aliassime who are top players and people I have been watching the past couple of years. The win against Auger-Aliassime gave me confidence that I can play well and really compete with these guys. The Tsitsipas win as well in Montreal. Playing those top players and getting wins and feeling comfortable is crucial.”

Maxime Cressy, 25
Cressy had yet to break into the Top 100 prior to this season, but the Paris-born American had been trending in that direction since turning pro in 2019 following a four-year collegiate career at UCLA. A late bloomer on the ATP Tour, Cressy wasted no time in starting his rise up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings this year as he fine-tuned his unique, serve-and-volley game.

In his first event, he reached the final as a qualifier at the Melbourne Summer Set and gave Nadal all he could handle in the title match. Cressy backed up that run with his best Grand Slam result as he advanced to the Australian Open fourth round, beating John Isner and taking a set off eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev before bowing out.

Firmly positioned in the Top 100, Cressy soared into the Top 50 after reaching his second ATP Tour final in Eastbourne before an upset win against Auger-Aliassime in the Wimbledon opening round. With his aggressive style perfectly suited to grass courts, Cressy won his first tour-level title on home soil in Newport in July with a third-set tie-break win against Alexander Bublik in the final.

“I think it’s the most incredible feeling that I’ve had in my entire life,” he told after the victory. “It’s difficult to describe. I’ve been looking forward to that first title for a very long time.”

Refusing to be satisfied with his success to date, Cressy has been bold in setting himself a long-term target of reaching World No. 1.

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6 a.m. Wakeups & Ditching The Phone: ATP Stars' Offseason Plans

  • Posted: Dec 09, 2022

6 a.m. Wakeups & Ditching The Phone: ATP Stars’ Offseason Plans

Dimitrov, Hurkacz and Shapovalov among players who discuss offseason

The offseason is an opportunity for the players of the ATP Tour to enjoy time away from their typical routine. For most of the stars, it is an opportunity to sleep in.

Not for 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov.

“[I] wake up at six,” Dimitrov said. “I wake up very early!”

The Bulgarian enjoys taking in the world around him, as often seen on his social media pages. What does it take to snag the perfect offseason photo?

“You’ve just got to have the eye for it,” Dimitrov said. “Sometimes it’s one take, sometimes it doesn’t work. But then all of a sudden you get to the right place at the right time and boom, you have it.”


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A post shared by Grigor Dimitrov (@grigordimitrov)

Tommy Paul said his girlfriend enjoys spending time skiing in the mountains, so they plan to go to Colorado this offseason.

“I would say a good climate [is important],” Paul said. “I mean it could be warm or cold if it’s pretty. It’s just got to be in a pretty place.”

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According to Karen Khachanov, the key to the offseason is the ability to spend time with his loved ones.

“My family,” Khachanov said. “During the year it’s a very intense season and you travel a lot, so that’s the only time when you can stay home a little bit more relaxed and you can stay with family.”

What would be the players’ advice to enjoy some time off? Denis Shapovalov’s answer might surprise you.

“Get off of your phone,” he said. “Just enjoy being in the moment.”

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Rivalries Of 2022: Alcaraz vs. Sinner

  • Posted: Dec 09, 2022

Rivalries Of 2022: Alcaraz vs. Sinner

ATP Tour Season In Review: Best Rivalries

This week, continues its annual season-in-review series, looking back at 2022’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more. In this installment, we look back at Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner’s rivalry this year. On Monday we will focus on Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas’ rivalry.

Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are poised to compete against each other for the game’s biggest prizes for the next decade, with the 19-year-old Spaniard and 21-year-old Italian two of the most exciting and talented young players on the ATP Tour.

The pair opened its ATP Head2Head series at the end 2021, when Alcaraz scored a 7-6(1), 7-5 win at the Rolex Paris Masters. After three meetings in 2022, the matchup is now a bona fide rivalry built on mutual respect — particularly after the five-set US Open quarter-final epic which set a record for latest finish in New York. looks back on their three matches this season, which also included meetings in the Wimbledon fourth round and the Umag final.

Wimbledon, R16, Sinner d. Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3
Just hours after Wimbledon looked back to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Centre Court, Sinner and Alcaraz provided a glimpse of the future with their first Grand Slam meeting. It was the youngest match by combined age at SW19 since 1985.

In the first Centre Court match for both men, Sinner took control with his pure ballstriking and had two match points to wrap up the win in straight sets before Alcaraz found his rhythm to take the third-set tie-break. After converting on his fourth set point, the Spaniard raised his racquet as he soaked in the crowd’s roar.

As the match grew more physical, Sinner stemmed the tide with two battling holds to open the fourth set, then scored the decisive break to edge ever closer to his third major quarter-final. After missing out on three further match points on return at 5-3, Sinner saved a break point as he served out one of the most entertaining matches of the fortnight. A forehand winner — Sinner’s 35th of the match — completed the victory after three hours, 35 minutes.

“Carlos is a very tough opponent and a very nice person, so it is always a huge pleasure for me to play against him,” the Italian said in his on-court interview. The respect between the pair was on full display as Alcaraz checked on his opponent at net after Sinner fell while chasing a drop shot, the encounter sealed with a good-natured fist bump.

”It’s tough when you have match point, and you still have to play [on],” Sinner continued. “I tried my best. It is just part of the game, part of tennis.”

<a href=''>Jannik Sinner</a>, <a href=''>Carlos Alcaraz</a>
Photo Credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag, Final, Sinner d. Alcaraz 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1
Sinner claimed his lone title of 2022 with a win against Alcaraz in Croatia, showing his resilience to dominate the final two sets of the match after dropping an opening set of razor-thin margins. With the rivals squaring off for the second time in four weeks, Sinner backed up his Wimbledon victory with a stylish win at the clay-court ATP 250.

Despite the scoreline, Sinner had to work hard for his comeback win as he saved all nine break points against him in the match. Six of those break chances came in the second game of set two, as Alcaraz looked to take command of the match.

But a few untimely unforced errors helped Sinner to hold, and the Italian was able to lift his game as he “found a solution” against the Spaniard — particularly on return, where he relentlessly attacked — to run away with the match.

“I am obviously very happy,” Sinner said after clinching his sixth tour-level title in his first clay final. “I have [had] a tough year until now, I had some unfortunate moments, but we worked every time to play better, to be a better player, to be a better person. I’m very happy to be finally lifting a trophy this year, but I know that I still have a lot of things to improve… It’s all about the process.”

Sinner’s win made it two final losses in as many weeks for Alcaraz, who fell to Lorenzo Musetti in the Hamburg title match the previous Sunday.

US Open, QF, Alcaraz d. Sinner 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-7(0), 7-5, 6-3
In a match that topped our list of best Grand Slam matches of 2022, Alcaraz and Sinner battled later into the New York night than any before them. Across five hours, 15 minutes of twists and turns, the only constant was elite tennis and tireless effort from both men.

With Alcaraz and Sinner flashing their tremendous athleticism and power in equal measures, sensational rallies were the norm. From baseline blasts to surreal angles and deft drop shots, they took turns lighting up Arthur Ashe Stadium.

After he dominated the third-set tie-break to take a two-sets-to-one lead, Sinner carried his momentum into the fourth as he scored an instant break. But the fearless Alcaraz erased a match point with Sinner serving at 5-4 and went on a run of four straight games to force a fifth set. Again trailing by a break in the fifth, the Spaniard repeated that feat by winning four games in a row to claim a victory that will live long in the memory of both men and every fan who had the privilege to watch.

“Honestly, I still don’t know how I did it,” Alcaraz said of his great escape. “You have to believe in yourself. I believed in my game. It was really difficult to close out the match. I tried to stay calm, but it is difficult in the moment.”

He later added: “The energy I received in this court at 3 a.m., it was unbelievable. Probably in other tournaments, everybody [would go] to their house to rest. But they [stayed] in the court, supporting me. It was unbelievable.”

Just as unbelievable was the energy poured into every pulsating point by Alcaraz and Sinner in the standout match of what promises to be a long-running rivalry. Their ATP Head2Head is finely poised at 2-2 heading into 2023.

<a href=''>Jannik Sinner</a>/<a href=''>Carlos Alcaraz</a>
Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images

Read more from our Best Of 2022 Series

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Perfect 10: British Team Cashes In On Challenger Tour

  • Posted: Dec 09, 2022

From scrambling to gain entry into tournaments to finishing the season with a record-setting 10 titles, British doubles team Julian Cash and Henry Patten made a stunning impact on the ATP Challenger Tour this year.

“It’s been a bit of a blur but we’ve had a couple days at home and I think it’s set in a little bit,” Patten told “A pretty crazy accomplishment, surpassing all of our expectations for sure. It feels like not that long ago we were trying to hustle our way into some Challengers over the summer.”

In May, Cash and Patten were ranked outside the Top 300 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings. After receiving a wild card into the Surbiton Challenger, their season started to change course. Despite never teaming at the Challenger level before, Cash and Patten collected their maiden Challenger title on the grass courts of Surbiton. They didn’t stop there.

The duo won titles on all three surfaces this season, including a surge on the North American hard courts, where they collected six titles: Granby, Columbus, Fairfield, Las Vegas, Charlottesville, and Drummondville.

ATP Challenger Tour 

With time running out on the season, Cash and Patten were inching closer to surpassing the Challenger doubles titles record, which was set in 2012 by twin brothers from Thailand, Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana. At the Andria Challenger in November, the Britons claimed their record-breaking crown and then finished the season on a strong note at the Maia Challenger, where they captured their 10th title and extended their match-winning streak to 12.

“I believed that we could go a long way, but maybe not so quickly,” Cash said.
“We both had success on the doubles court apart from each other, we were fortunate to pair when we did. I couldn’t have imagined the six months we’ve had. Six months ago, breaking records and playing the Australian Open was definitely not on the table.”

The British duo went from playing mostly ITF Futures events to breaking Challenger Tour-records in the span of six months. A few of their 10 titles hold a special place in their hearts, including their first crown, which came on home soil.

“Our first title in Surbiton sticks out because that was really out of blue,” Patten said. “We accepted a last-minute wild card and it was our first Challenger. To win that one, it kind of started this whole crazy journey. Granby was special too, our first tournament after grass, it gave us a lot of belief for the rest of the trip. And then in Maia, on clay, a surface that neither of us are that familiar or comfortable on. We just worked really hard throughout the week and it was a great way to finish the year. Those three stand out for me.”

Julian Cash (left) and Henry Patten are crowned champions at the Maia Challenger.
Julian Cash (left) and Henry Patten are crowned champions at the Maia Challenger. Credit: FPT/Sara Falcao

Now inside the Top 70, the Britons cite their college careers as a big part of their development. Cash competed at Mississippi State University his freshman year before transferring to Oklahoma State University, where he earned All-American honours. Patten, who is a Colchester native, had a standout career at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where he was the Big South Conference player of the year for three consecutive years. 

“I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be here without college tennis,” Patten said. “Professional tennis wasn’t really on my radar until my last couple years at college. It’s the ideal training ground as you are competing and training almost every day.”

Cash, who hails from Brighton, believes their styles of play feed off each other well and attributes their off-court friendship as part of what’s led to their rapid rise.

“We get along well off-court, that helps massively,” Cash said. “It would’ve been tough to do with just anybody. I think our games complement each other well. Our strengths and weaknesses combine to be a well-rounded team. Also, the lefty-righty combo [Patten is left-handed] has a lot of benefit on the doubles court and we’re able to utilise that.”

Cash and Patten hope to have a little downtime this month to unwind from a whirlwind season. Both of them enjoy golf and padel, while Patten enjoys playing chess, Cash claims he would rather stick to his hobby of throwing darts as he ‘doesn’t have the intellect’ for chess, he claimed while cracking a laugh.


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