Five years ago, Matthew Ebden and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe were playing the best tennis of their careers. Both the Aussie and German had made the leap to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time and were on the ascent as they continued to realize their dreams on the ATP World Tour.
But no path to stardom is identical and everyone takes a different route to the top. Ebden and Stebe would see their thriving careers cut down due to serious injury setbacks and after many years on the sidelines, both players would make triumphant comebacks in 2017 as the top performers on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Ebden and Stebe were the biggest movers to the year-end Top 100 this year, with the Aussie rising a staggering 619 spots to No. 76 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and the German soaring 381 positions to No. 82. Looking to translate their Challenger success to the ATP World Tour in 2018, both find themselves within just 15 spots of their career-highs attained in 2012.
On the comeback trail following knee surgery, Ebden not only enjoyed great success on the Challenger circuit as a two-time titlist in Canberra and Toyota, but the 30-year-old reached his first ATP World Tour final on the grass of Newport in July (l. to Isner). At age 27, Stebe, who underwent hip impingement surgery and pelvic surgery, won titles in Poprad Tatry, Slovakia, as well as Vancouver, Canada and Sibiu, Romania, in addition to reaching the second round at the US Open as a qualifier. He was a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year in the 2017 ATP Awards Presented By Moët & Chandon.
Ebden and Stebe were two of nine players to make leaps of 100+ spots to the Top 100 this year. Nicolas Jarry was the only other player to soar at least 300 places, while Rolex Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic and #NextGenATP stars Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas also enjoyed breakthrough campaigns.
Biggest Jumps To Top 100 Of Emirates ATP Rankings
In his return from a broken wrist, 22-year-old Jarry is wasting no time in picking up where he left off two years ago. On the heels of a trio of clay-court Challenger crowns, including one in his hometown of Santiago, Chile, he made his Top 100 debut after rising 300 spots. Meanwhile, Krajinovic, who led the ATP Challenger Tour with five titles, moved up 203 spots to No. 34, capping his campaign with a stunning runner-up finish at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris.
Shapovalov (+199 to No. 51), Rublev (+117 to No. 39) and Tsitsipas (+118 to No. 91), meanwhile, carried the teenage torch with their own Top 100 breakthroughs. Shapovalov thrust himself into the spotlight at the Rogers Cup, but the the Canadian had already began plotting his ascent with Challenger titles on home soil in Drummondville and Gatineau. Tsitsipas also notched his maiden crown, prevailing on the clay of Genova, Italy, in September.
Peter Gojowczyk and Blaz Kavcic are the only other players to rise at least 100 spots to the Top 100, with the German becoming one of six to win on both the ATP World Tour (Metz) and ATP Challenger Tour (Happy Valley, Australia) this year. Slovenia’s Kavcic led the Challenger circuit with 50 match wins, lifting trophies on Canadian soil in Winnipeg and Granby.
Significant Emirates ATP Rankings boosts weren’t exclusive to the aforementioned group, however, with many others making great strides on the ATP Challenger Tour. After five years of battling on the circuit, Tennys Sandgren finally made his mark in 2017. The American enjoyed a jump of 97 spots to year-end No. 96, behind titles on home soil in Tempe and Savannah. Germany’s Maximilian Marterer, aged 22, is contributing to his nation’s youth movement with an increase of 87 spots to a career-high No. 90. He capped his campaign with a 21-3 run and titles on clay, hard and carpet.
Notable movers poised to break into the Top 100 following impressive seasons include 22-year-old Cameron Norrie, who vaulted 164 spots to No. 114 behind a trio of titles, and #NextGenATP stars Sebastian Ofner and Matteo Berrettini. Ofner and Berrettini broke onto the scene in 2017 with moves of over 200 spots to the Top 150.
In addition to Marterer and Stebe, other Germans celebrating standout seasons were Yannick Hanfmann, titlist on home soil in Ismaning and runner-up at the ATP World Tour 250 in Gstaad, and Oscar Otte, who lifted his maiden trophy in Lisbon. Both players will look to complete their stunning climbs to the Top 100 next year, having combined to post just a 3-16 record in Challenger main draws entering the year. Hanfmann rose 195 spots to No. 119, while Otte vaulted 379 positions to No. 131.
Germans On The Rise