Nadal set to replace Federer as Kyrgios also in line for recognition

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As the end of the ATP season approaches, the men’s tour will soon unveil their nominees for their yearly awards. In the past, the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have won Comeback player of the year while current world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz was last year’s most improved. And this year could see Nick Kyrgios recognised for his impressive season while Rafael Nadal could end Federer’s 19-year run as the fan’s favourite.

Every year the ATP pulls together players who have made the most impact on the tour that season, allowing their colleagues to vote in categories including the most improved and the sportsmanship award. With just two full tournaments left in the tour’s calendar, Express Sport is predicting who will be awarded and nominated in the key categories for 2022.

Comeback player of the year – “The player who has overcome serious injury in re-establishing himself as one of the top players on the ATP Tour.”

Borna Coric looks set to take home the crown this year after returning from a year on the sidelines following shoulder surgery in 2021. In August he upset Nadal in the second round of the Cincinnati, going on to win his maiden Masters 1000 title at the end of the week by beating the likes of Felix Auger-Aliassime, Cameron Norrie and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and rose from world No 152 to No 29 as a result.

But he could have some competition – Dominic Thiem is likely to be nominated following his comeback from a wrist injury and if Nadal’s season is counted as a comeback after he stopped playing after Washington in 2021 to recover his ongoing foot injury then the Spaniard will be a heavy favourite after he won his first 20 matches of the season, spanning titles in Melbourne, the Australian Open and Acapulco. The Aussie Open made him the first man in history to win a 21st Major and he extended his record to 22 at the French Open

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Most improved player of the year – “The player who reached a significantly higher FedEx ATP Ranking by year’s end and who demonstrated an increasingly improved level of performance through the year.”

This category looks set to be stacked in 2022, and the ATP could well decide to extend the list of nominees. Kyrgios could find himself awarded after dropping outside of the world’s top 100 this year before reaching his maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon. He then won his seventh title in Washington and now sits at No 20 in the world – and he never earned the ranking points from his Wimbledon run after the ATP removed them as a response to the tournament’s ban on Russians.

Frances Tiafoe also appears to be a contender after his incredible US Open run where he beat Nadal and reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, making his top 20 debut as a result. The American then went on to seal Team World their maiden Laver Cup victory before reaching the Tokyo final. Fellow American Taylor Fritz could also be nominated after he won his maiden Masters title in Indian Wells, also picking up trophies in Eastbourne and Tokyo, earned his best Grand Slam result in the Wimbledon quarter-final and made his top 10 debut.

Felix Auger-Aliassime broke his streak of losing finals to win three titles this year, made his top 10 debut and looks set to qualify for the ATP Finals for the first time. Maxime Cressy and Francisco Cerundolo also saw their rankings make huge jumps, with the American starting the year at world No 112 and making the Melbourne final as a qualifier. He then won the title in Newport and reached a career-high of No 31 while Cerundolo went from No 127 to No 24 and won the Bastad title.

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Newcomer of the year – “The #NextGenATP player who broke into the Top 100 for the first time in 2022 and made the biggest impact on the ATP Tour this season.”

Holger Rune is in prime position to be voted this year’s newcomer, having started the season ranked down at No 103 and now sitting at his career-high of world No 25. Born just one week before Alcaraz, the Dane has also won two titles this year and beat Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the finals to do so.

Meanwhile, Britain may have found its heir to Andy Murray’s throne as Jack Draper is another big contender. The 20-year-old will make his Next Gen Finals debut in Milan next month after a breakout season that has seen him go from world No 265 to No 45, winning four Challenger titles and reaching his maiden ATP Tour semi-final, also making the quarters at the Montreal Masters.

Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award – “The player who, throughout the year, conducted himself at the highest level of professionalism and integrity, who competed with his fellow players with the utmost spirit of fairness and who promoted the game through his off-court activities.”

Based on the voting history of ATP Tour players in previous years, Nadal is the likely champion here as he and Federer have shared the award every year dating back to 2004, with the Spaniard winning his fifth last season. Casper Ruud also looks set to be nominated for a second-consecutive year thanks to his habit of allowing opponents to replay or be given points when he doesn’t agree with calls in his favour.

Coach of the year

Juan Carlos Ferrero – the former world No 1 who has coached Alcaraz since he was just 16 – is a shoo-in to be voted the coach of the season by his fellow ATP Tour coaches. The Spaniard guided his charge through a breakout season not seen in years as the 19-year-old more than exceeded his goal of breaking the top 15, becoming the youngest world No 1 in ATP history. Alcaraz won two ATP 500s and two Masters 1000 titles this year in Rio, Barcelona, Miami and Madrid and topped it all off by winning the US Open, becoming the first teenage Major winner since Nadal in 2005.

Fans’ favourite

The one awarded voted for by fans simply allows the public to vote for their favourite player of the season. Federer has won a whopping 19 years in a row from 2003 to 2021 but will likely not be an option for fans to pick this year following his recent retirement, and Nadal looks to be his likely successor given their rivalry and friendship over the years.

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