It’s easy to forget just how unusual season 2017 was on the men’s ATP tour. A cursory glance at the champion’s list for that season reveals just how unusual this season truly was. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like 2017 was just a continuation of 2016. Novak Djokovic started the season in predictable fashion, winning the opening tournament of the season in straight sets against then world number 1 Andy Murray. This was Doha, held in the first week of January 2017. That very same week, in what was a taste of what was to come in 2017 and 2018, Grigor Dimitrov beat Kei Nishikori to win the Brisbane International. These 2 players would be the just the foundational players which would shape a whirlwind and unprecedented tour for the rest of the next 18 months.
However, arguably the biggest shock to the system would come roughly a fortnight later. Having won no singles warm-up tournament leading up to the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were the final 2 players left in the draw. Forget 2017, the last time that both players were in a final of a tournament in January felt like an eternity ago. In this edition, both would go on and shock the world, competing for hours in a marathon 5 set grand slam final. Shocking the world, Roger Federer was champion in January, while Rafael Nadal was runner-up in a singles tournament in summer. Forget just a singles tournament, this was a grand slam final. Fast forward 2 weeks, and we truly saw the beginning of a new future, as well as the resurgence of past greats. On the 6th of February 2017, then world number 22 ranked Alexander Zverev went toe-to-toe with his higher ranked opponent, world number 18 (and former top 10 player) Richard Gasquet. It was truly a clash of generations and a theme which would make 2017 one of the most unforgettable seasons in living memory.
Roughly a week later, Jo Wilfred Tsonga would add to the legacy of this extraordinarily 2017 , with a relatively big title win. Tsonga defeated David Goffin in straight sets to win the Rotterdam 500 tournament. Goffin would be another name alongside Dimitrov, Nishikori, and Zverev, which would signal a new era of tennis deep into the following year of 2018. Tsonga would then follow this up, extraordinarily, a week later, with his second title in 2 weeks, winning the Open 13 tournament in France. At this point in this wild 2017 season, Tsonga was leading the ATP in 2017 with most titles in season 2017, with 2 titles. This was despite the fact that it was only just February.
A week later, in what seemed like order being restored in the universe, Andy Murray returned to the top of the men’s game, winning arguably the second biggest title on offer so far this season. He won Dubai convincingly, but in what was a sign of what was to come, Sam Querrey bagged the Mexican Open 500 tournament in Acapulco. Querrey, alongside Goffin, Dimitrov, Thiem and Zverev, would all make the preliminary qualifications for the ATP finals at the end of the season. However, in yet another shock in 2017, the biggest tournaments of 2017 began and would end with Roger Federer. For the first time in over a decade, Roger Federer would win the Sunshine Double, winning both Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000 events back-to-back. If there was any sign that 2017 was a complete anomaly, this was truly it.
While Novak Djokovic did not have the best Australian Open, a field with Andy Murray surely seemed like enough of a challenge- but this season had other plans. Furthermore, in a fierce return to dominance, Rafael Nadal stormed home out of the blue to win Barcelona, as well as 2 further Masters 1000 tournaments in Monte Carlo and Madrid. However, in what was a taste of a new future, Alexander Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in Rome in what was the last Masters 1000 event before the French Open. Nadal, the champ of old was not to be denied, surging to win his first grand slam title in 3 years, defeating Stan Wawrinka to claim the 2017 French Open. Just a week earlier however, Jo Wilfred Tsonga clinched his 3rd title of the season in Geneva, and now was the joint leader in ATP titles in 2017 alongside newly crowned French Open king Rafael Nadal.
2017 would continue to play out in an unusual fashion, with Novak Djokovic storming home to win the title in Eastbourne, a mere week before Wimbledon. However, in what was yet another insane display of the nature of 2017, Roger Federer would storm home to clinch his 18th grand slam, winning Wimbledon without dropping a set. Leading into the US Open swing, John Isner, another player who would be the face of the rest of 2018, ran through the field to bag 2 titles leading up to the US Open. Sam Querrey would also win a title over this period, but Alexander Zverev would prove to be the biggest unknown in 2017. Zverev continued on his astonishing 2017, winning the Washington 500 tournament followed by a Masters 1000 win in Canada against Roger Federer.
In the last big warmup tournament before the US Open, Grigor Dimitrov would win his first ever Masters 1000 tournament, defeating Nick Kyrgios in an entertaining Masters 1000 final. This would not be the last big title for Dimitrov in an emphatic 2017. Come US Open however, the most outlandish and unexpected of results took place. Rafael Nadal crushed his opponents enroute to his first hard court major win in 4 years, and his first US Open final since 2013. Yet again this year, the winner of a major was not the form player who had won the warm-up Masters 1000 event.
In more incredible scenes, Jo Wilfred Tsonga would win his 4th title of 2017, this time winning the European Open in straight sets over Diego Schwartzman. However, the biggest shock of the season was just to come, with Jack Sock stunning the world and winning the Masters 1000 event in Paris at the Paris Masters. The finalist? Filip Krajinovic, a player who would be another face often seen throughout 2018. However, to punctuate the end of the season, in one of the biggest upset wins in years, Grigor Dimitrov defied the odds to win the ATP Finals, the first non-big 4 champion since Davydenko in 2009.
All in all, was 2017 the most diverse season in men’s tennis history?