Benneteau, Del Potro, Karlovic & Mayer Vie For 2016 Comeback Player Of The Year Award
Past winner del Potro and trio of players aged 30-and-over nominated
The Comeback Player of the Year Award in the 2016 ATP World Tour Awards Presented by Moët & Chandon recognises those players who have overcome injury in re-establishing themselves as one of the top players on the ATP circuit. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced ahead of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
The Frenchman finished 2014 at a career-high No. 25 Emirates ATP Ranking, but dropped to No. 696 by January 2016 after undergoing abductor surgery and missing the last eight months of the 2015 season.
The All England Club, where he notched his first tour-level win since his comeback, provided the springboard for his rise back up the singles ranks. He climbed into the Top 200 by October, highlighted by quarter-final results in Metz and Los Cabos and a semi-final run at the Brest Challenger.
An outstanding doubles player, the 34-year-old Benneteau also enjoyed a strong comeback alongside countryman Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Over a four-tournament stretch, the pair reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros, semi-finals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia and Aegon Championships, before finishing runners-up to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in an all-French Wimbledon.
“It’s very special to be part of the Comeback Player of the Year category,” Benneteau said. “It’s always difficult to return at 100 per cent after a long break, especially when it’s later in one’s career so this means a lot to me.”
The popular Argentine was previously voted by his peers as the Comeback Player of the Year in 2011 following a successful return from right wrist surgery. In 2013, the former World No. 4 finished back in the Top 10, only to be sidelined again – this time by a left wrist injury requiring multiple surgeries, causing him to drop outside the Top 1000 by the start of 2016.
Del Potro made his return in February at the Delray Beach Open and reached the semi-finals. He followed with a quarter-final result in Munich and semi-finals in Stuttgart, and quickly re-established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the sport’s biggest stages. In addition to ousting Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon, del Potro beat World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to a silver medal at the Rio Olympics, made the quarter-finals of the US Open and won his first tour-level title since 2014 at the If Stockholm Open, securing his return to the Top 50.
“I’m so happy to be nominated for this,” said the 28 year old. “It’s been a great season for me. I’ve been playing a lot of tournaments with great success. I got the silver medal in Rio, then made the quarter-finals in another Grand Slam. I think I deserve this gift, but all my colleagues also deserve it too. I am so happy just to be nominated.”
At the age of 37, the towering Croat recovered from a left knee injury to notch his first multi-title season since winning his first three tour-level titles in 2007.
Karlovic missed the opening months of the season, returning in April to reach the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open semi-finals. He made his biggest mark over the summer, when he secured titles on grass at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport and on hard court at the inaugural Abierto Mexicano Mifel in los Cabos. With the Newport crown, he became the oldest ATP World Tour singles champion since 1979.
Also over the summer, Karlovic reached the ATP World Tour 500 final at the Citi Open in Washington and set a US Open record with 61 aces in his first-round win.
“I’m really happy and honoured and grateful that I was nominated for this award,” said Karlovic. “It really means a lot to me because in the beginning of the year, for the first four months I was injured with my knee. It was hurting a lot. I had to do a lot of exercises, treatment and hard work. Especially now at my age, when every injury is huge, I didn’t know how it will all end up. To be able to do what I did after the injury this year, to be able to bounce back like this, was really unbelievable for me.”
After being sidelined close to two years due to a groin injury and a torn tendon in his right adductor, the 33 year old climbed from outside the Top 600 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2015 to the Top 60.
Mayer used success on home soil to spark his rise, qualifying into the tour-level events in Munich and Stuttgart, where he respectively reached the second round and quarter-finals, before claiming his biggest career title at the ATP World Tour 500 tournament in Halle. The former World No. 18 upset two Top 10 players, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem, before defeating fellow German Alexander Zverev for the Gerry Weber Open title - his first since winning Bucharest in 2011.
In August, Mayer went on a 10-match winning run on the ATP Challenger Tour, claiming titles in Portoroz and Meerbusch, to rise to No. 58 going into the US Open.
“It was really a hard time for me, not playing tournaments and being injured,” he said. “I did a really nice comeback, being back to the Top 60, and I’m really happy about my performance in the past five months. It was a really nice and special feeling to win a big title at ATP World Tour 500 this year on grass in Germany.
“Tennis is getting so much faster and fitter every year, and it’s so hard to come back, especially if you have to come through the Challengers. The level of the game increases so much, and of course it was really helpful for me to win this big title with 500 points, so I can play the big events now.”