Cecchinato, De Minaur, Edmund, Tsitsipas Honoured With Most Improved Player Nominations
The Most Improved Player of the Year Award in the 2018 ATP World Tour Awards Presented by Moët & Chandon recognises the player who significantly rose in the ATP Rankings and demonstrated an increasingly improved level of performance throughout the year. The winner, as selected by fellow players, will be announced ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
After starting the year ranked No. 109 in the ATP Rankings, Marco Cecchinato burst onto the scene in April. The 26-year-old Italian became the first lucky loser of the season to capture a tour-level trophy at the Gazprom Hungarian Open in Budapest. Cecchinato defeated three seeded opponents en route to the title and soon elevated his game to new heights at Roland Garros.
The Palermo native, in one of the biggest upsets of the season, ousted 2016 champion Novak Djokovic in four sets to become the lowest-ranked Roland Garros semi-finalist since No. 100 Andrei Medvedev in 1999. With that result, Cecchinato also became the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Corrado Barazzutti at Roland Garros in 1978.
It wasn't long before the Italian added to his trophy haul, with Cecchinato once again hitting top form on his best surface at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag in July. Despite falling a set down in his opening match against Jiri Vesely, the Italian reeled off eight consecutive sets to clinch his second tour-level trophy of the season. Cecchinato, who began the year with just four tour-level wins, currently owns a 23-22 record in 2018.
Alex de Minaur
Australian Alex de Minaur is the youngest man to be nominated for this year's award. The 19-year-old started his season with a 7-2 record, reaching the Brisbane International semi-finals before a stellar run to his maiden ATP World Tour final the following week at the Sydney International.
De Minaur, who began the year at No. 208 in the ATP Rankings, entered the third week of the season ranked No. 127 and soon impressed further with a stellar run of performances on the ATP Challenger Tour. The Sydney-born #NextGenATP talent reached three finals in a stretch of five Challenger events, culminating in his maiden trophy at the level in June at the Nature Valley Open (d. Evans).
A second tour-level championship match appearance at the Citi Open (l. to Zverev) and back-to-back Grand Slam third-round showings at Wimbledon (l. to Nadal) and the US Open (l. to Cilic) have since proven the Aussie's ability to consistently produce results. Now ranked at a career-high No. 31, De Minaur will look to end the season strong after qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
Like De Minaur, Kyle Edmund wasted no time climbing the ATP Rankings in 2018. The British 23-year-old defeated Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov en route to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open and, just three months later, reached another career milestone in Marrakech.
Without dropping a set, Edmund navigated four matches to enter his first tour-level final in Morocco (l. to Andujar). But, not to be content with one milestone moment, Edmund continued to break new ground throughout the season.
The 23-year-old Brit made it to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final in Madrid (l. to Shapovalov), overtook countryman Andy Murray to become the new British No. 1, reached a career-high No. 14 in the ATP Rankings and soon lifted his first tour-level trophy at the European Open. As top seed in Antwerp, Edmund defeated 2016 champion Richard Gasquet in the semi-finals and overcame Gael Monfils in a final-set tie-break to lift his first trophy.
Starting 2018 with only four tour-level wins, from qualifying No. 91 Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to his second tour-level quarter-final in the opening week of the season at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. But it was in April, on clay, that the #NextGenATP Greek made headlines. In Barcelona, Tsitsipas broke inside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings for the first time after becoming the first Greek man to reach an ATP World Tour final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in 1973.
Semi-final showings in Estoril and Washington, D.C. helped elevate the 20-year-old inside the Top 30 before his sensational run to the Rogers Cup final. Defeating Dominic Thiem, Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson in consecutive matches, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990.
But, after falling to his second championship match loss against Rafael Nadal, the Athens-born star's search for a first tour-level trophy continued. After securing his place at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, Tsitsipas' search soon came to an end at the Intrum Stockholm Open. In the tournament's 50th edition, Tsitsipas beat three Top 40 players before ending Ernests Gulbis' perfect 6-0 final record to triumph in the Swedish capital. The Greek star is the first player from his nation to win an ATP World Tour title.