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2018 Comeback Nominees: Djokovic, Kubler, Millman, Nishikori

Nominees made significant moves in the ATP Rankings following returns from surgery

The Comeback Player of the Year Award in the 2018 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 Nitto ATP Finals.

Novak Djokovic
Two years after he last sat atop the ATP Rankings, Novak Djokovic will return to World No. 1 on Monday following the Rolex Paris Masters, after rallying from a low of No. 22 in June.

"Reflecting on what I've been through in the last year, it's quite a phenomenal achievement, and of course I'm very, very happy and proud about it," he said. "Five months ago if you told me that – I always believe in myself – but it was highly improbable at that time considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court."

Djokovic: I’m Playing At My Best Level

Djokovic’s 2017 campaign concluded prematurely with a fourth-round retirement at Wimbledon as he struggled with an elbow injury. On his return to the courts at the Australian Open, the former World No. 1 lost in the fourth round and decided to undergo a ‘small medical intervention’. He was left searching for answers following consecutive opening-round losses in Indian Wells and Miami, and reunited with his former coach Marian Vajda at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

From a 6-6 start to the season, Djokovic turned his season around by reaching the Rome semi-finals, Roland Garros quarter-finals and the Queen’s Club final before triumphing at Wimbledon. From mid-August, he proved unbeatable. Djokovic became the first player to achieve the Career Golden Masters as he claimed the elusive Western & Southern Open title, and he added to his trophy collection by winning the US Open and Rolex Shanghai Masters.

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Jason Kubler
When Jason Kubler was younger, his knee would swell up anytime he touched a hard court. With a hereditary knee condition, the former junior World No. 1 underwent numerous surgeries as a teenager and played exclusively on clay courts from March 2012 through May 2015 to protect his knees.

Kubler’s Titanic Top 100 Climb

After being set back by microfracture knee surgery in 2016 and a shoulder injury the following summer, the Australian made his ATP Challenger Tour hard-court debut last October at Traralgon and won the title as a qualifier. He replicated that result on home soil at the Playford Challenger to start 2018. With another hard-court title at the Winnipeg Challenger, a runner-up finish at the Vancouver Challenger, and his return to Grand Slam action at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Kubler found himself breaking into the Top 100 ahead of the US Open. In New York, he recorded his first tour-level win for four years.

In the space of 12 months, Kubler soared more than 800 spots in the ATP Rankings, climbing from No. 921 last October to a career-high No. 91 this October. “It’s almost unreal. Twelve months ago, I didn’t even imagine anything like this,” he said.

John Millman
John Millman has been here before. In 2015, the Aussie was nominated for Comeback Player of the Year, after rising more than 1,000 spots in the ATP Rankings following a shoulder injury that had left him doubting whether he could play at the elite level again. Millman again faced adversity in 2017, when he underwent another significant surgery, this time on his groin. “This one was really tough because movement is a big part of my game. Even when I was on the sideline, I couldn't do so much,” he admitted.

Time In The Gym Proving Critical For Millman In Comeback

Dropping outside the Top 200 last August, Millman began his road back with success on the Challenger Tour in the latter half of 2017, culminating with the title in his final tournament of the year. With a runner-up finish at the Gazprom Hungarian Open in Budapest and a pair of Challenger titles in the first half of the 2018 season, he eclipsed his previous career-high ATP Ranking of No. 60 by mid-May.

But he didn’t stop there, as he continued his climb to World No. 35 by October. Millman’s biggest moment came at Flushing Meadows, when he upset Roger Federer under the lights to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open. “I have retired in my head maybe a few times throughout my career when things got pretty tough, with my body and stuff,” he said afterwards. “It's those moments, playing on Ashe that makes all that toil worthwhile, and if times get tough down the track, hopefully I can think back to that moment.”

Kei Nishikori
Only 10 months ago, Kei Nishikori couldn’t imagine he’d be competing for a place in the Nitto ATP Finals entering the final week of the regular season. After wrist surgery forced him to miss the final three months of the 2017 season, the former World No. 4 dropped outside of the Top 10 to a low of No. 39 this April.

From Challengers To London Contenders, Kei Has Reason To Sing

Now, Nishikori stands at World No. 11, with a pair of ATP World Tour 500 finals in Tokyo and Vienna in October giving him a chance to take his place among the elite eight at The O2.  “It wasn't easy to imagine but now, the last couple of months especially, I've been playing really well and have a lot of confidence, “ he said. “I'm happy to be back at this level.”

Nishikori’s comeback campaign began with a first-round loss at the Newport Beach Challenger, but was quickly followed by a title at the Dallas Challenger and a semi-final run at the New York Open. At the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, he showed he was still a contender for the tour's most prestigious titles as he upset two Top 5 players – Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev – before falling to Rafael Nadal in the final. He also reached the Round of 16 at Roland Garros, quarter-finals at Wimbledon, and prevailed against Marin Cilic in five sets to reach the US Open semi-finals (l. to Djokovic).