Evans, Pouille, Thiem, Zverev Honoured With Most Improved Player Of The Year Nominations
Zverev: "I think any other year, all of us could have won it"
The Most Improved Player of the Year Award in the 2016 ATP World Tour Awards Presented by Moët & Chandon recognises the player who reached a significantly higher Emirates ATP Ranking by year’s end and who demonstrated an increasingly improved level of performance through the year. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced ahead of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
“It's an honour to be nominated for this award especially with the class of the other nominees.”
Entering the 2016 season, the Brit had 11 tour-level wins to his name since turning pro a decade earlier. He nearly doubled that mark this year. Evans compiled a 9-10 match record on the ATP World Tour and reached a career-high No. 53 in the Emirates ATP Rankings following the US Open, where he held a match point in a five-set defeat to eventual champion Stan Wawrinka. He also reached the third round at Wimbledon (l. to Federer) and the Citi Open in Washington (l. to Sock).
Evans, who finished 2015 at No. 195 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, also excelled on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning three titles from six finals. With the Taipei Challenger title in May, he broke into the Top 100 a few weeks before his 26th birthday.
“I am delighted to be amongst the most improved players of the year. All four of us are very good players and we had a good year. I’ve for sure enjoyed my best season so far on the ATP World Tour and I will never forget some of the results I accomplished this year.”
Pouille had steadily improved over the past few seasons. In 2012, he jumped 1,000 spots to finish in the Top 500. In 2013, he was one of two teenagers in the year-end Top 200. In 2014, it was the Top 150 and in 2015, the Top 100. This season, the 22-year-old Frenchman rose into the world’s Top 20, climbing from No. 91 in February.
He appeared in his first tour-level final at the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest (l. to Verdasco), and then enjoyed a week to remember in Rome, where he reached the semi-finals as a lucky loser (l. to Murray), lifting him into the Top 50 for the first time. He followed up with Grand Slam-best quarter-final runs at Wimbledon and US Open, courtesy of clutch wins – at the All England Club, he defeated Juan Martin del Potro and prevailed against Bernard Tomic in a 10-8 fifth set; at Flushing Meadows, he recorded five-set triumphs over Marco Chiudinelli, Roberto Bautista Agut and Rafael Nadal.
“It’s a big honour and of course I would be very happy to win it, but there are also three other players who deserved it a lot, who improved amazing this year.”
The Austrian was the youngest player to finish in the Top 50 in 2014, the Top 20 in 2015, and is poised to be the youngest in the year-end Top 10 for 2016. Thiem, who celebrated his 23rd birthday in September, won four ATP World Tour titles this season – placing him just behind tour leaders Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray with seven and tied with Stan Wawrinka in third.
He made a sensational start to 2016, leading the ATP World Tour in match wins with a 47-12 record through the first half of the season. His triumphs – on clay in Buenos Aires and Nice, on hard court at the ATP World Tour 500 tournament in Acapulco, on grass in Stuttgart – made him only the ninth active player and 29th in the Open Era to win titles on three different surfaces in the same year. He saved match points against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer during his title runs respectively in Buenos Aires and Stuttgart.
Thiem also enjoyed career highlights at Roland Garros, where he reached his first Grand Slam semi-final (l. to Djokovic), and in Rome, where he claimed his biggest career win by defeating a No. 2-ranked Roger Federer en route to his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final. He broke into the Top 10 following Roland Garros, reaching a career-high No. 7 Emirates ATP Ranking.
“Being nominated even for Most Improved Player of the Year is something special for me. There are only players who have done really well, like Dominic Thiem who is Top 10 now and Lucas Pouille is Top 20, from starting the year from around my ranking as well. It’s going to be a very tough competition... It’s been a very strong year for all of us. I think any other year, all of us could have won it. Being nominated in that group is something very special.”
The youngest of the Most Improved Player of the Year nominees, the 19-year-old Zverev rose from a year-end No. 83 Emirates ATP Ranking in 2015 to World No. 20 by October.
Winner of the 2015 ATP Star Of Tomorrow presented by Emirates award, Zverev continued to make his mark this season as he became the youngest player to win an ATP World Tour title since Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic in 2008. He did so in impressive fashion, with consecutive victories over No. 9 Tomas Berdych and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka at the St. Petersburg Open, and followed by ousting No. 10 Dominic Thiem in his first match in Beijing, making him the first teen since Boris Becker in 1986 to defeat a trio of Top 10 players in succession.
Zverev also reached two other finals – on clay in Nice (l. to Thiem) and on grass at the Gerry Weber Open, where he upended eight-time champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals – and showed his consistency throughout the season with semi-final showings in Montpellier, Munich, Washington and Stockholm.