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First Quarter Review: Federer, Delpo Lead Charge In 2018
Del Potro, Federer

Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer, who met in a memorable BNP Paribas Open final in March, have both gotten off to strong starts in 2018. © Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The season is only three months old, but there's already a plethora of storylines to track. Here are the top five stories of 2018 so far…

Federer Off To Another Strong Start
If Roger Federer’s start to 2017 was one of the stories of the year, he certainly hasn’t let up in the first quarter of the new season. The Swiss superstar continues to evolve as a player, under the guidance of his long-time coach Severin Luthi and former World No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic.

Competing in his 21st year on the ATP World Tour, Federer is off to a 17-2 start, including his 20th Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open and his 97th tour-level title at the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament. His victory in Rotterdam returned the Swiss back to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings from 19 February for six weeks. With a record 308 weeks in the top spot, he holds records for the longest period between stints at No. 1, as the oldest player to attain top spot and for the longest duration between first and last days at the summit of men’s professional tennis. His great rival, Rafael Nadal returned to No. 1 on 2 April.

Federer's Best Starts To A Season

Year W-L Sunshine Double? Year-End Emirates ATP Ranking
2018 17-2  No ?
2017 19-1  Yes No. 2
33-1  Yes No. 1
35-1  Yes No. 1
23-1  No No. 1

Delpo’s Resurgence
Juan Martin del Potro's career has been blighted by four wrist surgeries, but in 2018 the ‘Tower of Tandil’ has returned into the Top 10, to top form on hard courts and, importantly, has become one of the most feared competitors on the ATP World Tour. In building up a 15-match winning streak (21-3 overall), the old swagger and assurance, coupled with astute scheduling and better fitness, saw the powerful Argentine pick up two titles and reach the semi-finals of a third tournament.

Del Potro, who also started the year with a runner-up finish at the ASB Classic (l. to Bautista Agut), clinched the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC title (d. Anderson) and he then saved three championship points over Federer to lift his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open. His streak ended to in the Indian Wells semi-finals (l. to Isner) on 30 March.

#NextGenATP Champion Chung On The Rise…
The enormity of winning the Next Gen ATP Finals at Milan in November 2017 was profound for Hyeon Chung, the softly spoken South Korean, with a compact game. Thoughts of qualifying for his first Nitto ATP Finals may be premature, but the 21-year-old, who found himself at No. 62 in the ATP Rankings on 8 January, has risen 43 spots to a career-high No. 19 on the back of six straight quarter-finals (or better).

In January, Chung became the youngest Grand Slam championship semi-finalist since Cilic, 21, at the 2010 Australian Open and reached back-to-back ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-finals at Indian Wells (l. to Federer) and Miami (l. to Isner). Under the guidance of new coach, Neville Godwin, he has adjusted his service technique and become mentally adept to compile an 18-7 match record in 2018.

Anderson, Back To His Best
Having spent one week in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings (at No. 10) on 12 October 2015, hip, leg and elbow injuries saw Kevin Anderson spend time off the ATP World Tour and drop to as low as No. 80 on 16 January 2017. But the South African, one of the hardest workers on the circuit, returned to the Top 10 on 19 February 2018 and is competing with confidence once more.

Alongside successive quarter-final runs in Indian Wells (l. to Coric) and Miami (l. to Carreno Busta) was his fourth ATP World Tour title at the inaugural New York Open (d. Querrey). He also finished as the runner-up at the Tata Open Maharashtra (l. to Simon) and in Acapulco (l. to Del Potro). If 6’8” Anderson were to secure his first elite eight spot in London, it would erase memories of one near miss in 2015.

Interesting Mix In Early ATP Race To London
While Federer and Del Potro may lead the early stages of the ATP Race To London, for a spot at the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals from 11-18 November, there are seven different nations represented in the Top 8 (as of 2 April).

In the mix is 6’10” John Isner, who will be hoping build upon his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown at Miami (d. Zverev) that saw him surge up 288 places to No. 6 and 5’7” Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who captured his second ATP World Tour trophy in February at the Rio Open presented by Claro (d. Verdasco) and also reached the Argentina Open quarter-finals (l. to Bedene).

Federer leads the Race with 3,110 points and is on course to qualify for the season finale, where he is a six-time former champion (2003-04, ’05-06, ’11-12), for a 16th time (2002-15, ’17). Del Potro, having competed at the Nitto ATP Finals on four previous occasions in 2008-09 and 2012-13, highlighted by a run to the 2009 final (l. to Davydenko), is currently No. 2, 980 points behind Federer.

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