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The Best of the Rest: The Top 10 Men's Players of the Decade
It was the era of the Big 3, which saw Djokovic become the first ATP player to win all nine Masters 1000s, Nadal complete a career Golden Slam and Federer become the first man to reach the 20-Slam singles mark.
Published Dec 10, 2019
While statistics played a large part in assembling this list—only those amassed from January 2010 through the 2019 US Open were considered—the final order was ultimately subjective, based on the player’s impact throughout the decade. (Getty Images)
Highly regarded for the heavy spin he generates, Thiem emerged as a premier clay-court player in the back half of the decade. He won 10 titles on the surface, defeating Rafael Nadal four times (all in best-of-three). He ousted Novak Djokovic twice in Paris and reached consecutive French Open finals. As he grew into a Top 10 mainstay, the Austrian showed he isn’t a one-dimensional player, edging Roger Federer for this year’s Indian Wells title.
Arguably the unluckiest player of the past 10 years—with a host of injuries, including three left wrist surgeries—del Potro is an incredible story of resilience. The Tower of Tandil guided Argentina to its maiden Davis Cup in 2016, won two Olympic medals and 15 ATP titles, including Indian Wells. His pure love of the game enabled a US Open final return in 2018, nine years after his major breakthrough
Until he suffered a back injury in 2018, Berdych was a regular fixture in the business end of tournaments. He defeated Federer and Djokovic to advance to the 2010 Wimbledon final, and progressed to six additional Grand Slam semifinals, including at least one final-four showing at each Slam. The Czech helped his country win back-to-back Davis Cup crowns and qualified for the ATP Finals in six straight seasons (2010-15)
Though he retired in 2019 without a major title, Ferrer left everything on the court in a career built on consistency, and forcing opposition to hit through him. During one stretch, the 2013 French Open finalist reached 10 successive Grand Slam quarterfinals, and he ended the first six seasons of the decade inside the Top 10. Overall, he won 21 singles titles, highlighted by his 2012 triumph at Paris-Bercy.
The Croatian began the decade with a semifinal showing in Melbourne, but it took him time to develop consistency at the Slams. It all came together at the 2014 US Open, where Cilic outclassed Federer in a one-sided semifinal before dismissing Kei Nishikori to taste victory. He finished runner-up to the Swiss at Wimbledon in 2017 and Melbourne in 2018, and added a Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati to eventually reach world No. 3.
In an era that saw physical stamina and power reach new heights, Wawrinka met the challenge, breaking away from his compatriot Federer’s shadows to come into his own as a robust competitor. Peaking at No. 3 in the rankings, he picked up three different major trophies (all but Wimbledon), knocking out each member of the Big 3 at least once along the way, including Djokovic during all three title runs.
The first British men’s Grand Slam singles champion in 76 years, at the 2012 US Open, Murray raised his first of two Wimbledon trophies a year later to end a 77-year drought for a male home-grown winner. The torchbearer also led Great Britain to its first Davis Cup in 79 years, won two Olympic gold medals (one at Wimbledon) and prevailed in a winner-take-all ATP Finals title match with Djokovic to finish 2016 at No. 1.
Despite being older than his chief rivals, Federer continued to go toe-to-toe with Djokovic and Nadal. The Swiss added five majors, including three after turning 35, to become the first man to reach the 20-Slam singles mark. With 41 trophies added to his collection this decade, the 38-year-old is within striking distance of surpassing Jimmy Connors for two Open Era records: singles titles (109) and match wins (1,274).
His decade started with a bang, as the Spaniard won three consecutive majors, including the 2010 US Open, to join Andre Agassi as the only men to complete a career Golden Slam. Nadal sustained his remarkable dominance at Roland Garros with a record-extending 12th title in 2019, increased trophy hauls in Monte Carlo and Barcelona to 11, and proved his worth beyond clay with three more US Open conquests.
In winning 15 of his 16 majors—sprung by a 2011 season that saw him begin 41–0— and turning around head-to-head series records against Nadal and Federer, Djokovic rightfully stands on top. In addition to his Grand Slam accolades, Djokovic became the first ATP player to win all nine Masters 1000s, the first to win seven Australian Open crowns, and he finished as the year-end No. 1 five times.