Monday, June 23, 2014

Swinging Showstoppers…The Top Seven Most Entertaining Players on the ATP World Tour

While the sport of tennis is generally a ‘quiet’ game in which fans and players are often encouraged to be as silent as possible, the result is that there clearly isn’t much variety in the way of outgoing, crowd-pleasing performers that realize they are as much an entertainer as an athlete.

Unless it’s the annual U.S. Open (where almost anything goes), or either a Davis Cup or Fed Cup showdown, tennis players and their fans are often chided for any sort of behavior that may be deemed as overly outgoing and not conforming to the ‘tennis norm’. 

Well, on the eve of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, I started thinking about just which ATP World Tour players are the most entertaining performers in the game today.

Thanks to a bit of assistance from two current title-winning tournament players and several other trusted tennis colleagues, I have come up with a fun-filled list of the seven most entertaining players on the ATP World Tour today.

Whether their entertainment value comes from jaw-dropping athleticism or audience-stirring emotion, these seven ATP World Tour ‘showstoppers’ know exactly how to please a crowd better than any of their current contemporaries.

With that said and the 2014 tennis season rolling right along, let’s get started.

7. Mikhail Youzhny
Now ranked 14th in the world, former World No. 8 Mikhail Youzhny is undoubtedly one of the better and certainly more entertaining ATP World Tour players today. The fiery 31-year-old Russian is as demonstrative as they come and will always be remembered for one of the most bizarre sights in tennis history despite being one of the few players in recent tour history to reach the quarterfinals or better in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

You see, not only is Youzhny known for his often dramatic shot-making and crowd-pleasing persona, but he is also remembered for bashing his head with a racquet during a 2008 Miami Masters match against Spaniard Nicolás Almagro.

Down 4-5 in the final set, Youzhny missed an easy return before making an angry gesture to no one in particular. Quickly thereafter, the 2010 US Open semifinalist began bashing his head with his own racquet and drawing blood from his forehead.

The best part however is that Youzhny then went on to put a convincing smackdown on the underachieving Almagro by winning the next seven points, an ensuing tiebreaker and ultimately, the entire match.

See my guy, Mikhail Youzhny and his ‘head-bash’ right here!

6. Roger Federer
I have absolutely no idea where to start when it comes to the brand of entertainment that only World No. 8 Roger Federer can provide. Unlike some of the other performers on this list however, Fed’s entertainment factors comes solely from his on-court excellence and not much else in the way of histrionics. One minute, the incomparable Federer is hitting the same forehand ‘tracer’ that has made him the game’s greatest player ever, the next, he’s faking out fans – and cameramen across the globe – with one of his inimitable drop-shots. H…and did I forget to mention the jaw-dropping ‘tweeners’ Federer become almost synonymous with in recent years? No matter what stroke he’s hitting, the sweet-swinging Swiss superstar is good for at least a half-dozen oohs and aahs each and every time he takes the court.

5. Marcos Baghdatis
While he’s fallen on a bit of hard times recently, World No. 129 Marcos ‘Big Smiling’ Baghdatis is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining players on tour today. From his often incredible displays of shot-making to his overall fun-loving, crowd-including ways, not many players can please an audience like the wildly popular Cyprian can.

4. Novak Djokovic
While Novak Djokovic has undoubtedly lost a lot of the fun-filled ‘Djoker’ personality that used to reside within the affable Serbian a few years back, watching Djokovic play today is still quite entertaining to say the least. Whether he’s pulling off one of the patented sliding shots (on a hard court no less) he’s now made famous or whether he’s letting out a deafening roar following a stunning winner, watching Novak Djokovic is about as entertaining as it gets tennis fans.

3. Alexandr Dolgopolov
If you haven’t seen the talented, but still wildly inconsistent, Alexandr Dolgopolov, then you have no idea what you’re missing tennis fans. The 25-year-old from Kiev, Ukraine reminds me a lot of his new coach, Fabrice ‘The Magician’ Santoro in the sense that he has – and uses – every shot in the book.

From his one-of-a-kind serve to his whippet-like groundstrokes – and inimitable spinning slices – Dolgopolov is simply pleasing to watch play the game of tennis. While Dolgopolov can often concentrate a bit too much on looking cute and flashy and not enough on actually winning points, the fact of the matter is that there aren’t many players that can make an audience gasp in amazement like the fleet-footed Dolgopolov can.

2. Rafael Nadal
He may have lost the 2014 Australian Open to newly-minted World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, but make no mistake about it, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is still as entertaining as he ever has been. From his almost supernatural ability to ‘hook’ balls around the net posts (often while on the all-out run) and past stunned opponents to his never-say-die attitude to get to every ball, no one can do many of the things that the fiery Spaniard does. Make no mistake about it, even the hardest of hard core Roger Federer fans can appreciate the incomparable entertainment value that any Rafael Nadal match offers.

1. Gael Monfils
I’m not sure how many coaches World No. 30 Gael Monfils has driven absolutely bonkers with his unmatched athletic prowess – and absolutely boneheaded on-court decision-making, but I do know one thing…and that’s the fact that no player on the planet is as entertaining as the electrifying 27-year-old Frenchman.

While it’s no secret that Monfils may never fulfill his legitimate grand slam potential because of his unwillingness to move forward, the fact of the matter is that no player routinely runs down balls or hits as many crowd-pleasing shots as Gael Monfils does.

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