Tennis is a physically and mentally demanding sport. In order to achieve successful results on the ATP tour, it is important to keep both aspects of the game in check. In any sport, consistency is of prime importance. This applies to tennis as well. A player might not win all the titles, but making it to the quarterfinals or better on a regular basis will certainly make him a contender.
A category of players exists who are immensely capable, but often show surprising lapses in form that puts their prospects in doubt. They can defeat three top-10 players in one week, win a title the next, and go on a five-match losing streak thereafter.
Such players often loom as a threat to the favorites in a tournament. They are a unique combination of gifted abilities, with vulnerable bodies and fragile minds.
On the ATP tour, there is no paucity of such players. Irrespective of the surface, the opponent and the head-to-head record, you cannot predict the course their matches will take.
We take a look at five of the most unpredictable players on the ATP tour:
#5 Fernando Verdasco
A former top-10 player in both singles and doubles, Fernando Verdasco turned professional in 2001. Since then, he has won seven singles and eight doubles titles. The 2013 doubles year-end champion's best result at the Majors in singles came at the 2009 Australian Open, where he lost to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the semis.
The Spaniard is currently in seventh position on the list of players with 500 tour level wins. However, he has been so unpredictable over the years that he also holds the grim record of being the player with the third-most singles losses in the history of the ATP tour. He currently has a 20.6% win-rate versus top-10 opponents.
In his 69 main-draw appearances at Slams, the former top-10 player has made the quarterfinals or better on just four occasions. Considering his career win-rate across all surfaces, Verdasco clearly has better results on clay (61%). The 2010 Monte-Carlo runner-up has ironically never made it past the fourth round at Roland Garros. In 2022, the southpaw lost in the second round of qualifying at the French Open against Alexander Ritschard.
#4 Benoit Paire
A former top-20 player on the ATP tour, Benoit Paire is known for his on-court outbursts and outrageous drop shots. Paire was voted the comeback player of the year in 2015, when he jumped from World No. 118 to No. 19.
The Frenchman has won three singles titles on the ATP tour, all of them coming on clay. He won one of those titles at Lyon, where he was unseeded. He has made the finals at six other tour-level events, where he finished as the runner-up. Paire has never made the second week of a Major. The Frenchman's best result at an ATP 1000 event came at the 2013 Rome Masters, where he lost in the semis to Roger Federer.
Paire's robust on-court nature came into the limelight in 2018, where he was fined $16,500 for smashing his racquet multiple times at the Washington Open. Since the start of 2021, Paire has played 71 matches on the ATP tour, winning only 20 of them. At the 2022 French Open, he lost in the first round to Ilya Ivashka in four sets.
#3 Alexander Bublik
Alexander Bublik turned professional in 2016 and has been a versatile player in both singles and doubles. The Kazakh's best result in doubles came at the 2021 French Open, where he finished as the runner-up with partner Andrey Golubev.
Bublik is known for his big serve and led the ace count in the 2021 season. He is known for taking opponents by surprise with his underarm serve. The Kazakh's best result at ATP 1000 events came at the 20211 Miami and Madrid Masters, where he made the quarterfinals.
Bublik has made 13 main-draw singles appearances at Slams. Yet, only twice has he managed to reach the third round. Moreover, out of the five tour-level finals that he has reached, he has won only once, defeating World No. 3 Alexander Zverev at the 2022 Montpellier Open.
#2 Fabio Fognini
Fabio Fognini has been playing professionally since 2004. The veteran Italian is a former top-10 player on the ATP tour. The 2015 Australian Open men's doubles champion has won eight of his nine singles titles on clay.
Fognini has thus far made 54 singles main-draw appearances at Slams. Yet, only once has he managed to reach the quarterfinals (2011 French Open). Known for his varied temperament on the court, Fognini is known for relinquishing favorable leads.
In 2019, Fognini achieved the highlight of his career, defeating Rafael Nadal and Dusan Lajovic in the semis and finals, respectively, to win his maiden Masters 1000 title at Monte-Carlo. Since 2015, he has thrice defeated Nadal on clay.
At the 2022 French Open, Fognini retired after trailing 6-4 7-6(2) 3-2 against Botic van de Zandschulp in the second round.
#1 Nick Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios is the most obvious addition to the list of the most unpredictable players on the ATP tour. Be it a blazing second serve, an out-of-the-blue underarm serve, an unexpected tweener or a bullet forehand, Kyrgios has been one of the most marketable players on the ATP tour. He has piled up wins against higher-ranked players and picked up code violations in equal measure since turning professional in 2013.
Kyrgios has reached as high as No. 13 in the ATP rankings. The Australian is one of only three players to have defeated each of the Big 3 in their first meeting against them. Kyrgios has won six of the nine singles finals he has played on the ATP tour. The 2017 Cincinnati Masters runner-up has twice made the quarterfinals at Majors - 2014 Wimbledon and 2015 Australian Open.
Kyrgios has been fined over $375,000 over the course of his tumultuous career. Interestingly, he has one of the best win-rates against the top-10 players (37%). The Australian spoke of his tennis philosophy at the 2017 US Open.
"There are players out there that are more dedicated, that want to get better, that strive to get better every day, the one-percenters. I'm not that guy," he said.
In 2022, Kyrgios won the men's doubles title at the Australian Open partnering Thanasi Kokkinakis. He made the quarterfinals at the Indian Wells Masters and the semis of the Houston Open. Kyrgios decided not to participate at the 2022 French Open, citing family reasons