In the first 4 months of 2017, there were almost 230 professional tournaments in men's tennis, 25 on the ATP level, 41 Challengers and some 160 Futures, the entry level for making an appearance in the ATP rankings list.
In this article, we take a closer look at the players who made the biggest progress in the rankings in comparison with the last ATP rankings list from 2016, released on December 26. 37 players from the Top 400 (on May 1) gained at least 50 positions since the start of the season and 10 of these jumped for 100 places or more in the course of these 4 months. Of course, we should not forget the fact that it is much easier to make the improvements in the positions outside the Top 200, and that's why we have only 2 players that gained at least 50 spots since the start of the season to enter Top 100, that being Janko Tipsarevic and Ernesto Escobedo.
6 players at the top of the list were ranked outside the Top 300 when the season began and by far the best job was done by Jurgen Melzer, Austrian veteran who refused to give up after injury and surgery that kept him away from the court for some 9 months.
List with 37 players who made the biggest progress in the rankings since the start of the season (Top 400):
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Jurgen Melzer sent off 2016 ranked 306th and he is currently ranked 136th, which is good enough to play any Challenger he wants and to combine them with the qualifications for the ATP events. He qualified for the Australian Open to set up a first round clash with his coeval Roger Federer, taking one set from the future champion. Two weeks later Jurgen was in Budapest, playing an indoor hard Challenger, and he went all the way, winning his first title since Dallas 2013. A few weeks later he conquered another indoor Challenger, this time in Wroclaw, and with these points, Melzer returned to the Top 200 for the first time in 12 months. Recently, he advanced to the semi-final of Sarasota Challenger, losing in a thriller against Frances Tiafoe, and he can be very pleased with how he performed in the first 4 months of the new season, obviously still eager to compete just before turning 36.
Promising Chilean Nicolas Jarry was ranked inside the Top 200 as a teenager, with an aggressive style that could pose a threat to anybody outside the Top 100. Nevertheless, his progress wasn't linear and Nicolas found it hard to settle in the rankings, moving back and forward, bothered with injuries as well. He was 330th when the season started and he already gained 128 spots, to be ranked just outside the Top 200. His first good result came in Morelos, where he reached his first final since Quito in September 2014. Alexander Bublik beat him 7-6 6-4 to leave him without the trophy, but Jarry had another chance to grab his first Challenger crown, advancing to the final of Santiago two weeks later. Rogerio Dutra Silva was too strong in the title match but these two results pushed Nicolas forward on the list, and his tally got even better with a semi-final run in Leon a month ago.
Frenchman Gleb Sakharov moved for 122 places since the start of the season, combining Futures and Challengers to put himself in the position to play on the Challenger level on regular basis. Gleb won France F2 Futures and he qualified for Quimper Challenger to advance to the last 8, before losing in Egypt F4 Futures final. He returned to indoor courts and managing to reach back-to-back finals in Canadian Futures, losing both to youngsters Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. One of the last indoor Challenger in the first part of the season, in St. Brieuc, was a nice catch for Sakharov as well, as he made another last 4 appearance and 29 points. Gleb is playing his career-best tennis in the last month or two and his goal at the moment is to try to qualify for the Roland Garros and earn a very nice paycheck that would help him to improve his training and travels.
Alex De Minaur, one of the youngest players in the Top 500, is the next big hope of Australian tennis and he has been on quite a good run in 2017. In Brisbane, his first stop of the season, Alex qualified to become the second player born in 1999 with a match in the main draw of the ATP event after Denis Shapovalov, losing to Mischa Zverev by 6-3 6-3. A week later in Sydney, De Minaur grabbed his first ATP victory, defeating Benoit Paire in the third set tie break, but even bigger success came in Melbourne, where he toppled Gerald Melzer in 5 sets to earn the first Grand Slam win for the players of his generation. Since Alex scored 4 Challenger wins and we should expect him in the Top 200 very soon, and in the hunt for Challenger titles by the end of the season.
Janko Tipsarevic overcame very serious problems with health and injuries in the recent years to get back on the right track, and he is the player who gained the most positions, being ranked inside the Top 200 at the end of 2016. Former Top 10 player had to start the last season from outside the Top 400 and he did a great job to finish 2016 in the Top 150, with a good starting position to attack even stronger in 2017. Janko is the player of the season so far on Challenger level, entering 4 tournaments and lifting 4 trophies, earning big 305 points that propelled him inside the Top 100 for the first time in almost 3 years! Janko is currently ranked 62nd and he can move his schedule towards the ATP tournaments, as he has a great desire to reach the Top 20 as soon as possible.
Young American Ernesto Escobedo is another player who entered Top 100 following a good string of results in the first 4 months of the new season, and his great run in Houston. This 20-year-old had a breakthrough season in 2016, earning more than 250 places in the rankings, and he was in a perfect position to make an even bigger impact in 2017, which he did. Ernesto was carving his way towards the ATP events right on, reaching the main draw in Brisbane and Australian Open, where he defeated Daniil Medvedev before losing to David Ferrer in 4 sets, leaving Melbourne with big 70 points in the bag. More points came after wins in Acapulco and Miami before he claimed the biggest result in a career so far, advancing to the semi-final in ATP 250 tournament in Houston. In one of the most thrilling matches of the season so far, Ernesto prevailed against John Isner in 3 tie breaks but he fell short to Thomaz Bellucci in the battle for the final.