For all players competing on the ATP Challenger Tour, capping a season of tireless hard work with a year-end Top 100 finish is the pinnacle. It marks the culmination of a successful campaign and signals a transition to the ATP World Tour in the coming year.
On Monday, the 2018 year-end ATP Rankings were published following an exciting final few weeks of tennis on the Challenger circuit. And as the season neared its conclusion, there was arguably no storyline more captivating than that of Pablo Andujar.
One year ago, Andujar was sitting at No. 1,701 in the ATP Rankings. The Spanish veteran, a former Top 50 stalwart and three-time ATP World Tour champion, had experienced the greatest of highs in his career. But after enduring three elbow surgeries and years of anguish, he had his doubts that he would ever step on a court again.
That made Andujar’s rise to the year-end Top 100 just that much more special. The 32-year-old capped a resurgent campaign in extraordinary fashion, rising a total of 1,619 spots to No. 82 in the ATP Rankings. It was not only the biggest jump among all players to finish in this year’s Top 100, but the biggest since 2004, when both Tommy Haas (1,702 spots) and Thomas Johansson (1,689 spots) registered astonishing ascents.
“It’s something that I never thought was possible,” Andujar told ATPWorldTour.com. “I am very happy. The truth is that when I started the season I did not know how my elbow would respond, and if I really could return to my top form on the court. This season also has had its adversities, including a new problem with the elbow. They are small things that impact my return at the top level.”
Biggest Movers To Year-End Top 100 (Since 1998)
|Player||Ranking Jump||Year-End Ranking|
|Tommy Haas (2004)||+1,702||No. 17|
|Thomas Johansson (2004)||+1,689||No. 30|
|Pablo Andujar (2018)||+1,619||No. 82|
|Paul-Henri Mathieu (2012)||+1,541||No. 59|
|Chris Woodruff (1999)||+1,342||No. 51|
When Andujar kicked off his 2018 campaign, he had not competed on the ATP World Tour or ATP Challenger Tour in nearly 15 months, as he continued to recover from the trio of surgeries. The Spaniard would quickly find his form, slashing his ATP Ranking with back-to-back titles at the inaugural Ferrero Challenger Open in Alicante, Spain, and the ATP World Tour 250 event in Marrakech. His upset of Kyle Edmund in the Marrakech final was his first Top 50 win in three years and saw him soar to No. 153.
Andujar became the first player to win Challenger and tour-level titles in consecutive weeks since David Goffin in 2014. He was also the lowest-ranked champion on the ATP World Tour in 20 years.
And he was not done there. Andujar would march to his third title of the year in Florence in October and added a fourth in his season finale in Buenos Aires. He did not drop a set in the Argentine capital, cementing his Top 100 return with authority.
“This year was crazy,” Andujar added. “I started the year without knowing if it was going to be the end of my career, because I did not have an ATP Ranking and I did not know how my elbow would respond. Now I finished the year at No. 82 in the world and I am already direct entry into the Australian Open.”
Ugo Humbert and Christian Garin also made significant gains en route to the year-end Top 100. The #NextGenATP Frenchman Humbert confirmed his spot at a career-high No. 84 after streaking to the title in Andria, Italy, on Sunday. He is the fourth-youngest player to feature in the year-end Top 100, behind only Denis Shapovalov, Alex de Minaur and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Ugo Humbert registered the second-biggest jump to the year-end Top 100 in 2018.
Humbert opened his season at No. 374 in the ATP Rankings and would soar 290 spots behind a breakthrough second half. Having won just five main draw matches on the ATP Challenger Tour entering the month of July, he would post a 31-7 mark through the end of the year. That included six final appearances and three titles in Segovia, Ortisei and Andria. Humbert also qualified for his first Grand Slam at the US Open and won his first ATP World Tour match in his hometown of Metz. He would earn nomination for Newcomer of the Year in the ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon.
Garin, meanwhile, rose 220 spots from No. 305 to a career-high No. 85 behind a ruthless run through October. In his final three tournaments of the season, the 22-year-old Chilean completed a perfect 15-0 month with titles in Campinas, Brazil; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Lima, Peru. He joins countryman Nicolas Jarry as players from Chile in the Top 100.
2018 Movers To Year-End Top 100
|Player||Ranking Jump||Year-End Ranking|
|Pablo Andujar||+1,619||No. 82|
|Ugo Humbert||+290||No. 84|
|Christian Garin||+220||No. 85|
|Alex de Minaur||+177||No. 31|
|Hubert Hurkacz||+150||No. 87|
In total, 13 players jumped more than 100 spots to the year-end Top 100. In addition to Andujar, Humbert and Garin, #NextGenATP stars De Minaur, Hubert Hurkacz, Reilly Opelka and Jaume Munar also featured in the group, as well as Ilya Ivashka, Bradley Klahn, Guido Andreozzi, Denis Kudla, Ernests Gulbis and Martin Klizan. Twelve of the 13 lifted at least one Challenger trophy in 2018, with Gulbis being the lone exception.
De Minaur, meanwhile, accomplished arguably the most impressive feat of the bunch. The biggest mover to the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings, the Aussie soared 177 spots from No. 208 to No. 31. After opening his season without a Challenger title to his name, he would score his maiden crown on the prestigious lawns of Nottingham and reached a pair of ATP World Tour finals in Sydney and Washington, before finishing runner-up at the Next Gen ATP Finals.