Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
Who else to start with but the new poster boy for anti-boring?
Gulbis can both talk and play a good game, but whether it's in the press room or on the court, you never know what's coming next. His electric groundstrokes can be stunningly good or stunningly bad, and his new forehand motion is a sight to behold in itself -- left arm up, fingers splayed in a dramatic "hold everything" gesture that's almost apt for his unpredictability on that wing.
His quotes have practically become collectibles on tour, ranging from observations on fellow players -- "some guys [in the top 100], I'm sorry, with respect, they can't play tennis" -- to his off-court escapades, the most notorious being an arrest for allegedly soliciting a prostitute in Stockholm in 2009 (he denied the charge, but said, "everyone should spend a night in jail once").
His father is one of the richest men in Latvia and his mother is a well-known actress and daughter of one of the country's most famous film directors. In keeping with that background, the 24-year-old likes artsy movies and thick novels -- when he's not seeking entertainment from his fellow players, that is.
Gael Monfils (FRA)
The spectacularly athletic Monfils makes the amazing look routine, producing leaping winners and trick shots with regularity during his matches. His results would probably be better if he did a little less of that, and instead stood closer to the baseline and hit more standard, powerful and, well … boring shots.
But he's already said he prefers to enjoy himself and give the fans a show, so expect the pyrotechnics to continue -- even if it means you won't see him in the later rounds as often.
The wide-eyed 26-year-old is almost as loose off the court. He's a big hip-hop fan who will sometimes do the latest dance moves after a victory, and might eat at McDonald's after matches. His tweets are a mixture of French and English, and sometimes so jumbled they are difficult for speakers of either language to understand. When he whipped out his smartphone to tape the crowd's wave the other day, it was a typical move from a player who has an instinct for making a connection with the stands.
Benoit Paire (FRA)
Relatively new on the main tour, the 6-foot-5 Frenchman has a slingshot game highlighted by his two-handed backhand and broke through by reaching the semifinals of Rome a few weeks ago. Even before that, his colorful behavior had already made him a known figure -- the story goes that he once broke all his racquets so he wouldn't have to go to a tournament, and he was dropped by the French federation a few years ago for lack of discipline.
That has changed and the 23-year-old is now a much calmer presence, though he did get into an argument with compatriot Michael Llodra during a match in Miami earlier this year. His eating habits, however, need some work -- he tweeted a picture of himself enjoying a pizza the night before a match with Nadal in Madrid, and after losing went for some some more fast food.
Was he going to employ the same tactics against Federer the following week in Rome? No, he said, "I will eat for sure some pasta." Stanislas Wawrinka, which whom he has struck up a strong friendship, confirms that he's a nightmare to eat with.
Paire will answer a lot of unusual interview questions, including a demonstration of how many marshmallows he can stuff in his mouth (seven).
Fabio Fognini (ITA)
The 26-year-old Italian has quite a moniker to live up to, but more than meets the billing with a flashy game and off-the-wall personality. He hits winners, gestures, makes faces and generally turns matches into an opera. He went ballistic when his match against Monfils at the French Open in 2010 was called for darkness, and the tirade continued for quite a while.
"In the lockerroom, he insulted everyone for 30 minutes," Monfils reported, adding, "But … you know, he's a nice guy."
His goofy side is evident on social media, where he befriends any and all players, as well as posting pictures of himself in strange getups -- or nearly naked.
Jerzy Janowicz (POL)
He's since gotten some stiff competition from Viktor Troicki, but Janowicz was the early leader for "tirade of the year" when he melted down at the Australian Open, yelling, "How many times?" at the umpire over and over. His shirt-ripping celebration after upsetting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Rome also got him noticed.
The 6-8 22-year-old from Poland has the big game befitting someone of his height, but also a significant amount of touch and penchant for drop shots. As with Gulbis, he's been quoted saying less than flattering things about members of the big four, and isn't afraid to express his emotions.
Bernard Tomic (AUS)
He's been in the news recently mostly for his father's physical assault on his hitting partner, which has led to John Tomic's ban from all ATP and ITF tournaments until further notice. But when not caught up in these more troubling issues, Tomic has been a source of frustration and amusement.
At 20, he is the youngest player in the top 100 but is seen as having underachieved so far in his career and has repeatedly been accused of not trying during matches, earning the nickname "Tomic the Tank Engine." Every year at the Australian Open, he manages to gets headlines, whether it's complaining about night matches being past his bedtime or getting caught driving his BMW too fast … yet again.
At the Australian Open, Roger Federer warned that Tomic shouldn't look too far ahead to their potential meeting in the third round, generating a lot of media attention. After reaching the third round before Federer, Tomic then talked about the match and cheekily added, "if he gets there."
His game has a similar offbeat quality, latent power mixed with spin and variety that makes him extremely enjoyable to watch when playing well. And when he's not playing well, it's fallout that's worth watching. Perhaps the recent incident involving his father will produce more patience with his progress so far.
There are plenty of other names that could be included, such as Dmitry Tursunov, Sergiy Stakhovsky (of prize money increases and ball-mark photographing fame), Llodra, Troicki (who grabbed a cameraman to inspect a mark), as well as various players whose results have not been as big as their personalities.