Saturday, December 19, 2015

So long, 2015... well, Hello There, 2016

Hey Y'all...Happy holidays!

Have you got your chestnuts roasting? Are they on a fire, preferably an open one? Good. Well then I shall begin.

Here we are at the end of 2015. But what do you think we will say in 2020 about this year? When I, or Todd, look back on this season what do you think the tennis world and landscape will look like. I will try to look forward several years. I expect to stay involved in this blog in some capacity until this medium becomes redundant or until Todd fires me. So the likelihood I am still hanging around in five years’ time is decent.

I think, and this is all based on educated guesswork, of course, there is an American resurgence of sorts. No number one players but a couple solid top 15 player on both sides. I believe Keys can and will win a slam. I think the whole of the ATP top ten will have retired by then with the exception of Nishikori. Kei will have won a slam but be on the way out.

I also think the year-end event moves to Asia. I think some place like Seoul could work if they wanted it. It cannot stay in London forever. It should be used as a tool to crack open new markets. That is how the WTA has used it.

I think the Australian Open and U.S. Open will be wide open in the future whilst the slams in Paris and London end up having the same couple of favourites every year. I also think the world number one position could be passed around.

Australia will win a Davis Cup, too. Russia continues to do well in the Fed Cup because they are Russia.

My final 2015 curtain approaches rather rapidly. I shall enjoy upcoming days off immensely, thank you.

...If you were on Mars in a cave hiding under a box with a blindfold on and ear plugs in you may have missed the fact Djokovic dominated all save perhaps one player. He went 82-6 on the year and 11-4 in his fifteen finals. He won three slams and made the final of the other. He had a losing record against nobody. He went 3-1 against Wawrinka, 4-0 against Nadal and 6-1 against Murray. But you know what. Forget the stats. Every time he stepped on the court he had an aura. He had this ‘I am going to win’ aura. And he did. He dominated all and sundry. There was no player he feared and no way to beat him. He also made it so there was no safe place to put the ball. This year was only interesting when you put Djokovic aside. Next year he will win the Australian Open and the U.S. but I do not think he will win more than two slams. I also do not think he will be making 15 finals or winning 11. There is going to be a drop-off if only because he has so many points to defend. He also pretty much swept the Masters. It will be interesting to see if a clay challenger emerges. Murray is going to fade a little but remain a challenger here and there. Federer is hanging around, as well. He became the first player ever to defeat the defending champion at each slam, except Wimbledon, where he was the champion. That sums up his season.
...The crux of my argument is Federer was very consistent and made two slam finals. He made his first final in New York since 2009. He won a whole bunch of titles and was better than Murray when they played. Djokovic went 77-3 against the rest of the tour and 5-3 against Roger. He had a hard first half of the year but the second half was superb. He continues to defy his age much like Tom Brady. Federer seems to be playing not to have fun or to see what he can do. He is playing for the big prizes and the big tournaments. His backhand is still working fine and his serve is as big a weapon as it ever was. As well as that, his forehand is still the best on the tour. It is a deadly weapon that can hurt anyone.

Then, of course, you have SABR and his net-game. Both these facets have improved more than seems possible. He can serve and volley against anyone. He can also chip and come in at any moment. Federer is on the top of his game still. He has compensated for his age and compiled a 63-11 record, winning 85 per cent of matches. But forget that because at the Olympics he and Hingis are playing together. BACKSPIN is over-excited at the thought of that combination.
...The Swiss won a slam this year, made two semi-finals and was fine at Wimbledon. Andy Murray did not win a slam. In fact, Murray has not won a slam for two and a half years. For somebody with so much potential, he has really struggled to meet expectations. But Wawrinka has impressed. He went 55-18 and also won four titles, the same amount as Murray. He went 6-4 on clay then won the French Open. Which makes no sense. But he is a player that makes no sense. This year he will probably win Wimbledon and lose to Rosol at Queens. He dismissed both Federer and Djokovic in Paris. Stan lost just three sets as he won his second slam. He won three hard court titles to go with it. Two were 500 level. Next season expect more of the same from Stan. He has shown that you can never count him out. I would expect three slam semi-finals again and four or five titles, too. Wawrinka is a consistent top three player. It will continue as long as that backhand is working.
...Now we have the Scot. He obviously just won the Davis Cup and can finish his year on a high, on a winning note. That gives one a lot of confidence. Murray should really be the world number four. He had another solid year but he just isn’t a top player when it matters. Winning 71 and losing 14 is a good record but he has just four titles to show for it. Wawrinka went 4-0 in his finals but Murray went 4-3. Most of those finals he was swept aside by Djokovic. That is the Brit’s biggest problem. Djokovic. He cannot beat the Serb. He was 0-2 against Roger, 0-1 against Wawrinka and 1-6 versus the Serb. 1-6 is just an awful record. He also had his usual bad losses. He lost to Coric and Gabashvili. He seemed to go downhill the longer the season went on. At the slams he disappointed us in the biggest matches again. He will not challenge for the top ranking but he should be a top ten mainstay at worst.
...What is there to say about Tomas? He is perfectly solid, perfectly average and always somewhere around five in the world. When he beat Nadal with ease in Australia I thought he would use that a springboard to a great season. But he didn’t. He made five finals but won just two. Three fourth round slam appearances is an underwhelming stat, too. And that semi-final was a huge collapse. He won the first set but then let Murray dominate him. He lost one of the sets to love! Seeded 4th in Paris he was ousted in four by Tsonga. At Wimbledon he was seeded 6th and got just eight games against Simon of all players. In New York he beat Gasquet 6-2 in the first set. He then proceeded to win just eight more games after that. He is baffling and prone to ridiculous losses. In the Masters he made the quarters or better at eight of the nine. He won’t change his inconsistency no matter how much he says he is going to. Next season will be the same.
...He won three titles, made his first French Open quarter and was definitely solid throughout the year. He wasn’t great at the Masters events and was always struggling with some kind of injury. He struggles to consistently get on the court. If he gets healthy he is dangerous but that just so rarely happens. He beat just six top ten players and nobody ranked above sixth. He was 3-1 in finals this year and once more excelled at 500 levels. For some reason, however, he struggled in Tokyo. He also had a few poor losses and did little work on his serve. He will win a slam one day but second and first round exits in the last two slams is inexcusable. He did make his first doubles final. He and Dolgopolov lost to Murray/Peers in Brisbane. The thing is he’s running out of time. He will be 26 when the next season starts…
...They made two slam semi-finals to go along with their four-set win in the final of Wimbledon. The new #1 doubles duo broke the Bryans monopoly on the top ranking, too. In addition they made seven finals, going 5-2 in those matches. Tecau finally made his Wimbledon dreams come true after losing three consecutive finals from 2010-2012. The loss in the quarter-finals to Herbert/Mahut was a poor one as they were the highest seed left. But they have had a great year. I like them to defend at Wimbledon and win in Australia. They’ll want to prove themselves worthy of the top ranking. I think they do so.
...He went 5-0 in finals. In a year blighted by injury, a slam quarterfinal and three 500 titles is a respectable haul. He has now four titles in Acapulco. Ferrer just hung around and played as much as he could. The Spaniard never stops working but he is coming to the end of his career now. He struggled against the bigger guys, too. Overall it was a good year in the face of the injuries, but there is room for improvement next year.
...He was ranked 26th to start the year and was struggling. He had a miserable Australian Open, too. He looked done. But then he beat Anderson 4-6, 7-6[4], 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open. After that he turned round his season. Richard has momentum and he overturned Wawrinka in five at the next slam. That win against the South African was the key. He lost to Djokovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 but it didn’t seem to matter. He made a semi-final at Wimbledon then a quarter in New York. A 2-0 mark in finals is solid though he needs to make more finals next year. There are a lot of opportunities to pick up points in 2016 and he should be a top ten mainstay. I predict a semi-final at a slam somewhere, possibly Paris.
...We’re almost done. This is the final thing you have to endure from me. Tsonga was not in Australia due to injury and it looked bleak for him. He began the year at 12 in the world and, despite some ups and downs, he has risen up to 10. He fought off injuries and age to register a slam semi-final in Paris and a quarterfinal in New York. He should have beaten Cilic but lost in five. Will he ever win a U.S. Open quarterfinal? He was abysmal through bits of his year but the Shanghai final was an impressive run. This coming year with fewer points to defend he will rise up the rankings.



Well, I guess that’s me pretty much done. I think it will be interesting to see where Serbia goes next. When Djokovic retires or starts to go downhill, who will step up? The women have got some talent coming through, like Bojana Jovanovski. But Troicki and Tipsarevic are at the end. Will the crop of youngsters be able to step up? They are going to be a nation in transition soon.

Some more random predictions:

* - I think the top ten is in for a shakeup. Berdych, Ferrer and Nadal out. Tsonga should hang around the bottom rung too along with compatriot Gasquet. If Raonic can get healthy he should be in there, too. Perhaps Goffin can make a run into the top ten, as well. There will be a player nobody sees coming challenge.

* - At the Olympics, Switzerland wins the medal table. Hingis, Bacs, Wawrinka and Federer. Do you honestly think there isn’t enough there to win the medal table? In ladies doubles and the mixed, there could be Gold medals. In the men’s doubles a medal is a possibility. In the men’s singles two medals are possible. Ladies singles is unlikely, but you never know. I think two-three Golds and a Bronze or two is a serious possibility. I’d love to see Federer with Bacs whilst Wawrinka goes with Hingis. Partially because that combination seems the most unusual.

* - Federer wins Wimbledon. My annual prediction. I believe he will win it again one day.

* - Nadal retires. After the Olympics is over what is Nadal playing for? What else does he want to do?

* - Bernard Tomic is going to go into double digits with wins at slam level. Keep in mind a fourth round appearance is three wins. I think that prediction is fairly solid. It’s a safe prediction which is why it’s almost certain to go wrong.

* - After the Olympics at least five tennis players hang up their rackets.

* - Nadal times his schedule well and wins his final French Open seeded low a la Pete Sampras. But he never makes a slam final again. Wouldn’t you like to see Nadal win just one more? He is more than fully capable.

* - Lleyton Hewitt wins a five setter in Australia, guides Australia to another decent Davis Cup run

* - My year end top ten will look something like this: Djokovic, Federer, Wawrinka, Murray, Nishikori, Berdych, Tsonga, Raonic, Gasquet and Goffin. I think, adding to my earlier prediction, Berdych is likely to fall out of the top ten but perhaps I’m a year too early. I think it’s likely, but my realistic guess at the top ten is above.

P.S.- Go next door to WTA BACKSPIN. They have pie. ;)

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