Friday, 23 December 2016

2017 Tennis Almost Here

2016 is about to end which means that the first tournaments on both the WTA and ATP tours for 2017 are only just over a week away.

A fortnight of practice for the first major - the Australian Open at Melbourne Park starting on 16 January - begins with titles up for grabs in Auckland, New Zealand and Shenzhen, China for the ladies, and Chennai, India and Doha, Qatar for the gentlemen.
Brisbane, Australia plays host for both tours.

Petra Kvitova will be missing for at least six months after injuries suffered in the senseless personal attack from an intruder in her home earlier this week.  She will be certainly missed, but hopefully be back on court later this year, recovered from her physical and emotional trauma.

2017 offers plenty, and certainty is not on the menu.  12 months ago, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams were the dominant forces atop the singles rankings, and whilst still the ones to beat in the minds of many, other players have lifted their standards of performance and consistency.

Angelique Kerber is the deserved number one female player having claimed two Grand Slam titles in 2016, and her obvious talent is matched with a fierce competitiveness and belief, an attitude that has been adopted by many of her peers.

Challengers to Angie, either for the top spot, or for major titles, should come from the tried and true - Serena for as long as she is willing, Simona Halep, Aga Radwanska, Garbine Muguruza (who with consistency could be anything), Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova, and yes even Maria Sharapova once she returns from her suspension in April.
Then there are the potential world beaters Madison Keys and Johanna Konta.  

The depth in women's tennis makes for an exciting season ahead.

The Andy Murray / Novak Djokovic rivalry appears set to define the men's game, at least for the foreseeable future, despite a number of young guns attempting to close in on the duopoly.  
Murray should retain the top spot for some time, given all the points that Novak has to defend in the first half of 2017.

What of the others ?  Federer returns after a long injury layoff and we don't know exactly where he will feature - probably able to beat most but not the top few.  Nadal is now appearing to be at best a solid top five player if fit, and not a threat at majors other than Paris.
Wawrinka is the same as he has been for a few years - dangerous at Grand Slam level but highly unreliable elsewhere.
Milos Raonic is the real deal, again with the proviso that he maintains fitness.  Injury robbed him of a possible final at the 2016 Australian Open, he was runner-up at Wimbledon and clearly the third best performed at the year end event in London.

Of the new breed, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios have games that can worry the best, but they need to apply patience before potential ever turns into a threat to the top spots.

The predictability of men's tennis I believe will still exist in 2017, but to a much lesser extent.

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