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How 2017 Will Finish (Part I)

First of all, happy new year to all my readers (12 days into it…). Hope you all had a lovely festive break, and going back to work isn’t too taxing! 

As is now tradition among my friends, we’ve been predicting the tennis season to come. Last year went … well … decent, I suppose. If you want a more detailed look, take a glance at these articles. A couple of us are hoping for much better years this time around!

Joining me in casting our eye across the year in tennis is once again James Doan, Josh Hockley-Still, Charlie Marriott and Emma Still. I’m delighted to announce that all of us will be providing predictions for both men and women, and this blog will introduce you to our tips for the WTA tour.

As usual, we’ve simply given our year-end top 10, the winners of the Grand Slams and Tour Finals (Istanbul for the ladies). As a little extra this year, we’ve also named a player who isn’t likely to break into the top 10 this year, but who we think has the potential to should they find form.

More on that later. Firstly … which women grace our top 5 come the end of the calendar year?


Every Williams is Serena, none of us have said Venus for anything

Last year, the unthinkable happened. Serena Williams didn’t finish the year as number one (the first time since 2012), as Angelique Kerber stormed to two Grand Slam titles and deserved to finish top of the pile. The biggest question going into the 2017 season is whether the German can hold onto that position, or will Williams (or indeed someone else) nab it off her?

The vast majority of our predictors don’t view Kerber as a one-season wonder. Only James hasn’t got her holding onto that ranking, and even then he has her in second. Even if most of us don’t have Serena climbing back to number one, three keep her in second – therefore implying she isn’t going anywhere fast. Josh, henceforth known as the bold one, has her lying down in fifth. Does he see 2017 as the start of a decline for the great champion or merely a blip? No matter, time will soon tell if he is right or not.

Charlie, James and Josh believe Simona Halep will climb to third. Radwanska, Keys and Pliskova also feature heavily. Josh has the latter finishing second, and maybe we should trust his judgement on this – after all, he has seen the Czech star play live. Defending French Open champion Garbine Muguruza and current World Number Five Dominika Cibulkova only get one pick each.

A couple of years ago, names such as Azarenka, Kvitova and Sharapova would have been dead-certs in the top half. Now, due to differing circumstances, none appear. Will they in the bottom half?


What I like most about that table is the bravery of our predictors. All of us have at least one shout which could either be great, or awful. Suarez Navarro, Svitolina, Wozniacki, an injured Kvitova and still on maternity leave Azarenka. They are all bold, and definitely names to follow over the course of the season.

The rest of the bottom five looks fairly similar to the end of 2016. Cibulkova and Muguruza are more common in this grid, with British number one Jo Konta in four of the five top tens (James being the most patriotic, Charlie the least).

Madison Keys, who will miss the Australian Open with an injury, features in all of our top tens, but in very different places. Charlie and James have her staying in 8th, Josh has her in 6th, Emma in 4th and I’ve placed her 3rd. I may be wrong, but that for me is a sign that she has the potential to do very well, we just disagree on whether this is the right year. Arguably, the same could be said for Muguruza.

Will our top ten predictions be reflected in our Grand Slam winners?


Straight off the bat, you can see why James thinks Serena will be reclaiming her number one ranking! The calendar Grand Slam beckons for the American … or does it?

The Australian, starting next week, reflects our top ten quite nicely actually. Everyone who has Kerber retaining her number one ranking have her taking some momentum to defend her title.

At the French, most of us see a return to the Serena-Slams, except me. I’ve gone for Halep, but placed her in my bottom half. The reason? That’s exactly what happened to Muguruza last year! 2017 feels like the year Halep will win her first Slam. If she doesn’t, you have to question whether she ever will.

Wimbledon is again split between Serena and someone who has never won a Slam. Radwanska gets backed once again by Charlie, with Josh rooting for the Pole as well. The rest of us see Serena’s dominance at SW19 continuing for yet another year.

Emma and I have gone for Pliskova to win in America. Last year, the Czech beat Serena Williams in straight sets in the last four, before losing to Kerber in the final. Her victory over Serena showed that America suits her style, and she’s ready to make the jump. Josh has gone for Halep to break her Slam hoodoo, with Charlie and James sticking with Serena.

Interestingly, four of us have Kerber to finish as the World Number One, yet none of us predict her defending her US title.


The same names feature in Istanbul – no-one has Cibulkova defending her title, nor does anyone think Serena will triumph (possibly due to her poor attendance record in recent years).

Now to introduce the wildcards. There were two rules when picking them: 1. they couldn’t have featured in anyone’s top ten, 2. they can’t currently be inside the top 20. The reason for a wildcard was to name someone you aren’t brave enough to place inside the top 10, but wouldn’t be surprised to see them at the end of the year.

I’ll start with world number 22 Kiki Bertens, Josh’s choice. The 25-year-old reached the semi-finals of the French last year, played a key role in Netherlands’ run to the semis of the Fed Cup and rose to the brink of the top 20.

Emma has plumped for Croat Ana Konjuh. The world number 35 reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career at the last one in New York, and at 19 years of age has plenty of time to go deeper. She’s long been tipped for success in the sport, and was runner-up in the opening tournament of the year last week.

American Coco Vandewegh is who James has gone for. She’s 25, currently sits at 38 in the rankings and has only reached the quarters of a Slam once (2015 Wimbledon), however, she has the potential to climb the rankings quick.

My pick, the Latvian 39-ranked Jelena Ostapenko is next. I first heard of her when she was given a wildcard entry to Wimbledon in 2015, aged just 17. I watched her first match when she blew away Suarez Navarro to claim her first top ten win. I thought there was real potential there, and although there’s nothing to show for it just yet, this year might be hers.

This time last year, Belinda Bencic featured in almost all of our top tens. The young Swiss star looked certain to start taking the sport by storm, but was plagued by injuries and has fallen to 48th in the world. Nevertheless, Charlie thinks she might get it back together this year and climb to the top ten. Can the 19-year-old do it, or is the gap too big and is it a year too soon?

At the end of the year, we will return to these rankings, using a similar scoring system to the one successfully trialled last month. At the start of next week, keep an eye out for the male predictions.



How 2016 Will Finish (part I)

It is quickly becoming a tradition for my friends and I to predict what men’s tennis will look like in 12 months time, in terms of the top 10 and slam winners. This year we are extending it to include the women’s and olympics winner. This first one is a look at the men’s side, with the burning question – do we think Djokovic’s Dominance will continue?

Doing the men with me are Charlie Marriot, Emma Still, James Doan and Josh Still. Charlie, Emma and Josh have all done this before, James is new to it and is only doing the men’s side. Good luck to all my fellow bloggers. All the graphics were designed by Emma, and I am forever grateful for her photoshop skills in the development of this.


We’ll start with the top five, and explanations.



Pretty much status quo at the top – Federer‘s natural decline will continue but I would imagine he will have at least 1 semi-final appearance at a Slam.


Djokovic’s dominance will continue into 2016, highlighted with my picks for the big tournament. Federer seems to be getting better despite his age, with my theory being that it’s purely so he can win the Rio Olympics in 2016. I think he will. Murray is consistently amongst the top four, and three seems to be a perfect position for him. Nishikori has vast potential, and while last year wasn’t great, the next very well might be. His game is still good enough to challenge the best. Wawrinka is on a slight decline, but he’s still good enough for top 5.


I believe the top 4 pick themselves; the only issue for debate is the order. Djokovic will be world number 1 without hell freezing over, and it is likely with his late season form, plus lack of points to defend, that Nadal will be second. Federer and Murray could both quite easily finish third, I’ve plumped for Murray on the basis that I imagine he’ll be more consistent over the course of a year, even if Federer has more individual success. Wawrinka is now a permanent fixture amongst the top 10, and even if he doesn’t win a slam in 2016 (which I don’t think he will), he is still better than the vast majority of tennis players.


Novak Djokovic amassed a record breaking 16,585 ranking points last year after reaching all four grand slam finals, winning a record 11 masters series events before winning the World Tour Finals event in November at the o2 in London. The only major title that eluded him was the French Open where he was defeated by Stan Wawrinka in four sets at Roland Garros. The only certainty about predicting the top 10 in male tennis is that Novak will be number 1. Roger Federer played some of the best tennis of his career in beating Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-final of Wimbledon before losing to Djokovic in the final. He also reached the final of the US Open before losing to Djokovic once again. 2015 was a landmark year for Murray who won the Davis Cup on his own. He also enjoyed his most accomplished year on clay winning two titles and beating Rafael Nadal on the surface for the first time in the final of the Madrid Masters. It is a big year for Murray who is expecting the birth of his first child in February as well as committing to play in Davis Cup competition once again. I expect that Muzza may struggle to replicate the consistency of last season and relinquish his number spot in the rankings. Nadal looked ready to compete with the world’s best once again at the World Tour Finals in London in November. He looked to be back to somewhere near his best form in his demolition of Murray in the round robin stage. A good clay court season could see him retain his place amongst tennis ‘big four.’ Out of all the players in the current top 10, Stan the Man seems the only one capable of trading blows with Novak Djokovic in a best of five sets match. Stan hit Djokovic off the court to win the French Open and if the Swiss could add more consistency to his game he could move even higher up the rankings.


There’s no debate about the no. 1 position – Djokovic has become a ‘Big 1’ within the ‘Big 4’, and it’s hard to imagine what, barring a serious injury, could stop him finishing top of the rankings for the 5th time in 6 years. Indeed, I think he has a serious chance of completing the Grand Slam for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969; his physicality is such that I just don’t see who will beat him over 5 sets, and as a patriot, I fully expect him to win Olympic gold in Rio too. Behind Djokovic, I predict that Nadal will bounce back from a lacklustre year ’15 just as Federer did from ‘13 and Murray from ’14. Murray’s consistency will see him at no. 3. Federer, who will be 35 next summer, will drop down to 4 as I’m not sure he’ll be able to produce his best every week – but he should still have a couple of Slam runs left in him.

It may seem a little harsh not to include Stan Wawrinka in the Big 4 – after all, he has won a Slam and finished in the top 4 in each of the last 2 years. But while he’s a threat to any of them on his day, he will never have their unrelenting consistency and, thanks to Djokovic’s dominance, I don’t think he’ll win a Slam this year. Assuming he doesn’t, no. 5 is actually generous – he wouldn’t have been ranked that loftily for the past 2 years without a Slam win.


And now the bottom half



Goffin is showing more promise so a good run at some 500 rank tournaments could see him slip by Tsonga, Dmitrov et al into that 10th place.


Tomas Berdych lives at number 6. I don’t see Nadal’s body holding up for a year. He looked good at the end of last year but I don’t think that’ll last. Ferrer is getting older but still seems to always be in and around the top 10 so you’d be stupid to bet against him being there again. Raonic and Cilic, with age and experience, are too good not to return to the top 10.


The second half of my top 10 highlights the severe lack of depth in men’s tennis. It essentially hasn’t changed in the last two years. I think Berdych and Nishikori will stay, Raonic and Cilic will return with Goffin being the sole debutant. Why Goffin? His match against Murray in the Davis Cup proved he can play, and genuinely threaten, the best. Goffin’s place could quite easily still go to Ferrer, even at 34.


2015 was not a great year for Japanese star, Kei Nishikori. Losing in the first round of the US open and withdrawing from his second round match at Wimbledon through injury. However at 26 Nishikori should be entering his peak years as a professional tennis player and playing injury free I expect him to cement his place in the world’s top 10. Berdych has been a consistent performer on the male tennis circuit for nearly a decade. A regular beyond the fourth round of grand slam tournaments I expect the Czech to remain between 6-10 in the rankings throughout the year. For Kevin Anderson, 2015 was something of a breakthrough year. The big South African reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon for the first time in 2015 as well as reaching his first quarter final in a grand slam at the US Open culminating in reaching a career high world number 10 in October 2015. The indomitable Ferrer will almost certainly finish the year inside the games top 10. He does every year. If Nick Kyrgios can keep his head together, the talented Aussie can be a top 10 player for many years to come. However, that is like saying that if Daniel Sturridge can stay fit England can win the Euros. Nonetheless, Kyrgios is a huge talent and a good run at his home Slam in Melbourne could set the tone for a big year for the big mouth.



I could easily have put Nishikori ahead of Wawrinka, as he has the potential to develop into a genuinely world-class player, who has also shown that he can trouble all of the Big 4 – but will his injury-prone body ever be able to get through a full season?! I could have put him in the top 5, or judged that his injury record merited leaving him out of the top 10 altogether, but in the end I compromised by putting him at no. 6.

There was fierce competition for the remaining 4 places. Berdych at no. 7 – does any more need to be said? My wildcard is Kyrgios at no. 8! He’s into his twenties now, and assuming he’s maturing both on and off the court, there’s no reason not to consider him a future Grand Slam champion. He has a temperament perfectly suited to the big stage, so I’m expecting at least one run to the semi-finals or even the final of a Slam in 2016; probably Wimbledon, or his home slam in Australia. My list finishes with Ferrer and Cilic – I keep predicting Ferrer’s demise, but even though I think the days of him going deep into the second week of Slams are over, he should win enough 250 and 500 tournaments to stay in the top 10.   Cilic actually could contend for Slams, and now that he seems to be over his injuries, is too good not to be there or thereabouts after a full season on tour.

Ending with a look at the grand slam, and other major tournament, prospects, and it’s fair to say one man from Serbia dominates … 


Charlie has given a little note on the pattern amongst our slam winners: Normal service to be resumed at the main tournaments after a couple of unexpected years, the newer names seem to be settled in now so while they’re all likely to challenge, I think this year will (sadly) be a return to the more conventional list of champions.



Josh provides us with a tip of the player to watch:



I know I said this last year and ended up with egg on my face, but if the giant Argentine attempts another injury comeback, he will remain the most exciting player in tennis, and if he retains only a fraction of his awesome abilities, one of the very best. I’ll be following his progress closely. On the domestic front, Kyle Edmund’s burgeoning career is worth watching after an encouraging Davis Cup debut. Borna Coric, Alex Zverev, Hyeon Chung and Thanasi Kokkinakis are all hugely talented youngsters now firmly enmeshed in the world’s top 100, so hopefully they can continue their development this year.