Crystal Ball: 10 Predictions for 2010
What’s in store for tennis fans in 2010? Here are 10 predictions (or wild guesses, whichever you prefer) for the New Year.
1. Roger Federer doesn’t win a major title. I don’t think Federer has added the last major to his resume (he has won 15, more than any man in history). The upcoming year, though, promises to be the most challenging of his career as the tour’s young stars (chiefly Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Murray) mature, and Federer’s long-time rival, Rafael Nadal, looks to regain his form after recovering from injuries. This would be Federer’s first year without a major title since 2002.
2. Rafael Nadal wins the French Open and Wimbledon. Nadal isn’t going to age as well as Federer, but I don’t think we have to worry about that just yet. He’ll turn 24 in June and has at least two more good seasons left in his sometimes-achy knees. Once he recaptures Paris, he’ll have a lot of confidence headed into Wimbledon.
3. Maria Sharapova wins the Australian Open. In Melbourne, all eyes will be on the newly unretired Justine Henin, last year’s comeback champ, Kim Clijsters, and defending champion Serena Williams. Sharapova will upstage them all. The 24-year-old Russian struggled with injuries in 2009 and couldn’t master a new service motion, but she played better in the fall (and also reverted to her old service motion). Sharapova performs well in Melbourne and there’s no reason she can’t return to the form that won the title there in 2008.
With a gimpy back and a lot of points to defend, former No. 1 Safina could see her ranking plummet in 2010. (Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)
5. Novak Djokovic becomes the No. 1 player in the world. The Serb could accomplish this without winning a major title, since he put in so-so performances in Australia, Paris and London last year (quarterfinals, third round and quarterfinals, respectively) and can gain lots of points at those tournaments. This is the case even if prediction No. 2 (Nadal wins the French Open and Wimbledon) comes true, provided Nadal doesn’t perform nearly as well at the Australian and U.S. Opens, where he has a lot of points to defend (winner and semifinal).
6. Venus Williams doesn’t win a major, contemplates retirement. Last year’s Wimbledon final took a lot out of the elder Williams sister. She’ll turn 30 this year and the women’s field, weak in recent years, is suddenly difficult again now that Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova are motivated and healthy. If Venus continues to suffer from niggling injuries and perform poorly at the major tournaments, she might well call it quits.
7. Argentina wins the Davis Cup. To residents of the greatest tennis nation to never with the Davis Cup I say, “2010 is your year.” Juan Martin del Potro is getting better by the month. David Nalbandian is ready come back from injury. And for once, the team will get along well enough to capture a title, while defeating Russia and defending champion Spain along the way.
8. Melanie Oudin drops in the rankings. Melanie Oudin is for real. She’s tough-minded, has first-rate footwork, and her playing style is suited to all surfaces. She still needs time to mature, however. Oudin plays a risky game (lots of angles and little margin for error) and I expect her to lose more bets this year, now that people are expecting a lot from her. Good things, perhaps great things, are in her future, but probably not in 2010.
9. Dinara Safina falls outside the Top 10. Safina, who’s been suffering from a lower back injury, was a wreck (mentally and physically) by the end of 2009. In 2010, we’re going to see how tough it is to obtain the No. 1 ranking by playing pretty well everywhere but not winning many tournaments. Safina has points to defend at almost every stop on the tour next season. Her ranking could fall far, and quickly.
10. Andy Roddick becomes a father. I’m not privy to any pending announcement, so calm down. The recently married Roddick would make a good dad, though. Why should papa Federer have all the fun?
Tom Perrotta is a senior editor at TENNIS magazine. Follow him on Twitter.