Monday December 29th, 2014

Believe it or not: the 2015 tennis season is less than one week away, even though the last ball was played in the Davis Cup final a little more than a month ago. It's time we shake off the holiday food comas and ramp up for another exciting year. With that in mind, here's a primer to get you up to speed on what to expect over the next three weeks and how to set yourself up to enjoy the season:

Who will be playing -- and where -- to start the season?

Before we begin, let's just start by saying everyone should download the full 2015 calendar compiled by the Let Second Serve blog. Every ATP, WTA, Grand Slam, Davis Cup and Fed Cup event is in there and can be dropped right into your calendar application. It's a great service to the tennis community and it's free. 

With just two weeks of tournaments before the Australian Open kicks off the Slam season on January 19th, here's a roundup of where to catch the top players once the 2015 season begins:

This week:

Mubadala World Tennis Championship: The annual exhibition in Abu Dhabi isn't an official tournament, but with a lineup that includes No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, and Andy Murray, it's hard to ignore. The event took a hit when Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled out, but if you're jonsing for a tennis fix this week, tune in when the three-day event starts on January 1st. 

January 4-10

Brisbane International: For the second year in a row, the joint ATP/WTA tournament in Brisbane features the best lineup ahead of the Australian Open. Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and Grigor Dimitrov feature for the men, while Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic lead a stacked field for the women. Brisbane also sees the welcome return of Juan Martin del Potro, who was sidelined for most of 2014 with a wrist injury. 

Hopman Cup: The ITF team competition is basically an exhibition, but it's a fun one given the mixed doubles component. Players love starting their season in the low-pressure environment of Perth because they're guaranteed at least three singles matches against elite competition. This year's event features Serena Williams and John Isner pairing up to represent the U.S., with Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil repping for Canada, Agnieszka Radwanska and Jerzy Janowicz for Poland, Flavia Pennetta and Fabio Fognini for Italy and Murray and Heather Watson for Britain. 

Qatar Open: Djokovic and Nadal will kick off their season in Doha. Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Ernests Gulbis also headline the field. 

ASB Classic: Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe are just a few of the women kicking off their 2015 season in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Shenzhen Open: Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova could be headed for the most anticipated WTA final of the week. 

January 11-17

Sydney International: Not many players like to play the week before a Slam, which always hurts the Sydney tournament, where the top men's seeds are Fognini and David Goffin. This year the tournament gets a welcome boost with Del Potro returning to defend his title. The women's tournament is much stronger, with Halep, Kvitova, Radwanska and Wozniacki all confirmed. 

Heineken Open: Ferrer, Gulbis, Monfils and Isner get a final tune up in Auckland. 

Must-Have Bookmarks

ATP and WTA websites: Want to know who is playing in what tournament week-to-week? The ATP website is the home of the official confirmations and withdrawals. A quick peek at each tournament's page gives you a glimpse of the top eight seeds confirmed for each tournament.  

ProTennisLive.com: The most invaluable site in tennis. Keep track of every score in every ATP and WTA match across the globe. 

​TennisChannel.com: If you don't already have Tennis Channel as part of your television service, it's time to call your cable provider. Not only does the channel handle the bulk of U.S. tennis coverage on a weekly basis (it will cover the first big tournament of the year at the Brisbane International on January 4th), but it also does a fine job supplementing ESPN's coverage of the Slams. The network has also bolstered its coverage with its Tennis Channel Everywhere app, which is available on iOS and Android. Whether it's via the web or app, keep in the loop with Tennis Channel for their coverage schedule, which you can find here

TennisTV: A year ago I would not have recommended a TennisTV subscription, but with the its new changes, it makes our list for 2015 must-haves. TennisTV has expanded and will stream a match live if, say, Tennis Channel has chosen to tape delay a match. And barring the occasional geographical restrictions, TennisTV covers all the tournaments you want to see. Besides, being able to sneak in a few matches by streaming at work isn't the worst idea ever, is it? And to top it all off, TTV offers a fantastic catch-up service, which allows you to watch matches you might have missed that day. It's a hefty subscription fee at $129.95 a year, but when you consider the tennis season lasts for 11 months it's much easier to justify (and they're currently running a 16 months for 12 months special). Download the app for iOS or Android and you have no excuse to miss a match. 

Definish.com: Quite a few fans and bloggers vouch for this alternative to the livescore site, too. 

WatchESPN: Of course, paying for TennisTV isn't always necessary if you subscribe to ESPN and have access to ESPN3, the network's online platform. They air most of the major tournaments with great quality. 

A time-zone converter: How else are you supposed to know you need to wake up at 3:00 a.m. EST to watch the first night session match at the Australian Open? TimeandDate.com is a robust converter, while World Time Buddy is great for tracking multiple time zones at once. 

Twitter: It's all about the second screen in sports and tennis is no different. Tennis used to have an incredibly robust comment culture on various sites and blogs but that culture has now migrated almost exclusively to Twitter. Get all the breaking news and the fun in-match commentary and live-tweeting to enhance the experience of being a tennis fan. 

Must-Have Apps

ATP/WTA Live: The free official livescore app from the tours and often times far more reliable and stable than the web version. Only works for ATP or WTA tournaments, i.e., not the Slams or Davis Cup or Fed Cup. 

Grand Slam apps: Not all Slam apps are created equal -- the French Open app continues to be an abject failure -- but they're the only way you can access scores at the Slams. The apps also give you access to streaming radio from on-site, which are vital if you can't watch the action. The apps are typically released right before the tournament is set to begin so be patient for the 2015 Australian Open app.

Davis Cup and Fed Cup apps: The only way to track the ties while on the go. 

A time-zone converter: Most smartphones have a native clock application that has world clock capabilities. But if you're into nifty design and don't mind paying for it, The World Clock for the iPad or Apple desktop is a personal favorite.

Subscription apps: If you subscribe to Tennis Channel, TennisTV or ESPN, download their respective apps to your mobile devices. That way, if you ever need to silently watch a match while eating some fajitas at the Applebees in Mason, Ohio, you can. (Not that I've ever done that.)

GIFs you need:

There will be times when words cannot express how you feel at any given point of a tennis match. That's where GIFs come in. Here are the ones you need for when...

The WTA is having one of those days.

Andy Murray is having one of those days.

It's a day that ends in "y".

Petra Kvitova is having one of those days.

Simona Halep is playing casually beautiful tennis.

Juan Martin del Potro returns.

Anyone does anything deserving three snaps from Vicky Duval.

Agnieszka Radwanska hits a crazy shot.

Roger Federer is making winning look easy.

Someone is being so disrespectful.

Vines you need

Incredulity, shock, horror:

​Incredulity, shock, amazement:

Chillin:

"I can't":

"Screw you":

Serena Williams nonchalantly wins yet another title:

(h/t to tjc05 and Robyn)

Missed something in 2014?

If you can't wait until the first match of 2015, or just want to reminisce about your favorite matches, hot shots, points, tweets, players and more, look no further: SI Tennis has you covered with the best of the best from the 2014 season.

Tennis
Roundtable: Predicting the major storylines for the 2015 season

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