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  • Who will the top-ranked players be at the end of 2018? Will Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic return to their winning ways? Can Roger Federer continue his 2017 form?
By Jon Wertheim
January 01, 2018

Happy New Year. Welcome back, everyone. It’s only the first day of 2018 and already we have tournaments and dispiriting injury withdrawals, and we’re less than two weeks from the draw ceremony for first major of the year. (Marketing slogan: Tennis, the sport with no clock.) With a nod to Nick K—that’s Kristoff, not Kyrgios—let’s start with a game of predictions. We can revisit in 11+ months and see how we all performed. My answers in bold….

Serena Williams will:

a. Continue authoring improbable chapters, defending her Australian Open title, less than five months after giving birth.

b. Return to the No. 1 spot, tying Margaret Court’s all-time majors record (a record so heavily distorted with Australian Open wins that it pales in comparison to, say, Steffi Graf’s mark that Serena has already attained.)

c. Struggle a bit, understandably, in her return from maternity leave; but win Wimbledon a few months from turning 37.

d. Come to the irreducible conclusion that Father Time has a winning head-to-head against even the best athletes.

e. Abruptly retire to become a back-up singer on the Baby Mozart series.


At the end of 2018, Novak Djokovic will:

a. Have benefitted from his 2017 gap year, win multiple majors and return to No. 1

b. Win one major, return to the top five and remain an outside contender in the GOAT conversation.

c. Continue to struggle with injuries, raising doubts he will ever return to the business of winning majors.

d. Abruptly retire to seek political office in Serbia.

Speaking of injuries, they will continue unimpeded, ravaging players, ravaging draws and causing great distress. That we can safely say already. Tennis’ leaders will respond to this existential threat by:

a. Asserting this is all a fluke and today’s players are no less healthy than they were in prior generations.

b. Asserting that injuries are an unfortunate dimension to all sports. (“Hey, just look at the NFL in 2017.”)

c. Asserting that overtraining—essentially blaming players and nothing systemic— is the root cause.

d. Showing courage not often in evidence, and—having finally decide enough is enough—undertake a meaningful, well-funded research study to determine the cause….starting with a focus on racket and string technology, even if that risks offending stakeholders.

At the end of 2018, the top-ranked ATP player will be:

a. A thoroughly dominant Novak Djokovic.

b. Roger Federer, whose remarkable longevity threatens to be his ultimate top-line career achievement

c. Rafael Nadal, once again

d. Sasha Zverev, having elevated his play in best-of-five matches

e. Other

Roger Federer will:

a. Continue his play from 2017 and, benefitting from the injuries that afflict so many peers, regain the No. 1 ranking.

b. Come to the irreducible conclusion that Father Time has a winning head-to-head against even the best athletes.

c. Become the first player to hold the title of ATP CEO while sustaining a top five ranking.

d. Shrewdly announce that he’s already looking forward to 2019, thus forestalling weekly questions about his retirement plans.

Maria Sharapova will:

a. Quickly reclaim her career and reputation by winning another Slam

b. Slowly reclaim her career and reputation by re-entering the top ten.

c. Supplement her tennis by taking on a leadership role vis-à-vis WTA player issues

d. Retire abruptly to work for Bitcoin

This player will break through, winning a first career major singles title:

a. Sascha Zverev

​​b. Simona Halep

c. Grigor Dimitrov

​d. Madison Keys

e. All of the above

f. None of the above

And the end of the year, the top-ranked American male will be:

a. Jack Sock

b. John Isner

c. Sam Querrey

​d. Frances Tiafoe

​e. Other

At the end of the year, the top-ranked American female not named Williams will be:

a. Madison Keys

b. CoCo Vandeweghe

​c. Sloane Stephens

d. CiCi Bellis

​e. Other

Replacing 2017 winner “innovation,” the following will emerge as the heft-deprived tennis Buzzword of the Year:

a. stakeholder

b. dynamic

c. multi-platform

d. everageable

e. traction and stickiness

Speaking of “innovation” the following rule change most likely to find traction and stickiness:

a. Best-of-three matches the first week of majors

b. No-lets on serves

c. Mid-match coaching

d. No-ad scoring

​e. Electronic line calling

A rousing comeback story will be staged by:

a. Marion Bartoli

​b. Andy Roddick

​c. Anna Kournikova

d. Ellesse apparel

e. Dinara Safina (still only 31)

2018 will see tennis:

a. continue to thrive as a niche sport that will never be the NFL but continues to feature exceptional athletes and well-regarded sportspeople

b. reel from a doping scandal that implicates a top player, not the usual thirtysomething journeyman with a ranking deep into triple digits

c. begin to confront the unfortunate reality that the era of the Williams sisters, Federer and Nadal will not last forever.

d. adjust to a changing media landscape, recognizing that the sport’s global appeal is a great, leverageable asset.


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