• Jon Wertheim makes his predictions for 2019 in tennis: Who will finish the year as world No. 1? Who will break through and win a first Grand Slam title? What will the biggest scandal of the season be? All that, and so much more.
By Jon Wertheim
January 02, 2019

Happy new year. Welcome back, everyone. It’s only the second day of 2019 and already the sport is back from the oxymoronic “offseason.” (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.

Who will jam a crowbar into the wheels of the Novak Djokovic runaway train?

A. Alexander Zverev
B. Roger Federer
C. Rafael Nadal
D. No one, you idiot. Djokovic has won two straight Slams and is up to 14 for his career. He’s a decent bet to have 17 by year’s end.

WERTHEIM: Handing Out Year-End ATP Awards for 2018

Serena Williams will:

A. Win some, lose some, but continue authoring improbable chapters; return to the winners’ circle after a two-year absence to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors (a record so heavily distorted with Australian Open wins that it pales in comparison to, say, Steffi Graf’s mark that Serena has already surpassed.)
B. Continue to reach the latter round of Slams but fail to close the door, causing some concern that her reduced schedule means the events she does play come imbued with too much pressure.
C. Revert to the Serena of yore and win multiple majors, relying on her serve, athleticism, poise and will.
D.Come to the irreducible conclusion that Father Time has a winning head-to-head record against even the best athletes.

Roger Federer will:

A. Continue to battle inconsistency. Win some, lose some, but continue authoring improbable chapters and return to the winners’ circle.
B. Continue to reach the latter round of Slams but fail to close the door, causing some concern that his reduced schedule means the events he does play come imbued with too much pressure.
C. Revert to the Federer of yore and win multiple majors, relying on his serve, athleticism, poise and will.
D. Come to the irreducible conclusion that Father Time has a winning head-to-head record against even the best athletes.

This player will retire before the end of 2019:

A. Serena
B. Federer
C. Venus Williams
D. Maria Sharapova
E. The appeal (and endorsement lure) of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics prove irresistible and no A-list stars retire until they’re over.

It’s tennis’s vulgar and unseemly narrative: one tour, three cups. In 2019:

A. The Laver Cup will attract Lin-Manuel Miranda as emcee and continue its growth in popularity.
B. The ATP World Cup will fail to attract the stars, thus allowing players like Lucas Pouille and Diego Schwartzman to make bank.
C. Facing a groundswell of bad publicity and buyers’ remorse—and making the mistake of getting on Federer’s bad side—the Davis Cup had better be damn sure its financing comes through.
D. The continued ascent of women’s tennis will make all this male infighting look all the more dysfunctional. 

At the end of 2019, the top-ranked WTA player will be:

A. Simona Halep, lacking in a coach, but not results.
B. Naomi Osaka, winning majors and this time celebrating in style.
C. Sloane Stephens, tennis’s girl with the curl.
D. Garbine Muguruza. Remember her?
E. Elina Svitolina, who—like her cosmic double, Zverev—will break through after winning the 2018 year-ender.

WERTHEIM: Handing Out Year-End WTA Awards

At the end of 2019, the top-ranked ATP player will be: 

A. Novak Djokovic, goal line to goal line.
B. Roger Federer, whose remarkable longevity threatens to be his ultimate top-line career achievement
C. Rafael Nadal, once again
D. Sascha Zverev, having elevated his play in best-of-five matches

Maria Sharapovav will:

A. Reclaim her career and reputation by winning another Slam.
B. Continue to struggle with results, continue to be more bothered by her damaged reputation than she lets on publically…but—and this is the admirable part of her recalcitrant personality—soldier on.
C. Supplement her tennis by taking on a leadership role vis-à-vis WTA player issues.
D.Enter the Goldman Sachs trainee program.

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

A. Sascha Zverev
B. Madison Keys
C. Grigor Dimitrov
D.Elina Svitolina
E. All of the above
F. None of the above

The great tennis scandal of 2019 will be: 

A. Match-fixing involving a top 100 player, not the usual culprit: sub-journeymen with rankings that resemble social security numbers.
B. A doping scandal.
C. A realization that the ITF’s transition tour—and the USTA’s capitulation—was a sloppily-conceived mistake that will stunt the growth of the sport, reduce opportunity, curtail diversity and harm college tennis.
D. An executive convicted of a felony.
E. None. Tennis has its issues. But the lack of scandal and the abundance of honorable athletes—especially at the top—is really admirable and ought to be trumpeted more fully and more often.  

PODCAST: Discussing the New ITF Transition Tour

At 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

The upset of the year will be:

A. A teenager wins a major for the first time in more than a decade.
B. Brad Gilbert finally admits that, deep down, he really admires and enjoys Tennis Channel, and—while you wouldn’t know it from his social media—watches it more than anyone else on the planet.
C. In a breathtaking spasm of common sense, the ITF re-assesses the Transition Tour.
D. A player ranked outside the top 10 wins a major.

At the end of th eyear, the top-ranked American female will be:

A. Madison Keys
B. CoCo Vandeweghe
C. Sloane Stephens
D. Serena Williams

Replacing the 2018 winner "stakeholder," the following will emerge as the heft-deprived tennis buzzword/catchphrase of the year:

A. Value proposition
B. Holistic
C. Inclusivity/inclusiveness
D. Leverageble innovation
E. Traction/stickiness

Speaking of "innovation," the following rule change is most likely to find traction/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. Garbine Muguruza
B. Nick Kyrgios
C. Andy Murray
D. Stan Wawrinka
E. CAA’s tennis division

2019 will see tennis:

A. Continue to thrive as a niche sport that will never be the NFL, but continue to feature exceptional athletes, a beguiling blend of mental/physical toughness, and well-regarded sportspeople
B. Confront the uncomfortable truth/existential question: some time soon, there will be Grand Slam draws featuring no players named Federer, Nadal, Williams or Sharapova.
C. Continue to provide us with that ultimate sports virtue: the capacity to surprise us.
D. Adjust to a changing media landscape, recognizing that the sport’s global appeal is a great, leverageable asset.

Happy 2019, everyone!

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