Happy New Year. Welcome back, everyone. The year 2020 is barely upon us and already we have a tennis team cup underway, some dispiriting injury withdrawals, and we’re two weeks from the draw ceremony for the first major of the year. When they call tennis a sport with no clock, they ain’t kidding. With a nod to Nick K—that’s Kristoff, not Kyrgios, though more on him below—let’s start with a game of predictions. We can revisit in 11+ months and see how we all performed. My answers in bold….
Male players not named Nadal, Djokovic and Federer will win how many majors in 2020?
Serena Williams will:
a) In a final heroic, theatrical flourish, tie 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.)
b) Continue her encouraging-yet-faintly-disappointing habit of reaching the latter rounds of majors but failing to close.
c) Struggle with injuries and motivations, neither of which would be surprising for the 38-year-old mother, at this profession since the 1990s.
d) Put down her rackets to start a Y Combinator for women, which she will call XX Combinator.
At the end of the year, the WTA’s top-ranked played will be:
a. Naomi Osaka
b. Ash Barty
c. Simona Halep
d. Bianca Andreescu
Assuming you picked a choice other than “A” for the first question, the player to crack the Big Three glass ceiling will be:
a. Stefanos Tsitsipas
b. Sasha (Alex in Chains) Zverev
c. Daniil Medvedev
d. Nick Kyrgios
The top-ranked American female will be:
a. Madison Keys
b. Serena Williams
c. Sloane Stephens
d. Coco Gauff
e. Sonia Kenin
There’s one every year, it seems. In 2020 the former WTA player to make an unlikely comeback announcement will be:
a. Justine Henin
b. Agnieszka Radwanska
c. Tatiana Golovin
d. Dinara Safina
How many players with five or more majors—Williams, Williams, Sharapova, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal—will announce that 2020 will be their final year?
The Bryan Brothers will end their career:
a. Triumphantly at the U.S. Open
b. Reconsidering their decision to retire after the season.
c. Encouraged by the news that tennis administrators—tired of seeing doubles persist as the sport’s great underleveraged asset—have made it mandatory that singles players also play alongside a partner.
d. Disappointed, as a toe injury suffered stepping on a damn Lego piece cuts short their season.
In 2020 Nick Kyrgios will:
a. Take a tennis sabbatical to become Brad Stevens’ video coordinator intern.
b. Convince John McEnroe to become his coach on the condition they both get executive producer credits in the inevitable Hollywood adaptation.
c. Finally take same full ownership of his talent and results will follow.
d. Kyrgios, really? You have 15 or so questions and you’re spending one on a player in his alleged prime and ranked No. 30? Here’s an idea: stop lavishing attention on this guy until he starts lavishing commensurate attention on his tennis.
The Summer Olympics will:
a. Become freighted with extra importance after it’s announced that Tokyo 2020 will mark the final event for multiple big-name players.
b. Be won by Naomi Osaka, instantly earning her tens of millions in endorsements—and the Japanese equivalent of knighthood.
c. Muck up the summer tennis schedule and lead to a field of fatigued players at the U.S. Open. But nevertheless, a net positive for tennis.
d. All of the above.
Speaking of net positive…Replacing 2019 winner “bandwidth,” the following will emerge as the heft-deprived tennis Buzzword of the Year:
d) value proposition
Speaking of “value propositions,” the following is likely to find favor:
a) No-lets on serves
b) Another team event—preferably held between the U.S. and Australian Opens—since the current three are not nearly enough.
c) Electronic line calling
d) A joint WTA/ATP players union.
The biggest challenge to the sport will be:
a. Climate change and the effects of extreme heat on players, yes, but also, on officials and spectators.
d. The bottom falling out on the media rights market.
In 2020—and in the 2020s for that matter——tennis will:
a) Survive just fine, despite the inevitable decline of Serena (23 majors to start the year), Federer (20), Nadal (19) and Djokovic (16).
b) Begin figuring out a way to deal with China, a massive—and massively lucrative—market, but one that carries many complications (and few fans on the ground.)
c) Adjust to a changing media landscape, fully recognizing that the sport’s global appeal and mixed-gendered fields are two golden assets these days, and improve as a value proposition.
d) All of the above
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE. WE’LL BE BACK WITH A MAILBAG NEXT WEEK!