Welcome back, everyone, and happy (almost) 2021. We hope the year is not merely new, but improved. We are coming off the existential equivalent of 70–68 in the fifth set. With a nod to Nick K—that’s Kristof, not Kyrgios—let’s start with a game of predictions. We can revisit in 11-plus months and see how we all performed. My answers in bold …
• How many majors will be staged in 2021?
• How many majors will be staged in 2021, at their usual appointed time, in front of the usual complement of fans?
• The ATP Player to win his first major will be:
a. Alexander Zverev
b. Stefanos Tsitsipas
c. Andrey Rublev
e. No one
• The WTA player to win her first major will be:
a. Madison Keys
b. Elina Svitolina
c. Aryna Sabalenka
e. None of the above
• Roger Federer will:
a. Go all-out for Wimbledon, the Olympics, and the U.S. Open. And, at age 40, retire at the Laver Cup, amid the great fanfare he deserves
b. Struggle with that pesky knee and, resignedly, retire this spring
c. Win his 21st major this year, surging ahead in the GOAT race
d. Enjoy yet another resurgence and plan on revving it up again in 2022
• Serena Williams will:
a. Go all-out for Wimbledon, the Olympics, and the U.S. Open. And, at age 40, retire amid the great fanfare she deserves
b. Put down her rackets to start a Y combinator for women, which she will call XX Combinator
c. Win her 24th major this year, tying Margaret Court
d. Pick her spots, play at a competitive level, fail to win a major but commit to playing another season
• This male player will finish 2021 ranked No. 1:
a. Novak Djokovic
b. Rafa Nadal
c. Dominic Thiem
d. Andrey Rublev
• This female player finish 2021 ranked No. 1:
a. Ash Barty
b. Naomi Osaka
c. Iga Swiatek
d. Simona Halep
• Coco Gauff will:
a. Win a major, a full-fledged breakthrough
b. Quit tennis to join a K-pop quartet
c. Proceed steadily, playing a sensible schedule … winning some matches she shouldn’t and losing a few she shouldn’t.
d. Take a Rumspringa from tennis and accept an appointment replacing Herschel Walker on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition
• Of all the trials and proposed rule tinkering, this change will actually be enacted in 2021:
a. Four-game sets
b. No lets on serves
c. Permitted mid-match coaching
d. A combined WTA/ATP entity
e. None of the above.
• Iga Swiatek will:
a. Add another major to her haul
b. Go full Ostapenko
c. Take an Ash Barty–style gap year to reassess whether/how to prioritize tennis
d. Win no major, but finish the year in the top five, cementing her status as a smart and engaging featured player in the cast
• Davis Cup will:
a. Struggle in its second year of this new incarnation, done in by the pandemic, the assorted other team cups and another year with a sideways schedule that includes an October Indian Wells
b. Enjoy a resurgence after a year off, our appetite for team cups officially insatiable
c. Benefit from post-Olympic excitment, including the gold-medal winning Stan Wawrinka-Federer doubles team
d. Announce this will be the final year ande century-plus competition
• This trend will, happily, continue in 2021:
a. Players of all shapes and sizes—from Diego Schwartzman to Reilly Opelka—will be accommodated
b. The ATP and WTA will continue to recognize that scale matters and approach the market as one entity
c. Players’ careers will span two decades, enabling fans (and brands) to build bonds and enabling players to make long-term decisions
d. Tennis will embrace data and the secrets analytics reveal
e. All of the above
• In 2021, tennis will:
a. Survive just fine, despite the inevitable decline of Serena (turning 40, 23 majors), Federer (40, 20), Nadal (35, 20) and Djokovic (34, 17).
b. Continue its admirable resourcefulness in dealing with COVID-19, though a few knuckleheads still make some unfortunate decisions.
c. 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).
d. 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.
e. All of the above
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE. WE’LL BE BACK WITH A MAILBAG NEXT WEEK!