Monday, January 12, 2009
Last year, I wrote a post with the above headline (minus the redux part) because I always feel the first week can offer a glimmer of what to expect for the season. I thought Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would make big moves and they didn't disappoint. Here's what I'm looking at this season based on one week of the new year.
• Bigger and Better: First, I think Murray and Tsonga are in line for more big things. Murray defended in Doha with minimal fuss where it seems the most trouble he had was with a bad back. If he holds up health-wise, he's definitely capable of winning two majors by the end of the year. Tsonga fell relatively early in Brisbane, but he did win the doubles title, a similar arc to last year when he won the dubs in Sydney then went on to the finals at the Aussie. Health's a big factor with him, too, but if he stays off the injured list, he should be able to swing another Major final.
• Roger, Over and Out?: I don't know if that's really going to be the case—you know, him being done for—but as I mentioned in the post before this (and as seen at Down the Line! here), Federer's really got a tough row to hoe for the year. He's still heads and shoulders above the rest as far as career stats go, but if you look at his recent record against Rafael Nadal and Murray, there has to be cause for concern. I think he'll still break Pete Sampras' Slam record, but—and I hope this doesn't sound blasphemous—but for him to do it this year, luck is going to play a big part.
• Venus Keeps Rising: Granted it was an exhibition, but Venus Williams really played well in that Hong Kong team event. She's saying the right things, too, how she wants success at the Aussie and French this year. I don't know if she'll get it, but I wouldn't bet against her. (And that's the last time I'll use "Venus" and some variation of "rising". Promise!)
• Victor Victoria: I thought she was going to make it to the top 10 last year after making a final in the first week, but Victoria Azarenka didn't get that far. I expect her to have a solid year, though.
• Total Domination?: Tell you what, watch out for Slovakians Dominik Hrbaty and Dominika Cibulkova. If he's completely injury-free, you can write in Hrbaty for Comeback Player of the Year. As for Cibulkova, she'll definitely be in the top 10 by the end of the year. Winning the Hopman Cup was just the start for these two.
• Indian Express: Somdev Devvarman got to the finals in Chennai this weekend. Who, you might ask? He's a two-time NCAA champ who tore up the Futures last year. He worked out with Andy Roddick in the offseason, which should only help him. He's going to end up as a threat on the hard courts.
• The Djok's on Him: I don't get why players make racquet switches after career years. Novak Djokovic did, and I think it's going to backfire on him.
• Seeing the 'Future': Tennis From Beyond the Baseline has been spotting up-and-comers in its "Stars of the Future" series, and two of them, Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis, had mixed results last week: Cilic won in Chennai, while Gulbis beat Djokovic, but then promptly lost his next match. I'm equally high on Cilic and I'm looking for him to be the big gainer of the year. However, I'm just not convinced about Gulbis yet. He has the game, but I don't think the mentality's there yet to be a top pro. But check TFBTB to see who's next among the up-and-comers.
And check this post again in about 40-something weeks to see how things turned out! (The POST, not the blog: Come back here any and every day!)
(Photos: Williams, Reuters; Cilic, AP)