The new season starts early in January and it already sounds exciting with many unmissable events, stars in search for new achievements, long-awaited returns, and of course, new faces.
Australian Open : Andy Murray, the follow-up ?
The first big traditional meeting of the season is of course the Australian Open, with already huge stakes on the court, especially in the men’s table. If Novak Djokovic’s performance will surely be scrutinized, to see if the world number 1 will carry on his subhuman 2015 season, and possibly achieve the Grand Slam, the attention will also be on Andy Murray. The hero of the BNP Paribas Davis Cup with Great Britain has probably never been so popular and confident of his own ability. Quadruple runner-up in Melbourne, he has lost his last three finals (2011, 2013, 2015) against Novak Djokovic. What if this year was the right one for the Scotsman’s ?
Serena to overtake Steffi Graf
Still in Melbourne but on the women’s circuit, all eyes will be on Serena Williams. The world number 1, who seemed invincible in 2015, finally missed the chance on achieving the perfect season, losing in the semi-finals, at home, in the US Open. The question is will the American have recovered from this huge disillusion and will she be able to kickstart the new season as she did last year by winning a seventh Australian Open… The prize is worth it as if she manages to win the first major tournament of the year, Serena Williams would match Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Juan Martin Del Potro’s long-awaited come-back
The beginning of this 2016 season will also be marked by Juan Martin Del Potro’s big come-back on the circuit. The Argentine, who hasn’t really been spared these last few years, had seen his 2015 season cut-short at the start of the clay-court tournaments, with another operation on his left wrist, the third since the start of his career…He has announced his presence in the January tournaments, and Melbourne, where he should receive a wild-card from the officials, as he will start the season at the 590th spot at the ATP race…
Alexander Zverev, a season to confirm
He has been named the revelation of the 2015 season on the ATP circuit, the most promising player of his generation : Alexander Zverer, 18 years-old, 83rd at the ATP race, must now confirm and become the leader of an apathetic german tennis, which has now been relying on Philip Kohlschreiber’s irregular performances for quite a long time. Zverev has a bright future ahead of him but 2016 must be the first page of his professional career. With his promising record in 2015 (14 wins, 17 defeats), he seems capable of getting through a few rounds in the big tournaments and already reaching a few finals in the 250 and 500 tournaments.
Rafael Nadal’s return on clay
In Spring, the major tennis event will obviously be Roland Garros, with the tournament being played only weeks before the start of the football European Championship, held in France this year. The orange clay-courts could be the scene for the most undecided major tournament of the season. Last year, it had made Wawrinka smile, but the Swiss will have a lot to do to retain his title against his fellow countryman Federer, whose jubilee seems eternal, or Djokovic, still looking to win the only missing Grand Slam tournament in his record. And let’s not forget the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, who will be seeking for revenge. The nine-times winner had been defeated in the quarter-finals last year, leading everyone to believe it was the beginning of the end for him. Don’t write the revengeful Nadal off just yet…especially on his favorite surface.
Wimbledon : Sharapova, for a second youth
What should be expected of Wimbledon 2016 ? Many things, of course. The most elegant tournament of the year will, for instance, be a good occasion for Roger Federer to try to become the unique all time best player on this mythical grass court, as he is actually leveled with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw, who both count seven victories in the tournament. In the women’s table, the stakes will also be high with Serena looking for a record, and Maria Sharapova looking to finally put her hands back on a trophy that has been escaping her for twelve years ! The only time when the Russian triumphed in London was in 2004, and this was her first ever win in a major tournament. Her opponent in the final that year ? A certain Serena Williams, already !
Olympic Games : Star Wars in the heart of the summer
Every four years, the world of professional tennis takes an olympic break, and its actors seem to enjoy it more and more. If, for many years, this episodic tournament has hardly attracted the interest of the best players of the moment, it is not the case anymore, and the battle for medals in Brazil already sounds thrilling. In London, in 2012, Andy Murray and Serena Williams were the ones covered in gold. Nadal has already won the singles tournament in 2008, while Federer, along with Wawrinka, won the doubles that same year. However, Djokovic, for instance, or Maria Sharapova, are still looking for their first olympic title. The doubles could also be the stage for some great moments, with the possibility of seeing Roger Federer teaming up with his fellow countrywoman Martina Hingis.
Djokovic in Cincinnati to complete his personal record ?
After the Olympics, if everything goes well for him in 2016, Djokovic could live a great moment in Cincinnati. The american tournament is one of the few which the Serb hasn’t on since the beginning of his career, the other two being Roland Garros and the Olympic tournament. Winning these three tournaments would definitely crown him as the best player of the moment, if not of all time. The most complete and voracious, at least.
US Open : the insatiable king Federer
Speaking of the best player of all time, Roger Federer will once again be one of the headliners at the US Open, a tournament he hasn’t missed since the year 2000 ! However, he hasn’t been very fortunate these last few years as he hasn’t won a single edition in Flushing Meadows since 2008. Last year, he managed to reach the final by playing an unbelievable tennis but couldn’t do much against Novak Djokovic, who dominated him in four sets. Not enough to discourage the Swiss, who will have reached the age of 35 at the time of the tournament, half of which spent on the professional circuit.
The great awakening of Australian (and American) tennis ?
Czech Republic in 2012 and 2013, Switzerland in 2014, Great-Britain in 2015…Who else to win the BNP Paribas Davis Cup this year ? It should, as usual, be very undecided but the attraction of this new edition could well be Australia, whose men’s team is currently going through a rebirth after years of depression. With Lleyton Hewitt coaching and the Kyrgios, Kokkinakis and Tomic generation, the talent pool is there too bring back a title which hasn’t been won by this nation since 2003. Another outsider in the competition : Jim Courier’s USA, another historic nation looking for a fresh start. One thing sure : we won’t see these two countries in the final, as they are facing eachother in the first round, in march, in Australia !
By Régis Delanoë