2018 is now upon us, and the pros at the ATP and WTA tours are marching full speed ahead in their preparations to meet the new year with renewed energy.
Which and how many of those pros stand a realistic shot at making an impact on the tour in 2018?
Will Roger Federer continue to rule in 2018?
Roger Federer had a stellar 2017, and at his age, it would tantamount to a minor miracle to top that. Roger, however, played better tennis in 2017 than his mid-20s and there is no reason to believe that this level will not stay within, at least, 80% of what it was in 2017, and that should be enough for him to be a contender at all slams and any tournament that he plays. Roger Federer is a rare bird whose sightings, wherever and whenever they may be, should be cherished, because those sightings will get rarer over the next three years.
In 2018 Federer plans to play the clay circuit and, we at 138mph, doubt the merit of that move. Clay is a grinder’s surface where athleticism and stamina matter twice as much as talent. It may be better for Federer to leave the clay to the grinders, and focus on tennis in its purest form.
Barring injuries, ill-health, and retirement, we expect Roger Federer to finish within the top five in 2018 and hopefully add to his title, including the slam, the count.
What can we expect from the return of Serena Williams?
Serena Williams would not have figured in part one of the series had she not won the 2017 Australian Open without dropping a set. Serena Williams was impeccable and dominant in the last major that she played and is above and beyond Roger Federer in women’s tennis.
Serena is expected back for the Australian Open 2018, and can again reach the semifinals and finals of the big ones if she can dust the rust off her game and become match-tough at her very earliest.
Serena Williams will find it more difficult than either Federer or Nadal to come back. Not only is Serena practically as old as Roger Federer, but has also been away from competitive tennis for a longer time than either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
Can anyone stop Rafael Nadal from winning his 11th French Open in 2018?
Rafael Nadal was the undisputed GOAT conqueror until 2017. However, Roger Federer turned the tables on him and beat him in four consecutive meetings in 2017. We don’t expect that trend to change unless Nadal either learns to hit a flatter and harder ball and hit right through Roger Federer or changes to an ultra-aggressive style of play and decides to keep each point limited to a maximum total of 6 shots, and doesn’t even attempt to hit the fourth ball that crosses the net into his half of the court! Since that mindset is not going to fly with Nadal, Federer will, therefore, continue to dominate in at least eight of the ten times they meet hereafter.
Nadal will, however, have a realistic shot at taking Federer out on clay. Federer will not have the stamina or the inclination, at nearly thirty-seven, to go through the grind of clay-court tennis.
However, we expect Nadal to be more challenged by the likes of Dominic Thiem, and perhaps even Novak Djokovic on the clay. The sailing might not be as smooth as it was in 2017 for Nadal. At the very end of it all, not much can prevent Nadal from winning his 11th Roland Garros if he plays the way he played in 2017. However, that might not be easy with Nadal’s style of grinding tennis, which effectively makes his 31 years equivalent to Roger’s 39.
We recommend Nadal’s fans to watch all his matches, as any one of those could be his last. It may all come to an abrupt end if his knee problems persist. It may also be better for Nadal to avoid giving his all or going all out on the hard courts. He may want to save those knees unless the draw opens up for him the way it did at the 2017 US Open.
Barring bad knees and retirement, Nadal should manage to reach the quarters of all slams that he enters, and win the French Open in 2018. He should also be able to add a few more clay court trophies to his trophy cabinet.