Ten fearless predictions for 2017

We look into the crystal ball to see what's in store for the rest of the year.

Andy Murray, R4, Rod Laver Arena, 22 January 2017
Photo by: Ben Solomon/Tennis Australia

Serena Williams will equal Margaret Court’s all-time Slam record and reclaim year-end No.1 ranking
The weight of history derailed the 23-time Grand Slam champion twice last season with Steffi Graf’s 22-Slam Open era mark in sight. She previously stuttered when Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert’s 18-Slam mark was within reach. Now it’s Margaret Court’s all-time record on the line. A seventh Australian Open triumph has pulled the 35-year-old to within one major of drawing level. Williams has featured in four of the past five major finals, winning two of them, so it is fair to assume she will at least tie Court at the All England Club or Flushing Meadows.

Rafael Nadal to win Roland Garros
Predictions the Spaniard would fail to win the one major he has virtually owned for more than a decade rang true in 2015 and 2016. But a surprise run to the Australian Open final to start this season has reinvigorated belief the 30-year-old is well and truly back in the mix and in pole position to recapture the Coupe de Mousquetaires. The Raging Bull’s biggest threats on the terre battue at Roland Garros will not come in the form of defending champion Novak Djokovic or world No.1 Andy Murray, but instead from his own rickety body.

Federer to reduce his schedule to focus on the majors
The Swiss great surprised even himself by winning Australian Open 2017 in his first major back since a six-month break to let his body heal. Where thoughts of retirement may have been discussed around the dinner table with wife Mirka last year, don’t expect the Swiss to bow out any time soon with this fresh spring in his step. The 35-year-old will play a more limited schedule in 2017 to nurse his body and boost his chances of adding to his haul of 18 majors. A triumph at Wimbledon may prompt an immediate retirement, however chances are he will be rolling out another bespoke pair of AO-inspired trainers next January in Melbourne.

Angelique Kerber will struggle to emulate her 2016 success
The breakthrough season for the German carries with it a new burden. No longer the poacher with nothing to lose, early defeats in Brisbane and Melbourne are proof Kerber is already finding the going brutal when expectations are high. Williams took the No.1 ranking off her hands to ease some of the burden heading into the clay court swing, but a runner-up showing at Wimbledon and a second Grand Slam title defence at the US Open make her second half of the season a challenge. The unassuming 29-year-old will experience another consistent season but will likely fail to defend her US Open title.

Murray to go Slamless in 2017
For while ever Djokovic’s mind remains mired in off-court concerns the Scot will be a genuine contender to add to his three majors in 2017. But after the unheralded and unorthodox Mischa Zverev stunned him in the fourth round at Rod Laver Arena, the strain of holding top spot in the rankings may be beginning to press. He hasn’t reached a Slam semifinal since his Wimbledon triumph last season and if you throw an improving Milos Raonic and a fit again Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal into Grand Slam finals contention, Murray’s chances diminish. Expect him to be strongest at the US Open.

Tomas Berdych to split with coach Goran Ivanisevic
The clean-hitting Czech has not finished the season outside the top 10 since 2009 but at 31 and with hopes all but lost of Berdych breaking his Grand Slam duck, don’t expect former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic’s superstitions to transform into any miracle magic. Following Berdych’s straight-sets hiding at the hands of a resurgent Roger Federer at AO2017, Ivanisevic commented that the Swiss dealt a free tennis lesson at Rod Laver Arena. While the Croatian was instrumental in lifting Marin Cilic to a US Open crown, his pairing with Berdych mid last season was more a partnership of circumstance after Cilic’s decision to team with Jonas Bjorkman and Berdych’s move to part ways with Dani Vallverdu. It won’t last.

Sharapova to return to the top 10
In what is the most anticipated comeback of 2017, Maria Sharapova returns to the tour in April after serving her drug suspension. Despite missing the year’s first major as well as big points on offer in the US spring stretch, the Russian hits the clay with nothing to lose. A wild card at the French Open will see her return to Grand Slam play and expect her to hit her straps after Wimbledon where she will be a serious contender at Flushing Meadows.

CoCo to have top 16 seeding in time for US Open
The swashbuckling CoCo Vandeweghe sounded a warning at the majors 18 months ago with a run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals. Now backing up that booming serve with more consistency off the ground, the 25-year-old thumped two major champions from 2016 – Kerber and Garbine Muguruza – to reach her maiden Slam semi in Melbourne. Further big results on the hard courts back home and on the grass court stretch should hoist the American into the top 16 in time for the US Open.  

Alexander Zverev to reach second week of a major for first time
The younger Zverev may have been pipped to a maiden Slam quarterfinal by big brother Mischa in Melbourne, but expect the most talked about teenager in tennis to live up to expectations in 2017. Hard-working and grounded, the German pushed Nadal to five sets before cramps set in Down Under in the third round. His best chance of reaching the second week will come on the grass at Wimbledon where a top 16 seeding may be within reach.

Ash Barty to crack top 100 in comeback
The gifted former junior Wimbledon champion did not crack the top 100 in her first tilt on tour, failing to progress past the second round at a major, before a hiatus to play women’s cricket. Following her maiden run to the third round at this year’s Australian Open, and after taking a set off then No.1 Angelique Kerber in Brisbane, the 20-year-old’s confidence has never been higher. Expect Barty to shine in the Wimbledon lead-up events to nudge her into double-digit territory by year’s end.  

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