Sports

Will Federer and Williams add to major haul in 2017?

(CNN) - The new year is made for resolutions -- and predictions.

So here's what will happen in the world of tennis in 2017 in a season that will feature a comeback for veteran stars Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

Federer to make a slam final ...

At Wimbledon, where he has won a record-equaling seven titles.

Federer has some work to do to return to the top five, given his inactivity since deciding to end his season in July. But, if reports are to be believed, the Swiss legend is in great shape as he trains in Dubai.

Motivation remains sky high for Federer -- the 35-year-old plans on playing a couple more seasons -- and even when injured he came close to reaching the final at Wimbledon.

If Federer, the men's leader with 17 majors, makes the final and plays defending champion Andy Murray, his chances would appear to be good. Federer has won five straight matches against Scotland's two-time Olympic gold medalist and new world No. 1.

No new men's winners

Grigor Dimitrov. Kei Nishikori. Milos Raonic. By now, some would have expected at least one of the trio to have won a grand slam.

The "Big Four" of Federer, Nadal, Murray and Novak Djokovic, however, continue to reign supreme, with Stan Wawrinka adding to a superlative quintet. Advances in recovery, nutrition and training mean those five players are able to sustain their high levels for longer periods.

Since the beginning of 2010 -- 28 majors ago -- only six players aside from the quintet have appeared in a grand slam final, including Raonic at Wimbledon this year and Nishikori at the US Open in 2014.

Expect the dominance of those five to continue and don't expect any new men's grand slam winners.

Serena to win two majors

Several women's pros said last year that Angelique Kerber's win over Williams at the Australian Open gave them the belief that they too could topple the American. Kerber added a second major at the US Open.

If Williams' aura has faded slightly, she certainly wasn't far off winning three majors in 2016 instead of the one title she secured at Wimbledon.

Williams endured injury throughout 2016, which no doubt made her more vulnerable.

At 35 such physical issues aren't a surprise but Williams should return to the circuit refreshed and with less pressure than 11 months ago when the California native had to back up a sensational 2015 season that saw her come within two wins of achieving a calendar year grand slam.

She won Wimbledon, the Australian and French Open titles in that year but went out in the semifinal of the US Open.

Kerber to add to slam collection

Is Kerber, who ended Williams' stay at No. 1 in September, a one-year wonder destined to fade in 2017? Her game, and the current WTA landscape, suggest not.

The German left-hander is no longer a defensive player largely retrieving at the back of the court. Rather, aggression has slowly but surely found its way into the 28-year-old's game. She is also competing better than ever.

And with the pregnant Victoria Azarenka off the tour for a while longer and Sharapova not back from her drug suspension until late April -- with the Russian needing time to return to form -- Kerber will, if healthy, remain in the top two for a while yet.

Based on her matches with Williams in 2016, tennis fans surely want the rivalry to intensify. Their two encounters at the Australian Open and Wimbledon were classics.

Nadal to win 15th major

Those who have wanted Nadal to add to his coaching setup got their wish last month when Carlos Moya joined the 14-time grand slam winner's team.

Moya -- apart from being a former world No. 1 and grand slam winner himself -- was Nadal's mentor. Like the "King of Clay, he hails from the island of Mallorca in Spain.

Nadal is hoping for a spike in results, similar to those Djokovic and Murray experienced when working with grand slam winners Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl respectively.

Working against Nadal, though, is his age -- at 30 he is a year older than Murray and Djokovic -- and has suffered an array of injuries.

A wrist complaint scuppered his 2016 season after appearing to be in form. He had rediscovered his confidence early in the clay-court season.

But Nadal, for the time being, is healthy, and the arrival of Moya -- who was alongside Raonic as the Canadian reached a career high third in in the rankings -- will only be a boost. He is reportedly practicing well in the off-season.

Nadal is too much of a champion, at this stage of his career, to simply fade away.

His last grand slam title came at the French Open in 2014 and with a record nine titles at Roland Garros to his name, Paris is the likeliest spot for another triumph at a major.

 


comments powered by Disqus