It’s only been a month since Switzerland’s first ever Davis Cup victory, and the official end of the 2014 season. But 2015 is already upon us, and the usual first tournaments of the year are underway: Brisbane, Qatar and Chennai.
Brisbane has Federer, Qatar has Djokovic and Nadal, while Chennai has Wawrinka. It’s too early to tell yet, but here are a few things in 2015 to look forward to.
It isn’t too early to speculate about Nadal though. The Spanish Bull isn’t his usual self at the beginning of a season. He lost to Murray (won just two games) in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament, and then went on to lose to journeyman Michael Berrer at Qatar—a tournament he is usually favored to win. His loss has raised questions about his fitness, and his extent of recovery after an injury and a bout of appendicitis. The 28-year old might not play the Australian Open either, which could well mean that he will aim for a direct comeback during claycourt season. This isn’t new, of course, and everyone knows how Nadal’s body is gradually breaking down, as was expected when he first hit the scene with the most physical game ever witnessed. However, he still manages to win the French Open, even if he hasn’t played competitive tennis for a while. This year, it will be up to Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka to stop his charge on clay, and if they do, it could well be a nail in the coffin of a remarkable career—marked more by comebacks than sustained excellence. Three players outside the top 100 have beaten Nadal in his last three tournaments, and he must find a way to extend his career without compromising on his relentless defense. Nadal is on 14 Slams, and could well end at 15, two short of Federer—who isn’t really expected to add to his tally.
Prediction: French Open Winner
This could be the year Nole completes his dream golden Slam, with the French Open now within his grasp with Nadal struggling yet again. Nadal somehow times his body to peak in May, but Djokovic is an all-round player who is primed to win his first clay-court Slam. This is his time, and with Murray improving on clay, it is only a matter of time before Nadal’s record-shattering run ends. Federer is strong, but his age could prevent him from going past the semis on this surface. What’s important is how Djokovic holds up in the fitness department, especially after pulling out at Abu Dhabi in the final.
Prediction: Australian Open, US Open Winner
This will be his comeback season after a mild 2014, where he struggled to make it to the World Tour Finals. He won Wimbledon in 2013 and the US Open in 2012 (along with the Olympic Gold), but his partnership with Mauresmo didn’t work out in 2014. His dodgy back will determine the extent of his dominance on hard courts, and I predict 2015 to be the continuation of his once-famous rivalry with Novak Djokovic.
Prediction: NO SLAMS
He will turn 34 this year, and despite a strong 2014, he is yet to win a major since Wimbledon 2012. Before that, he had won the 2010 Australian Open, defeating Murray both times in the final. We are almost halfway through the decade, and he has won only two Slams since 2009. His era is over, but he is hanging on and competing like a Champion, and has been surprisingly fit. Most of the titles have been shared between Nadal and Djokovic since 2009, with Murray winning a few too. Federer must make his move this year on the big stage, to perhaps add one last Slam to a glittering trophy cabinet. He came very very close in 2014 in the Wimbledon Final, before being upset by Cilic at the US Open only an hour after Djokovic crashed out to Nishikori. That was an opportunity lost, and perhaps his last. Come Wimbledon though, everything changes.
Prediction: Wimbledon Winner
He is 29, and has now made them the ‘Big 5’. He is better than the rest, evident from the fact that he is defending his Grand Slam title in Melbourne. He had a wonderful 2014, and won the Davis Cup too, and will look to put his feud with Federer behind him to have a solid 2015. Another Slam could seal his legacy though, and he has the best men’s single-handed backhand in the game to help him.
Prediction: AUS OPEN FINAL, US OPEN FINAL
Dimitrov will have to make 2015 count, after failing to impress in 2014. Cilic will have to show he isn’t the next Safin, and show his consistency over the season. Nishikori is solid, but one doubts if he can go all the way in a Grand Slam. Del Potro is primed to make yet another comeback after a forgettable 2014, and he will take a while to hit top stride in 2015. Monfils is expected to stand out among the Frenchmen again, while Raonic is expected to add more power to his game than just his serve. Ferrer is fading, and this could be his final season. Tsonga is destined to be a flash in the pan, peaking only when he wants to. Will we see a teenager (Coric) rise this year? Unlikely, given the highly physical state of the game.