Friday, January 11, 2019

The Official 2018 Yearbook

This post has been in the cards for some time now. But real life intervened and I had to handle some things. Still handling it. No, I don't want to talk about it. But it is time to re-enter that tennis life. Because tennis has always been therapy for me, like writing. Also, I just realized the Australian Open is about to begin, so, uh, time to say goodbye to 2018. It might have been a trash year in every other way, but I gotta say that tennis had a solid year. So what are we waiting for? Let's do the thing!

Head of the Class: Who had the most impressive year in 2018? This is a tough one, but I'm going with Novak Djokovic. It would have been pretty easy to sulk after the start that Djokovic had. I mean, you just know that his French Open loss to Marco Cecchinato is destined to be a Jeopardy! answer one day. He went back to his original coaching team and I guess started the donkey milk again? Whatever it was, he then won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open -- the only person, man or woman, to win more than one major this year. He wasn't beating tin cans either -- his match against Rafa Nadal in the Wimbledon semis was an instant classic. And he also outplayed his other major rival, Roger Federer, this year on a couple different occasions.

Most Inspiring Player: Gonna go with Simona Halep. Last year, at the Australian Open, she was denied a major title once again after being right there on the verge. For that to happen once is probably tough to take. For it to happen twice (and to perennial whiner Caroline Wozniacki to boot) has to be crushing. And when she finally did win the French Open, it was in another battle, where it would have been easy to determine this wasn't her time. Honestly, I don't even know how she did it, because Sloane Stephens was actually playing a hell of a match. But she did it.

Most Popular: Serena Williams, naturally. I'd love to see her win in Australia, but then I would just assume she was pregnant, which would make me selfishly unhappy.

Most Likely to Succeed: I actually thought Aryna Sabalenka was about to win the U.S. Open this year, and if she doesn't somehow win at least one slam this year, I'll be stunned. When she's on, there are a lot of players who have trouble dealing with her power. She's even learned how to volley. In a way. I'm going to throw Alexander Zverev in here, too. I feel like the only thing missing with him is his head. His focus seems all over the place sometimes. Ooh, and Kiki Bertens. 

Most Likely to Succeed ... at Something Other than Tennis: I want to say Agz Radwanska, but I really want her to come back to tennis and win her major, dammit. Same with Lucie Safarova. I definitely see a future in MMA for Mikhail Youzhny, who also retired this year. One player who I have determined will never succeed at anything other than tennis is Philipp Kohlschreiber. That's because he'll never stop. Nev-URRRR 

That Student Who Skates Through the School Year, But Aces the Final Exam: Naomi Osaka. She had a very, very, very uneven year and then showed the poise of someone twice her age (most people twice her age) in winning her first major in, uh, a dicey situation. If she can do that, she can have a more stable season in 2019.

Who Will Win in 2019? This is a new feature in which I will attempt to predict all the Slam champions right now! Stop laughing. This is hard! OK, here I go:

Australia: Kiki Bertens, Novak Djokovic
French Open: Sloane Stephens, Rafael Nadal
Wimbledon: Aryna Sabalenka, Roger Federer
U.S. Open: Serena Williams (unless she retired because she was pregnant), Djokovic

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