Australian Open men's final - Stanislas Wawrinka overcomes Rafael Nadal

Yahoo Sports

New Swiss star Stanislas Wawrinka beat top-ranked Rafael Nadal in four sets to capture his first Grand Slam title.

<p>A theme of <em>will</em> echoed through the first week of the 2018 Australian Open. We’ve have <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/16/roger-federer-will-ferrell-australian-open-interview-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Will Ferrell" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Will Ferrell</a>. We’ve had <a href="http://www.news.com.au/sport/tennis/australian-open/nick-kyrgios-lights-up-rod-laver-arena-with-cheeky-jab-at-will-smith/news-story/336529f06f5597098e9017ed02292086" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Will Smith" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Will Smith</a>. </p><p>Nick Kyrgios has shown will, not always in evidence, offering maturity to match his shotmaking. Top seed Simona Halep and Lauren Davis each showed an abundance of will, two undersized athletes battling on Saturday to 15-13 in the third set, an early candidate for match of the year. For two days, players showed will simply not to wilt, enduring on-court temperatures fit for Ray Bradbury stories.</p><p>Plenty of will remains for Week Two. Will Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal reprise their final? Will Caroline Wozniacki win her first major? Will Novak Djokovic find his mojo and perhaps even a seventh title? We’ll see. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.</p><p>Herewith your Midterm Grades from Melbourne:</p><h3><strong>A</strong></h3><h3><strong>The Favorites</strong></h3><p>For some it&#39;s been easy (Nadal and Federer, the top two men’s seeds.) For some it&#39;s been hard (Halep and Wozniacki, the top two women’s seeds–each of whom has been down match point.) For some, the jury remains sequestered (Novak Djokovic.) But the faves remain.</p><h3><strong>Angelique Kerber</strong></h3><p>It’s as if 2017 never happened. The winner in 2016 makes quick work of Maria Sharapova and suddenly looks like a worldbeater again.</p><h3><strong>Nick Kyrgios</strong></h3><p>We all mature at our own pace. Kyrgios defies convention—note that as we wrote this, he was still in the doubles draw. But he also thumbs his nose at distraction. Through three rounds, he’s playing the kind of measured and drama-free tennis that becomes champions.</p><h3><strong>Madison Keys</strong></h3><p>Overall, a brutal first week for the Americans. But Keys has unlocked all doors. Six sets played; six sets won.</p><h3><strong>Little-known Americans</strong></h3><p>If you had Tennys Sandgren in your “Last American Standing” pool, congrats. And how about lucky loser Bernarda Pera reaching the middle weekend?</p><h3><strong>Sam Groth</strong></h3><p>Final tip of the backwards cap for one of tennis’ good blokes, playing in his final tournament.</p><h3><strong>Hyeon Chung</strong></h3><p>Dance hall days, indeed. Young Korean takes out Sascha Zverev to reach round four.</p><h3>Simona Halep vs. Lauren Davis</h3><p>What a battle. As mentioned above, an early candidate for match of the year.</p><h3><strong>B</strong></h3><h3><strong>Denis Shapovalov</strong></h3><p>The future quickly is morphing into the present. Watch this kid—and at 18-years old, he remains a kid—play once and you’ll be hooked. But he’ll be stung by his failure to close out Tsonga up 5-2 in the fifth set.</p><h3><strong>Jana Fett</strong></h3><p>Croatian qualifier up 5-1 in the third set against Caroline Wozniacki, a player picked by many to win the event. That ought to ply Fett with confidence. She then loses the next six games. That ought to strip away aforementioned confidence.</p><h3><strong>Belinda Bencic</strong></h3><p>You outplay the great Venus Williams. You then get outplayed by Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum in your next match. Ah, tennis.</p><h3><strong>The pink-and-black Nike outfit</strong></h3><p><a href="http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/like-a-liquorice-allsorts-threw-up-nikes-australian-open-uniform-cops-a-serve-20180115-h0is8z" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Judy Murray is right" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Judy Murray is right</a>. They look like licorice pastels.</p><h3><strong>Ivo Karlovic</strong></h3><p>Two straight matches of more than 50 aces for the oldest player in the draw. He wins one match 12-10 in the fifth, and then loses to Andy Seppi 9-7 in the fifth.</p><h3><strong>Stan Wawrinka</strong></h3><p>Good for him for playing till the end, but the former champ clearly came back too soon from injury.</p><h3><strong>C</strong></h3><h3><strong>The Australian Open app and website</strong></h3><p>At this point, we’re piling on. But <a href="https://deadspin.com/the-australian-open-app-stinks-and-this-is-probably-why-1822116974" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:this is simply embarrassing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">this is simply embarrassing</a>. Especially for such an event that is otherwise so buttoned-up. A terrible, terrible unforced error for a global sporting event.</p><h3><strong>Sloane Stephens</strong></h3><p>Still looking for her first match win since the U.S. Open. 0-8 since.</p><h3><strong>Garbine Muguruza</strong></h3><p>You’re in the prime of your career. You travel with a trainer. The field is wide open…. You cannot lose in the second round to a player barely in the top 100. When everything is going great, Mugu is a worldbeater. When anything goes remotely sideways, she follows suit.</p><h3><strong>Jack Sock</strong></h3><p>Burst into the top in the fall. Lackluster start to the year includes a first round loss in Melbourne.</p><h3><strong>The heat policy</strong></h3><p>Ice baths and ice vests and “players are encouraged to hydrate” are insufficient when on-courts temperatures hit 156 Fahrenheit. (That’s not a typo.)</p>
Keys, Kerber and Kyrgios Lead 2018 Australian Open Midterm Grades

A theme of will echoed through the first week of the 2018 Australian Open. We’ve have Will Ferrell. We’ve had Will Smith.

Nick Kyrgios has shown will, not always in evidence, offering maturity to match his shotmaking. Top seed Simona Halep and Lauren Davis each showed an abundance of will, two undersized athletes battling on Saturday to 15-13 in the third set, an early candidate for match of the year. For two days, players showed will simply not to wilt, enduring on-court temperatures fit for Ray Bradbury stories.

Plenty of will remains for Week Two. Will Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal reprise their final? Will Caroline Wozniacki win her first major? Will Novak Djokovic find his mojo and perhaps even a seventh title? We’ll see. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Herewith your Midterm Grades from Melbourne:

A

The Favorites

For some it's been easy (Nadal and Federer, the top two men’s seeds.) For some it's been hard (Halep and Wozniacki, the top two women’s seeds–each of whom has been down match point.) For some, the jury remains sequestered (Novak Djokovic.) But the faves remain.

Angelique Kerber

It’s as if 2017 never happened. The winner in 2016 makes quick work of Maria Sharapova and suddenly looks like a worldbeater again.

Nick Kyrgios

We all mature at our own pace. Kyrgios defies convention—note that as we wrote this, he was still in the doubles draw. But he also thumbs his nose at distraction. Through three rounds, he’s playing the kind of measured and drama-free tennis that becomes champions.

Madison Keys

Overall, a brutal first week for the Americans. But Keys has unlocked all doors. Six sets played; six sets won.

Little-known Americans

If you had Tennys Sandgren in your “Last American Standing” pool, congrats. And how about lucky loser Bernarda Pera reaching the middle weekend?

Sam Groth

Final tip of the backwards cap for one of tennis’ good blokes, playing in his final tournament.

Hyeon Chung

Dance hall days, indeed. Young Korean takes out Sascha Zverev to reach round four.

Simona Halep vs. Lauren Davis

What a battle. As mentioned above, an early candidate for match of the year.

B

Denis Shapovalov

The future quickly is morphing into the present. Watch this kid—and at 18-years old, he remains a kid—play once and you’ll be hooked. But he’ll be stung by his failure to close out Tsonga up 5-2 in the fifth set.

Jana Fett

Croatian qualifier up 5-1 in the third set against Caroline Wozniacki, a player picked by many to win the event. That ought to ply Fett with confidence. She then loses the next six games. That ought to strip away aforementioned confidence.

Belinda Bencic

You outplay the great Venus Williams. You then get outplayed by Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum in your next match. Ah, tennis.

The pink-and-black Nike outfit

Judy Murray is right. They look like licorice pastels.

Ivo Karlovic

Two straight matches of more than 50 aces for the oldest player in the draw. He wins one match 12-10 in the fifth, and then loses to Andy Seppi 9-7 in the fifth.

Stan Wawrinka

Good for him for playing till the end, but the former champ clearly came back too soon from injury.

C

The Australian Open app and website

At this point, we’re piling on. But this is simply embarrassing. Especially for such an event that is otherwise so buttoned-up. A terrible, terrible unforced error for a global sporting event.

Sloane Stephens

Still looking for her first match win since the U.S. Open. 0-8 since.

Garbine Muguruza

You’re in the prime of your career. You travel with a trainer. The field is wide open…. You cannot lose in the second round to a player barely in the top 100. When everything is going great, Mugu is a worldbeater. When anything goes remotely sideways, she follows suit.

Jack Sock

Burst into the top in the fall. Lackluster start to the year includes a first round loss in Melbourne.

The heat policy

Ice baths and ice vests and “players are encouraged to hydrate” are insufficient when on-courts temperatures hit 156 Fahrenheit. (That’s not a typo.)

<p><em>With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI&#39;s tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners. </em></p><h3><strong>What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?</strong></h3><p><strong>Jon Wertheim: </strong>My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.</p><p><strong>Richard Deitsch:</strong> It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.</p><p><strong>Jamie Lisanti:</strong> Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently</a>: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.</p><p>Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?</p><p>On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.</p><p>Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?</p><p><strong>Stanley Kay:</strong> Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round. </p><p>There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round. </p><p>Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks. </p><p>Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round? </p><h3><strong>Which top players will crash out early?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn&#39;t get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/902377/Rafael-Nadal-knee-injury-Australian-Open-Richard-Gasquet-loss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:knee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">knee</a> makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….</p><p><strong>Lisanti:</strong> With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out. </p><p>Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title. </p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural. </p><p>Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns. </p><h3><strong>Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy. </p><p>On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well. </p><h3><strong>Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open. </strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?</p><p>Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/09/australian-open-2018-margaret-court-intervew-mary-carillo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here.</a> I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vogue cover story." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vogue cover story.</a></em></p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> Sure, I&#39;m intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they&#39;re currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini&#39;s fashion sense. Fognini apparently <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0V2aCzpApYFERzyVFKorWt?domain=smh.com.au" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> his outfit an &quot;Italian look,&quot; which—well, just see for yourself. </p><p>I have many questions. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the men&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim:</strong> Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the women&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim</strong>: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.</p><p><strong>Deitsch: </strong>I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately<strong>,</strong> I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.</p><p>Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne<strong>,</strong> *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?</p><p><strong>Kay: </strong>I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne. </p>
2018 Australian Open Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses and Top Storylines

With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI's tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners.

What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?

Jon Wertheim: My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.

Richard Deitsch: It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.

Jamie Lisanti: Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.

Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?

On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.

Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?

Stanley Kay: Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round.

There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round.

Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks.

Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round?

Which top players will crash out early?

Wertheim: Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn't get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s knee makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….

Lisanti: With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out.

Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title.

Deitsch: I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.

Kay: I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural.

Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns.

Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?

Wertheim: The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.

Deitsch: I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.

Lisanti: Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.

Kay: It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy.

On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well.

Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open.

Wertheim: Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?

Lisanti: Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?

Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.

Deitsch: I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here. I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this Vogue cover story.

Kay: Sure, I'm intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they're currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini's fashion sense. Fognini apparently called his outfit an "Italian look," which—well, just see for yourself.

I have many questions.

Who will win the men's title?

Wertheim: Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.

Deitsch: Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)

Lisanti: I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.

Kay: As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne.

Who will win the women's title?

Wertheim: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.

Deitsch: I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.

Lisanti: No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.

Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne, *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?

Kay: I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne.

<p><em>With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI&#39;s tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners. </em></p><h3><strong>What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?</strong></h3><p><strong>Jon Wertheim: </strong>My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.</p><p><strong>Richard Deitsch:</strong> It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.</p><p><strong>Jamie Lisanti:</strong> Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently</a>: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.</p><p>Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?</p><p>On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.</p><p>Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?</p><p><strong>Stanley Kay:</strong> Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round. </p><p>There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round. </p><p>Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks. </p><p>Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round? </p><h3><strong>Which top players will crash out early?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn&#39;t get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/902377/Rafael-Nadal-knee-injury-Australian-Open-Richard-Gasquet-loss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:knee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">knee</a> makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….</p><p><strong>Lisanti:</strong> With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out. </p><p>Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title. </p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural. </p><p>Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns. </p><h3><strong>Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy. </p><p>On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well. </p><h3><strong>Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open. </strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?</p><p>Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/09/australian-open-2018-margaret-court-intervew-mary-carillo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here.</a> I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vogue cover story." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vogue cover story.</a></em></p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> Sure, I&#39;m intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they&#39;re currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini&#39;s fashion sense. Fognini apparently <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0V2aCzpApYFERzyVFKorWt?domain=smh.com.au" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> his outfit an &quot;Italian look,&quot; which—well, just see for yourself. </p><p>I have many questions. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the men&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim:</strong> Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the women&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim</strong>: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.</p><p><strong>Deitsch: </strong>I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately<strong>,</strong> I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.</p><p>Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne<strong>,</strong> *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?</p><p><strong>Kay: </strong>I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne. </p>
2018 Australian Open Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses and Top Storylines

With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI's tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners.

What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?

Jon Wertheim: My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.

Richard Deitsch: It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.

Jamie Lisanti: Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.

Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?

On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.

Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?

Stanley Kay: Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round.

There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round.

Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks.

Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round?

Which top players will crash out early?

Wertheim: Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn't get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s knee makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….

Lisanti: With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out.

Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title.

Deitsch: I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.

Kay: I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural.

Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns.

Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?

Wertheim: The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.

Deitsch: I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.

Lisanti: Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.

Kay: It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy.

On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well.

Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open.

Wertheim: Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?

Lisanti: Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?

Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.

Deitsch: I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here. I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this Vogue cover story.

Kay: Sure, I'm intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they're currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini's fashion sense. Fognini apparently called his outfit an "Italian look," which—well, just see for yourself.

I have many questions.

Who will win the men's title?

Wertheim: Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.

Deitsch: Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)

Lisanti: I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.

Kay: As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne.

Who will win the women's title?

Wertheim: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.

Deitsch: I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.

Lisanti: No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.

Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne, *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?

Kay: I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne.

<p><em>With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI&#39;s tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners. </em></p><h3><strong>What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?</strong></h3><p><strong>Jon Wertheim: </strong>My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.</p><p><strong>Richard Deitsch:</strong> It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.</p><p><strong>Jamie Lisanti:</strong> Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently</a>: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.</p><p>Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?</p><p>On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.</p><p>Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?</p><p><strong>Stanley Kay:</strong> Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round. </p><p>There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round. </p><p>Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks. </p><p>Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round? </p><h3><strong>Which top players will crash out early?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn&#39;t get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s <a href="https://www.express.co.uk/sport/tennis/902377/Rafael-Nadal-knee-injury-Australian-Open-Richard-Gasquet-loss" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:knee" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">knee</a> makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….</p><p><strong>Lisanti:</strong> With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out. </p><p>Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title. </p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural. </p><p>Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns. </p><h3><strong>Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy. </p><p>On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well. </p><h3><strong>Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open. </strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim: </strong>Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?</p><p>Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/09/australian-open-2018-margaret-court-intervew-mary-carillo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here.</a> I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/serena-williams-vogue-cover-interview-february-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Vogue cover story." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Vogue cover story.</a></em></p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> Sure, I&#39;m intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they&#39;re currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini&#39;s fashion sense. Fognini apparently <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/0V2aCzpApYFERzyVFKorWt?domain=smh.com.au" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:called" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">called</a> his outfit an &quot;Italian look,&quot; which—well, just see for yourself. </p><p>I have many questions. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the men&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim:</strong> Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.</p><p><strong>Deitsch:</strong> Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.</p><p><strong>Kay:</strong> As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne. </p><h3><strong>Who will win the women&#39;s title?</strong></h3><p><strong>Wertheim</strong>: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.</p><p><strong>Deitsch: </strong>I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.</p><p><strong>Lisanti: </strong>No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately<strong>,</strong> I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.</p><p>Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne<strong>,</strong> *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?</p><p><strong>Kay: </strong>I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne. </p>
2018 Australian Open Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses and Top Storylines

With the 2017 Australian Open set to kick off Monday in Melbourne (Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET), SI's tennis experts and writers Jon Wertheim, Richard Deitsch, Stanley Kay and Jamie Lisanti discuss this year’s top storylines and predict the winners.

What player or qualifier do you see being a dark horse or having a big breakthrough this year?

Jon Wertheim: My guess? There will be mini-breakthroughs and continued progress. Denis Shapovalov, Sascha Zverev (who perhaps gets Djokovic in the round of 16), Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex De Minaur. On the women’s side, Ash Barty is climbing the charts. The enigmatic Camila Giorgi has been terrific this week. But ultimately, look for the blue chips to dominate the second week. (On the women’s side, that includes Angie Kerber, the 2016 champ.) As much as we all like shiny, new things, the contenders are the contenders for a reason.

Richard Deitsch: It’s still a double take to see Angelique Kerber as the No. 21 seed given she was the champion here just 24 months ago. There are signs of a comeback after a disastrous 2017: This week she beat Venus Williams in three sets at the Sydney International and blew Dominika Cibulkova off the court. She’s a title contender in an odd position in draw. Watch her.

Jamie Lisanti: Maria Sharapova is back down under for the first time since 2016—that year she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena, and the year before she posted a runner-up finish, to Serena. As doubles player Bob Bryan referenced to on our podcast recently: if you follow Sharapova on Instagram, it seems as though she’s working really hard to get back into Slam-winning shape. Things on Instagram are not always what they seem, though, and she faces a rather difficult road with possible matches against No. 14-seed Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the fourth round at last year’s U.S. Open, and then 2016 champ Angelique Kerber in the third. (Fun fact: Kerber and Sharapova are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title.) But if she is able to get through the early-round challengers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Sharapova: her road to the title does not include a stop in Serena-ville.

Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open. Who will come into the first major of the year with the most firepower and build on her success in New York?

On the men’s side, I’m excited to see how Denis Shapovalov responds in his first major since his big, breakout performance at the U.S. Open last summer. Thanasi Kokkinakis, still making his way back after a long injury layoff following shoulder surgery, lost in the first round at the U.S. Open last summer but the 21-year-old Aussie is one of those players who could be lifted by a favorable home crowd. He faces Daniil Medvedev in the first round.

Some others: Johanna Konta is a serious threat. Kevin Anderson comes in as the runner-up at the last major—can he do it again?

Stanley Kay: Here’s a prediction that definitely won’t blow up in my face: Nick Kyrgios is going to surprise us in a good way. He has a tough road to the quarterfinals—likely Tsonga or Shapovalov in the third round, Dimitrov in the fourth round—but I think after winning Brisbane, Kyrgios is going to impress us by playing with confidence and even something resembling poise. Plus that difficult draw could actually end up helping Kyrgios, who plays his best against the best competition. Speaking of Shapovalov—I’m required by law to mention him as a dark horse. I rarely ask anything of you, Tennis Gods, but please give us Nick vs. Shapo in the third round.

There’s also 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur, ranked No. 167 and weighing only 152 pounds but off to an extraordinary start this season. De Minaur upset Milos Raonic in Brisbane on his way to the semifinal, and now he’s beaten Fernando Verdasco, Damir Dzumhur, Feliciano Lopez and Benoit Paire on his way to the Sydney final. De Minaur drew a tough matchup in Tomas Berdych, but don’t discount an upset here. Another man to watch: 21-year-old American Jared Donaldson. Donaldson is a fighter, and he’ll have a chance to prove his mettle in the opening round against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. I’d love to see Donaldson get a shot at Novak Djokovic or Gael Monfils in the third round.

Naomi Osaka is another rising star I think merits dark horse status. Only 20, she has already repeatedly shown that she can take down the best players on the biggest stage—think last year’s U.S. Open upset of defending champion Angelique Kerber on Arthur Ashe. She reached the third round in Melbourne in 2016 and the second round last year, and I think she’ll make some noise the next couple weeks.

Osaka won’t win the tournament, but Angie Kerber and Petra Kvitova, both seeded below No. 20, are strong candidates to hoist the trophy. Kerber may have felt the pressure last year after earning the No. 1 ranking, but she’s officially out of the spotlight now—and I think she’ll thrive. By the way, is anyone else already excited for a possible Kvitova–Halep matchup in the third round?

Which top players will crash out early?

Wertheim: Sadly, the mantra for the tournament, if not this year, goes like this: “Health is the variable here.” If Sloane Stephens—winner of the previous major—doesn't get better soon she could be in trouble. Nadal’s knee makes him vulnerable. Same for past champ Stan Wawrinka. And the Djokovic elbow. And Muguruza’s thigh….and….

Lisanti: With a little rust to still shake off after taking the second half of 2017 off due to a knee injury, No. 9-seed Stan Wawrinka could be the first in the top 10 on the men’s side to drop out.

Garbine Muguruza will likely be a popular pick in this department, considering her health and injuries in the lead-up tournaments. But I’ve learned my lesson with Muguruza—bet against her at your peril. Last time the Spaniard was thought to be injured and battling a leg injury heading into a major (Wimbledon 2017) she quietly cruised into the second week and won her second major title.

Deitsch: I could see Jelena Ostapenko losing in the first round to Francesca Schiavone in their first career meeting. Can’t see a long run for Pablo Carreno Busta.

Kay: I have pretty high expectations for Novak Djokovic this year, but I think his first major tournament after his extended absence from the tour could be a challenge—and the draw didn’t do him any favors. He’ll likely face Gael Monfils in the second round, and he could face Alexander Zverev in the fourth round. I’m still worried about Djokovic’s elbow, and I’m guessing his new service motion still feels a bit unnatural.

Simona Halep crashed out of last year’s Australian Open in the first round, and while I doubt she’s in for a similar fate this year, she will likely have to face Petra Kvitova in the third round. Even though Halep has a 3–1 edge in their head-to-head, that’s a tough matchup. Also on upset watch: Sloane Stephens, who faces Zhang Shuai in the opening round. Stephens has yet to win a match since winning the U.S. Open. It’s a new season, but her lone competitive match against Camila Giorgi, a 3–6, 0–6 defeat, didn’t assuage any concerns.

Which first round matches are you most looking forward to?

Wertheim: The matches take on extra weight given the distance traveled to lose early. Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic is rough draw for both. Ostapenko versus Schiavone is an alpha-omega of surprise French Open champs. Monica Puig needs a win and so does Sam Stosur on home soil; one will get it and the other won’t. Young Frances Tiafoe has the misfortune or drawing Juan Martin del Potro. Young Alex DiMinaur against Tomas Berdych. And of course Novak Djokovic—playing his first match in many months—against Donald Young.

Deitsch: I’m definitely watching Novak Djokovic against Donald Young given all eyes will be on Novak given it’s his first match since Wimbledon. Same situation for Stan Wawrinka, who returns to play Ricardis Berankis. Venus Williams against former world No. 7 Belinda Bencic is a good one. So is Juan Martin del Potro against the young, talented American, Frances Tiafoe.

Lisanti: Upset watch is the theme for Sloane Stephens vs. Zhang Shuai. 19-year-old Sofia Kenin is a fighter and could give No. 12-seed Julia Goerges a battle. (Kenin took a set off Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this month before falling in three sets.) Ash Barty­ vs. Belarus’ 6-foot, 19-year-old rising star Aryna Sabalenka is circled on my drawsheet. I love the contrast of a rising Andrey Rublev vs. a waning David Ferrer. Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Denis Shapolov is a battle for the Flavor of the Month medal.

Kay: It’s hard to narrow down. I don’t expect Donald Young to upset Novak Djokovic, but I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic compete once again at a Slam. Frances Tiafoe–Juan Martin del Potro should be a lot of fun. I think Andrey Rublev–David Ferrer could be an entertaining match between two players on opposite sides of their career. And Denis Shapovalov taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas in a major is an ATP NextGen fantasy.

On the women’s side, the match I’m looking forward to most is Venus Williams–Belinda Bencic. I’m curious to see whether Venus can carry over her 2017 major success into this year. Bencic has plateaued since her stellar 2015 season, but she’s still only 20 with plenty of promise. I’m also befuddled by Sloane Stephens’s abysmal play since winning the U.S. Open—she hasn’t won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final in Flushing Meadows—so I think her match with Zhang Shuai is one to watch. Andrea Petkovic–Petra Kvitova is worth watching as well.

Name one offbeat and/or off-court story you will be following during this year’s Australian Open.

Wertheim: Will any players decline to play on/in Margaret Court Arena, a venue named for tennis champion who happens to be a bigot as well? The coaching carousel spun wildly this off-season; which new pairings will sing in harmony? And which won’t? The never-ending psychodrama that is Nick Kyrgios’s career will provide another installment, this one with a local flavor. How will Angie Kerber—the 2016 winner—rebound from a dismal 2017?

Lisanti: Injuries, injuries, injuries—will any player speak out about the notable absences from the tournament and demand change?

Victoria Azarenka’s absence at the second-straight major is starting to sting. We feel for Vika’s situation with her ongoing custody battle and it’s definitely a story I will be monitoring until a resolution is reached.

Deitsch: I’m looking forward to watching Mary Carillo’s Real Sports interview with Margaret Court in Australia, which will debut on the season premiere of the show on Jan. 30. Carillo detailed her four-day visit and interview with Court here. I’m also interested if we will hear from Serena during the fortnight. I highly recommend reading this Vogue cover story.

Kay: Sure, I'm intrigued by the Margaret Court question, as well as how Serena Williams and Andy Murray will overcome the incredible adversity they're currently facing. But by far the biggest storyline of the tournament is Fabio Fognini's fashion sense. Fognini apparently called his outfit an "Italian look," which—well, just see for yourself.

I have many questions.

Who will win the men's title?

Wertheim: Federer. A year ago, the pick would have been dismissed as sentimentalist wishful thinking. But how do you pick against Federer to repeat? He’s the defending champ. He’s healthier than most of the other contenders. He’s Federer. Yes, 36 is a big number. So is 19. There was a time when “Novak Djokovic in Australia” was verging on “Nadal in Paris.” But Djokovic’s bum elbow is cause for concern. Nadal’s knee/wrist combo is similarly problematic as well. And Sascha Zverev and Nick Kyrgios—talented as both are—still need to prove themselves in best-of-five matches before they can be considered favorites.

Deitsch: Grigor Dimitrov will be a trendy pick here but I also think it’s the correct one. He’s in his athletic prime at 26, finished the year No. 3 and has the motivation of never having won a major. Last year he made the semifinals in Australia before losing to Nadal in five sets (and 6-4 in the fifth). This year he gets to the finish line. (I must admit that a potential fourth round match against Nick Krygios scares the hell out of me regarding picking Dimitrov.)

Lisanti: I want to be creative and different and experimental here, but someone is holding me back: he’s 6’1” and 36 years old and his name is Roger Federer. The big 2-0 milestone will be achieved in Melbourne.

Kay: As if Roger Federer needed any other advantages, he received a pretty favorable draw. I think the 19-time major champion will make it 20 in Melbourne.

Who will win the women's title?

Wertheim: Open up and say “ah.” No, open wider. Such is the cavernous nature of the women’s field. Especially with Serena Williams out on maternity leave. Caroline Wozniacki, winner in Singapore, must be high on the contender list. Same for Garbine Muguruza who seeks a hardcourt title to cement (no pun intended) her excellence after winning on grass and clay. But for the all the ambient unpredictability, we’ll go conventional and take the top seed. That would be Simona Halep who is due to win a major.

Deitsch: I think I have picked Simona Halep to win titles in this space at least five times. You say I am insane? I say thank you very much. I would have picked Halep before I saw the draw, but now I’m going with Elina Svitolina, who won the Brisbane International last week. The 23-year-old Ukrainian looks ready to breakthrough.

Lisanti: No. 1 Simona Halep is going to be the trendy pick here, and rightfully so. The Romanian came oh-so-close to winning her first major in 2017, and after a positive offseason and hot start to 2018 with a title in Shenzhen, it seems like it’s finally time for the 26-year-old to raise the trophy. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come in Melbourne for Halep. No. 2-seed Caroline Wozniacki is the next-best choice, but I’m not picking her either.

Though she has a tough first-rounder to get through, Venus Williams will win the 2018 Australian Open. A finalist last year, the 37-year-old will finally be victorious in Melbourne, *two decades* after her first appearance. What’s not to love about that?

Kay: I like Angie Kerber’s chances. After an excellent 2016 that saw her earn two major titles and the No. 1 ranking, Kerber struggled last year, failing to reach a Slam quarterfinal and falling outside the top 20. But the German has looked sharp in Sydney, earning hard-fought victories against Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams before cruising by Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi. She’s in great form to start the season, and I think it carries over in Melbourne.

<p>Sports Illustrated<em>&#39;s Jon Wertheim breaks down the men&#39;s and women&#39;s seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more. </em></p><h3>Men&#39;s draw</h3><p>I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..</p><h3><strong>1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Sadly, we&#39;ll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.</p><h3><strong>2. Roger Federer (SUI)</strong></h3><p>What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)</strong></h3><p>Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.</p><h3><strong>4. Alexander Zverev (GER)</strong></h3><p>Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.</p><h3><strong>5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)</strong></h3><p>You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?</p><h3><strong>6. Marin Cilic (CRO)</strong></h3><p>No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)</p><h3><strong>7. David Goffin (BEL)</strong></h3><p>Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to<em> win</em> Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.</p><h3><strong>8. Jack Sock (USA)</strong></h3><p>Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?</p><h3><strong>9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)</strong></h3><p>Says a lot that Wawrinka didn&#39;t win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn&#39;t appear to be the case.</p><h3><strong>10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) </strong></h3><p>Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.</p><h3><strong>11. </strong><strong>Kevin Anderson (RSA)</strong></h3><p>Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.</p><h3>12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)</h3><p>Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.</p><h3><strong>13. Sam Querrey (USA)</strong></h3><p>Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez</p><h3><strong>14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)</strong></h3><p>His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.</p><h3><strong>15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.</p><h3><strong>16. Andy Murray (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.</p><h3><strong>16. John Isner (USA)</strong></h3><p>A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)</strong></p><p>He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.</p><p><strong>18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)</strong></p><p>Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.</p><p><strong>19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)</strong></p><p>Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.</p><p><strong>22. Milos Raonic (CAN)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.</p><p><strong>24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)</strong></p><p>Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.</p><p><strong>32. Mischa Zverev (GER)</strong></p><p>Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.</p><h3><strong>Dark Horse Corral</strong></h3><p><strong>Gael Monfils</strong>: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.</p><p><strong>David Ferrer: </strong>By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.</p><p><strong>Karen Khachanov: </strong>Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.</p><p><strong>Dennis Shapovalov: </strong>Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.</p><p><strong>Gilles Simon: </strong>How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.</p><p><strong>Fernando Verdasco: </strong>Still capable of any-given-day upsets.</p><p><strong>Hyeon Chung: </strong>His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.</p><p><strong>Stefanos Tsitsipas: </strong>Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!</p><h3><strong>First Round Matches to watch</strong></h3><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Donald Young: </strong>Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.</p><p><strong>del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: </strong>Experience versus youth. Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: </strong>Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: </strong>Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.</p><h3><strong>Upset Special</strong></h3><p>If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.</p><h3><strong>Doubles winner</strong></h3><p>Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Zverev<br>Nadal d. Dimitrov</p><h3><strong>Finals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Nadal</p><h3>Women&#39;s draw</h3><p>With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would <em>oversell</em> the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.</p><h3><strong>1. Simona Halep (ROU)</strong></h3><p>As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!</p><h3><strong>2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)</strong></h3><p>A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.</p><h3><strong>4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)</strong></h3><p>As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.</p><h3><strong>5. Venus Williams (USA)</strong></h3><p>Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1998/02/02/8094620/slice-girls-serena-and-venus-williams-cut-up-some-top-foesand-did-some-cutting-up-themselvesin-australia" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:made her Melbourne debut" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">made her Melbourne debut</a>.</p><p>“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls&#39; father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6&#39;1&quot; Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”</p><p>New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?</p><h3><strong>6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)</strong></h3><p>She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn&#39;t really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?</p><h3><strong>7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)</strong></h3><p>French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.</p><h3><strong>8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.</p><h3><strong>9. Johanna Konta (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.</p><h3><strong>10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)</strong></h3><p>Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.</p><h3><strong>11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)</strong></h3><p>Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?</p><h3><strong>12. Julia Goerges (GER)</strong></h3><p>German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.</p><h3><strong>13. Sloane Stephens (USA)</strong></h3><p>Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.</p><h3><strong>14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)</strong></h3><p>The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.</p><h3><strong>15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.</p><h3><strong>16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Madison Keys (USA)</strong></p><p>As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.</p><p><strong>18. Ash Barty (AUS)</strong></p><p>This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.</p><p><strong>20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.</p><p><strong>21. Angelique Kerber (GER)</strong></p><p>The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.</p><p><strong>23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)</strong></p><p>Plays well in front of local crowds.</p><p><strong>26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)</strong></p><p>Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.</p><p><strong>27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.</p><p><strong>28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist in 2017.</p><p><strong>31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)</strong></p><p>Former semifinalist rediscovering form.</p><h3>Dark horse pasture</h3><p><strong>Maria Sharapova</strong>: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.</p><p><strong>Camila Giorgi</strong>: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.</p><p><strong>CiCi Bellis:</strong> Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.</p><p><strong>Kristyna Pliskova:</strong> Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.</p><p><strong>Oceane Dodin</strong>: A top ten player by 2020.</p><p><strong>Aryna Sabalenka:</strong> Meet her <a href="https://johnfarleyspotlightwtatennis.blogspot.com/2018/01/john-farley-spotlight-wta-aryna_10.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><h3>First Round Matches to watch</h3><p><strong>Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic</strong>: Former finalist against former top ten player.</p><p><strong>Ostapenko vs. Schiavone</strong>: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.</p><p><strong>Stosur vs. Monica Puig</strong>: Two players who would benefit from a win.</p><p><strong>Barty vs. Sabalenka</strong>: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.</p><h3><strong>Upset pick</strong></h3><p>Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Halep d. Keys<br>Wozniacki d. Venus</p><h3>Final</h3><p>Halep d. Wozniacki</p>
2018 Australian Open Seed Reports

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more.

Men's draw

I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Sadly, we'll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.

2. Roger Federer (SUI)

What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.

3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.

4. Alexander Zverev (GER)

Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.

5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)

You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?

6. Marin Cilic (CRO)

No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)

7. David Goffin (BEL)

Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to win Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.

8. Jack Sock (USA)

Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?

9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)

Says a lot that Wawrinka didn't win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn't appear to be the case.

10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)

Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.

11. Kevin Anderson (RSA)

Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.

12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)

Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.

13. Sam Querrey (USA)

Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez

14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)

His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.

15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.

16. Andy Murray (GBR)

Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.

16. John Isner (USA)

A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.

Seeds 17-32

17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.

18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)

Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.

19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.

22. Milos Raonic (CAN)

A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.

24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.

32. Mischa Zverev (GER)

Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.

Dark Horse Corral

Gael Monfils: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.

David Ferrer: By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.

Karen Khachanov: Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.

Dennis Shapovalov: Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.

Gilles Simon: How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.

Fernando Verdasco: Still capable of any-given-day upsets.

Hyeon Chung: His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!

First Round Matches to watch

Djokovic vs. Donald Young: Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.

del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: Experience versus youth. Good test for both.

Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: Good test for both.

Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.

Upset Special

If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.

Doubles winner

Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.

Semifinals

Federer d. Zverev
Nadal d. Dimitrov

Finals

Federer d. Nadal

Women's draw

With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would oversell the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.

1. Simona Halep (ROU)

As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!

2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.

3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.

4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)

As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.

5. Venus Williams (USA)

Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and made her Melbourne debut.

“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls' father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6'1" Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”

New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?

6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn't really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?

7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.

8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)

A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.

9. Johanna Konta (GBR)

Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.

10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)

Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.

11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?

12. Julia Goerges (GER)

German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.

13. Sloane Stephens (USA)

Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.

14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.

15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)

Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.

16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)

Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.

Seeds 17-32

17. Madison Keys (USA)

As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.

18. Ash Barty (AUS)

This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.

20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)

Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.

21. Angelique Kerber (GER)

The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.

23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)

Plays well in front of local crowds.

26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.

27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.

28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)

A semifinalist in 2017.

31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)

Former semifinalist rediscovering form.

Dark horse pasture

Maria Sharapova: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.

Camila Giorgi: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.

CiCi Bellis: Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.

Kristyna Pliskova: Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.

Oceane Dodin: A top ten player by 2020.

Aryna Sabalenka: Meet her here.

First Round Matches to watch

Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic: Former finalist against former top ten player.

Ostapenko vs. Schiavone: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.

Stosur vs. Monica Puig: Two players who would benefit from a win.

Barty vs. Sabalenka: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.

Upset pick

Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.

Semifinals

Halep d. Keys
Wozniacki d. Venus

Final

Halep d. Wozniacki

<p>Sports Illustrated<em>&#39;s Jon Wertheim breaks down the men&#39;s and women&#39;s seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more. </em></p><h3>Men&#39;s draw</h3><p>I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..</p><h3><strong>1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Sadly, we&#39;ll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.</p><h3><strong>2. Roger Federer (SUI)</strong></h3><p>What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)</strong></h3><p>Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.</p><h3><strong>4. Alexander Zverev (GER)</strong></h3><p>Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.</p><h3><strong>5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)</strong></h3><p>You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?</p><h3><strong>6. Marin Cilic (CRO)</strong></h3><p>No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)</p><h3><strong>7. David Goffin (BEL)</strong></h3><p>Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to<em> win</em> Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.</p><h3><strong>8. Jack Sock (USA)</strong></h3><p>Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?</p><h3><strong>9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)</strong></h3><p>Says a lot that Wawrinka didn&#39;t win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn&#39;t appear to be the case.</p><h3><strong>10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) </strong></h3><p>Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.</p><h3><strong>11. </strong><strong>Kevin Anderson (RSA)</strong></h3><p>Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.</p><h3>12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)</h3><p>Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.</p><h3><strong>13. Sam Querrey (USA)</strong></h3><p>Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez</p><h3><strong>14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)</strong></h3><p>His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.</p><h3><strong>15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.</p><h3><strong>16. Andy Murray (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.</p><h3><strong>16. John Isner (USA)</strong></h3><p>A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)</strong></p><p>He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.</p><p><strong>18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)</strong></p><p>Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.</p><p><strong>19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)</strong></p><p>Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.</p><p><strong>22. Milos Raonic (CAN)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.</p><p><strong>24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)</strong></p><p>Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.</p><p><strong>32. Mischa Zverev (GER)</strong></p><p>Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.</p><h3><strong>Dark Horse Corral</strong></h3><p><strong>Gael Monfils</strong>: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.</p><p><strong>David Ferrer: </strong>By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.</p><p><strong>Karen Khachanov: </strong>Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.</p><p><strong>Dennis Shapovalov: </strong>Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.</p><p><strong>Gilles Simon: </strong>How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.</p><p><strong>Fernando Verdasco: </strong>Still capable of any-given-day upsets.</p><p><strong>Hyeon Chung: </strong>His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.</p><p><strong>Stefanos Tsitsipas: </strong>Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!</p><h3><strong>First Round Matches to watch</strong></h3><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Donald Young: </strong>Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.</p><p><strong>del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: </strong>Experience versus youth. Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: </strong>Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: </strong>Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.</p><h3><strong>Upset Special</strong></h3><p>If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.</p><h3><strong>Doubles winner</strong></h3><p>Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Zverev<br>Nadal d. Dimitrov</p><h3><strong>Finals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Nadal</p><h3>Women&#39;s draw</h3><p>With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would <em>oversell</em> the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.</p><h3><strong>1. Simona Halep (ROU)</strong></h3><p>As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!</p><h3><strong>2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)</strong></h3><p>A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.</p><h3><strong>4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)</strong></h3><p>As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.</p><h3><strong>5. Venus Williams (USA)</strong></h3><p>Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1998/02/02/8094620/slice-girls-serena-and-venus-williams-cut-up-some-top-foesand-did-some-cutting-up-themselvesin-australia" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:made her Melbourne debut" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">made her Melbourne debut</a>.</p><p>“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls&#39; father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6&#39;1&quot; Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”</p><p>New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?</p><h3><strong>6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)</strong></h3><p>She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn&#39;t really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?</p><h3><strong>7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)</strong></h3><p>French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.</p><h3><strong>8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.</p><h3><strong>9. Johanna Konta (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.</p><h3><strong>10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)</strong></h3><p>Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.</p><h3><strong>11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)</strong></h3><p>Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?</p><h3><strong>12. Julia Goerges (GER)</strong></h3><p>German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.</p><h3><strong>13. Sloane Stephens (USA)</strong></h3><p>Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.</p><h3><strong>14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)</strong></h3><p>The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.</p><h3><strong>15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.</p><h3><strong>16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Madison Keys (USA)</strong></p><p>As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.</p><p><strong>18. Ash Barty (AUS)</strong></p><p>This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.</p><p><strong>20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.</p><p><strong>21. Angelique Kerber (GER)</strong></p><p>The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.</p><p><strong>23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)</strong></p><p>Plays well in front of local crowds.</p><p><strong>26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)</strong></p><p>Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.</p><p><strong>27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.</p><p><strong>28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist in 2017.</p><p><strong>31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)</strong></p><p>Former semifinalist rediscovering form.</p><h3>Dark horse pasture</h3><p><strong>Maria Sharapova</strong>: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.</p><p><strong>Camila Giorgi</strong>: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.</p><p><strong>CiCi Bellis:</strong> Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.</p><p><strong>Kristyna Pliskova:</strong> Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.</p><p><strong>Oceane Dodin</strong>: A top ten player by 2020.</p><p><strong>Aryna Sabalenka:</strong> Meet her <a href="https://johnfarleyspotlightwtatennis.blogspot.com/2018/01/john-farley-spotlight-wta-aryna_10.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><h3>First Round Matches to watch</h3><p><strong>Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic</strong>: Former finalist against former top ten player.</p><p><strong>Ostapenko vs. Schiavone</strong>: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.</p><p><strong>Stosur vs. Monica Puig</strong>: Two players who would benefit from a win.</p><p><strong>Barty vs. Sabalenka</strong>: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.</p><h3><strong>Upset pick</strong></h3><p>Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Halep d. Keys<br>Wozniacki d. Venus</p><h3>Final</h3><p>Halep d. Wozniacki</p>
2018 Australian Open Seed Reports

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more.

Men's draw

I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Sadly, we'll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.

2. Roger Federer (SUI)

What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.

3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.

4. Alexander Zverev (GER)

Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.

5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)

You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?

6. Marin Cilic (CRO)

No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)

7. David Goffin (BEL)

Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to win Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.

8. Jack Sock (USA)

Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?

9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)

Says a lot that Wawrinka didn't win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn't appear to be the case.

10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)

Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.

11. Kevin Anderson (RSA)

Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.

12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)

Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.

13. Sam Querrey (USA)

Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez

14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)

His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.

15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.

16. Andy Murray (GBR)

Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.

16. John Isner (USA)

A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.

Seeds 17-32

17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.

18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)

Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.

19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.

22. Milos Raonic (CAN)

A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.

24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.

32. Mischa Zverev (GER)

Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.

Dark Horse Corral

Gael Monfils: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.

David Ferrer: By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.

Karen Khachanov: Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.

Dennis Shapovalov: Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.

Gilles Simon: How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.

Fernando Verdasco: Still capable of any-given-day upsets.

Hyeon Chung: His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!

First Round Matches to watch

Djokovic vs. Donald Young: Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.

del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: Experience versus youth. Good test for both.

Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: Good test for both.

Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.

Upset Special

If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.

Doubles winner

Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.

Semifinals

Federer d. Zverev
Nadal d. Dimitrov

Finals

Federer d. Nadal

Women's draw

With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would oversell the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.

1. Simona Halep (ROU)

As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!

2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.

3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.

4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)

As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.

5. Venus Williams (USA)

Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and made her Melbourne debut.

“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls' father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6'1" Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”

New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?

6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn't really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?

7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.

8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)

A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.

9. Johanna Konta (GBR)

Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.

10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)

Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.

11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?

12. Julia Goerges (GER)

German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.

13. Sloane Stephens (USA)

Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.

14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.

15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)

Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.

16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)

Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.

Seeds 17-32

17. Madison Keys (USA)

As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.

18. Ash Barty (AUS)

This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.

20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)

Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.

21. Angelique Kerber (GER)

The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.

23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)

Plays well in front of local crowds.

26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.

27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.

28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)

A semifinalist in 2017.

31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)

Former semifinalist rediscovering form.

Dark horse pasture

Maria Sharapova: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.

Camila Giorgi: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.

CiCi Bellis: Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.

Kristyna Pliskova: Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.

Oceane Dodin: A top ten player by 2020.

Aryna Sabalenka: Meet her here.

First Round Matches to watch

Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic: Former finalist against former top ten player.

Ostapenko vs. Schiavone: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.

Stosur vs. Monica Puig: Two players who would benefit from a win.

Barty vs. Sabalenka: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.

Upset pick

Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.

Semifinals

Halep d. Keys
Wozniacki d. Venus

Final

Halep d. Wozniacki

<p>Sports Illustrated<em>&#39;s Jon Wertheim breaks down the men&#39;s and women&#39;s seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more. </em></p><h3>Men&#39;s draw</h3><p>I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..</p><h3><strong>1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Sadly, we&#39;ll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.</p><h3><strong>2. Roger Federer (SUI)</strong></h3><p>What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)</strong></h3><p>Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.</p><h3><strong>4. Alexander Zverev (GER)</strong></h3><p>Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.</p><h3><strong>5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)</strong></h3><p>You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?</p><h3><strong>6. Marin Cilic (CRO)</strong></h3><p>No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)</p><h3><strong>7. David Goffin (BEL)</strong></h3><p>Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to<em> win</em> Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.</p><h3><strong>8. Jack Sock (USA)</strong></h3><p>Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?</p><h3><strong>9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)</strong></h3><p>Says a lot that Wawrinka didn&#39;t win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn&#39;t appear to be the case.</p><h3><strong>10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) </strong></h3><p>Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.</p><h3><strong>11. </strong><strong>Kevin Anderson (RSA)</strong></h3><p>Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.</p><h3>12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)</h3><p>Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.</p><h3><strong>13. Sam Querrey (USA)</strong></h3><p>Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez</p><h3><strong>14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)</strong></h3><p>His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.</p><h3><strong>15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.</p><h3><strong>16. Andy Murray (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.</p><h3><strong>16. John Isner (USA)</strong></h3><p>A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)</strong></p><p>He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.</p><p><strong>18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)</strong></p><p>Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.</p><p><strong>19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)</strong></p><p>Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.</p><p><strong>22. Milos Raonic (CAN)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.</p><p><strong>24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)</strong></p><p>Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.</p><p><strong>32. Mischa Zverev (GER)</strong></p><p>Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.</p><h3><strong>Dark Horse Corral</strong></h3><p><strong>Gael Monfils</strong>: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.</p><p><strong>David Ferrer: </strong>By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.</p><p><strong>Karen Khachanov: </strong>Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.</p><p><strong>Dennis Shapovalov: </strong>Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.</p><p><strong>Gilles Simon: </strong>How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.</p><p><strong>Fernando Verdasco: </strong>Still capable of any-given-day upsets.</p><p><strong>Hyeon Chung: </strong>His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.</p><p><strong>Stefanos Tsitsipas: </strong>Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!</p><h3><strong>First Round Matches to watch</strong></h3><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Donald Young: </strong>Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.</p><p><strong>del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: </strong>Experience versus youth. Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: </strong>Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: </strong>Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.</p><h3><strong>Upset Special</strong></h3><p>If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.</p><h3><strong>Doubles winner</strong></h3><p>Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Zverev<br>Nadal d. Dimitrov</p><h3><strong>Finals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Nadal</p><h3>Women&#39;s draw</h3><p>With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would <em>oversell</em> the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.</p><h3><strong>1. Simona Halep (ROU)</strong></h3><p>As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!</p><h3><strong>2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)</strong></h3><p>A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.</p><h3><strong>4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)</strong></h3><p>As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.</p><h3><strong>5. Venus Williams (USA)</strong></h3><p>Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1998/02/02/8094620/slice-girls-serena-and-venus-williams-cut-up-some-top-foesand-did-some-cutting-up-themselvesin-australia" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:made her Melbourne debut" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">made her Melbourne debut</a>.</p><p>“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls&#39; father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6&#39;1&quot; Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”</p><p>New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?</p><h3><strong>6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)</strong></h3><p>She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn&#39;t really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?</p><h3><strong>7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)</strong></h3><p>French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.</p><h3><strong>8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.</p><h3><strong>9. Johanna Konta (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.</p><h3><strong>10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)</strong></h3><p>Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.</p><h3><strong>11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)</strong></h3><p>Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?</p><h3><strong>12. Julia Goerges (GER)</strong></h3><p>German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.</p><h3><strong>13. Sloane Stephens (USA)</strong></h3><p>Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.</p><h3><strong>14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)</strong></h3><p>The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.</p><h3><strong>15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.</p><h3><strong>16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Madison Keys (USA)</strong></p><p>As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.</p><p><strong>18. Ash Barty (AUS)</strong></p><p>This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.</p><p><strong>20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.</p><p><strong>21. Angelique Kerber (GER)</strong></p><p>The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.</p><p><strong>23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)</strong></p><p>Plays well in front of local crowds.</p><p><strong>26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)</strong></p><p>Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.</p><p><strong>27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.</p><p><strong>28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist in 2017.</p><p><strong>31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)</strong></p><p>Former semifinalist rediscovering form.</p><h3>Dark horse pasture</h3><p><strong>Maria Sharapova</strong>: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.</p><p><strong>Camila Giorgi</strong>: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.</p><p><strong>CiCi Bellis:</strong> Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.</p><p><strong>Kristyna Pliskova:</strong> Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.</p><p><strong>Oceane Dodin</strong>: A top ten player by 2020.</p><p><strong>Aryna Sabalenka:</strong> Meet her <a href="https://johnfarleyspotlightwtatennis.blogspot.com/2018/01/john-farley-spotlight-wta-aryna_10.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><h3>First Round Matches to watch</h3><p><strong>Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic</strong>: Former finalist against former top ten player.</p><p><strong>Ostapenko vs. Schiavone</strong>: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.</p><p><strong>Stosur vs. Monica Puig</strong>: Two players who would benefit from a win.</p><p><strong>Barty vs. Sabalenka</strong>: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.</p><h3><strong>Upset pick</strong></h3><p>Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Halep d. Keys<br>Wozniacki d. Venus</p><h3>Final</h3><p>Halep d. Wozniacki</p>
2018 Australian Open Seed Reports

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more.

Men's draw

I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Sadly, we'll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.

2. Roger Federer (SUI)

What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.

3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.

4. Alexander Zverev (GER)

Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.

5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)

You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?

6. Marin Cilic (CRO)

No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)

7. David Goffin (BEL)

Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to win Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.

8. Jack Sock (USA)

Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?

9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)

Says a lot that Wawrinka didn't win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn't appear to be the case.

10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)

Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.

11. Kevin Anderson (RSA)

Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.

12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)

Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.

13. Sam Querrey (USA)

Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez

14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)

His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.

15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.

16. Andy Murray (GBR)

Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.

16. John Isner (USA)

A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.

Seeds 17-32

17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.

18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)

Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.

19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.

22. Milos Raonic (CAN)

A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.

24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.

32. Mischa Zverev (GER)

Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.

Dark Horse Corral

Gael Monfils: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.

David Ferrer: By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.

Karen Khachanov: Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.

Dennis Shapovalov: Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.

Gilles Simon: How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.

Fernando Verdasco: Still capable of any-given-day upsets.

Hyeon Chung: His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!

First Round Matches to watch

Djokovic vs. Donald Young: Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.

del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: Experience versus youth. Good test for both.

Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: Good test for both.

Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.

Upset Special

If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.

Doubles winner

Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.

Semifinals

Federer d. Zverev
Nadal d. Dimitrov

Finals

Federer d. Nadal

Women's draw

With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would oversell the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.

1. Simona Halep (ROU)

As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!

2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.

3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.

4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)

As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.

5. Venus Williams (USA)

Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and made her Melbourne debut.

“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls' father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6'1" Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”

New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?

6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn't really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?

7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.

8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)

A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.

9. Johanna Konta (GBR)

Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.

10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)

Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.

11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?

12. Julia Goerges (GER)

German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.

13. Sloane Stephens (USA)

Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.

14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.

15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)

Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.

16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)

Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.

Seeds 17-32

17. Madison Keys (USA)

As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.

18. Ash Barty (AUS)

This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.

20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)

Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.

21. Angelique Kerber (GER)

The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.

23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)

Plays well in front of local crowds.

26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.

27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.

28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)

A semifinalist in 2017.

31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)

Former semifinalist rediscovering form.

Dark horse pasture

Maria Sharapova: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.

Camila Giorgi: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.

CiCi Bellis: Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.

Kristyna Pliskova: Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.

Oceane Dodin: A top ten player by 2020.

Aryna Sabalenka: Meet her here.

First Round Matches to watch

Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic: Former finalist against former top ten player.

Ostapenko vs. Schiavone: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.

Stosur vs. Monica Puig: Two players who would benefit from a win.

Barty vs. Sabalenka: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.

Upset pick

Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.

Semifinals

Halep d. Keys
Wozniacki d. Venus

Final

Halep d. Wozniacki

<p>Sports Illustrated<em>&#39;s Jon Wertheim breaks down the men&#39;s and women&#39;s seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more. </em></p><h3>Men&#39;s draw</h3><p>I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..</p><h3><strong>1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Sadly, we&#39;ll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.</p><h3><strong>2. Roger Federer (SUI)</strong></h3><p>What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)</strong></h3><p>Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.</p><h3><strong>4. Alexander Zverev (GER)</strong></h3><p>Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.</p><h3><strong>5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)</strong></h3><p>You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?</p><h3><strong>6. Marin Cilic (CRO)</strong></h3><p>No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)</p><h3><strong>7. David Goffin (BEL)</strong></h3><p>Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to<em> win</em> Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.</p><h3><strong>8. Jack Sock (USA)</strong></h3><p>Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?</p><h3><strong>9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)</strong></h3><p>Says a lot that Wawrinka didn&#39;t win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn&#39;t appear to be the case.</p><h3><strong>10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) </strong></h3><p>Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.</p><h3><strong>11. </strong><strong>Kevin Anderson (RSA)</strong></h3><p>Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.</p><h3>12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)</h3><p>Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.</p><h3><strong>13. Sam Querrey (USA)</strong></h3><p>Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez</p><h3><strong>14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)</strong></h3><p>His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.</p><h3><strong>15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.</p><h3><strong>16. Andy Murray (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.</p><h3><strong>16. John Isner (USA)</strong></h3><p>A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)</strong></p><p>He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.</p><p><strong>18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)</strong></p><p>Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.</p><p><strong>19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)</strong></p><p>Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.</p><p><strong>22. Milos Raonic (CAN)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.</p><p><strong>24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)</strong></p><p>Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.</p><p><strong>32. Mischa Zverev (GER)</strong></p><p>Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.</p><h3><strong>Dark Horse Corral</strong></h3><p><strong>Gael Monfils</strong>: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.</p><p><strong>David Ferrer: </strong>By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.</p><p><strong>Karen Khachanov: </strong>Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.</p><p><strong>Dennis Shapovalov: </strong>Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.</p><p><strong>Gilles Simon: </strong>How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.</p><p><strong>Fernando Verdasco: </strong>Still capable of any-given-day upsets.</p><p><strong>Hyeon Chung: </strong>His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.</p><p><strong>Stefanos Tsitsipas: </strong>Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!</p><h3><strong>First Round Matches to watch</strong></h3><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Donald Young: </strong>Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.</p><p><strong>del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: </strong>Experience versus youth. Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: </strong>Good test for both.</p><p><strong>Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: </strong>Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.</p><h3><strong>Upset Special</strong></h3><p>If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.</p><h3><strong>Doubles winner</strong></h3><p>Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Zverev<br>Nadal d. Dimitrov</p><h3><strong>Finals</strong></h3><p>Federer d. Nadal</p><h3>Women&#39;s draw</h3><p>With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would <em>oversell</em> the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.</p><h3><strong>1. Simona Halep (ROU)</strong></h3><p>As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!</p><h3><strong>2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)</strong></h3><p>A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.</p><h3><strong>3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)</strong></h3><p>Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.</p><h3><strong>4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)</strong></h3><p>As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.</p><h3><strong>5. Venus Williams (USA)</strong></h3><p>Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and <a href="https://www.si.com/vault/1998/02/02/8094620/slice-girls-serena-and-venus-williams-cut-up-some-top-foesand-did-some-cutting-up-themselvesin-australia" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:made her Melbourne debut" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">made her Melbourne debut</a>.</p><p>“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls&#39; father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6&#39;1&quot; Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”</p><p>New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?</p><h3><strong>6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)</strong></h3><p>She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn&#39;t really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?</p><h3><strong>7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)</strong></h3><p>French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.</p><h3><strong>8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)</strong></h3><p>A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.</p><h3><strong>9. Johanna Konta (GBR)</strong></h3><p>Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.</p><h3><strong>10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)</strong></h3><p>Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.</p><h3><strong>11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)</strong></h3><p>Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?</p><h3><strong>12. Julia Goerges (GER)</strong></h3><p>German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.</p><h3><strong>13. Sloane Stephens (USA)</strong></h3><p>Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.</p><h3><strong>14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)</strong></h3><p>The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.</p><h3><strong>15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.</p><h3><strong>16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)</strong></h3><p>Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.</p><h3>Seeds 17-32</h3><p><strong>17. Madison Keys (USA)</strong></p><p>As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.</p><p><strong>18. Ash Barty (AUS)</strong></p><p>This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.</p><p><strong>20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.</p><p><strong>21. Angelique Kerber (GER)</strong></p><p>The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.</p><p><strong>23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)</strong></p><p>Plays well in front of local crowds.</p><p><strong>26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)</strong></p><p>Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.</p><p><strong>27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)</strong></p><p>Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.</p><p><strong>28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)</strong></p><p>A semifinalist in 2017.</p><p><strong>31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)</strong></p><p>Former semifinalist rediscovering form.</p><h3>Dark horse pasture</h3><p><strong>Maria Sharapova</strong>: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.</p><p><strong>Camila Giorgi</strong>: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.</p><p><strong>CiCi Bellis:</strong> Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.</p><p><strong>Kristyna Pliskova:</strong> Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.</p><p><strong>Oceane Dodin</strong>: A top ten player by 2020.</p><p><strong>Aryna Sabalenka:</strong> Meet her <a href="https://johnfarleyspotlightwtatennis.blogspot.com/2018/01/john-farley-spotlight-wta-aryna_10.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here.</a></p><h3>First Round Matches to watch</h3><p><strong>Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic</strong>: Former finalist against former top ten player.</p><p><strong>Ostapenko vs. Schiavone</strong>: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.</p><p><strong>Stosur vs. Monica Puig</strong>: Two players who would benefit from a win.</p><p><strong>Barty vs. Sabalenka</strong>: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.</p><h3><strong>Upset pick</strong></h3><p>Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.</p><h3><strong>Semifinals</strong></h3><p>Halep d. Keys<br>Wozniacki d. Venus</p><h3>Final</h3><p>Halep d. Wozniacki</p>
2018 Australian Open Seed Reports

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim breaks down the men's and women's seeds at the 2018 Australian Open. Read on for the dark horses, top first-round matchups, predictions and more.

Men's draw

I don’t practice Santaria / I ain’t got no crystal ball… But some prognosticating before the 2018 Australian Open as we anticipate another Federer-Nadal showdown?…..

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP)

Sadly, we'll make an early reference to our tournament tennis mantra: “Health is the great variable.” At full strength, Nadal can go a set better than last year and win the title. His intermarriage of spin and power remains formidable, as we saw at the previous Slam. If Nadal is physically compromised—and sadly we hear that’s the case—all bets are off.

2. Roger Federer (SUI)

What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2017, Federer was a 35-year-old coming off a knee injury, who wasn’t among the top 16 seeds. This year he is not only the defending champ but the odds-on favorite.

3. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Dimitrov was coming off the biggest win of his career—the Cincy title—but failed to build on it at the U.S. Open. This year, he’s coming off the new biggest win of his career—the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals year-end title in London. We’ll see if there’s a catalytic effort. Possesses the full palette of shots; that we’ve long known. Does he possess the full range of emotion to survive seven rounds? Big opportunity here.

4. Alexander Zverev (GER)

Watch for that Round of 16 match with a guy named Djokovic. The future has become the present, as his seeding will attest. There’s so much to like here, starting with the German pragmatism. So it is that he knows this truth: he needs to improve his play in best-of-five matches before he has full certification. His fate lies largely in his legs (and lungs) and not in his arms.

5. Dominic Thiem (AUT)

You wish the court were playing a bit slower, but Thiem—now with Galo Blanco as coach— is a contender. He’s been embedded in the top echelon for a while. Can he continue his upward mobility?

6. Marin Cilic (CRO)

No longer with Jonas Björkman (an underrated partnership). Has had a rough go of it Down Under recently. (Last year he was knocked out early by Dan Evans.)

7. David Goffin (BEL)

Such a solid player. He plays the minor keys but is capable on all dimensions. One of those guys who may lack the firepower to win Slams, but will always give himself the best chance. And, meanwhile, you admire the professionalism.

8. Jack Sock (USA)

Yet another strong finish to a season for the highest-ranked American. Now, he needs a deep run at a Slam to burnish his credentials. Injuries and questionable fitness have curtailed his Slam progress in the past. Is he ready now?

9. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)

Says a lot that Wawrinka didn't win a match in the second half of 2017 and still clocked a top ten ranking. Former champ, now age 32, would be a contender were he fully healthy and fully recovered from a knee injury; sadly that doesn't appear to be the case.

10. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)

Coming off a strong U.S. Open, you can say safely PCB is the least heralded player in the top ten. Lithe and athletic, he’s deceptively fun to watch. Coming off a semifinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open.

11. Kevin Anderson (RSA)

Missed 2017 Australian Open. Now, with a new coach (Brad Stine) and a new ranking, Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Coming off a run to the final of the previous major.

12. Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)

Delpo is a top five player, rankings be damned. Especially when healthy. He’s a contender to win any hardcourt Slam he enters. Missed this event in 2017 so he’s playing with house money.

13. Sam Querrey (USA)

Fine late-career surge, including a run to the Wimbledon semis last year. But faces a dangerous first rounder against ageless Feliciano Lopez

14. Novak Djokovic (SRB)

His record in Melbourne speaks—nay, screams—for itself. But you worry about the lingering elbow injury. As we write this, he is still in the draw. That we had to timestamp is discouraging. If get through three rounds, a showdown with Zverev looms.

15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

A likable dangerous-for-a-day player, but it’s getting late in the day.

16. Andy Murray (GBR)

Ever since his Cannonball Run to finish atop the ranking in the fall of 2016, Murray has been diminished. Hip injuries are serious in this business.

16. John Isner (USA)

A strong bounce-back summer for the big American. Unfortunately that also means he’s played a lot of tennis. The easier he gets through his early matches, the more you like his chances.

Seeds 17-32

17. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

He’s like San Francisco weather. Wild and shifting and if you wait a bit, be assured it will change. Which is all part of the fun. He is 22 now and still shedding his skin. An iffy track record at his home Slam—including a messy loss in 2017—and he still cuts a polarizing figure. But watch what happens when the “good Nick” shows up and he wins a few rounds.

18. Lucas Pouille (FRA)

Never won a match at the Australian Open. A revelation in 2016, tuned in a surprisingly meh 2017. Strong Davis Cup play salvaged his year. Lots to like here. And he trains in the heat. So consider him a player well worth watching in Melbourne, even with the 0-4 career record.

19. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Crazy as this sounds, you get the feeling Berdych never truly recovered from the beatdown Federer laid on him in Melbourne last year.

22. Milos Raonic (CAN)

A semifinalist (and nearly finalist) two years ago, Raonic attempts to rebuild in 2018 around a new team.

24. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

Tennis’ little man has quietly become a reliable winner.

32. Mischa Zverev (GER)

Conqueror of Andy Murray in Melbourne last year.

Dark Horse Corral

Gael Monfils: Sadly—not unlike Tsonga and Gasquet—there’s a sense the credits are about to roll on a rollicking film. Savor the end.

David Ferrer: By industriousness alone, he’s reached dark horse status.

Karen Khachanov: Best of the Russian brigade that’s coming.

Dennis Shapovalov: Tennis’ iPhone 9. The future isn’t the present. But it’s coming.

Gilles Simon: How the hell did his ranking drop out of the top 80? Took two sets off Djokovic in 2016. Won Pune tune-up last week, beating Kevin Anderson in the final, which bolstered his ranking a bit.

Fernando Verdasco: Still capable of any-given-day upsets.

Hyeon Chung: His army of fans included the folks in the ATP offices eager to see a top player emerge from an emerging market. Winner of the Milan event now seeks to build.

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Greek teenager has the makings of a future star. Everyone aboard the band-chariot!

First Round Matches to watch

Djokovic vs. Donald Young: Between the new service motion, the new serve, the new coach and the new health (one hopes), lots to anticipate.

del Potro vs. Frances Tiafoe: Experience versus youth. Good test for both.

Berdych vs. Alex De Minaur: Good test for both.

Ferrer vs. Andrey Rublev: Experience versus youth. A good test for both, as they say.

Upset Special

If he’s not fully healthy/mobile, Wawrinka could be run ragged by Ricardas Berankis, who makes opponents hit many balls.

Doubles winner

Peers and Kontinen until proven otherwise.

Semifinals

Federer d. Zverev
Nadal d. Dimitrov

Finals

Federer d. Nadal

Women's draw

With Serena Williams out, the draw is, as they say, wide open. Likening women’s tennis to the Wild West would oversell the vastness and chaos of the American frontier. Whose Conestoga wagon will make it through seven rounds? Who will ascend tennis’ Pike’s Peak? With that metaphor officially killed, let’s consider the field.

1. Simona Halep (ROU)

As an observer notes “her toughest opponent is in the mirror.” Still has trouble closing tight matches, but credit her for owning up to her shortcomings and addressing them with candor. Comes in as the top seed and—though she hasn’t won a match in Melbourne since 2015—you have a feeling the time has arrived for her to fulfill that. Meanwhile, someone get her an apparel deal!

2. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)

A hot pick to win and not unreasonably so. After a dismal 2016, Wozniacki has been a star for the last 18 months. Still has a tendency to play with passivity unbecoming her athleticism (and height) but knows how to win, especially when confident. Even on a fast court, she has to be considered a top favorite.

3. Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Still a smidge enigmatic; and still a smidge injured. But two Slams is two Slams. Has a chance to assert and exert some authority by winning a third.

4. Elina Svitolina (UKR)

As a friend says, “we still need to see if she’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.” Lots of game, lots of smaller titles; but you make your bones at the majors.

5. Venus Williams (USA)

Well…Let’s pause for a moment before we go further and note it was 20 years ago—as in two decades; pre-cell phones—when she flew coach and made her Melbourne debut.

“The flight to Australia took forever, Florida to Los Angeles, L.A. to Sydney. The girls' father, Richard, was going to go, and the Williamses were going to travel business-class. [Oracene] was astounded at the price, more than $29,000 for the family. She thought it almost sinful. A lot of people work a year for less than $29,000. Richard decided not to go. [Oracene] decided she and the girls would travel coach for slightly more than $6,000. Stuffed into a stuffed plane from Los Angeles—6'1" Venus in the aisle seat to get room for her long legs—they landed in Sydney 14 hours later. Television cameras were waiting at the airport.”

New aunt will benefit from the day off between matches, the extra rest time helpful to a 37-year-old. She’s a finalist last year—and the winner isn’t here to defend. Venus is a sentimental favorite but does she have seven matches in her?

6. Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

She was the favorite of Wimbledon, was defenestrated by a player ranked outside the top 100 and hasn't really been the same since. Suddenly outside the top five. She’s now with new coach Tomas Krupa. The game is there. Is the self-belief as well?

7. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

French Open gets an early test against tricky Italian veteran (and fellow surprise French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone. You like the Ostapenko attitude and confidence (sense of entitlement?) and she seems determined to extinguish all notions that she’s a One-Slam wonder.

8. Caroline Garcia (FRA)

A newcomer to the top ten will now try and assert herself with a strong Slam showing.

9. Johanna Konta (GBR)

Now a Joycean disciple (she’s working with Michael Joyce now), Konta tries to rebound from a rough second half of 2017. She played the Australian Open only twice before. She reached semi and a quarter. Enough said.

10. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA)

Say this: she comes to play at the biggest events. A 2017 semifinalist in Australia, a Week-Two player at Wimbledon, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open. First Aussie Open with Pat Cash could be a minor twist.

11. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Absolutely mystifying player. Among the best athletes in the women’s game and brings a full set of skills. But can also vanish (as she did in round one last year.) When does she truly break through in singles?

12. Julia Goerges (GER)

German veteran has done a wunderbar job reviving her career. Tall, stylish player who can be her own worst enemy. Starts against young American Sofia Kenin.

13. Sloane Stephens (USA)

Nike Deal? Yes. Full health? No. Winner of the previous Slam is apparently healthy enough to play; but she is sufficiently healthy to contend? (Aside: could it really be FIVE years since she beat Serena and reached the SF?) Draw gods did her no favors.

14. Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

The best player you, perhaps, have never seen. Steady veteran will try and build on 2016.

15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)

Settled into a role as a solid player, capable of reaching quarterfinals, but not a threat to win the biggest titles.

16. Elena Vesnina (RUS)

Credit her for later career resuscitation of her career (her singles career, anyway) but more annoyance than threat to win.

Seeds 17-32

17. Madison Keys (USA)

As we saw the previous Slam, if she’s healthy, she can win the whole shebang. It’s all about the absence of pain—and the full confidence that comes with it.

18. Ash Barty (AUS)

This has quickly escalated from pleasing story to legitimate contender.

20. Barbora Strycova (CZE)

Feisty, sneaky and dangerous, especially on faster courts.

21. Angelique Kerber (GER)

The champion in 2016 is trying to forget her dismal 2017 and restart with new coach Wim Fissette. Early returns: she’s playing well. Absolutely should be included in a contender conversation.

23. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)

Plays well in front of local crowds.

26. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

Now playing with a new racket, gets mention because of earlier work. But this is a career trending in the wrong direction.

27. Petra Kvitova (CZE)

Who knows which Petra will show in Melbourne. But players who have won multiple fast-court majors merit mention.

28. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO)

A semifinalist in 2017.

31. Ekatarina Makarova (RUS)

Former semifinalist rediscovering form.

Dark horse pasture

Maria Sharapova: Can a former No. 1 and former winner also be a dark horse? If so, here’s one at the top of the list.

Camila Giorgi: May be playing herself out in Sydney, but what a start to the year.

CiCi Bellis: Interesting to see what sophomore year holds in store.

Kristyna Pliskova: Big lefty server is the epitome of a dangerous floater.

Oceane Dodin: A top ten player by 2020.

Aryna Sabalenka: Meet her here.

First Round Matches to watch

Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic: Former finalist against former top ten player.

Ostapenko vs. Schiavone: Battle of the surprise French Open winners.

Stosur vs. Monica Puig: Two players who would benefit from a win.

Barty vs. Sabalenka: Two players who made big rankings jumps in 2017. Comeback story vs. newcomer story.

Upset pick

Zhang Shuai to beat a less-than-healthy Sloane Stephens.

Semifinals

Halep d. Keys
Wozniacki d. Venus

Final

Halep d. Wozniacki

<p>There have been 56 Grand Slam events since the start of 2004. Forty-six of those tournaments have been won by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have combined for six more. Four players—Gaston Gaudio, Marat Safin, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic—are winners of one apiece.</p><p>The Big Three’s dominance should have ended a long time ago, and yet here we are: Roger Federer, 36, and Rafael Nadal, 31, combined to win all of last year’s Slams. But to the casual tennis fan who watches four tournaments every year, I assure you: There are other male professional tennis players out there, and I think there&#39;s a better-than-usual chance we&#39;ll see one of them win this year&#39;s Australian Open. </p><p>So if it&#39;s not going to be Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Cilic or del Potro—and, to be clear, I&#39;m not yet definitively saying it <em>won&#39;t </em>be one of those guys (you&#39;ll have to wait for our SI preview roundtable to see my pick!)—who&#39;s going to win this year&#39;s first major? Here&#39;s a look at the men I think have the best chance to earn their debut Slam title this month in Melbourne.</p><h3><strong>5. Milos Raonic</strong></h3><p>Raonic&#39;s inclusion on this list might qualify as something of a hot take based on the first week of the season. The hard-serving Canadian hardly looked like Slam material during his straight-sets loss to 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur in Brisbane. Another concern is that Raonic played sparingly last fall, pulling out of Cincinnati and skipping the U.S. Open before playing just two matches in Tokyo in October.</p><p>Despite quarterfinal appearances in the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, Raonic’s season was largely derailed by injuries, including left wrist surgery and a calf strain. After a shaky year, it&#39;s easy to forget that Raonic winning a major seemed like a foregone conclusion in the not-too-distant past. In 2016, when he was largely healthy, he reached the Australian Open semifinals (losing to Andy Murray in a grueling five-set match and picking up an injury that kept him out for a few weeks after) and the Wimbledon final (again losing to Murray) on the way to achieving his first top-three ranking. The rust clearly showed in Brisbane after his long layoff, but Raonic should be physically fresh in Melbourne. Expectations are relatively low, but with his strong history at the Australian Open and rejuvenated health, Raonic could be a dark horse to make a run at the year’s first Slam.</p><h3><strong>4. Nick Kyrgios</strong></h3><p>Nick Kyrgios didn’t make it past the second round of a major last season, but 2017 was hardly a failure. At times, he finally seemed to live up to his incredible promise, especially during the Sunshine Double, when he beat Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, before pulling out due to illness, and narrowly lost to Roger Federer in the Miami semifinals in arguably the year’s best match. He played his best tennis against the best players, both veterans like Rafa Nadal and NextGen stars like Alexander Zverev. But he was also held back by the usual mix of injury and self-destruction, as well as the death of his grandfather. </p><p>Forecasting Nick Kyrgios is an impossible task—he’s completely unpredictable from point to point, much less over an entire tournament. But I think this is the year Kyrgios starts to convert his immense talent to trophies. He’s off to an excellent start, kicking off his 2018 with a title in Brisbane. Of course what makes the Aussie so fascinating is his ability to play exhilarating, scintillating tennis for a few minutes before utterly imploding—a quirk that isn’t necessarily unique to him, but one that he seems to do with much more consistency than others on tour. But on a hard court in his home country, with the clean slate of a new season, this year’s Australian Open could be the perfect opportunity for Kyrgios to put all the pieces together. </p><p>Critics have often questioned Kyrgios&#39;s motivation, and justifiably so—even he once <a href="http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2017/08/after-us-open-loss-kyrgios-says-keep-letting-people-down/68934/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:said" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">said</a> he&#39;s &quot;not dedicated to the game,&quot; at least compared to other players on tour. When Kyrgios is fully focused and motivated, as he was against Nadal in Cincinnati or during last year&#39;s Laver Cup, he has the ability overpower almost any opponent. In particular, Kyrgios was a joy to watch at the Laver Cup, where he genuinely seemed to care more than any other competitor. A couple weeks after Team World&#39;s defeat, Kyrgios <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BaBAz2iFjW5/?hl=en&#38;taken-by=k1ngkyrg1os" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:posted" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">posted</a> a highlight video declaring he was already &quot;so hyped&quot; for next year&#39;s event in Chicago, to which Andy Murray wryly responded that he had to qualify first. Free idea for Team Nick: Remind him before every match that he has to earn his place on this year&#39;s Team World squad. </p><h3><strong>3. David Goffin</strong></h3><p>David Goffin enters this season’s first major as something of a trendy pick. His Herculean effort in Davis Cup—6-0 in last year’s competition, including wins in the final against France’s Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga—brought Belgium to the brink of victory. He came close to winning the ATP Finals, beating Rafael Nadal in the round robin and Roger Federer in the semis before falling to Grigor Dimitrov in the final. </p><p>Goffin reached the quarters in Melbourne last year before he was ousted by Dimitrov. He dealt with an injury spell after a scary fall at Roland Garros, but besides that untimely injury, Goffin had his best season yet, winning two titles and earning a No. 7 ranking entering this year. The best case for Goffin is that there’s really no good case against him—he finished 2017 playing with high confidence, and lingering injuries are already weakening the top of the field. Why not him?</p><p>Goffin, by the way, is something of a hero to all of us tennis players who are under 6-feet. (Well, maybe I&#39;m the only one who feels this way.) The <em>New York Times Magazine </em>ran a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/24/magazine/usopen-tall-players-zverev-tennis-future.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:great piece" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">great piece</a> last summer arguing that tall players were the future of the sport—to be honest, I don&#39;t disagree. But ESPN&#39;s Peter Bodo <a href="http://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/21588269/how-david-goffin-climbed-rankings-punching-weight" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:recently wrote" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">recently wrote</a> about Goffin, who is 5&#39;11&quot;, as a sort of heir to the aging David Ferrer—both Davids in a sport increasingly dominated by Goliaths. Goffin&#39;s recent success is a testament to his excellent work rate, sound footwork and strong baseline game. </p><h3><strong>2. Alexander Zverev</strong></h3><p>Sascha Zverev is only 20 and I’m somehow stunned that he hasn’t reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal yet. Considering the year Zverev had in 2017, it&#39;s truly a question of when, not if. </p><p>Zverev has been anointed as The Future for a couple years now and so far he’s lived up to the hype. He won Masters 1000 titles in Rome and Montreal, becoming the first player outside the Big Four to win multiple Masters 1000 events in the same year since David Nalbandian in 2007. He also won titles in Washington, D.C., Montpellier and Munich. Over the course of the year, he displayed incredible poise and ability against the tour’s best competition, including in high-pressure situations—just look at how he handled facing Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Rome and Montreal finals, respectively.</p><p>Zverev enters the Australian Open ranked No. 4. The biggest question is whether he’s ready to compete with the best in a best-of-five format. He hasn’t yet beaten a member of the Big Four at a major, but he’s certainly capable—and of course it’s entirely possible he won’t even have to go through Federer, Nadal or Djokovic (Murray is out after hip surgery) to win it all. I won’t be surprised if he walks away from Melbourne with his first major trophy, despite his relative inexperience in best-of-five tennis. </p><h3><strong>1. Grigor</strong> <strong>Dimitrov</strong></h3><p>For a player with the nickname “Baby Fed,” Grigor Dimitrov hasn’t quite earned that moniker—then again, no one save for Fed’s two sets of twins could possibly live up to that name. But Dimitrov is coming off his best year on tour. No, he didn’t quite win a major, but Dimitrov won the ATP Finals and Cincinnati, his first Masters 1000 title. He finished the year No. 3. His stellar 2017 started with a title in Brisbane and a run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, his second Slam semifinals appearance of his career. </p><p>What changed in 2017? Obviously there were external factors, like the injuries that devastated the top of the ATP. But Dimitrov&#39;s play and consistency clearly matured. One notable improvement was the Bulgarian&#39;s performance on break points. Dimitrov saved 70% of his opponent’s break point opportunities last year, <span>according to the ATP</span>. The year prior he saved just 60%, which was around his average for 2011-16. Such improvement at critical, high-pressure moments indicates Dimitrov is further mastering the mental side of the game. </p><p>His bandwagon might be less full than Zverev&#39;s, but I think Dimitrov&#39;s Slam experience gives him a slight edge. He came extraordinarily close to beating Nadal in last year&#39;s semifinals. With the momentum of London and several would-be competitors ailing and aging, Grigor’s moment may have finally arrived. </p><h3><strong>Honorable mention: Dominic Thiem</strong></h3><p><strong>?</strong>Thiem is the No. 5 player in the world, and he looked like an elite player during last year&#39;s clay-court swing. But he doesn&#39;t have quite as good of a history at the Australian Open as Raonic, and I have to wonder if his collapse against Juan Martin del Potro in last year&#39;s U.S. Open will have any sort of residual effect. I still really like Thiem&#39;s upside, but I&#39;m skeptical that he&#39;s ready to seriously challenge for a major title on a hard-court surface. </p>
The Five Men Most Likely to Win Their First Slam at the 2018 Australian Open

There have been 56 Grand Slam events since the start of 2004. Forty-six of those tournaments have been won by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray have combined for six more. Four players—Gaston Gaudio, Marat Safin, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic—are winners of one apiece.

The Big Three’s dominance should have ended a long time ago, and yet here we are: Roger Federer, 36, and Rafael Nadal, 31, combined to win all of last year’s Slams. But to the casual tennis fan who watches four tournaments every year, I assure you: There are other male professional tennis players out there, and I think there's a better-than-usual chance we'll see one of them win this year's Australian Open.

So if it's not going to be Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Cilic or del Potro—and, to be clear, I'm not yet definitively saying it won't be one of those guys (you'll have to wait for our SI preview roundtable to see my pick!)—who's going to win this year's first major? Here's a look at the men I think have the best chance to earn their debut Slam title this month in Melbourne.

5. Milos Raonic

Raonic's inclusion on this list might qualify as something of a hot take based on the first week of the season. The hard-serving Canadian hardly looked like Slam material during his straight-sets loss to 18-year-old Aussie Alex De Minaur in Brisbane. Another concern is that Raonic played sparingly last fall, pulling out of Cincinnati and skipping the U.S. Open before playing just two matches in Tokyo in October.

Despite quarterfinal appearances in the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, Raonic’s season was largely derailed by injuries, including left wrist surgery and a calf strain. After a shaky year, it's easy to forget that Raonic winning a major seemed like a foregone conclusion in the not-too-distant past. In 2016, when he was largely healthy, he reached the Australian Open semifinals (losing to Andy Murray in a grueling five-set match and picking up an injury that kept him out for a few weeks after) and the Wimbledon final (again losing to Murray) on the way to achieving his first top-three ranking. The rust clearly showed in Brisbane after his long layoff, but Raonic should be physically fresh in Melbourne. Expectations are relatively low, but with his strong history at the Australian Open and rejuvenated health, Raonic could be a dark horse to make a run at the year’s first Slam.

4. Nick Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios didn’t make it past the second round of a major last season, but 2017 was hardly a failure. At times, he finally seemed to live up to his incredible promise, especially during the Sunshine Double, when he beat Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, before pulling out due to illness, and narrowly lost to Roger Federer in the Miami semifinals in arguably the year’s best match. He played his best tennis against the best players, both veterans like Rafa Nadal and NextGen stars like Alexander Zverev. But he was also held back by the usual mix of injury and self-destruction, as well as the death of his grandfather.

Forecasting Nick Kyrgios is an impossible task—he’s completely unpredictable from point to point, much less over an entire tournament. But I think this is the year Kyrgios starts to convert his immense talent to trophies. He’s off to an excellent start, kicking off his 2018 with a title in Brisbane. Of course what makes the Aussie so fascinating is his ability to play exhilarating, scintillating tennis for a few minutes before utterly imploding—a quirk that isn’t necessarily unique to him, but one that he seems to do with much more consistency than others on tour. But on a hard court in his home country, with the clean slate of a new season, this year’s Australian Open could be the perfect opportunity for Kyrgios to put all the pieces together.

Critics have often questioned Kyrgios's motivation, and justifiably so—even he once said he's "not dedicated to the game," at least compared to other players on tour. When Kyrgios is fully focused and motivated, as he was against Nadal in Cincinnati or during last year's Laver Cup, he has the ability overpower almost any opponent. In particular, Kyrgios was a joy to watch at the Laver Cup, where he genuinely seemed to care more than any other competitor. A couple weeks after Team World's defeat, Kyrgios posted a highlight video declaring he was already "so hyped" for next year's event in Chicago, to which Andy Murray wryly responded that he had to qualify first. Free idea for Team Nick: Remind him before every match that he has to earn his place on this year's Team World squad.

3. David Goffin

David Goffin enters this season’s first major as something of a trendy pick. His Herculean effort in Davis Cup—6-0 in last year’s competition, including wins in the final against France’s Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga—brought Belgium to the brink of victory. He came close to winning the ATP Finals, beating Rafael Nadal in the round robin and Roger Federer in the semis before falling to Grigor Dimitrov in the final.

Goffin reached the quarters in Melbourne last year before he was ousted by Dimitrov. He dealt with an injury spell after a scary fall at Roland Garros, but besides that untimely injury, Goffin had his best season yet, winning two titles and earning a No. 7 ranking entering this year. The best case for Goffin is that there’s really no good case against him—he finished 2017 playing with high confidence, and lingering injuries are already weakening the top of the field. Why not him?

Goffin, by the way, is something of a hero to all of us tennis players who are under 6-feet. (Well, maybe I'm the only one who feels this way.) The New York Times Magazine ran a great piece last summer arguing that tall players were the future of the sport—to be honest, I don't disagree. But ESPN's Peter Bodo recently wrote about Goffin, who is 5'11", as a sort of heir to the aging David Ferrer—both Davids in a sport increasingly dominated by Goliaths. Goffin's recent success is a testament to his excellent work rate, sound footwork and strong baseline game.

2. Alexander Zverev

Sascha Zverev is only 20 and I’m somehow stunned that he hasn’t reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal yet. Considering the year Zverev had in 2017, it's truly a question of when, not if.

Zverev has been anointed as The Future for a couple years now and so far he’s lived up to the hype. He won Masters 1000 titles in Rome and Montreal, becoming the first player outside the Big Four to win multiple Masters 1000 events in the same year since David Nalbandian in 2007. He also won titles in Washington, D.C., Montpellier and Munich. Over the course of the year, he displayed incredible poise and ability against the tour’s best competition, including in high-pressure situations—just look at how he handled facing Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Rome and Montreal finals, respectively.

Zverev enters the Australian Open ranked No. 4. The biggest question is whether he’s ready to compete with the best in a best-of-five format. He hasn’t yet beaten a member of the Big Four at a major, but he’s certainly capable—and of course it’s entirely possible he won’t even have to go through Federer, Nadal or Djokovic (Murray is out after hip surgery) to win it all. I won’t be surprised if he walks away from Melbourne with his first major trophy, despite his relative inexperience in best-of-five tennis.

1. Grigor Dimitrov

For a player with the nickname “Baby Fed,” Grigor Dimitrov hasn’t quite earned that moniker—then again, no one save for Fed’s two sets of twins could possibly live up to that name. But Dimitrov is coming off his best year on tour. No, he didn’t quite win a major, but Dimitrov won the ATP Finals and Cincinnati, his first Masters 1000 title. He finished the year No. 3. His stellar 2017 started with a title in Brisbane and a run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, his second Slam semifinals appearance of his career.

What changed in 2017? Obviously there were external factors, like the injuries that devastated the top of the ATP. But Dimitrov's play and consistency clearly matured. One notable improvement was the Bulgarian's performance on break points. Dimitrov saved 70% of his opponent’s break point opportunities last year, according to the ATP. The year prior he saved just 60%, which was around his average for 2011-16. Such improvement at critical, high-pressure moments indicates Dimitrov is further mastering the mental side of the game.

His bandwagon might be less full than Zverev's, but I think Dimitrov's Slam experience gives him a slight edge. He came extraordinarily close to beating Nadal in last year's semifinals. With the momentum of London and several would-be competitors ailing and aging, Grigor’s moment may have finally arrived.

Honorable mention: Dominic Thiem

?Thiem is the No. 5 player in the world, and he looked like an elite player during last year's clay-court swing. But he doesn't have quite as good of a history at the Australian Open as Raonic, and I have to wonder if his collapse against Juan Martin del Potro in last year's U.S. Open will have any sort of residual effect. I still really like Thiem's upside, but I'm skeptical that he's ready to seriously challenge for a major title on a hard-court surface.

<p>Defending champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open, saying she is not ready to return to tournament tennis.</p><p>Williams was pregnant with her first child when she won last year&#39;s tournament at Melbourne Park, the 23rd Grand Slam singles title of her career.</p><p>She <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/09/13/serena-williams-baby-alexis-olympia-photo" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:gave birth to daughter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">gave birth to daughter</a>, Alexis, in September.</p><p>Williams played in an exhibition tournament last week in Abu Dhabi and indicated after her loss to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that she might not make it to Melbourne.</p><p>&#39;&#39;After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized that although I am super close, I&#39;m not where I personally want to be,&#39;&#39; Williams said in a statement released Friday by Australian Open organizers.</p><p>&#39;&#39;My coach and team always said `only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way&#39;. I can compete - but I don&#39;t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.</p><p>&#39;&#39;With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I&#39;ve decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.&#39;&#39;</p><p>Williams, 36, is a seven-time champion of the Australian Open and needs one more Grand Slam title to tie the all-time record held by Margaret Court.</p><p>Her withdrawal comes less than 24 hours after fellow former world No.1 Andy Murray withdrew from the men&#39;s event with a chronic hip injury.</p><p>Several other big names, including top-ranked Rafael Nadal, six-time champion Novak Djokovic and 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka, also are dealing with injuries.</p><p>Williams last year beat older sister Venus in the final before revealing she played the tournament despite being more than two months&#39; pregnant.</p><p>Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Williams waited as long as she could before letting them know she wouldn&#39;t be able to compete.</p><p>&#39;&#39;I&#39;ve been in constant contact with Serena and her team and know this is why she has pushed it and pushed it until the 11th hour to make her final decision,&#39;&#39; Tiley said.</p><p>The Australian Open will begin Jan. 15. </p>
Serena Williams Withdraws From Australian Open

Defending champion Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open, saying she is not ready to return to tournament tennis.

Williams was pregnant with her first child when she won last year's tournament at Melbourne Park, the 23rd Grand Slam singles title of her career.

She gave birth to daughter, Alexis, in September.

Williams played in an exhibition tournament last week in Abu Dhabi and indicated after her loss to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that she might not make it to Melbourne.

''After competing in Abu Dhabi I realized that although I am super close, I'm not where I personally want to be,'' Williams said in a statement released Friday by Australian Open organizers.

''My coach and team always said `only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way'. I can compete - but I don't want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.

''With that being said, and even though I am disappointed about it, I've decided not to compete in the Australian Open this year.''

Williams, 36, is a seven-time champion of the Australian Open and needs one more Grand Slam title to tie the all-time record held by Margaret Court.

Her withdrawal comes less than 24 hours after fellow former world No.1 Andy Murray withdrew from the men's event with a chronic hip injury.

Several other big names, including top-ranked Rafael Nadal, six-time champion Novak Djokovic and 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka, also are dealing with injuries.

Williams last year beat older sister Venus in the final before revealing she played the tournament despite being more than two months' pregnant.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Williams waited as long as she could before letting them know she wouldn't be able to compete.

''I've been in constant contact with Serena and her team and know this is why she has pushed it and pushed it until the 11th hour to make her final decision,'' Tiley said.

The Australian Open will begin Jan. 15.

<p>Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….</p><p>• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.</p><p>• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest</a> and he was terrific.</p><p>Next up: Mark Leschly, CEO of Universal Tennis.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/01/atp-wta-2018-predictions-federer-serena-djokovic-nadal" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.</a></p><p>A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..</p><p><em>Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him <a href="https://twitter.com/jon_wertheim" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:@jon_wertheim" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">@jon_wertheim</a>.</em></p><p><strong>Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn&#39;t exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?</strong><br>—<em>Monty K., New York</em></p><p>• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.</p><p>Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/video/2017/09/28/gordon-hayward-boston-celtics-tennis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice.</a> But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.</p><p><strong>Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.</strong><br>—<em>Simon P.</em></p><p>• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:</p><p><em>Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane</em><br><em>Sock injured at Hopman Cup</em><br><em>Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery</em><br><em>Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back</em><br><em>Nadal withdraws from Brisbane</em><br><em>Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em></p><p>Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?</p><p>Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lNwUC2kXkDT0R7yjfpflsS?domain=instagram.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Instagram message" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Instagram message</a>, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.</p><p>One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.</p><p>The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren&#39;t mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?</p><p><strong>Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!</strong><br>—<em>Helen of Philly</em></p><p>• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)</p><p><strong>Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka&#39;s custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It&#39;s incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well. </strong><br>—<em>Michelle H.</em></p><p>• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn&#39;t call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Nadal: </strong><strong>2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, </strong><strong>2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Murray: </strong><strong>2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. </strong> <strong>In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.</strong></p><p><strong>Nadal vs. Murray: </strong><strong>Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)</strong></p><p>—<em>AM, San Diego</em></p><p>• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)</p><p><strong>Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?</strong><br>—<em>Melba Lee</em></p><p>• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what&#39;s the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn&#39;t gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.</strong><br>—<em>Paul Treacy</em></p><p>• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: <em>To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.</em></p><p><em>The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played.</em> <em>For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. </em><em>The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings.</em> <em>For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.</em></p><p><em>Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the <a href="http://www.wtatennis.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Archive/AboutTheTour/rules2017.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)</a>.</em></p><p><em>Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)</em></p><h3><strong>Shots, Miscellany</strong></h3><p><strong>• </strong>CG writes:<strong> Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, <a href="https://www.ifonly.com/sport/product/94672/james-blake-usta-davis-cup-jacket-owned-by-the-former-american-number-1-tennis-star" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bids can be made here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bids can be made here</a>.</strong></p><p>• Another injured player, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nissincupnoodle/videos/vb.164368343676894/1515657895214592/?type=2&#38;theater" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kei Nishikori, weighs in." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Kei Nishikori, weighs in.</a></p><p>• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/American-Colossus-Tilden-Creation-Modern/dp/0803288115" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:American Colossus" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">American Colossus</a>,</em> publishes in March.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/sports/tennis/tatjana-maria-daughter.html?_r=0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tatjana Maria is one busy woman." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Tatjana Maria is one busy woman.</a> And she’s a mother.</p><p>• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.</p>
Mailbag: Lingering Injuries, Health Put Stars in Question for 2018 Australian Open

Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….

• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.

• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”

Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest and he was terrific.

Next up: Mark Leschly, CEO of Universal Tennis.

Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.

A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..

Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn't exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?
Monty K., New York

• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.

Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice. But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.

Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.
Simon P.

• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:

Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane
Sock injured at Hopman Cup
Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open
Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery
Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back
Nadal withdraws from Brisbane
Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open
Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open

Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?

Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this Instagram message, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.

One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.

The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren't mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?

Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!
Helen of Philly

• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)

Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka's custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It's incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well.
Michelle H.

• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.

Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn't call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.

Djokovic vs. Nadal: 2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, 2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period

Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.

Djokovic vs. Murray: 2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.

Nadal vs. Murray: Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)

AM, San Diego

• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)

Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?
Melba Lee

• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.

Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what's the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn't gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.
Paul Treacy

• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.

The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played. For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings. For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.

Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the 2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225).

Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)

Shots, Miscellany

CG writes: Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, bids can be made here.

• Another injured player, Kei Nishikori, weighs in.

• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, American Colossus, publishes in March.

Tatjana Maria is one busy woman. And she’s a mother.

• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.

<p>Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….</p><p>• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.</p><p>• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest</a> and he was terrific.</p><p>Next up: Mark Leschly, CEO of Universal Tennis.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/01/atp-wta-2018-predictions-federer-serena-djokovic-nadal" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.</a></p><p>A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..</p><p><em>Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him <a href="https://twitter.com/jon_wertheim" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:@jon_wertheim" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">@jon_wertheim</a>.</em></p><p><strong>Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn&#39;t exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?</strong><br>—<em>Monty K., New York</em></p><p>• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.</p><p>Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/video/2017/09/28/gordon-hayward-boston-celtics-tennis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice.</a> But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.</p><p><strong>Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.</strong><br>—<em>Simon P.</em></p><p>• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:</p><p><em>Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane</em><br><em>Sock injured at Hopman Cup</em><br><em>Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery</em><br><em>Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back</em><br><em>Nadal withdraws from Brisbane</em><br><em>Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em></p><p>Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?</p><p>Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lNwUC2kXkDT0R7yjfpflsS?domain=instagram.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Instagram message" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Instagram message</a>, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.</p><p>One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.</p><p>The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren&#39;t mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?</p><p><strong>Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!</strong><br>—<em>Helen of Philly</em></p><p>• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)</p><p><strong>Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka&#39;s custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It&#39;s incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well. </strong><br>—<em>Michelle H.</em></p><p>• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn&#39;t call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Nadal: </strong><strong>2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, </strong><strong>2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Murray: </strong><strong>2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. </strong> <strong>In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.</strong></p><p><strong>Nadal vs. Murray: </strong><strong>Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)</strong></p><p>—<em>AM, San Diego</em></p><p>• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)</p><p><strong>Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?</strong><br>—<em>Melba Lee</em></p><p>• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what&#39;s the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn&#39;t gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.</strong><br>—<em>Paul Treacy</em></p><p>• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: <em>To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.</em></p><p><em>The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played.</em> <em>For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. </em><em>The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings.</em> <em>For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.</em></p><p><em>Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the <a href="http://www.wtatennis.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Archive/AboutTheTour/rules2017.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)</a>.</em></p><p><em>Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)</em></p><h3><strong>Shots, Miscellany</strong></h3><p><strong>• </strong>CG writes:<strong> Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, <a href="https://www.ifonly.com/sport/product/94672/james-blake-usta-davis-cup-jacket-owned-by-the-former-american-number-1-tennis-star" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bids can be made here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bids can be made here</a>.</strong></p><p>• Another injured player, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nissincupnoodle/videos/vb.164368343676894/1515657895214592/?type=2&#38;theater" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kei Nishikori, weighs in." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Kei Nishikori, weighs in.</a></p><p>• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/American-Colossus-Tilden-Creation-Modern/dp/0803288115" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:American Colossus" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">American Colossus</a>,</em> publishes in March.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/sports/tennis/tatjana-maria-daughter.html?_r=0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tatjana Maria is one busy woman." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Tatjana Maria is one busy woman.</a> And she’s a mother.</p><p>• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.</p>
Mailbag: Lingering Injuries, Health Put Stars in Question for 2018 Australian Open

Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….

• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.

• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”

Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest and he was terrific.

Next up: Mark Leschly, CEO of Universal Tennis.

Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.

A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..

Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn't exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?
Monty K., New York

• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.

Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice. But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.

Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.
Simon P.

• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:

Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane
Sock injured at Hopman Cup
Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open
Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery
Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back
Nadal withdraws from Brisbane
Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open
Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open

Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?

Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this Instagram message, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.

One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.

The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren't mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?

Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!
Helen of Philly

• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)

Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka's custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It's incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well.
Michelle H.

• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.

Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn't call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.

Djokovic vs. Nadal: 2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, 2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period

Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.

Djokovic vs. Murray: 2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.

Nadal vs. Murray: Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)

AM, San Diego

• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)

Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?
Melba Lee

• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.

Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what's the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn't gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.
Paul Treacy

• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.

The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played. For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings. For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.

Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the 2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225).

Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)

Shots, Miscellany

CG writes: Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, bids can be made here.

• Another injured player, Kei Nishikori, weighs in.

• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, American Colossus, publishes in March.

Tatjana Maria is one busy woman. And she’s a mother.

• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.

<p>Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….</p><p>• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.</p><p>• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest</a> and he was terrific.</p><p>Next up: Mark Leschly, CEO of Universal Tennis.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/01/atp-wta-2018-predictions-federer-serena-djokovic-nadal" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.</a></p><p>A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..</p><p><em>Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him <a href="https://twitter.com/jon_wertheim" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:@jon_wertheim" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">@jon_wertheim</a>.</em></p><p><strong>Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn&#39;t exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?</strong><br>—<em>Monty K., New York</em></p><p>• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.</p><p>Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/video/2017/09/28/gordon-hayward-boston-celtics-tennis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice.</a> But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.</p><p><strong>Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.</strong><br>—<em>Simon P.</em></p><p>• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:</p><p><em>Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane</em><br><em>Sock injured at Hopman Cup</em><br><em>Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery</em><br><em>Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back</em><br><em>Nadal withdraws from Brisbane</em><br><em>Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em></p><p>Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?</p><p>Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lNwUC2kXkDT0R7yjfpflsS?domain=instagram.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Instagram message" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Instagram message</a>, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.</p><p>One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.</p><p>The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren&#39;t mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?</p><p><strong>Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!</strong><br>—<em>Helen of Philly</em></p><p>• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)</p><p><strong>Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka&#39;s custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It&#39;s incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well. </strong><br>—<em>Michelle H.</em></p><p>• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn&#39;t call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Nadal: </strong><strong>2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, </strong><strong>2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Murray: </strong><strong>2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. </strong> <strong>In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.</strong></p><p><strong>Nadal vs. Murray: </strong><strong>Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)</strong></p><p>—<em>AM, San Diego</em></p><p>• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)</p><p><strong>Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?</strong><br>—<em>Melba Lee</em></p><p>• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what&#39;s the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn&#39;t gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.</strong><br>—<em>Paul Treacy</em></p><p>• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: <em>To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.</em></p><p><em>The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played.</em> <em>For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. </em><em>The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings.</em> <em>For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.</em></p><p><em>Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the <a href="http://www.wtatennis.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Archive/AboutTheTour/rules2017.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)</a>.</em></p><p><em>Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)</em></p><h3><strong>Shots, Miscellany</strong></h3><p><strong>• </strong>CG writes:<strong> Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, <a href="https://www.ifonly.com/sport/product/94672/james-blake-usta-davis-cup-jacket-owned-by-the-former-american-number-1-tennis-star" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bids can be made here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bids can be made here</a>.</strong></p><p>• Another injured player, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nissincupnoodle/videos/vb.164368343676894/1515657895214592/?type=2&#38;theater" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kei Nishikori, weighs in." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Kei Nishikori, weighs in.</a></p><p>• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/American-Colossus-Tilden-Creation-Modern/dp/0803288115" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:American Colossus" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">American Colossus</a>,</em> publishes in March.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/sports/tennis/tatjana-maria-daughter.html?_r=0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tatjana Maria is one busy woman." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Tatjana Maria is one busy woman.</a> And she’s a mother.</p><p>• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.</p>
Mailbag: Lingering Injuries, Health Put Stars in Question for 2018 Australian Open

Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….

• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.

• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”

Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest and he was terrific.

Next up: Mark Leschly, CEO of Universal Tennis.

Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.

A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..

Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn't exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?
Monty K., New York

• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.

Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice. But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.

Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.
Simon P.

• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:

Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane
Sock injured at Hopman Cup
Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open
Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery
Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back
Nadal withdraws from Brisbane
Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open
Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open

Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?

Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this Instagram message, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.

One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.

The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren't mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?

Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!
Helen of Philly

• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)

Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka's custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It's incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well.
Michelle H.

• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.

Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn't call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.

Djokovic vs. Nadal: 2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, 2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period

Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.

Djokovic vs. Murray: 2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.

Nadal vs. Murray: Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)

AM, San Diego

• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)

Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?
Melba Lee

• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.

Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what's the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn't gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.
Paul Treacy

• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.

The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played. For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings. For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.

Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the 2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225).

Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)

Shots, Miscellany

CG writes: Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, bids can be made here.

• Another injured player, Kei Nishikori, weighs in.

• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, American Colossus, publishes in March.

Tatjana Maria is one busy woman. And she’s a mother.

• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.

<p>Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….</p><p>• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.</p><p>• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/12/21/tennis-podcast-bob-bryan-doubles-2018-season-mike-bryan-brother" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest</a> and he was terrific.</p><p>Next up: Mark Leschley, CEO of Universal Tennis.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2018/01/01/atp-wta-2018-predictions-federer-serena-djokovic-nadal" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.</a></p><p>A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..</p><p><em>Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him <a href="https://twitter.com/jon_wertheim" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:@jon_wertheim" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">@jon_wertheim</a>.</em></p><p><strong>Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn&#39;t exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?</strong><br>—<em>Monty K., New York</em></p><p>• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.</p><p>Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/video/2017/09/28/gordon-hayward-boston-celtics-tennis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice.</a> But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.</p><p><strong>Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.</strong><br>—<em>Simon P.</em></p><p>• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:</p><p><em>Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane</em><br><em>Sock injured at Hopman Cup</em><br><em>Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery</em><br><em>Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back</em><br><em>Nadal withdraws from Brisbane</em><br><em>Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em><br><em>Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open</em></p><p>Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?</p><p>Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/lNwUC2kXkDT0R7yjfpflsS?domain=instagram.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Instagram message" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Instagram message</a>, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.</p><p>One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.</p><p>The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren&#39;t mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?</p><p><strong>Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!</strong><br>—<em>Helen of Philly</em></p><p>• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)</p><p><strong>Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka&#39;s custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It&#39;s incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well. </strong><br>—<em>Michelle H.</em></p><p>• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn&#39;t call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Nadal: </strong><strong>2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, </strong><strong>2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period</strong></p><p><strong>Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.</strong></p><p><strong>Djokovic vs. Murray: </strong><strong>2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. </strong> <strong>In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.</strong></p><p><strong>Nadal vs. Murray: </strong><strong>Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)</strong></p><p>—<em>AM, San Diego</em></p><p>• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)</p><p><strong>Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?</strong><br>—<em>Melba Lee</em></p><p>• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.</p><p><strong>Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what&#39;s the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn&#39;t gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.</strong><br>—<em>Paul Treacy</em></p><p>• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: <em>To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.</em></p><p><em>The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played.</em> <em>For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. </em><em>The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings.</em> <em>For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.</em></p><p><em>Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the <a href="http://www.wtatennis.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Archive/AboutTheTour/rules2017.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225)</a>.</em></p><p><em>Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)</em></p><h3><strong>Shots, Miscellany</strong></h3><p><strong>• </strong>CG writes:<strong> Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, <a href="https://www.ifonly.com/sport/product/94672/james-blake-usta-davis-cup-jacket-owned-by-the-former-american-number-1-tennis-star" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bids can be made here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bids can be made here</a>.</strong></p><p>• Another injured player, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nissincupnoodle/videos/vb.164368343676894/1515657895214592/?type=2&#38;theater" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Kei Nishikori, weighs in." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Kei Nishikori, weighs in.</a></p><p>• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/American-Colossus-Tilden-Creation-Modern/dp/0803288115" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:American Colossus" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">American Colossus</a>,</em> publishes in March.</p><p>• <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/sports/tennis/tatjana-maria-daughter.html?_r=0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tatjana Maria is one busy woman." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Tatjana Maria is one busy woman.</a> And she’s a mother.</p><p>• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.</p>
Mailbag: Lingering Injuries, Health Put Stars in Question for 2018 Australian Open

Happy 2018, everyone. Quick housekeeping….

• We’ll have some 2018 Australian Open preview pieces next week.

• Drinking game: you need to bury a shot every time you hear the phrase “if he/she is healthy enough to play.”

Bob Bryan was our most recent podcast guest and he was terrific.

Next up: Mark Leschley, CEO of Universal Tennis.

Take our 2018 Tennis Quiz.

A short Mailbag to ease in to 2018…..

Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Here’s a random one for you, Jon. If tennis didn't exist, what tennis player would still be a professional athlete? In other words, would Rafael Nadal be a professional soccer player? Would John Isner be a professional basketball player?
Monty K., New York

• It’s an interesting hypothetical. Given Nadal’s genes and athleticism and persistence, might he be a professional soccer player had his uncle not shoved a racket in his (non-dominant) hand? Sure. Could Gael Monfils have been a pro in another sport, such as team handball? Sure. (Much as we all love John Isner, he’s not NBA material.) I would think the real opportunity resides on the women’s side. CoCo Vandeweghe in the WNBA. Martina Hingis bringing her touch and cold-bloodedness to bear as a golfer. This might be apocryphal, but I recall the story that, as a teenager, Steffi Graf had better times—and better form—than many members of the German Olympic track team.

Maybe a better thought exercise: which current athletes in other sports could have had successful careers in tennis? Gordon Hayward is an obvious choice. But imagine if tennis had gotten to Messi or LeBron James before soccer and basketball had. This, ultimately, is the sport’s challenge. Identifying talent before young athletes are poached by other sports.

Simple question, Jon. Do we ever see Andy Murray again? I sure hope so.
Simon P.

• Yes, I didn’t want to start on such a downer note. But injury-mania is the story of the week. With no irony, here were the tennis headlines at one point this week:

Leg cramps force Muguruza to retire early in third set of opening match at Brisbane
Sock injured at Hopman Cup
Djokovic withdraws from Abu Dhabi exo—perhaps uncertain for Aussie Open
Murray withdraws from Brisbane, considering right hip surgery
Serena loses to Ostapenko in first match back
Nadal withdraws from Brisbane
Stephens uncertain if she’ll be ready for Aussie Open
Wawrinka not sure he’ll be ready for Aussie Open

Here it is, the first week of the new season and these are your stories? It was as if Ingmar Bergman had an internship in the marketing department. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a dispiriting trend here that needs serious attention?

Perhaps most distressingly, Andy Murray sent this Instagram message, which sounded an awful lot like someone taking the existential route and confronting his athletic mortality. This is, at once, heartening and heart-rending.

One of the cardinal rules of sports journalism (and, I would argue, fandom) is to resist questioning an athlete’s injury or speculating about recovery. Murray is 30, which, by modern tennis chronology, means that he could take off the entire season and still have some meaty years left. But hip injuries are serious business, in tennis, yes, but also in life. You trust/hope that Murray will give himself every opportunity to return to competition. But he won’t risk his comfort and mobility for the next 50 years over it.

The outpouring on Tuesday was tremendous, as it should be. This is a consummate professional but also a consummate mensch. At the same time—and the two aren't mutually exclusive—shouldn’t we be asking: what is it about modern tennis that makes even the most diligent and conscientious athletes so vulnerable to injury?

Tsitsipas!!!! Can you say, “Young Federer”?? Wow!!!
Helen of Philly

• “Next Federer.” “Young Federer.” “Baby Federer.” Even “Off-brand Federer.” That’s a curse, the establishing of unrealistic expectations. And yet Helen is onto something. Want a start-up for your venture capital? You could do much worse than Tsitsipas. He is only 19, which, in tennis years, means that he can scarcely sprout a mustache. He is 6’4” and has that Marat Safin-like body. And, man, can he do a lot with the ball. (In the last 90 days, he’s beaten both Goffin and Cuevas.)

Is there any updated information available on Victoria Azarenka's custody situation? It really seems to be dragging on. It's incredibly frustrating to hear she had to miss the tournament in New Zealand and may now miss the Aussie Open as well.
Michelle H.

• We’ve said this before: I find this to be a very awkward situation journalistically. In a vacuum, the perplexing absence of a two-time Grand Slam winner is fair game for reporting and speculation. But we’re talking about a custody dispute that revolves around a young child who has no agency here. So my impulse is to back off the reporting and let parties release information as they see fit.

Hi Jon. The following question last week seems to be a follow-up to my question the earlier week, so thought I would weigh in. I am surprised you didn't call out more specific matches between non-Federer rivals. Below is the list that comes to mind immediately, without even having to check back on the scores, etc.

Djokovic vs. Nadal: 2013 French Open SF: the greatest clay court match ever played, 2009 Madrid SF: the best three-set match ever played, period

Mary Carillo once observed that Nadal was part of the greatest match on grass, clay and hardcourts (2012 Aussie final). And Djokovic is part of two of them. I agree the 2012 Aussie final was not fun to watch, but this was only because of the slow pace between points, not the points themselves. With some deft editing, it should make the cut.

Djokovic vs. Murray: 2012 Aussie SF: Defining match of the rivalry in terms of quality. In terms of historic importance, the 2013 Wimbledon final you noted and the 2016 French Open final, of course.

Nadal vs. Murray: Agree this is the weakest of the lot, but the 2010 WTF SF deserves a special mention I think. Overall, I would look at it the other way around: all non-Murray rivalries are terrific :-)

AM, San Diego

• Thanks much and your point is well taken. (Though heaven help us all if that 2012 Aussie Open final slog is the greatest hardcourt match ever played!)

Will Serena play the 2018 Aussie Open?
Melba Lee

• Speaking last weekend in Abu Dhabi, she sure didn’t sound optimistic. But—without making an outright prediction—it would not surprise me if she chose to give it a go. For one, she is the defending champ in Melbourne, so history is on her side. It’s not as though there’s an obvious candidate she needs to topple—think: Nadal on clay—and, truthfully, even at, say, 80%, she has a real chance. She has a finite number of opportunities to catch Margaret Court. Why waste any? This also will sound more crass than it should, but players have so much financial incentive to play majors that, short of debilitating injury, they are motivated to at least attempt to play if at all possible.

Hi Jon. I continue to enjoy your column! Question: Does Serena get a protected ranking at the Australian Open. If not, what's the rule working against her—pregnancy is not covered or she wasn't gone the required length of time or...? Thanks much.
Paul Treacy

• Thanks much. Here’s the info the WTA provided when Serena announced her pregnancy: To be eligible a player must be out for a minimum of six months, maximum of two years and ranked in Top 300 (or Top 200 in doubles) at time she stopped playing.

The Special Ranking application and supporting medical documentation must be submitted within six months after last professional tournament played. For maternity cases, players must be ready to play first tournament within 12 months of birth. The Special Ranking will be the ranking she earned immediately after the points of the last tournament she played have been added to the WTA Rankings. For Serena Williams, her Special Ranking would be No. 1.

Upon return, a player may use her WTA Special Ranking to gain entry (not for seeding) into eight tournaments within one year of her return date. The Special Ranking can be used at a maximum of two Premier Mandatory Tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and two Grand Slams. The complete details of the WTA Special Ranking Rule can be found in the 2017 WTA Rulebook (pg. 218-225).

Also worth noting: Any player who is a past singles champion of a Grand Slam or WTA Finals will be allowed an unlimited number of Singles Main Draw Wild Card nominations (pg. 67, 2017 WTA Rulebook.)

Shots, Miscellany

CG writes: Think any bag readers would be interested in a JB Davis Cup jacket? Good piece of memorabilia. If so, bids can be made here.

• Another injured player, Kei Nishikori, weighs in.

• Congrats Allen M. Hornblum whose new bio of Bill Tilden, American Colossus, publishes in March.

Tatjana Maria is one busy woman. And she’s a mother.

• This week’s LLS comes from Lucy: Andrey Rublev and English actor Paul Bettany.

<p>NEW YORK – The 2017 season has been a renaissance for Grigor Dimitrov. He started the year with a title in Brisbane and followed that with a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, falling in five sets to Rafael Nadal. After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati last week, Dimitrov is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014.</p><p>With several top players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—skipping the U.S. Open due to injury, Dimitrov is suddenly a contender at the year’s final Grand Slam event. After winning Cincinnati without dropping a set, Dimitrov is poised to make a serious run in Flushing Meadows for the first time in his career.</p><p>Ahead of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov spoke to SI in New York on behalf of Wilson, which just launched a <a href="http://www.wilson.com/custom/rackets/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:new digital custom tennis racket platform" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">new digital custom tennis racket platform</a>. After showing off his own special-designed racket and demonstrating the new online platform, Dimitrov discussed his relationship to his fellow pros, his love for <em>The Notebook</em> and more.</p><p><em>This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.</em></p><p><strong>Stanley Kay: </strong><em>In Cincinnati, you and Nick Kyrgios shared a long hug at the net after the final. You obviously seemed to help him out a lot during the week. What</em><em>’s the best advice you</em><em>’ve ever gotten from a fellow pro?</em></p><p><strong>Grigor Dimitrov</strong>: That’s a very good question. I’ve never had anybody voluntarily come to me and give me advice, which is OK I guess. But me asking somebody—one of the nicest things that I actually heard, and it was pretty recent, was when I practiced with Rafa [Nadal] in Mallorca. We were just on a boat together one afternoon, we were resting, and I was like, “Man, what do you think? What do you think about my game?” And he just says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t miss.” And I was like, “Wow, thanks!”</p><p>(Laughs) I know it’s funny, but for me when he said it, it sounded different. Of course when your coach says it it’s different, but somebody of his rank, as a person and player, to say it the way he said it to me—I was like, aha! I never thought of that, almost. You almost feel like I never thought of that.</p><p>Also Roger for sure. Throughout the years I’ve known him, I’ve gotten to know him very well—his family and everybody around, so he’s also always been the guy. He says, “Don’t put your head down, just keep doing what you are doing. It will come, it will come.” And then even yesterday I saw him actually, and he was like, “You see, sometimes things are that simple.” I was like, “Yeah, easy for you to say.”</p><p>He’s like, “No, it’s that simple sometimes.” And in a way, it’s right. Once the opportunities knock on your door, you’ve got to try and go get them. If it doesn&#39;t happen, it doesn’t happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep going.</p><p>I have a great relationship with all of them too, so that makes things also look a bit in perspective. It’s the same thing with Nick—I’m sure that’s not going to be our last final, I can tell you that much. But you can see sometimes, there’s more to tennis for me. Yes, when you’re out there on the court, you want to beat the guy. You hate him, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to see him. You swear at him, and everything else you can possibly think of. But there’s so much more to tennis. When I see somebody that—I don’t want to say needs help, but was in a tough position, if he asks me, why wouldn’t I try to help? […] Even if he had beaten me the other day, I would still have the same feelings for that. I know tennis is just a game, but it’s something that it can actually unite us even more.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>People have called you Baby Fed throughout your career. But who is Baby Grigor?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Oh man. That is up for the people to decide. I haven’t seen any guys who are playing similar to me right now. I’m sure there’s going to be kids that are going to come up and have a similar style, but also the backhand one-hands are kind of—not that many anymore. It’s probably like five to six guys right now, one-handers. So there’s your first obstacle to find that new Grigor. But yeah, I don’t know. I was actually talking earlier about it—I need to start watching those young kids that are coming up, because I’m sure after a few years they’re going to give me hell on the court. So I just need to start looking at their game and see their patterns, so I think this is something I need to look into.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>I saw a <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2014/07/23/grigor-dimitrov-twitter-qa" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Twitter Q&#38;A" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Twitter Q&#38;A</a> you did a few years ago. You said The Notebook is your favorite movie.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>It still is.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>What scene makes you cry the most?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>The scene when she goes to see him on the lake. They go on the water, and they start feeding the birds or ducks, whatever that was there. They come back. It starts raining, and [she] says to [him]: “Why didn’t you write me?”</p><p>He says: “I wrote you, every single day, one letter for 365 days.”</p><p>And then she says: “You wrote me?” And then I go—no not me, I wish I was in the movie! S---, I wish I was in the damn movie. (Laughs)</p><p>He says, “It wasn’t over for me.” And then he says: “It still isn’t over.”</p><p>And then—you can do the math for the rest. They jump in each other’s arms.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>I</em><em>’m getting misty-eyed.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Me too. Me too, man.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>That was amazing presentation.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>I swear to God—sometimes I have to stop and just pause it. I couldn’t take it. My heart.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>Do you usually watch it by yourself?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Mainly, yeah, because I just don’t want [others] to see me crying I guess. But I’m past that.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>It</em><em>’s ok!</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>It’s fine! I don’t care, it’s fine. It’s just me. But this scene is (gesturing to his heart)—yeah, right there.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>Walk me through your racket design. </em></p><p><strong>GD</strong>: This is one out of one. This is the first racket we actually ever designed. This is Grigor Dimitrov, man. [Regarding the quote on the racket], have you read the book, <em>The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari? </em></p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>No, but I think I just read that <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/22/garbine-muguruza-us-open-new-york-grand-slam-titles" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Garbine Muguruza likes that book too." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Garbine Muguruza likes that book too.</a></em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>And we both won the tournament in Cincinnati! It’s a great book. But this racket is inspired from cars, military—one day I was going to practice, and I opened my trunk. And as soon as I touched my car I was like wow I like this color. This is when the idea hit me up about having the same color and the same feel on the racket.</p><p>?</p><p>This is inspired obviously from the military. I like camouflage a lot. […] I just wanted something else to stick out, just to be different out there on the court, and making sure as soon as you hit the ball how it looks and how it feels from the outside. So we came up with those colors. The gray came—we took a lot of time on the gray. We had like eight different type of gray colors coming into the racket, and we just kind of had to find the best color. </p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>How close of attention do you pay to other players’ racket designs?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Never. Just my own. The same thing when you play a match, you always try to focus on your side of the net. It’s pretty simple—it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, that is to create. To get this opportunity to create a racket has always been a dream of mine. What if my racket looked like this? What if it my racket looked like that? There was this thing that was always in the back of my head. I always wanted things to stand out, to be different. We’ve found the right match I think. </p>
Getting Personal with Grigor Dimitrov

NEW YORK – The 2017 season has been a renaissance for Grigor Dimitrov. He started the year with a title in Brisbane and followed that with a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, falling in five sets to Rafael Nadal. After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati last week, Dimitrov is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014.

With several top players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—skipping the U.S. Open due to injury, Dimitrov is suddenly a contender at the year’s final Grand Slam event. After winning Cincinnati without dropping a set, Dimitrov is poised to make a serious run in Flushing Meadows for the first time in his career.

Ahead of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov spoke to SI in New York on behalf of Wilson, which just launched a new digital custom tennis racket platform. After showing off his own special-designed racket and demonstrating the new online platform, Dimitrov discussed his relationship to his fellow pros, his love for The Notebook and more.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Stanley Kay: In Cincinnati, you and Nick Kyrgios shared a long hug at the net after the final. You obviously seemed to help him out a lot during the week. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from a fellow pro?

Grigor Dimitrov: That’s a very good question. I’ve never had anybody voluntarily come to me and give me advice, which is OK I guess. But me asking somebody—one of the nicest things that I actually heard, and it was pretty recent, was when I practiced with Rafa [Nadal] in Mallorca. We were just on a boat together one afternoon, we were resting, and I was like, “Man, what do you think? What do you think about my game?” And he just says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t miss.” And I was like, “Wow, thanks!”

(Laughs) I know it’s funny, but for me when he said it, it sounded different. Of course when your coach says it it’s different, but somebody of his rank, as a person and player, to say it the way he said it to me—I was like, aha! I never thought of that, almost. You almost feel like I never thought of that.

Also Roger for sure. Throughout the years I’ve known him, I’ve gotten to know him very well—his family and everybody around, so he’s also always been the guy. He says, “Don’t put your head down, just keep doing what you are doing. It will come, it will come.” And then even yesterday I saw him actually, and he was like, “You see, sometimes things are that simple.” I was like, “Yeah, easy for you to say.”

He’s like, “No, it’s that simple sometimes.” And in a way, it’s right. Once the opportunities knock on your door, you’ve got to try and go get them. If it doesn't happen, it doesn’t happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep going.

I have a great relationship with all of them too, so that makes things also look a bit in perspective. It’s the same thing with Nick—I’m sure that’s not going to be our last final, I can tell you that much. But you can see sometimes, there’s more to tennis for me. Yes, when you’re out there on the court, you want to beat the guy. You hate him, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to see him. You swear at him, and everything else you can possibly think of. But there’s so much more to tennis. When I see somebody that—I don’t want to say needs help, but was in a tough position, if he asks me, why wouldn’t I try to help? […] Even if he had beaten me the other day, I would still have the same feelings for that. I know tennis is just a game, but it’s something that it can actually unite us even more.

SK: People have called you Baby Fed throughout your career. But who is Baby Grigor?

GD: Oh man. That is up for the people to decide. I haven’t seen any guys who are playing similar to me right now. I’m sure there’s going to be kids that are going to come up and have a similar style, but also the backhand one-hands are kind of—not that many anymore. It’s probably like five to six guys right now, one-handers. So there’s your first obstacle to find that new Grigor. But yeah, I don’t know. I was actually talking earlier about it—I need to start watching those young kids that are coming up, because I’m sure after a few years they’re going to give me hell on the court. So I just need to start looking at their game and see their patterns, so I think this is something I need to look into.

SK: I saw a Twitter Q&A you did a few years ago. You said The Notebook is your favorite movie.

GD: It still is.

SK: What scene makes you cry the most?

GD: The scene when she goes to see him on the lake. They go on the water, and they start feeding the birds or ducks, whatever that was there. They come back. It starts raining, and [she] says to [him]: “Why didn’t you write me?”

He says: “I wrote you, every single day, one letter for 365 days.”

And then she says: “You wrote me?” And then I go—no not me, I wish I was in the movie! S---, I wish I was in the damn movie. (Laughs)

He says, “It wasn’t over for me.” And then he says: “It still isn’t over.”

And then—you can do the math for the rest. They jump in each other’s arms.

SK: I’m getting misty-eyed.

GD: Me too. Me too, man.

SK: That was amazing presentation.

GD: I swear to God—sometimes I have to stop and just pause it. I couldn’t take it. My heart.

SK: Do you usually watch it by yourself?

GD: Mainly, yeah, because I just don’t want [others] to see me crying I guess. But I’m past that.

SK: It’s ok!

GD: It’s fine! I don’t care, it’s fine. It’s just me. But this scene is (gesturing to his heart)—yeah, right there.

SK: Walk me through your racket design.

GD: This is one out of one. This is the first racket we actually ever designed. This is Grigor Dimitrov, man. [Regarding the quote on the racket], have you read the book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari?

SK: No, but I think I just read that Garbine Muguruza likes that book too.

GD: And we both won the tournament in Cincinnati! It’s a great book. But this racket is inspired from cars, military—one day I was going to practice, and I opened my trunk. And as soon as I touched my car I was like wow I like this color. This is when the idea hit me up about having the same color and the same feel on the racket.

?

This is inspired obviously from the military. I like camouflage a lot. […] I just wanted something else to stick out, just to be different out there on the court, and making sure as soon as you hit the ball how it looks and how it feels from the outside. So we came up with those colors. The gray came—we took a lot of time on the gray. We had like eight different type of gray colors coming into the racket, and we just kind of had to find the best color.

SK: How close of attention do you pay to other players’ racket designs?

GD: Never. Just my own. The same thing when you play a match, you always try to focus on your side of the net. It’s pretty simple—it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, that is to create. To get this opportunity to create a racket has always been a dream of mine. What if my racket looked like this? What if it my racket looked like that? There was this thing that was always in the back of my head. I always wanted things to stand out, to be different. We’ve found the right match I think.

<p>NEW YORK – The 2017 season has been a renaissance for Grigor Dimitrov. He started the year with a title in Brisbane and followed that with a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, falling in five sets to Rafael Nadal. After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati last week, Dimitrov is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014.</p><p>With several top players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—skipping the U.S. Open due to injury, Dimitrov is suddenly a contender at the year’s final Grand Slam event. After winning Cincinnati without dropping a set, Dimitrov is poised to make a serious run in Flushing Meadows for the first time in his career.</p><p>Ahead of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov spoke to SI in New York on behalf of Wilson, which just launched a <a href="http://www.wilson.com/custom/rackets/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:new digital custom tennis racket platform" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">new digital custom tennis racket platform</a>. After showing off his own special-designed racket and demonstrating the new online platform, Dimitrov discussed his relationship to his fellow pros, his love for <em>The Notebook</em> and more.</p><p><em>This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.</em></p><p><strong>Stanley Kay: </strong><em>In Cincinnati, you and Nick Kyrgios shared a long hug at the net after the final. You obviously seemed to help him out a lot during the week. What</em><em>’s the best advice you</em><em>’ve ever gotten from a fellow pro?</em></p><p><strong>Grigor Dimitrov</strong>: That’s a very good question. I’ve never had anybody voluntarily come to me and give me advice, which is OK I guess. But me asking somebody—one of the nicest things that I actually heard, and it was pretty recent, was when I practiced with Rafa [Nadal] in Mallorca. We were just on a boat together one afternoon, we were resting, and I was like, “Man, what do you think? What do you think about my game?” And he just says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t miss.” And I was like, “Wow, thanks!”</p><p>(Laughs) I know it’s funny, but for me when he said it, it sounded different. Of course when your coach says it it’s different, but somebody of his rank, as a person and player, to say it the way he said it to me—I was like, aha! I never thought of that, almost. You almost feel like I never thought of that.</p><p>Also Roger for sure. Throughout the years I’ve known him, I’ve gotten to know him very well—his family and everybody around, so he’s also always been the guy. He says, “Don’t put your head down, just keep doing what you are doing. It will come, it will come.” And then even yesterday I saw him actually, and he was like, “You see, sometimes things are that simple.” I was like, “Yeah, easy for you to say.”</p><p>He’s like, “No, it’s that simple sometimes.” And in a way, it’s right. Once the opportunities knock on your door, you’ve got to try and go get them. If it doesn&#39;t happen, it doesn’t happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep going.</p><p>I have a great relationship with all of them too, so that makes things also look a bit in perspective. It’s the same thing with Nick—I’m sure that’s not going to be our last final, I can tell you that much. But you can see sometimes, there’s more to tennis for me. Yes, when you’re out there on the court, you want to beat the guy. You hate him, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to see him. You swear at him, and everything else you can possibly think of. But there’s so much more to tennis. When I see somebody that—I don’t want to say needs help, but was in a tough position, if he asks me, why wouldn’t I try to help? […] Even if he had beaten me the other day, I would still have the same feelings for that. I know tennis is just a game, but it’s something that it can actually unite us even more.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>People have called you Baby Fed throughout your career. But who is Baby Grigor?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Oh man. That is up for the people to decide. I haven’t seen any guys who are playing similar to me right now. I’m sure there’s going to be kids that are going to come up and have a similar style, but also the backhand one-hands are kind of—not that many anymore. It’s probably like five to six guys right now, one-handers. So there’s your first obstacle to find that new Grigor. But yeah, I don’t know. I was actually talking earlier about it—I need to start watching those young kids that are coming up, because I’m sure after a few years they’re going to give me hell on the court. So I just need to start looking at their game and see their patterns, so I think this is something I need to look into.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>I saw a <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2014/07/23/grigor-dimitrov-twitter-qa" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Twitter Q&#38;A" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Twitter Q&#38;A</a> you did a few years ago. You said The Notebook is your favorite movie.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>It still is.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>What scene makes you cry the most?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>The scene when she goes to see him on the lake. They go on the water, and they start feeding the birds or ducks, whatever that was there. They come back. It starts raining, and [she] says to [him]: “Why didn’t you write me?”</p><p>He says: “I wrote you, every single day, one letter for 365 days.”</p><p>And then she says: “You wrote me?” And then I go—no not me, I wish I was in the movie! S---, I wish I was in the damn movie. (Laughs)</p><p>He says, “It wasn’t over for me.” And then he says: “It still isn’t over.”</p><p>And then—you can do the math for the rest. They jump in each other’s arms.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>I</em><em>’m getting misty-eyed.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Me too. Me too, man.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>That was amazing presentation.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>I swear to God—sometimes I have to stop and just pause it. I couldn’t take it. My heart.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>Do you usually watch it by yourself?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Mainly, yeah, because I just don’t want [others] to see me crying I guess. But I’m past that.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>It</em><em>’s ok!</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>It’s fine! I don’t care, it’s fine. It’s just me. But this scene is (gesturing to his heart)—yeah, right there.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>Walk me through your racket design. </em></p><p><strong>GD</strong>: This is one out of one. This is the first racket we actually ever designed. This is Grigor Dimitrov, man. [Regarding the quote on the racket], have you read the book, <em>The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari? </em></p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>No, but I think I just read that <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/22/garbine-muguruza-us-open-new-york-grand-slam-titles" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Garbine Muguruza likes that book too." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Garbine Muguruza likes that book too.</a></em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>And we both won the tournament in Cincinnati! It’s a great book. But this racket is inspired from cars, military—one day I was going to practice, and I opened my trunk. And as soon as I touched my car I was like wow I like this color. This is when the idea hit me up about having the same color and the same feel on the racket.</p><p>?</p><p>This is inspired obviously from the military. I like camouflage a lot. […] I just wanted something else to stick out, just to be different out there on the court, and making sure as soon as you hit the ball how it looks and how it feels from the outside. So we came up with those colors. The gray came—we took a lot of time on the gray. We had like eight different type of gray colors coming into the racket, and we just kind of had to find the best color. </p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>How close of attention do you pay to other players’ racket designs?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Never. Just my own. The same thing when you play a match, you always try to focus on your side of the net. It’s pretty simple—it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, that is to create. To get this opportunity to create a racket has always been a dream of mine. What if my racket looked like this? What if it my racket looked like that? There was this thing that was always in the back of my head. I always wanted things to stand out, to be different. We’ve found the right match I think. </p>
Getting Personal with Grigor Dimitrov

NEW YORK – The 2017 season has been a renaissance for Grigor Dimitrov. He started the year with a title in Brisbane and followed that with a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, falling in five sets to Rafael Nadal. After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati last week, Dimitrov is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014.

With several top players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—skipping the U.S. Open due to injury, Dimitrov is suddenly a contender at the year’s final Grand Slam event. After winning Cincinnati without dropping a set, Dimitrov is poised to make a serious run in Flushing Meadows for the first time in his career.

Ahead of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov spoke to SI in New York on behalf of Wilson, which just launched a new digital custom tennis racket platform. After showing off his own special-designed racket and demonstrating the new online platform, Dimitrov discussed his relationship to his fellow pros, his love for The Notebook and more.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Stanley Kay: In Cincinnati, you and Nick Kyrgios shared a long hug at the net after the final. You obviously seemed to help him out a lot during the week. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from a fellow pro?

Grigor Dimitrov: That’s a very good question. I’ve never had anybody voluntarily come to me and give me advice, which is OK I guess. But me asking somebody—one of the nicest things that I actually heard, and it was pretty recent, was when I practiced with Rafa [Nadal] in Mallorca. We were just on a boat together one afternoon, we were resting, and I was like, “Man, what do you think? What do you think about my game?” And he just says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t miss.” And I was like, “Wow, thanks!”

(Laughs) I know it’s funny, but for me when he said it, it sounded different. Of course when your coach says it it’s different, but somebody of his rank, as a person and player, to say it the way he said it to me—I was like, aha! I never thought of that, almost. You almost feel like I never thought of that.

Also Roger for sure. Throughout the years I’ve known him, I’ve gotten to know him very well—his family and everybody around, so he’s also always been the guy. He says, “Don’t put your head down, just keep doing what you are doing. It will come, it will come.” And then even yesterday I saw him actually, and he was like, “You see, sometimes things are that simple.” I was like, “Yeah, easy for you to say.”

He’s like, “No, it’s that simple sometimes.” And in a way, it’s right. Once the opportunities knock on your door, you’ve got to try and go get them. If it doesn't happen, it doesn’t happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep going.

I have a great relationship with all of them too, so that makes things also look a bit in perspective. It’s the same thing with Nick—I’m sure that’s not going to be our last final, I can tell you that much. But you can see sometimes, there’s more to tennis for me. Yes, when you’re out there on the court, you want to beat the guy. You hate him, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to see him. You swear at him, and everything else you can possibly think of. But there’s so much more to tennis. When I see somebody that—I don’t want to say needs help, but was in a tough position, if he asks me, why wouldn’t I try to help? […] Even if he had beaten me the other day, I would still have the same feelings for that. I know tennis is just a game, but it’s something that it can actually unite us even more.

SK: People have called you Baby Fed throughout your career. But who is Baby Grigor?

GD: Oh man. That is up for the people to decide. I haven’t seen any guys who are playing similar to me right now. I’m sure there’s going to be kids that are going to come up and have a similar style, but also the backhand one-hands are kind of—not that many anymore. It’s probably like five to six guys right now, one-handers. So there’s your first obstacle to find that new Grigor. But yeah, I don’t know. I was actually talking earlier about it—I need to start watching those young kids that are coming up, because I’m sure after a few years they’re going to give me hell on the court. So I just need to start looking at their game and see their patterns, so I think this is something I need to look into.

SK: I saw a Twitter Q&A you did a few years ago. You said The Notebook is your favorite movie.

GD: It still is.

SK: What scene makes you cry the most?

GD: The scene when she goes to see him on the lake. They go on the water, and they start feeding the birds or ducks, whatever that was there. They come back. It starts raining, and [she] says to [him]: “Why didn’t you write me?”

He says: “I wrote you, every single day, one letter for 365 days.”

And then she says: “You wrote me?” And then I go—no not me, I wish I was in the movie! S---, I wish I was in the damn movie. (Laughs)

He says, “It wasn’t over for me.” And then he says: “It still isn’t over.”

And then—you can do the math for the rest. They jump in each other’s arms.

SK: I’m getting misty-eyed.

GD: Me too. Me too, man.

SK: That was amazing presentation.

GD: I swear to God—sometimes I have to stop and just pause it. I couldn’t take it. My heart.

SK: Do you usually watch it by yourself?

GD: Mainly, yeah, because I just don’t want [others] to see me crying I guess. But I’m past that.

SK: It’s ok!

GD: It’s fine! I don’t care, it’s fine. It’s just me. But this scene is (gesturing to his heart)—yeah, right there.

SK: Walk me through your racket design.

GD: This is one out of one. This is the first racket we actually ever designed. This is Grigor Dimitrov, man. [Regarding the quote on the racket], have you read the book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari?

SK: No, but I think I just read that Garbine Muguruza likes that book too.

GD: And we both won the tournament in Cincinnati! It’s a great book. But this racket is inspired from cars, military—one day I was going to practice, and I opened my trunk. And as soon as I touched my car I was like wow I like this color. This is when the idea hit me up about having the same color and the same feel on the racket.

?

This is inspired obviously from the military. I like camouflage a lot. […] I just wanted something else to stick out, just to be different out there on the court, and making sure as soon as you hit the ball how it looks and how it feels from the outside. So we came up with those colors. The gray came—we took a lot of time on the gray. We had like eight different type of gray colors coming into the racket, and we just kind of had to find the best color.

SK: How close of attention do you pay to other players’ racket designs?

GD: Never. Just my own. The same thing when you play a match, you always try to focus on your side of the net. It’s pretty simple—it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, that is to create. To get this opportunity to create a racket has always been a dream of mine. What if my racket looked like this? What if it my racket looked like that? There was this thing that was always in the back of my head. I always wanted things to stand out, to be different. We’ve found the right match I think.

<p>NEW YORK – The 2017 season has been a renaissance for Grigor Dimitrov. He started the year with a title in Brisbane and followed that with a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, falling in five sets to Rafael Nadal. After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati last week, Dimitrov is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014.</p><p>With several top players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—skipping the U.S. Open due to injury, Dimitrov is suddenly a contender at the year’s final Grand Slam event. After winning Cincinnati without dropping a set, Dimitrov is poised to make a serious run in Flushing Meadows for the first time in his career.</p><p>Ahead of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov spoke to SI in New York on behalf of Wilson, which just launched a <a href="http://www.wilson.com/custom/rackets/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:new digital custom tennis racket platform" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">new digital custom tennis racket platform</a>. After showing off his own special-designed racket and demonstrating the new online platform, Dimitrov discussed his relationship to his fellow pros, his love for <em>The Notebook</em> and more.</p><p><em>This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.</em></p><p><strong>Stanley Kay: </strong><em>In Cincinnati, you and Nick Kyrgios shared a long hug at the net after the final. You obviously seemed to help him out a lot during the week. What</em><em>’s the best advice you</em><em>’ve ever gotten from a fellow pro?</em></p><p><strong>Grigor Dimitrov</strong>: That’s a very good question. I’ve never had anybody voluntarily come to me and give me advice, which is OK I guess. But me asking somebody—one of the nicest things that I actually heard, and it was pretty recent, was when I practiced with Rafa [Nadal] in Mallorca. We were just on a boat together one afternoon, we were resting, and I was like, “Man, what do you think? What do you think about my game?” And he just says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t miss.” And I was like, “Wow, thanks!”</p><p>(Laughs) I know it’s funny, but for me when he said it, it sounded different. Of course when your coach says it it’s different, but somebody of his rank, as a person and player, to say it the way he said it to me—I was like, aha! I never thought of that, almost. You almost feel like I never thought of that.</p><p>Also Roger for sure. Throughout the years I’ve known him, I’ve gotten to know him very well—his family and everybody around, so he’s also always been the guy. He says, “Don’t put your head down, just keep doing what you are doing. It will come, it will come.” And then even yesterday I saw him actually, and he was like, “You see, sometimes things are that simple.” I was like, “Yeah, easy for you to say.”</p><p>He’s like, “No, it’s that simple sometimes.” And in a way, it’s right. Once the opportunities knock on your door, you’ve got to try and go get them. If it doesn&#39;t happen, it doesn’t happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep going.</p><p>I have a great relationship with all of them too, so that makes things also look a bit in perspective. It’s the same thing with Nick—I’m sure that’s not going to be our last final, I can tell you that much. But you can see sometimes, there’s more to tennis for me. Yes, when you’re out there on the court, you want to beat the guy. You hate him, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to see him. You swear at him, and everything else you can possibly think of. But there’s so much more to tennis. When I see somebody that—I don’t want to say needs help, but was in a tough position, if he asks me, why wouldn’t I try to help? […] Even if he had beaten me the other day, I would still have the same feelings for that. I know tennis is just a game, but it’s something that it can actually unite us even more.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>People have called you Baby Fed throughout your career. But who is Baby Grigor?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Oh man. That is up for the people to decide. I haven’t seen any guys who are playing similar to me right now. I’m sure there’s going to be kids that are going to come up and have a similar style, but also the backhand one-hands are kind of—not that many anymore. It’s probably like five to six guys right now, one-handers. So there’s your first obstacle to find that new Grigor. But yeah, I don’t know. I was actually talking earlier about it—I need to start watching those young kids that are coming up, because I’m sure after a few years they’re going to give me hell on the court. So I just need to start looking at their game and see their patterns, so I think this is something I need to look into.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>I saw a <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2014/07/23/grigor-dimitrov-twitter-qa" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Twitter Q&#38;A" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Twitter Q&#38;A</a> you did a few years ago. You said The Notebook is your favorite movie.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>It still is.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>What scene makes you cry the most?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>The scene when she goes to see him on the lake. They go on the water, and they start feeding the birds or ducks, whatever that was there. They come back. It starts raining, and [she] says to [him]: “Why didn’t you write me?”</p><p>He says: “I wrote you, every single day, one letter for 365 days.”</p><p>And then she says: “You wrote me?” And then I go—no not me, I wish I was in the movie! S---, I wish I was in the damn movie. (Laughs)</p><p>He says, “It wasn’t over for me.” And then he says: “It still isn’t over.”</p><p>And then—you can do the math for the rest. They jump in each other’s arms.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>I</em><em>’m getting misty-eyed.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Me too. Me too, man.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>That was amazing presentation.</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>I swear to God—sometimes I have to stop and just pause it. I couldn’t take it. My heart.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>Do you usually watch it by yourself?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Mainly, yeah, because I just don’t want [others] to see me crying I guess. But I’m past that.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>It</em><em>’s ok!</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>It’s fine! I don’t care, it’s fine. It’s just me. But this scene is (gesturing to his heart)—yeah, right there.</p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>Walk me through your racket design. </em></p><p><strong>GD</strong>: This is one out of one. This is the first racket we actually ever designed. This is Grigor Dimitrov, man. [Regarding the quote on the racket], have you read the book, <em>The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari? </em></p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>No, but I think I just read that <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/22/garbine-muguruza-us-open-new-york-grand-slam-titles" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Garbine Muguruza likes that book too." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Garbine Muguruza likes that book too.</a></em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>And we both won the tournament in Cincinnati! It’s a great book. But this racket is inspired from cars, military—one day I was going to practice, and I opened my trunk. And as soon as I touched my car I was like wow I like this color. This is when the idea hit me up about having the same color and the same feel on the racket.</p><p>?</p><p>This is inspired obviously from the military. I like camouflage a lot. […] I just wanted something else to stick out, just to be different out there on the court, and making sure as soon as you hit the ball how it looks and how it feels from the outside. So we came up with those colors. The gray came—we took a lot of time on the gray. We had like eight different type of gray colors coming into the racket, and we just kind of had to find the best color. </p><p><strong>SK: </strong><em>How close of attention do you pay to other players’ racket designs?</em></p><p><strong>GD: </strong>Never. Just my own. The same thing when you play a match, you always try to focus on your side of the net. It’s pretty simple—it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, that is to create. To get this opportunity to create a racket has always been a dream of mine. What if my racket looked like this? What if it my racket looked like that? There was this thing that was always in the back of my head. I always wanted things to stand out, to be different. We’ve found the right match I think. </p>
Getting Personal with Grigor Dimitrov

NEW YORK – The 2017 season has been a renaissance for Grigor Dimitrov. He started the year with a title in Brisbane and followed that with a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, falling in five sets to Rafael Nadal. After winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati last week, Dimitrov is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014.

With several top players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—skipping the U.S. Open due to injury, Dimitrov is suddenly a contender at the year’s final Grand Slam event. After winning Cincinnati without dropping a set, Dimitrov is poised to make a serious run in Flushing Meadows for the first time in his career.

Ahead of the U.S. Open, Dimitrov spoke to SI in New York on behalf of Wilson, which just launched a new digital custom tennis racket platform. After showing off his own special-designed racket and demonstrating the new online platform, Dimitrov discussed his relationship to his fellow pros, his love for The Notebook and more.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Stanley Kay: In Cincinnati, you and Nick Kyrgios shared a long hug at the net after the final. You obviously seemed to help him out a lot during the week. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from a fellow pro?

Grigor Dimitrov: That’s a very good question. I’ve never had anybody voluntarily come to me and give me advice, which is OK I guess. But me asking somebody—one of the nicest things that I actually heard, and it was pretty recent, was when I practiced with Rafa [Nadal] in Mallorca. We were just on a boat together one afternoon, we were resting, and I was like, “Man, what do you think? What do you think about my game?” And he just says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t miss.” And I was like, “Wow, thanks!”

(Laughs) I know it’s funny, but for me when he said it, it sounded different. Of course when your coach says it it’s different, but somebody of his rank, as a person and player, to say it the way he said it to me—I was like, aha! I never thought of that, almost. You almost feel like I never thought of that.

Also Roger for sure. Throughout the years I’ve known him, I’ve gotten to know him very well—his family and everybody around, so he’s also always been the guy. He says, “Don’t put your head down, just keep doing what you are doing. It will come, it will come.” And then even yesterday I saw him actually, and he was like, “You see, sometimes things are that simple.” I was like, “Yeah, easy for you to say.”

He’s like, “No, it’s that simple sometimes.” And in a way, it’s right. Once the opportunities knock on your door, you’ve got to try and go get them. If it doesn't happen, it doesn’t happen. But at the same time, you’ve got to keep going.

I have a great relationship with all of them too, so that makes things also look a bit in perspective. It’s the same thing with Nick—I’m sure that’s not going to be our last final, I can tell you that much. But you can see sometimes, there’s more to tennis for me. Yes, when you’re out there on the court, you want to beat the guy. You hate him, you don’t want to talk to him, you don’t want to see him. You swear at him, and everything else you can possibly think of. But there’s so much more to tennis. When I see somebody that—I don’t want to say needs help, but was in a tough position, if he asks me, why wouldn’t I try to help? […] Even if he had beaten me the other day, I would still have the same feelings for that. I know tennis is just a game, but it’s something that it can actually unite us even more.

SK: People have called you Baby Fed throughout your career. But who is Baby Grigor?

GD: Oh man. That is up for the people to decide. I haven’t seen any guys who are playing similar to me right now. I’m sure there’s going to be kids that are going to come up and have a similar style, but also the backhand one-hands are kind of—not that many anymore. It’s probably like five to six guys right now, one-handers. So there’s your first obstacle to find that new Grigor. But yeah, I don’t know. I was actually talking earlier about it—I need to start watching those young kids that are coming up, because I’m sure after a few years they’re going to give me hell on the court. So I just need to start looking at their game and see their patterns, so I think this is something I need to look into.

SK: I saw a Twitter Q&A you did a few years ago. You said The Notebook is your favorite movie.

GD: It still is.

SK: What scene makes you cry the most?

GD: The scene when she goes to see him on the lake. They go on the water, and they start feeding the birds or ducks, whatever that was there. They come back. It starts raining, and [she] says to [him]: “Why didn’t you write me?”

He says: “I wrote you, every single day, one letter for 365 days.”

And then she says: “You wrote me?” And then I go—no not me, I wish I was in the movie! S---, I wish I was in the damn movie. (Laughs)

He says, “It wasn’t over for me.” And then he says: “It still isn’t over.”

And then—you can do the math for the rest. They jump in each other’s arms.

SK: I’m getting misty-eyed.

GD: Me too. Me too, man.

SK: That was amazing presentation.

GD: I swear to God—sometimes I have to stop and just pause it. I couldn’t take it. My heart.

SK: Do you usually watch it by yourself?

GD: Mainly, yeah, because I just don’t want [others] to see me crying I guess. But I’m past that.

SK: It’s ok!

GD: It’s fine! I don’t care, it’s fine. It’s just me. But this scene is (gesturing to his heart)—yeah, right there.

SK: Walk me through your racket design.

GD: This is one out of one. This is the first racket we actually ever designed. This is Grigor Dimitrov, man. [Regarding the quote on the racket], have you read the book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari?

SK: No, but I think I just read that Garbine Muguruza likes that book too.

GD: And we both won the tournament in Cincinnati! It’s a great book. But this racket is inspired from cars, military—one day I was going to practice, and I opened my trunk. And as soon as I touched my car I was like wow I like this color. This is when the idea hit me up about having the same color and the same feel on the racket.

?

This is inspired obviously from the military. I like camouflage a lot. […] I just wanted something else to stick out, just to be different out there on the court, and making sure as soon as you hit the ball how it looks and how it feels from the outside. So we came up with those colors. The gray came—we took a lot of time on the gray. We had like eight different type of gray colors coming into the racket, and we just kind of had to find the best color.

SK: How close of attention do you pay to other players’ racket designs?

GD: Never. Just my own. The same thing when you play a match, you always try to focus on your side of the net. It’s pretty simple—it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, that is to create. To get this opportunity to create a racket has always been a dream of mine. What if my racket looked like this? What if it my racket looked like that? There was this thing that was always in the back of my head. I always wanted things to stand out, to be different. We’ve found the right match I think.

<p>The latest news, results and today&#39;s schedule for the 2017 U.S. Open.</p><h3>Men&#39;s and women&#39;s draws</h3><p><strong><a href="http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/draws/2017_MS_draw.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Complete men&#39;s draw" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Complete men&#39;s draw</a> | <a href="http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/draws/2017_WS_draw.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Complete women&#39;s draw" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Complete women&#39;s draw</a></strong></p><h3>Top results from Day 3</h3><p>• After beating No. 2-seed Simona Halep in her opening match on Monday night, Maria Sharapova returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon for a second round contest against Hungary&#39;s Timea Babos. After losing the first set in a tiebreak, Sharapova—who is competing in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban—rallied back to win the next two sets and the match, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the third round at the U.S. Open. </p><p>Sharapova kept her perfect record in first round matches at the U.S. Open by beating Halep on Monday, and she extended her second-round record to 9-1 in second round matches on Wednesday. She moves into the third round to face the winner of an all-American matchup between Sofia Kenin and Sachia Vickery.</p><p>• American CiCi Bellis had a chance to serve for the match against Japan&#39;s Nao Hibino but she lost 12 of the last 15 points and lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round. Another young American, 2017 NCAA champion Brienne Minor, lost her first U.S. Open match, falling to Tunisia&#39;s Ons Jabeur 6-1, 7-5. </p><p>Jabeur moves into the second round, where she&#39;ll face No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who won the all-American first-round matchup against Alison Riske, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.</p><p>• No. 14-seed Nick Kyrgios crashed out early at yet another Slam in 2017, losing to fellow countryman John Millman 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. Unable to find the form that took him to the final in Cincinnati earlier this month, Kyrgios looked to be suffering from a shoulder injury during the match. The loss marks the end of a dismal Slam season for the Australian, who exited in the first round at Wimbledon and in the second round at both the Australian Open and the French Open. There was also this:</p><p>• No. 18-seed Gael Monfils beat fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round, while No. 15-seed Tomas Berdych defeated American Ryan Harrison in straight sets. 24-year-old American Bjorn Fratangelo knocked out big-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to a book a spot in the second round.</p><p>• In the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Evgeniya Rodina defeated Canada&#39;s Eugenie Bouchard 7-6, 6-1. </p><h3>Wednesday&#39;s Matches to Watch</h3><p>Because of the rain, only nine matches were completed during the day session on Tuesday. That leaves <strong>87</strong> first and second matches to be played on Wednesday. You can view the full order of play <a href="http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/schedule/p_schedule9.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</p><p>• Headlining the Arthur Ashe day session is No. 24-seed Juan Martin del Potro, who faces Switzerland&#39;s Henri Laaksonen in a first round match, and and Maria Sharapova, who plays Timea Babos in a second-round contest. The night session will start with Venus Williams against Oceane Dodin, followed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against a streaking 18-year-old, Denis Shapovalov. </p><p>• Elsewhere around the grounds, some matches to watch include:</p><p><strong>All-American match-up: </strong>Alison Riske takes on No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe (third match, Louis Armstrong)</p><p><strong>Cinderella returns: </strong>2014&#39;s U.S. Open darling CiCi Bellis faces Nao Hibino (Court 17)</p><p><strong>Comeback story continues: </strong>Petra Kvitova faces France&#39;s Alize Cornet in a second-round match. (Court 13, not before 4 p.m.)</p><p><strong>2014 champ on Court 17: </strong>No. 5-seed Marin Cilic faces Florian Mayer for a spot in the third round. </p><h3>Tuesday&#39;s Highlights</h3><p>• Roger Federer needed five sets in his opening match to advance on Tuesday night, defeating 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. Though he&#39;s the favorite for the title, Federer came into the U.S. Open with a back injury and momentum of the match swung back and forth. Ultimately third-seeded Federer prevailed and advanced to the second round.</p><p>• After a slow start, No. 1 Rafael Nadal took care of business against Serbia&#39;s Dusan Lajovic, winning 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the second round. Following Nadal&#39;s win, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko took the court to resume her match against Lara Arruabarrena. Ostapenko won three straight games to close out a 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win and advance to the second round, where she will play Sorana Cirstea.</p><p>• As of about 3:30 p.m. ET, all matches on all courts, other than Arthur Ashe, have been cancelled for the day on Tuesday, due to rain. Still to come on Tuesday evening: No. 15-seed Madison Keys takes on Elise Mertens in the first match, starting at 7 p.m. ET. Roger Federer will face 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe in the second match of the night session. </p><p>• The women&#39;s defending U.S. Open champion is out of the tournament. Japan&#39;s Naomi Osaka out-played No. 6-seed Angelique Kerber under the roof on Arthur Ashe on Tuesday, beating the two-time Grand Slam finalist 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour to advance to the second round. The victory marked Osaka&#39;s first top 10 win of her career.</p><p>A year ago at the U.S. Open, Osaka led Madison Keys in a third round match on Arthur Ashe but was unable to close. ?On Tuesday, Osaka simply out-hit Kerber, blasting winners all over the court and putting any memories of last year&#39;s disappointing U.S. Open exit behind her. Osaka finished with 22 winners and 17 unforced errors to Kerber&#39;s nine winners and 23 unforced errors.</p><p>Kerber is only the second U.S. Open women&#39;s champion in the Open Era to lose in the first round the following year (Kuznetsova, 2005). After reaching No. 1 a year ago when she won her second Grand Slam of the year in New York, Kerber has not won a tournament since her victory at the 2016 U.S. Open. With Tuesday&#39;s loss, Kerber, who was seeded sixth at the U.S. Open, will drop out of the top 10 in the WTA rankings. Read more about the match <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/29/naomi-osaka-defeats-defending-us-open-champion-angelique-kerber" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</p><p>• Before the rain started at Flushing Meadows, World No. 1 and 2016 finalist Karolina Pliskova advanced to the second round, beating Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1. A handful of matches were already underway when play was suspended on all courts due to rain. </p><h3>How to watch the U.S. Open</h3><p>The 2017 U.S. Open will be broadcast daily on ESPN. Tennis Channel will have a pre-match show starting at 8 a.m. ET each day. </p><p>View the <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/us-open-tv-schedule-watch-online-live-stream-channel-dates" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:complete U.S. Open TV schedule here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">complete U.S. Open TV schedule here</a>.</p><p>You can live stream matches on <a href="http://www.espn.com/watch/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Watch ESPN" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Watch ESPN</a>. </p><h3>Monday&#39;s Highlights</h3><p>• No. 9-seed Venus Williams needed three sets to beat 19-year-old Slovakian qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to advance to the second round. The oldest woman in the tournament, 37-year-old Williams is back at the U.S. Open 20 years after her debut. Read more about what it means for tennis, and Williams, <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/28/venus-williams-us-open-tennis-1997-anniversary?utm_campaign=si-tennis&#38;utm_source=twitter.com&#38;utm_medium=social&#38;xid=socialflow_twitter_si" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</p><p>• American Sloane Stephens continued her comeback with a 7-5, 6-1 win over 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Roberta Vinci.</p><p>• In the biggest upset of the tournament so far, Serbia&#39;s Aleksandra Krunic upset No. 7-seed Johanna Konta in the first round, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In 2015, Konta had a breakout tournament at the U.S. Open, playing through three rounds of qualifying matches and beating Muguruza and Andrea Petkovic en route to a Round of 16 appearance. Last year, she also made the Round of 16, before losing to Anastasija Sevastova.</p><p>• 2014 champion Marin Cilic beat American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the second round. </p><p>• 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov continued his winning ways on Monday, beating Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. After reaching the semifinals at Rogers Cup in Montreal earlier this month, Shapovalov had to qualify to get into the U.S. Open main draw. He&#39;ll next face No. 8-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Marius Copil 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the day.</p><p>• Wimbledon champion and No. 3-seed Garbine Muguruza kicked off her U.S. Open campaign with a 6-0, 6-3 win over American Varvara Lepchenko on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Read more about Muguruza&#39;s win <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/28/us-open-tennis-2017-garbine-muguruza-sharapova-halep-murray" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</p><p>• No. 13-seed Petra Kvitova started her U.S. Open campaign with a win, beating Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 7-5 to reach the second round, where she will face France’s Alize Cornet, who defeated Brit Heather Watson in straight sets on Monday.</p><p>• 18-year-old American Sofia Kenin beat No. 32-seed and fellow American Lauren Davis 7-5, 7-5 to advance to the second round. Playing in the U.S. Open main draw for a third time, Kenin entered the tournament as a wildcard after winning the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge. She&#39;ll next face American Sachia Vickery on Wednesday.</p><h3>Pre-tournament top stories</h3><p>Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova are the top two seeds in the men&#39;s and women&#39;s singles draws, respectively. Nadal is a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, while Pliskova reached the final last year. The 2017 U.S. Open will be without Serena Williams, who remains sidelined due to her pregnancy, and several top men&#39;s players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—are skipping the event due to injury. </p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/21/us-open-tennis-insider-tips-transportation-advice-tickets" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:51 Insider Tips for Attending the U.S. Open" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">51 Insider Tips for Attending the U.S. Open</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/25/us-open-tennis-seeds-draw-schedule-matches-to-watch" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Breaking Down the U.S. Open Men&#39;s and Women&#39;s Draws" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Breaking Down the U.S. Open Men&#39;s and Women&#39;s Draws</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/24/us-open-2017-preview-predictions-picks-storylines-federer-muguruza" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:SI Staff U.S. Open Preview Roundtable" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">SI Staff U.S. Open Preview Roundtable</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/eats/2017/08/24/us-open-tennis-2017-food-guide-flushing-meadows" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:How to Eat Your Way Through the 2017 U.S. Open" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">How to Eat Your Way Through the 2017 U.S. Open</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/25/roger-federer-us-open-2017-lessons" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:How Federer Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">How Federer Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion</a></p>
U.S. Open 2017 Tennis Live Updates: Maria Sharapova Rallies to Reach Second Round

The latest news, results and today's schedule for the 2017 U.S. Open.

Men's and women's draws

Complete men's draw | Complete women's draw

Top results from Day 3

• After beating No. 2-seed Simona Halep in her opening match on Monday night, Maria Sharapova returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon for a second round contest against Hungary's Timea Babos. After losing the first set in a tiebreak, Sharapova—who is competing in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban—rallied back to win the next two sets and the match, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the third round at the U.S. Open.

Sharapova kept her perfect record in first round matches at the U.S. Open by beating Halep on Monday, and she extended her second-round record to 9-1 in second round matches on Wednesday. She moves into the third round to face the winner of an all-American matchup between Sofia Kenin and Sachia Vickery.

• American CiCi Bellis had a chance to serve for the match against Japan's Nao Hibino but she lost 12 of the last 15 points and lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round. Another young American, 2017 NCAA champion Brienne Minor, lost her first U.S. Open match, falling to Tunisia's Ons Jabeur 6-1, 7-5.

Jabeur moves into the second round, where she'll face No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who won the all-American first-round matchup against Alison Riske, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

• No. 14-seed Nick Kyrgios crashed out early at yet another Slam in 2017, losing to fellow countryman John Millman 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. Unable to find the form that took him to the final in Cincinnati earlier this month, Kyrgios looked to be suffering from a shoulder injury during the match. The loss marks the end of a dismal Slam season for the Australian, who exited in the first round at Wimbledon and in the second round at both the Australian Open and the French Open. There was also this:

• No. 18-seed Gael Monfils beat fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round, while No. 15-seed Tomas Berdych defeated American Ryan Harrison in straight sets. 24-year-old American Bjorn Fratangelo knocked out big-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to a book a spot in the second round.

• In the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Evgeniya Rodina defeated Canada's Eugenie Bouchard 7-6, 6-1.

Wednesday's Matches to Watch

Because of the rain, only nine matches were completed during the day session on Tuesday. That leaves 87 first and second matches to be played on Wednesday. You can view the full order of play here.

• Headlining the Arthur Ashe day session is No. 24-seed Juan Martin del Potro, who faces Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen in a first round match, and and Maria Sharapova, who plays Timea Babos in a second-round contest. The night session will start with Venus Williams against Oceane Dodin, followed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against a streaking 18-year-old, Denis Shapovalov.

• Elsewhere around the grounds, some matches to watch include:

All-American match-up: Alison Riske takes on No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe (third match, Louis Armstrong)

Cinderella returns: 2014's U.S. Open darling CiCi Bellis faces Nao Hibino (Court 17)

Comeback story continues: Petra Kvitova faces France's Alize Cornet in a second-round match. (Court 13, not before 4 p.m.)

2014 champ on Court 17: No. 5-seed Marin Cilic faces Florian Mayer for a spot in the third round.

Tuesday's Highlights

• Roger Federer needed five sets in his opening match to advance on Tuesday night, defeating 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. Though he's the favorite for the title, Federer came into the U.S. Open with a back injury and momentum of the match swung back and forth. Ultimately third-seeded Federer prevailed and advanced to the second round.

• After a slow start, No. 1 Rafael Nadal took care of business against Serbia's Dusan Lajovic, winning 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the second round. Following Nadal's win, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko took the court to resume her match against Lara Arruabarrena. Ostapenko won three straight games to close out a 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win and advance to the second round, where she will play Sorana Cirstea.

• As of about 3:30 p.m. ET, all matches on all courts, other than Arthur Ashe, have been cancelled for the day on Tuesday, due to rain. Still to come on Tuesday evening: No. 15-seed Madison Keys takes on Elise Mertens in the first match, starting at 7 p.m. ET. Roger Federer will face 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe in the second match of the night session.

• The women's defending U.S. Open champion is out of the tournament. Japan's Naomi Osaka out-played No. 6-seed Angelique Kerber under the roof on Arthur Ashe on Tuesday, beating the two-time Grand Slam finalist 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour to advance to the second round. The victory marked Osaka's first top 10 win of her career.

A year ago at the U.S. Open, Osaka led Madison Keys in a third round match on Arthur Ashe but was unable to close. ?On Tuesday, Osaka simply out-hit Kerber, blasting winners all over the court and putting any memories of last year's disappointing U.S. Open exit behind her. Osaka finished with 22 winners and 17 unforced errors to Kerber's nine winners and 23 unforced errors.

Kerber is only the second U.S. Open women's champion in the Open Era to lose in the first round the following year (Kuznetsova, 2005). After reaching No. 1 a year ago when she won her second Grand Slam of the year in New York, Kerber has not won a tournament since her victory at the 2016 U.S. Open. With Tuesday's loss, Kerber, who was seeded sixth at the U.S. Open, will drop out of the top 10 in the WTA rankings. Read more about the match here.

• Before the rain started at Flushing Meadows, World No. 1 and 2016 finalist Karolina Pliskova advanced to the second round, beating Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1. A handful of matches were already underway when play was suspended on all courts due to rain.

How to watch the U.S. Open

The 2017 U.S. Open will be broadcast daily on ESPN. Tennis Channel will have a pre-match show starting at 8 a.m. ET each day.

View the complete U.S. Open TV schedule here.

You can live stream matches on Watch ESPN.

Monday's Highlights

• No. 9-seed Venus Williams needed three sets to beat 19-year-old Slovakian qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to advance to the second round. The oldest woman in the tournament, 37-year-old Williams is back at the U.S. Open 20 years after her debut. Read more about what it means for tennis, and Williams, here.

• American Sloane Stephens continued her comeback with a 7-5, 6-1 win over 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Roberta Vinci.

• In the biggest upset of the tournament so far, Serbia's Aleksandra Krunic upset No. 7-seed Johanna Konta in the first round, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In 2015, Konta had a breakout tournament at the U.S. Open, playing through three rounds of qualifying matches and beating Muguruza and Andrea Petkovic en route to a Round of 16 appearance. Last year, she also made the Round of 16, before losing to Anastasija Sevastova.

• 2014 champion Marin Cilic beat American Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the second round.

• 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov continued his winning ways on Monday, beating Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1, 6-2. After reaching the semifinals at Rogers Cup in Montreal earlier this month, Shapovalov had to qualify to get into the U.S. Open main draw. He'll next face No. 8-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Marius Copil 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the day.

• Wimbledon champion and No. 3-seed Garbine Muguruza kicked off her U.S. Open campaign with a 6-0, 6-3 win over American Varvara Lepchenko on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Read more about Muguruza's win here.

• No. 13-seed Petra Kvitova started her U.S. Open campaign with a win, beating Jelena Jankovic 7-5, 7-5 to reach the second round, where she will face France’s Alize Cornet, who defeated Brit Heather Watson in straight sets on Monday.

• 18-year-old American Sofia Kenin beat No. 32-seed and fellow American Lauren Davis 7-5, 7-5 to advance to the second round. Playing in the U.S. Open main draw for a third time, Kenin entered the tournament as a wildcard after winning the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge. She'll next face American Sachia Vickery on Wednesday.

Pre-tournament top stories

Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova are the top two seeds in the men's and women's singles draws, respectively. Nadal is a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, while Pliskova reached the final last year. The 2017 U.S. Open will be without Serena Williams, who remains sidelined due to her pregnancy, and several top men's players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—are skipping the event due to injury.

51 Insider Tips for Attending the U.S. Open

Breaking Down the U.S. Open Men's and Women's Draws

SI Staff U.S. Open Preview Roundtable

How to Eat Your Way Through the 2017 U.S. Open

How Federer Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion

<p>The latest news, results and today&#39;s schedule for the 2017 U.S. Open.</p><h3>Men&#39;s and women&#39;s draws</h3><p><strong><a href="http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/draws/2017_MS_draw.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Complete men&#39;s draw" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Complete men&#39;s draw</a> | <a href="http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/draws/2017_WS_draw.pdf" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Complete women&#39;s draw" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Complete women&#39;s draw</a></strong></p><h3>Top results on Friday</h3><p>• No. 13-seed Petra Kvitova started off the day on Arthur Ashe with a strong performance, beating No. 18-seed Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-4. Then, 19-year-old Canadian sensation Denis Shapovalov continued his fairytale run. In his U.S. Open debut, Shapovalov advanced to the fourth round after Kyle Edmund retired with injury down 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 0-1. Shapovalov&#39;s win means that he is the youngest man to reach the fourth round at the U.S. Open since Michael Chang in 1989, and the youngest man to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Safin in 1998 at Roland Garros. </p><h3>Matches to watch on Friday</h3><p>• The day session on the main court will conclude with No. 9-seed Venus Williams taking on Greece&#39;s Maria Sakkari. </p><p>• Third round matches begin on Friday, with John Isner facing Mischa Zverev and Maria Sharapova against young American Sofia Kenin highlighting the night session. </p><p>• Sloane Stephens will carry on her summer comeback on Friday on Louis Armstrong Stadium, facing Ash Barty for a spot in the fourth round. Fellow American and No. 17-seed Sam Querrey is also in action, taking on Radu Albot. </p><p>• No. 3-seed Garbine Muguruza quietly moved into the third round late on Wednesday evening, downing Duan Ying Ying in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0. SHe&#39;ll return to action on Louis Armstrong on Friday against No. 31-seed Magdalena Rybarikova, who she easily beat in the semifinals en route to her Wimbledon title in July.</p><h3>Thursday&#39;s Highlights</h3><p>• No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe made her debut in an Arthur Ashe night session on Thursday, defeating Tunisia&#39;s Ons Jabeur 7-6, 6-2 to reach the third round. In a late match on Louis Armstrong, another top American also advanced: No. 15-seed Madison Keys defeated Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-4. </p><p>• Roger Federer escaped an upset bid by No. 101 Mikhail Youzhny on Arthur Ashe, winning 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in just over three hours. Considering Federer’s 16-0 record over Youzhny—and 16-0 record in second round matches—it was a surprisingly tough win for the No. 3-seed, who entered the tournament with a back injury he sustained in early August. After playing another five-setter in the first round against 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe, Federer said he may feel more tired going into the third round, but that is okay.</p><p>“My preparation hasn&#39;t been good at all here. I knew I was going to maybe struggle early on. Maybe I struggled more than I would have liked to. But I&#39;m still in the draw, which gives me a chance,” Federer said after the match. “I still believe I&#39;m going to pick up my game and become just more consistent because I&#39;m not playing all that bad. It&#39;s just that I&#39;m going a bit up and down in waves throughout the match.”</p><p>• History was made at the U.S. Open on Thursday, as American Shelby Rogers outlasted Australia&#39;s Daria Gavrilova 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5) in three hours and 31 minutes to set the record for the longest women&#39;s U.S. Open match.</p><p>&quot;It was a very special moment for me today being down in the third, coming back, having a few match points. Just so many ups and downs for both of us today,&quot; Rogers said after the match. &quot;To get through that on the winning side was just really incredible. The crowd helped me so much. They gave me some energy in the third, for sure. I was just so grateful to them for staying there three and a half hours.&quot;</p><p>• The men’s seeds came crashing down on Thursday, starting with Alexandr Dolgopolov 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over No. 15-seed Tomas Berdych. Then, 19-year-old Andrey Rublev knocked out No. 7-seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach the third round. This was a surprising result considering Dimitrov’s recent form: he came into the U.S. Open fresh off his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and with a top 10 ranking for the first time since 2014.</p><p>Dimitrov&#39;s loss adds to the lack of ATP top 10 players at the U.S. Open, with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori all skipping the tournament, and No. 6-seed Alexander Zverev losing to Borna Coric, and No. 8-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bowing out to 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round on Wednesday night.</p><p>• World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova overcame an upset bid from American Nicole Gibbs on Thursday, fighting back after dropping the first set to secure a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory—and a spot in the third round.</p><p>“I quite didn&#39;t expect that she&#39;s going to play this way,” Pliskova said of Gibbs’ play. “I thought…since we played two times, we practiced, saw few of her matches, she&#39;s going to be more like defending. She really was going for her shots. All credit to her.”</p><p>Pliskova moves into the next round to play No. 27-seed Shuai Zhang. She must reach the final in New York in order to keep her No. 1 ranking.</p><h3>Wednesday&#39;s Highlights</h3><p>• It was an up-and-down match for No. 9-seed Venus Williams in the first night session match, but she powered through to defeat Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the third round. She&#39;ll next face Maria Sakkari of Greece, who defeated Arina Rodionova 7-5, 6-3, earlier in the day. </p><p>• After beating No. 2-seed Simona Halep in her opening match on Monday night, Maria Sharapova returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon for a second round contest against Hungary&#39;s Timea Babos. After losing the first set in a tiebreak, Sharapova—who is competing in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban—rallied back to win the next two sets and the match, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the third round at the U.S. Open. </p><p>&quot;I definitely wanted to enjoy the quality of tennis that I played with the other night, but I also wanted to put my mind onto this one,&quot; Sharapova said after the match. &quot;I knew it wasn&#39;t going to be easy, no matter who I was going to play today. It&#39;s always difficult to come after a match like that. My goal was just to get it done.&quot;</p><p>Sharapova kept her perfect record in first round matches at the U.S. Open by beating Halep on Monday, and she extended her second-round record to 9-1 in second round matches on Wednesday. She moves into the third round to face American Sofia Kenin, who defeated a fellow young American Sachia Vickery, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6.</p><p>• No. 5-seed Marin Cilic easily advanced to the third round late on Wednesday, beating Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour in 40 minutes. Earlier in the day, No. 7-seed Grigor Dimitrov, who is coming off a title in Cincinnati earlier this month and is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014, cruised into the second round with a straight-sets win over Vaclav Safranek. He will play again in the third round on Thursday against Andrey Rublev. You can read a candid Q&#38;A with the Bulgarian <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/29/grigor-dimitrov-rafael-nadal-us-open-racket-the-notebook" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</p><p>• American CiCi Bellis had a chance to serve for the match against Japan&#39;s Nao Hibino but she lost 12 of the last 15 points and lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round. Another young American, 2017 NCAA champion Brienne Minor, lost her first U.S. Open match, falling to Tunisia&#39;s Ons Jabeur 6-1, 7-5. Jabeur moves into the second round, where she&#39;ll face No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who won the all-American first-round matchup against Alison Riske, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.</p><p>For the Americans on the men&#39;s side, No. 10-seed John Isner defeated Hyeon Chung? 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, and No. 17-seed Sam Querrey beat Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the second round. 20-year-old Jared Donaldson forced a fifth set against No. 16-seed Lucas Pouille, but the Frenchman was able to win and advance in the deciding set.</p><p>• No. 14-seed Nick Kyrgios crashed out early at yet another Slam in 2017, losing to fellow countryman John Millman 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. Unable to find the form that took him to the final in Cincinnati earlier this month, Kyrgios looked to be suffering from a shoulder injury during the match. The loss marks the end of a dismal Slam season for the Australian, who exited in the first round at Wimbledon and in the second round at both the Australian Open and the French Open. There was also this:</p><p>• No. 18-seed Gael Monfils beat fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round, while No. 15-seed Tomas Berdych defeated American Ryan Harrison in straight sets. 24-year-old American Bjorn Fratangelo knocked out big-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to a book a spot in the second round.</p><p>• In the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Evgeniya Rodina defeated Canada&#39;s Eugenie Bouchard 7-6, 6-1. 23-year-old Bouchard is still a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the USTA, after she fell on a slippery floor in a facility at the tournament in 2015.</p><p>“I’m able to concentrate on the tennis when I’m here, but, I mean, I definitely have bad memories from here two years ago,” Bouchard said after the match on Arthur Ashe—a court assignment that even she was surprised with. “I was surprised, but it’s always an amazing opportunity to play on the biggest tennis court in the world,” she said.</p><h3>How to watch the U.S. Open</h3><p>The 2017 U.S. Open will be broadcast daily on ESPN. Tennis Channel will have a pre-match show starting at 8 a.m. ET each day. </p><p>View the <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/us-open-tv-schedule-watch-online-live-stream-channel-dates" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:complete U.S. Open TV schedule here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">complete U.S. Open TV schedule here</a>.</p><p>You can live stream matches on <a href="http://www.espn.com/watch/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Watch ESPN" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Watch ESPN</a>. </p><h3>Pre-tournament top stories</h3><p>Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova are the top two seeds in the men&#39;s and women&#39;s singles draws, respectively. Nadal is a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, while Pliskova reached the final last year. The 2017 U.S. Open will be without Serena Williams, who remains sidelined due to her pregnancy, and several top men&#39;s players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—are skipping the event due to injury. </p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/21/us-open-tennis-insider-tips-transportation-advice-tickets" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:51 Insider Tips for Attending the U.S. Open" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">51 Insider Tips for Attending the U.S. Open</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/25/us-open-tennis-seeds-draw-schedule-matches-to-watch" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Breaking Down the U.S. Open Men&#39;s and Women&#39;s Draws" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Breaking Down the U.S. Open Men&#39;s and Women&#39;s Draws</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/24/us-open-2017-preview-predictions-picks-storylines-federer-muguruza" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:SI Staff U.S. Open Preview Roundtable" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">SI Staff U.S. Open Preview Roundtable</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/eats/2017/08/24/us-open-tennis-2017-food-guide-flushing-meadows" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:How to Eat Your Way Through the 2017 U.S. Open" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">How to Eat Your Way Through the 2017 U.S. Open</a></p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/08/25/roger-federer-us-open-2017-lessons" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:How Federer Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">How Federer Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion</a></p>
U.S. Open 2017 Tennis Live Updates: Cilic Loses, Shapovalov Continues Run

The latest news, results and today's schedule for the 2017 U.S. Open.

Men's and women's draws

Complete men's draw | Complete women's draw

Top results on Friday

• No. 13-seed Petra Kvitova started off the day on Arthur Ashe with a strong performance, beating No. 18-seed Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-4. Then, 19-year-old Canadian sensation Denis Shapovalov continued his fairytale run. In his U.S. Open debut, Shapovalov advanced to the fourth round after Kyle Edmund retired with injury down 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 0-1. Shapovalov's win means that he is the youngest man to reach the fourth round at the U.S. Open since Michael Chang in 1989, and the youngest man to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Safin in 1998 at Roland Garros.

Matches to watch on Friday

• The day session on the main court will conclude with No. 9-seed Venus Williams taking on Greece's Maria Sakkari.

• Third round matches begin on Friday, with John Isner facing Mischa Zverev and Maria Sharapova against young American Sofia Kenin highlighting the night session.

• Sloane Stephens will carry on her summer comeback on Friday on Louis Armstrong Stadium, facing Ash Barty for a spot in the fourth round. Fellow American and No. 17-seed Sam Querrey is also in action, taking on Radu Albot.

• No. 3-seed Garbine Muguruza quietly moved into the third round late on Wednesday evening, downing Duan Ying Ying in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0. SHe'll return to action on Louis Armstrong on Friday against No. 31-seed Magdalena Rybarikova, who she easily beat in the semifinals en route to her Wimbledon title in July.

Thursday's Highlights

• No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe made her debut in an Arthur Ashe night session on Thursday, defeating Tunisia's Ons Jabeur 7-6, 6-2 to reach the third round. In a late match on Louis Armstrong, another top American also advanced: No. 15-seed Madison Keys defeated Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-4.

• Roger Federer escaped an upset bid by No. 101 Mikhail Youzhny on Arthur Ashe, winning 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in just over three hours. Considering Federer’s 16-0 record over Youzhny—and 16-0 record in second round matches—it was a surprisingly tough win for the No. 3-seed, who entered the tournament with a back injury he sustained in early August. After playing another five-setter in the first round against 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe, Federer said he may feel more tired going into the third round, but that is okay.

“My preparation hasn't been good at all here. I knew I was going to maybe struggle early on. Maybe I struggled more than I would have liked to. But I'm still in the draw, which gives me a chance,” Federer said after the match. “I still believe I'm going to pick up my game and become just more consistent because I'm not playing all that bad. It's just that I'm going a bit up and down in waves throughout the match.”

• History was made at the U.S. Open on Thursday, as American Shelby Rogers outlasted Australia's Daria Gavrilova 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5) in three hours and 31 minutes to set the record for the longest women's U.S. Open match.

"It was a very special moment for me today being down in the third, coming back, having a few match points. Just so many ups and downs for both of us today," Rogers said after the match. "To get through that on the winning side was just really incredible. The crowd helped me so much. They gave me some energy in the third, for sure. I was just so grateful to them for staying there three and a half hours."

• The men’s seeds came crashing down on Thursday, starting with Alexandr Dolgopolov 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over No. 15-seed Tomas Berdych. Then, 19-year-old Andrey Rublev knocked out No. 7-seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-3 to reach the third round. This was a surprising result considering Dimitrov’s recent form: he came into the U.S. Open fresh off his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and with a top 10 ranking for the first time since 2014.

Dimitrov's loss adds to the lack of ATP top 10 players at the U.S. Open, with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Kei Nishikori all skipping the tournament, and No. 6-seed Alexander Zverev losing to Borna Coric, and No. 8-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bowing out to 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round on Wednesday night.

• World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova overcame an upset bid from American Nicole Gibbs on Thursday, fighting back after dropping the first set to secure a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory—and a spot in the third round.

“I quite didn't expect that she's going to play this way,” Pliskova said of Gibbs’ play. “I thought…since we played two times, we practiced, saw few of her matches, she's going to be more like defending. She really was going for her shots. All credit to her.”

Pliskova moves into the next round to play No. 27-seed Shuai Zhang. She must reach the final in New York in order to keep her No. 1 ranking.

Wednesday's Highlights

• It was an up-and-down match for No. 9-seed Venus Williams in the first night session match, but she powered through to defeat Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the third round. She'll next face Maria Sakkari of Greece, who defeated Arina Rodionova 7-5, 6-3, earlier in the day.

• After beating No. 2-seed Simona Halep in her opening match on Monday night, Maria Sharapova returned to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday afternoon for a second round contest against Hungary's Timea Babos. After losing the first set in a tiebreak, Sharapova—who is competing in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban—rallied back to win the next two sets and the match, 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the third round at the U.S. Open.

"I definitely wanted to enjoy the quality of tennis that I played with the other night, but I also wanted to put my mind onto this one," Sharapova said after the match. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy, no matter who I was going to play today. It's always difficult to come after a match like that. My goal was just to get it done."

Sharapova kept her perfect record in first round matches at the U.S. Open by beating Halep on Monday, and she extended her second-round record to 9-1 in second round matches on Wednesday. She moves into the third round to face American Sofia Kenin, who defeated a fellow young American Sachia Vickery, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6.

• No. 5-seed Marin Cilic easily advanced to the third round late on Wednesday, beating Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in one hour in 40 minutes. Earlier in the day, No. 7-seed Grigor Dimitrov, who is coming off a title in Cincinnati earlier this month and is back in the top 10 for the first time since 2014, cruised into the second round with a straight-sets win over Vaclav Safranek. He will play again in the third round on Thursday against Andrey Rublev. You can read a candid Q&A with the Bulgarian here.

• American CiCi Bellis had a chance to serve for the match against Japan's Nao Hibino but she lost 12 of the last 15 points and lost 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the first round. Another young American, 2017 NCAA champion Brienne Minor, lost her first U.S. Open match, falling to Tunisia's Ons Jabeur 6-1, 7-5. Jabeur moves into the second round, where she'll face No. 20-seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who won the all-American first-round matchup against Alison Riske, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

For the Americans on the men's side, No. 10-seed John Isner defeated Hyeon Chung? 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, and No. 17-seed Sam Querrey beat Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the second round. 20-year-old Jared Donaldson forced a fifth set against No. 16-seed Lucas Pouille, but the Frenchman was able to win and advance in the deciding set.

• No. 14-seed Nick Kyrgios crashed out early at yet another Slam in 2017, losing to fellow countryman John Millman 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round. Unable to find the form that took him to the final in Cincinnati earlier this month, Kyrgios looked to be suffering from a shoulder injury during the match. The loss marks the end of a dismal Slam season for the Australian, who exited in the first round at Wimbledon and in the second round at both the Australian Open and the French Open. There was also this:

• No. 18-seed Gael Monfils beat fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the second round, while No. 15-seed Tomas Berdych defeated American Ryan Harrison in straight sets. 24-year-old American Bjorn Fratangelo knocked out big-serving Ivo Karlovic 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to a book a spot in the second round.

• In the first match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Evgeniya Rodina defeated Canada's Eugenie Bouchard 7-6, 6-1. 23-year-old Bouchard is still a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the USTA, after she fell on a slippery floor in a facility at the tournament in 2015.

“I’m able to concentrate on the tennis when I’m here, but, I mean, I definitely have bad memories from here two years ago,” Bouchard said after the match on Arthur Ashe—a court assignment that even she was surprised with. “I was surprised, but it’s always an amazing opportunity to play on the biggest tennis court in the world,” she said.

How to watch the U.S. Open

The 2017 U.S. Open will be broadcast daily on ESPN. Tennis Channel will have a pre-match show starting at 8 a.m. ET each day.

View the complete U.S. Open TV schedule here.

You can live stream matches on Watch ESPN.

Pre-tournament top stories

Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova are the top two seeds in the men's and women's singles draws, respectively. Nadal is a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, while Pliskova reached the final last year. The 2017 U.S. Open will be without Serena Williams, who remains sidelined due to her pregnancy, and several top men's players—Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—are skipping the event due to injury.

51 Insider Tips for Attending the U.S. Open

Breaking Down the U.S. Open Men's and Women's Draws

SI Staff U.S. Open Preview Roundtable

How to Eat Your Way Through the 2017 U.S. Open

How Federer Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion

<p>The final Grand Slam event of the year kicks off in New York City on Monday when play begins in the U.S. Open, and there are storylines aplenty on both the men&#39;s and women&#39;s side of the draw.</p><p>Injuries are the main headline for the men, as four of the top 12 players in the world—two-time champion Novak Djokovic, last year&#39;s winner Stanislas Wawrinka, 2015 finalist Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—will not play. Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, will play but has been struggling with a hip injury since Wimbledon, while Marin Cilic, who won in 2015, is also questionable. </p><p>Rafael Nadal is the top seed, but Roger Federer is the favorite. The 36-year-old has had a remarkable 2017, having won both majors he&#39;s played in (Australian Open and Wimbledon) and sporting a 19-2 record. </p><p>On the women&#39;s side, Serena Williams will not play due to her pregnancy. Gabrine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Johanna Konta, Simona Halep and Venus Williams all have legitimate shots at the title. Muguruza is playing better tennis than anyone right now, and she enters the tournament with momentum after winning titles at Wimbledon and Cincinnati. </p><p>Here&#39;s a look at the television schedule for the 2017 U.S. Open. </p><p>DATE TIME EVENT NETWORK Aug. 28 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. First Round <a href="http://www.espn.com/watch/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN3" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN3</a> Aug. 28 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. First Round ESPN Aug. 28 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. First Round ESPN2 Aug. 29 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. First Round ESPN3 Aug. 29 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. First Round ESPN Aug. 29 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. First Round ESPN Aug. 30 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Second Round ESPN3 Aug. 30 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. Second Round ESPN2 Aug. 30 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Second Round ESPN Aug. 31 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Second Round ESPN3 Aug. 31 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. Second Round ESPN2 Aug. 31 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Second Round ESPN Sept. 1 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Third Round ESPN3 Sept. 1 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. Third Round ESPN Sept. 1 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. Third Round ESPN2 Sept. 2 11 a.m - 7 p.m. Third Round ESPN Sept. 2 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Third Round ESPN2 Sept. 3 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN2 Sept. 3 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN Sept. 4 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN2 Sept. 5 Noon - 6 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 5 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 6 Noon - 6 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 6 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 7 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Women&#39;s Semis ESPN Sept. 8 Noon - 2 p.m. Men&#39;s Doubles Final ESPN2 Sept. 8 4 p.m. - 11 p.m. Men&#39;s Semis ESPN Sept. 9 Noon - 2 p.m. Mixed Doubles Final ESPN3 Sept. 9 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Women&#39;s Final ESPN Sept. 10 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Women&#39;s Doubles Final ESPN2 Sept. 10 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Men&#39;s Final ESPN </p><p>You can live stream matches on <a href="http://www.espn.com/watch/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Watch ESPN" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Watch ESPN</a>. Be sure to follow along throughout the tournament <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:with SI.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">with SI.com</a>. </p>
Complete 2017 U.S. Open TV Schedule, Live Stream Information

The final Grand Slam event of the year kicks off in New York City on Monday when play begins in the U.S. Open, and there are storylines aplenty on both the men's and women's side of the draw.

Injuries are the main headline for the men, as four of the top 12 players in the world—two-time champion Novak Djokovic, last year's winner Stanislas Wawrinka, 2015 finalist Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic—will not play. Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, will play but has been struggling with a hip injury since Wimbledon, while Marin Cilic, who won in 2015, is also questionable.

Rafael Nadal is the top seed, but Roger Federer is the favorite. The 36-year-old has had a remarkable 2017, having won both majors he's played in (Australian Open and Wimbledon) and sporting a 19-2 record.

On the women's side, Serena Williams will not play due to her pregnancy. Gabrine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Johanna Konta, Simona Halep and Venus Williams all have legitimate shots at the title. Muguruza is playing better tennis than anyone right now, and she enters the tournament with momentum after winning titles at Wimbledon and Cincinnati.

Here's a look at the television schedule for the 2017 U.S. Open.

DATE TIME EVENT NETWORK Aug. 28 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. First Round ESPN3 Aug. 28 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. First Round ESPN Aug. 28 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. First Round ESPN2 Aug. 29 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. First Round ESPN3 Aug. 29 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. First Round ESPN Aug. 29 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. First Round ESPN Aug. 30 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Second Round ESPN3 Aug. 30 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. Second Round ESPN2 Aug. 30 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Second Round ESPN Aug. 31 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Second Round ESPN3 Aug. 31 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. Second Round ESPN2 Aug. 31 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Second Round ESPN Sept. 1 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Third Round ESPN3 Sept. 1 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. Third Round ESPN Sept. 1 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. Third Round ESPN2 Sept. 2 11 a.m - 7 p.m. Third Round ESPN Sept. 2 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Third Round ESPN2 Sept. 3 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN2 Sept. 3 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN Sept. 4 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Round of 16 ESPN2 Sept. 5 Noon - 6 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 5 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 6 Noon - 6 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 6 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Quarterfinals ESPN Sept. 7 7 p.m. - 11 p.m. Women's Semis ESPN Sept. 8 Noon - 2 p.m. Men's Doubles Final ESPN2 Sept. 8 4 p.m. - 11 p.m. Men's Semis ESPN Sept. 9 Noon - 2 p.m. Mixed Doubles Final ESPN3 Sept. 9 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Women's Final ESPN Sept. 10 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Women's Doubles Final ESPN2 Sept. 10 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Men's Final ESPN

You can live stream matches on Watch ESPN. Be sure to follow along throughout the tournament with SI.com.

<p><em>This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of </em>Sports Illustrated<em>. Subscribe to the magazine <a href="http://subscription-assets.si.com/prod/assets/themes/magazines/SUBS/templates/velocity/site/si-digitaledition/login.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</em></p><p>There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world&#39;s largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.</p><p>Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you&#39;ll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.</p><p>The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis&#39;s answer to the NBA&#39;s Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.</p><p>Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event&#39;s unapologetically profiteering ethos: &quot;Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium.&quot;</p><p>Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis&#39;s de facto CEO.</p><p>Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.</p><p>Federer began tennis&#39;s fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. &quot;Honestly, I&#39;m incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I&#39;m feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I&#39;m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis,&quot; he says. &quot;I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level.&quot;</p><p>Federer, of course, doesn&#39;t play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand&#39;s appeal. But if there&#39;s something otherworldly about Federer, there&#39;s also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.</p><h3>LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE</h3><p>In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I&#39;m willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.</p><h3>LESSON 2: DON&#39;T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER</h3><p>The rankings are tennis&#39;s equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.</p><h3>LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY</h3><p>If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There&#39;s ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared &quot;Holy War with Google.&quot; For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he&#39;s the Mustang to Nadal&#39;s Camaro, it&#39;s ultimately to his benefit. &quot;At last,&quot; says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport&#39;s most astute observers, &quot;Federer is comfortable playing Nadal.&quot; While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.</p><h3>LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE</h3><p>Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to &quot;an assassin&quot; or a &quot;cold killer&quot; or, for that matter, &quot;a tiger.&quot; Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He&#39;s played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he&#39;s generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?</p><h3>LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY</h3><p>Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn&#39;t cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, &quot;Roger has a way of bending time.&quot; Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.</p><p>When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He&#39;s the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.</p><p>Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He&#39;s spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.</p>
Roger Federer LLC: How the G.O.A.T. Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion

This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.

There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world's largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.

Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you'll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.

The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis's answer to the NBA's Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.

Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event's unapologetically profiteering ethos: "Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium."

Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis's de facto CEO.

Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.

Federer began tennis's fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. "Honestly, I'm incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I'm feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I'm managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis," he says. "I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level."

Federer, of course, doesn't play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand's appeal. But if there's something otherworldly about Federer, there's also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.

LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE

In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I'm willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.

LESSON 2: DON'T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER

The rankings are tennis's equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.

LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY

If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There's ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared "Holy War with Google." For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he's the Mustang to Nadal's Camaro, it's ultimately to his benefit. "At last," says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport's most astute observers, "Federer is comfortable playing Nadal." While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.

LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE

Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to "an assassin" or a "cold killer" or, for that matter, "a tiger." Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He's played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he's generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?

LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY

Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn't cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, "Roger has a way of bending time." Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.

When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He's the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.

Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He's spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.

<p><em>This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of </em>Sports Illustrated<em>. Subscribe to the magazine <a href="http://subscription-assets.si.com/prod/assets/themes/magazines/SUBS/templates/velocity/site/si-digitaledition/login.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</em></p><p>There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world&#39;s largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.</p><p>Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you&#39;ll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.</p><p>The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis&#39;s answer to the NBA&#39;s Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.</p><p>Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event&#39;s unapologetically profiteering ethos: &quot;Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium.&quot;</p><p>Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis&#39;s de facto CEO.</p><p>Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.</p><p>Federer began tennis&#39;s fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. &quot;Honestly, I&#39;m incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I&#39;m feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I&#39;m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis,&quot; he says. &quot;I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level.&quot;</p><p>Federer, of course, doesn&#39;t play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand&#39;s appeal. But if there&#39;s something otherworldly about Federer, there&#39;s also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.</p><h3>LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE</h3><p>In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I&#39;m willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.</p><h3>LESSON 2: DON&#39;T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER</h3><p>The rankings are tennis&#39;s equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.</p><h3>LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY</h3><p>If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There&#39;s ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared &quot;Holy War with Google.&quot; For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he&#39;s the Mustang to Nadal&#39;s Camaro, it&#39;s ultimately to his benefit. &quot;At last,&quot; says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport&#39;s most astute observers, &quot;Federer is comfortable playing Nadal.&quot; While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.</p><h3>LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE</h3><p>Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to &quot;an assassin&quot; or a &quot;cold killer&quot; or, for that matter, &quot;a tiger.&quot; Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He&#39;s played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he&#39;s generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?</p><h3>LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY</h3><p>Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn&#39;t cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, &quot;Roger has a way of bending time.&quot; Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.</p><p>When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He&#39;s the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.</p><p>Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He&#39;s spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.</p>
Roger Federer LLC: How the G.O.A.T. Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion

This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.

There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world's largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.

Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you'll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.

The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis's answer to the NBA's Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.

Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event's unapologetically profiteering ethos: "Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium."

Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis's de facto CEO.

Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.

Federer began tennis's fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. "Honestly, I'm incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I'm feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I'm managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis," he says. "I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level."

Federer, of course, doesn't play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand's appeal. But if there's something otherworldly about Federer, there's also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.

LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE

In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I'm willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.

LESSON 2: DON'T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER

The rankings are tennis's equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.

LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY

If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There's ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared "Holy War with Google." For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he's the Mustang to Nadal's Camaro, it's ultimately to his benefit. "At last," says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport's most astute observers, "Federer is comfortable playing Nadal." While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.

LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE

Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to "an assassin" or a "cold killer" or, for that matter, "a tiger." Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He's played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he's generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?

LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY

Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn't cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, "Roger has a way of bending time." Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.

When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He's the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.

Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He's spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.

<p><em>This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of </em>Sports Illustrated<em>. Subscribe to the magazine <a href="http://subscription-assets.si.com/prod/assets/themes/magazines/SUBS/templates/velocity/site/si-digitaledition/login.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</em></p><p>There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world&#39;s largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.</p><p>Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you&#39;ll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.</p><p>The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis&#39;s answer to the NBA&#39;s Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.</p><p>Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event&#39;s unapologetically profiteering ethos: &quot;Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium.&quot;</p><p>Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis&#39;s de facto CEO.</p><p>Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.</p><p>Federer began tennis&#39;s fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. &quot;Honestly, I&#39;m incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I&#39;m feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I&#39;m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis,&quot; he says. &quot;I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level.&quot;</p><p>Federer, of course, doesn&#39;t play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand&#39;s appeal. But if there&#39;s something otherworldly about Federer, there&#39;s also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.</p><h3>LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE</h3><p>In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I&#39;m willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.</p><h3>LESSON 2: DON&#39;T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER</h3><p>The rankings are tennis&#39;s equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.</p><h3>LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY</h3><p>If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There&#39;s ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared &quot;Holy War with Google.&quot; For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he&#39;s the Mustang to Nadal&#39;s Camaro, it&#39;s ultimately to his benefit. &quot;At last,&quot; says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport&#39;s most astute observers, &quot;Federer is comfortable playing Nadal.&quot; While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.</p><h3>LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE</h3><p>Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to &quot;an assassin&quot; or a &quot;cold killer&quot; or, for that matter, &quot;a tiger.&quot; Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He&#39;s played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he&#39;s generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?</p><h3>LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY</h3><p>Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn&#39;t cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, &quot;Roger has a way of bending time.&quot; Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.</p><p>When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He&#39;s the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.</p><p>Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He&#39;s spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.</p>
Roger Federer LLC: How the G.O.A.T. Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion

This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.

There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world's largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.

Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you'll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.

The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis's answer to the NBA's Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.

Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event's unapologetically profiteering ethos: "Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium."

Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis's de facto CEO.

Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.

Federer began tennis's fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. "Honestly, I'm incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I'm feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I'm managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis," he says. "I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level."

Federer, of course, doesn't play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand's appeal. But if there's something otherworldly about Federer, there's also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.

LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE

In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I'm willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.

LESSON 2: DON'T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER

The rankings are tennis's equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.

LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY

If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There's ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared "Holy War with Google." For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he's the Mustang to Nadal's Camaro, it's ultimately to his benefit. "At last," says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport's most astute observers, "Federer is comfortable playing Nadal." While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.

LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE

Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to "an assassin" or a "cold killer" or, for that matter, "a tiger." Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He's played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he's generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?

LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY

Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn't cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, "Roger has a way of bending time." Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.

When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He's the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.

Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He's spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.

<p><em>This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of </em>Sports Illustrated<em>. Subscribe to the magazine <a href="http://subscription-assets.si.com/prod/assets/themes/magazines/SUBS/templates/velocity/site/si-digitaledition/login.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>.</em></p><p>There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world&#39;s largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.</p><p>Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you&#39;ll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.</p><p>The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis&#39;s answer to the NBA&#39;s Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.</p><p>Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event&#39;s unapologetically profiteering ethos: &quot;Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium.&quot;</p><p>Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis&#39;s de facto CEO.</p><p>Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.</p><p>Federer began tennis&#39;s fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. &quot;Honestly, I&#39;m incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I&#39;m feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I&#39;m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis,&quot; he says. &quot;I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level.&quot;</p><p>Federer, of course, doesn&#39;t play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand&#39;s appeal. But if there&#39;s something otherworldly about Federer, there&#39;s also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.</p><h3>LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE</h3><p>In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I&#39;m willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.</p><h3>LESSON 2: DON&#39;T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER</h3><p>The rankings are tennis&#39;s equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.</p><h3>LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY</h3><p>If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There&#39;s ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared &quot;Holy War with Google.&quot; For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he&#39;s the Mustang to Nadal&#39;s Camaro, it&#39;s ultimately to his benefit. &quot;At last,&quot; says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport&#39;s most astute observers, &quot;Federer is comfortable playing Nadal.&quot; While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.</p><h3>LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE</h3><p>Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to &quot;an assassin&quot; or a &quot;cold killer&quot; or, for that matter, &quot;a tiger.&quot; Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He&#39;s played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he&#39;s generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?</p><h3>LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY</h3><p>Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn&#39;t cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, &quot;Roger has a way of bending time.&quot; Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.</p><p>When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He&#39;s the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.</p><p>Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He&#39;s spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.</p>
Roger Federer LLC: How the G.O.A.T. Got to the Top of His Game, in Businesslike Fashion

This story appears in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.

There are, in fairness, some populist touches to the U.S. Open, the world's largest tennis event. The $60 grounds pass remains one of the great values in sports, entrée to watch dozens of matches for as long as 12 hours. But make no mistake: Overall, the U.S. Open is a province of the superelite, a redoubt of privilege.

Just stroll through the parking lots in Flushing Meadow and you'll catch the first unmistakable whiff of wealth. The roster of cars is a testament to the forces of globalization. Ferraris and Jaguars and Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs, parked alongside one another, like names on the draw sheet.

The aroma gets stronger inside the grounds. Bill Ackman—a hedge fund billionaire whose passion for tennis is so great that he recently installed a court on the roof of his midtown Manhattan offices—sits courtside at most sessions, tennis's answer to the NBA's Jimmy Goldstein. The luxury suites are filled with would-be masters of the universe, drinking cocktails and eating canapés in air-conditioned sanctuaries. (One prominent New York City real estate developer with a striking hairstyle and skin the color of Roland Garros clay has been an Open regular for decades.) During the fortnight, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, a private equity behemoth, has hosted dinners for star players, most notably Novak Djokovic.

Earlier this summer, a longtime ticket holder was surprised to learn that the price for his fourth-row tickets was being jacked up, from $17,560 to $23,960, a 36% increase from the previous year. He made the purchase anyway, but complained to his USTA sales rep. The one-sentence response he received was the perfect embodiment of the event's unapologetically profiteering ethos: "Pricing [was adjusted] to reflect the true market demand for every row and seat in the stadium."

Yet, all these Captains of Industry and denizens of Hedge Fund Nation could all learn some management tips from tennis's de facto CEO.

Roger Federer might come to New York City this week as a 36-year-old devoted husband and father of four, with a temperamental back. But make no mistake: This is no legacy brand playing for nostalgia. Federer LLC remains the bluest of blue chips, a robust enterprise that spits out profits, beats expectations and pleases its investors.

Federer began tennis's fiscal year by winning the Australian Open, outperforming his rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. He then won big-ticket events in Indian Wells and Miami, taking down Nadal again en route to both titles. In July, Federer won Wimbledon—for a record eighth time—without dropping a set. He now seeks another quarter of growth in New York City. A sixth U.S. Open title would give him an even 20 majors over his unrivaled career and seal this as a golden season, even by his standards. "Honestly, I'm incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I'm feeling, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I'm managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis," he says. "I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level."

Federer, of course, doesn't play tennis as much as perform it. His lavish skills and artistic impulses and fetching shotmaking are all part of the brand's appeal. But if there's something otherworldly about Federer, there's also something pragmatic and rational. (He is, after all, Swiss.) At his core, Federer is a utilitarian who makes decisions to maximize output and efficiency. He treats his career like the business venture that it is. As the suits in the suites sit open-mouthed watching Federer, they can also find plenty of lessons to apply to their day jobs.

LESSON 1: CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT OBSOLESCENCE IS WORSE

In tennis, as with investment funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Before this season, Federer had gone 17 majors without a title. But he continued innovating and making personnel changes. He switched to a larger racket. He released and hired coaches. He tinkered with his playing patterns. Most notably, he forced himself to fight risk aversion and blast through his one-handed backhand. Even before he reaped the fruits of his expansive mind, the message he sent to the rest of the field—my vaulting ambition is such that I'm willing to change the way I do business to remain competitive—was powerful.

LESSON 2: DON'T LIVE QUARTER-TO-QUARTER

The rankings are tennis's equivalent of a stock price. While some players are concerned with every fluctuation—and the effect of upticks and slides—Federer plays the long game, willing to endure setbacks to peak at the right times. After winning the Miami Open in early April, he promptly sat out the clay season, wary of the price it was likely to exact on his body. The decision cost him the No. 1 ranking, but it was validated at Wimbledon, where he was conspicuously fresh and rested. Likewise, earlier this month, Federer chose not to play through back pain and defend his Cincinnati title. Withdrawing meant giving up ranking points and prize money and adjusting his schedule. No matter. Armed with a clear mission—winning the U.S. Open—he sacrificed short-term for long-term.

LESSON 3: EMBRACE RIVALRY

If competition brings out the best in us, what does rivalry—a sort of turbo-competition—do? There are all sorts of social science data that bear out its benefits. Runners have faster times when racing against a rival, to give just one example. There's ample anecdotal evidence as well. When the history of Apple is written, there will inevitably be a reference to the hinge point moment when Steve Jobs declared "Holy War with Google." For years, Federer seemed to retreat from a rivalry with Nadal, intimidated by the fierce intensity on the other side of the net. Recently, Federer has realized that if he's the Mustang to Nadal's Camaro, it's ultimately to his benefit. "At last," says Mats Wilander, winner of seven majors, including the 1988 U.S. Open, and one of the sport's most astute observers, "Federer is comfortable playing Nadal." While Nadal still leads their head-to-head meetings, 23–14, Federer has taken the last four, no small factor in his resurgence.

LESSON 4: LEADERS SET THE CULTURE

Federer gives lie to the notion that top athletes must have a nasty streak. For all the metaphors bestowed on the guy, you will not hear him likened to "an assassin" or a "cold killer" or, for that matter, "a tiger." Federer generally performs with a smile on his face and an unruffled demeanor. He treats his colleagues as opponents, not enemies. He's played his entire career absent controversy, much less scandal. This affects the entire tennis culture. Note how many players today sign autographs as they leave the court, even after defeat. Note how few act cantankerously. The message is clear: If the guy at the top discharges his duties with not just professionalism but with joy, and he's generous with time and refreshingly candid, what excuse is there for a lesser player not to do the same?

LESSON 5: BALANCE IS KEY

Federer is praised for perfect weight distribution on his strokes, and he goes about his business with remarkable equilibrium too. He doesn't cut corners, but neither is he a workaholic. He never appears rushed, and he is devoted to his family. His offseason is sacrosanct, as are birthdays. (Scheduling is helped by having two sets of twins.) As 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick once put it, "Roger has a way of bending time." Much as savvy companies enforce employee vacation time, Federer knows that sometimes working less enhances productivity and helps stave off burnout.

When the U.S. Open kicks off on Monday, there will be others fighting Federer for market share. Nadal comes to Flushing Meadow as the top seed, having played splendidly all year, especially at the French Open in June. Alexander Zverev is a brash start-up, a 20-year-old German who beat Federer in the finals of the Canadian Open on Aug. 13 and is quickly gaining control over his considerable skills. Marin Cilic of Croatia reached the finals of Wimbledon last month and won the U.S. Open in 2014. He's the most recent champion in the field, as defending champ Stan Wawrinka is recovering from knee surgery, and 2015 winner Djokovic is out with a right elbow injury.

Still, we predict another strong quarter for Federer. He's spent the whole year forcing forecasters to revise their projections upward. Says here he wins again. No need to hedge.

<p>LONDON – Wrapping up two weeks of tennis at the All England Club at Wimbledon 2017, where Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza walked away with the championship trophies. </p><p><strong>• </strong>Roger Federer, almost 36, wins his eighth Wimbledon and 19th major beating a compromised Marin Cilic in the final. He won all his matches here without dropping a set and played at a level comparable to the one he displayed in his mid-twenties when he won as a matter of ritual. We&#39;ll be writing about this more for SI this week, but this performance was &quot;the will and grace&quot; brand extension. As talented and stylistic as Federer is, don&#39;t overlook his effort and work ethic. Potential is one thing. Maximizing it is another.</p><p>• Garbine Muguruza is your 2017 women&#39;s champion, beating Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 in the final. Muguruza has won two tournaments over the past 13 months: the 2016 French Open (beating Serena in the final) and 2017 Wimbledon (beating Venus Williams in the final.) The athleticism and ballstriking have never been in doubt. Can Muguruza now consolidate this? If so, the WTA has a new star with a lot of years left.</p><p><strong>• </strong>Pity Marin Cilic who played six generally immaculate matches here and then fell apart in the final. His loss to Federer may leave scar tissue—for the second year in a row. But he ought to recall this: he is younger than any of the Big Five.?</p><p><strong>• </strong>Let&#39;s get this out of the way: Venus Williams had a rough go of it in the final, failing to hold serve in each of her last four attempts. Now the good stuff: at age 37, she is a still a threat to win majors—she&#39;s already reached two finals this year alone. And her ability to win six (increasingly tough) matches here while dealing with an unpleasant off-court situation is still more testament to her professionalism and powers of compartmentalization. </p><p><strong>• </strong>It was a contrasting championships for the doubles finals this year. In the men’s final, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo beat Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 13-11 in a match that lasted 4 hours, 40 minutes—only 21 minutes shorter than the longest men&#39;s doubles final in history.</p><p>Then, at 9:30 p.m. local time under a closed Centre Court roof, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina cruised to a 55-minute, 6-0, 6-0 win over Chan Hao-ching and Monica Niculescu for the women’s title. </p><p>In the mixed doubles final on Sunday, Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis teamed up to beat Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen 6-4, 6-4 to win the title. For Hingis, her second Wimbledon mixed doubles title comes 20 years after she won her first Wimbledon singles title. For Murray, Sunday&#39;s win marked his second Wimbledon mixed doubles title, 10 years after winning his first in 2007.</p><p><strong>• </strong>Tomas Berdych can remind you of a master candle dipper at the dawn of electricity. He’s an expert craftsman who was simply born at the wrong time. After another run to the Wimbledon latter rounds, he ran into Federer and lost in three sets.</p><p>• Sam Querrey becomes the only active American male to reach the semis of a major. Last year Sam Querrey was a quarterfinalist taking out the defending champ (Novak Djokovic) in the process. This year he was a semifinalist, taking out the defending champ (Andy Murray) in the quarterfinals. Let’s see where he goes from here.</p><p>• Lots of positives for Jo Konta, who reached the semis—outlasting Andy Murray as the last Brit standing—and won an outright war against Simona Halep in the quarters, preventing the latter from inheriting the No. 1 ranking. But she simply had no answers against Venus.</p><p>• More than ever, I was struck by how much I enjoyed the women’s matches. The supremacy of the Big Four is something to behold. But so is the spectacle of two athletes locked in a <em>Who-wants-it-more?</em> combat. Equal prize money and mixed events continue to polarize—and disrupt tour boards—but tennis is a stronger product when both men and women are together. It’s a great hedge. If you come to see excellence, you’re well served. If you come for competition and battle, you’re well served, too.</p><p><strong>•</strong> ?Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain beat Axel Geller 7-6(2), 6-3 to win the boys’ singles title, and in the battle of the Americans in the girls&#39; final, California&#39;s Claire Liu defeated Pennsylvania&#39;s Ann Li 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to win the second-ever all-American girls final at Wimbledon, dating back to 1947. With the win, Liu became the first American girls&#39; singles champion at Wimbledon since Chanda Rubin in 1992. But why even talk about junior tennis, when you can simply link to <a href="http://tenniskalamazoo.blogspot.fr/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Colette Lewis" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Colette Lewis</a>?</p><p>?</p><p><strong>• </strong>Imagine you’re the crew that’s been following around Novak Djokovic for roughly a year now. You sign on thinking you’re memorializing a potential Grand Slam season. While hardly lacking in narrative tension, your project has morphed into something altogether different. After five full years of unbroken excellence, Djokovic has now gone five majors without a title—failing to reach the semis in four of them—after retiring here with an elbow injury. Writing Djokovic off is the equivalent of responding to a Nigerian email scam. Don&#39;t be fooled. He’s only 30. He’s intelligent and pragmatic. He’s surrounded himself with good people. History tells us that champions appear, disappear and re-appear. But this slump now encapsulates the physical as well as the spiritual.</p><p>• Gilles Muller won—and we emphasize “won”—the match of the tournament, <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/07/10/rafael-nadal-wimbledon-loss-gilles-muller-fourth-round" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:beating Rafael Nadal on Manic Monday" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">beating Rafael Nadal on Manic Monday</a> 15-13 in the fifth set. It was a career win for Muller who, at age 34, is the latest of late bloomers. And he played so well that Nadal could do little but shrug, say “too good,” and move on.</p><p>• Four cheers—one for each round she won—for Jelena Ostapenko. How often have we seen players win their first major and then retreat, overburdened by the heightened expectation? On the heels of her unexpected win in Paris, Ostapenko reached the second week before losing to Venus Williams. During the first week, Ostapenko wasn’t shy about voicing displeasure with her court assignments. <em>Too small a venue. A court lacking Hawk-eye</em>. “I am Grand Slam champion!” she huffed, not wrongly, to more than one official. Go ahead and call her a diva but we love it. We’ll take that confidence and self-regard over girl-next-door niceness.</p><p>• Nadal was no doubt disappointed by his campaign. After coming within a few games of winning in Australia and then clay-GOATing through the Roland Garros draw, you expected more than a fourth round showing at the next major. But his loss to Muller was, more than anything else, about an opponent playing lights-out tennis.</p><p>• After every major, we play “the frame game,” pondering how certain players perceive this event. The contestants for Wimbledon 2017, please. If you’re CoCo Vandeweghe, wich emotion prevails: pride at reaching Week Two (under new coach Pat Cash) of your second Slam of 2017? Or disappointment with your strangely-vacant effort against No. 87 Magdalena Rybarikova in the quarters? If you’re Simona Halep, are you pleased you confronted your French Open disappointment with professionalism and reached the second week of the subsequent Slam? Or are you dispirited that, with the top ranking on the line, you couldn’t out-battle Jo Konta? As the comedian might put it: tough room, tough room.</p><p>• Speaking of games, Blame The Media, has, regrettably—and I would contend, dangerously—become a popular parlor game at least in the U.S. But I come to praise, not bury. The notion that a star athlete might have been involved in an auto fatality makes for a sensational story. Yet, when the Venus Williams news broke, the tennis media showed real restraint and an admirable wait-for-the-facts-to-come-in approach. This caution was rewarded when <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/07/11/venus-williams-cleared-car-accident-video-evidence-legal-analysis" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Venus Williams was essentially cleared of any wrongdoing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Venus Williams was essentially cleared of any wrongdoing</a> in this unfortunate accident.</p><p><strong>• </strong> A lot of you asked about Bethanie Mattek-Sands who, of course, suffered a hideous injury in Week One. Full disclosure: she and her camp were kind of enough to send a video update, but we are dealing with technical difficulties. She is in rehab everyday and is hooked up to electric modalities and ice compression throughout the day to assist in the recovery process. She&#39;s optimistic that she will ultimately make a return but there is still no timeframe to talk about as it is far too early. After undergoing surgery, she has a long rehab road ahead but is trying to stay in strong spirits and is deeply appreciative of the response from the tennis world. </p><p>• Sascha Zverev may be pushing the edge of the eggshell but he has yet to claw his way out. Another major, another premature exit. This time, a five-set capitulation to Milos Raonic. Know how we always talk about tennis “never being more physical”? Here’s a prime (or not-yet-in-his prime, as it were) example. Zverev, 20, simply doesn&#39;t have the leg strength and physical base of players a decade older. His loss here recalled his Australian Open loss to Nadal in which he struggled to stand up by the fifth set. The good news: Zverev will get there. And then he’ll beat the next flavor-of-the-month in part because of his superior durability. </p><p>• This might have been our favorite press room exchange:</p><p><strong>Q.</strong> I asked Venus what advice she would give to you about your game. She said nothing, you&#39;re good already. What do you think you need to improve on, to work on?</p><p><strong>NAOMI OSAKA: </strong>Did she really say that?</p><p><strong>Q. </strong>Yes. That&#39;s exactly what she said.</p><p><strong>NAOMI OSAKA: </strong>Oh, cool.</p><p>• Speaking of Osaka, four players who didn’t survive week one but impressed nonetheless: the young Canadian Francois Abanda, Donna Vekic (who should have beaten Konta), Jared Donaldson, and, once again, CiCi Bellis, who lost to Azarenka in round one (no shame, that) but stuck around for Week Two in the doubles.</p><p>• With Angelique Kerber falling short at another tournament this year, Karolina Pliskova took over the WTA’s top ranking when Halep lost in the quarterfinals. Yes, the ranking is based on 52 weeks worth of results. But this has to be one of the most anticlimactic coronations. Pliskova, seeded third here—and first with the oddsmakers—bowed meekly in the second round. (How a player with her serve can reached the semis in Paris but lose early each Wimbledon will continue to mystify.) A week after one of her worst Slam results, she summits the rankings.</p><p>• We fear the job security of Sam Sumyk, the coach of Garbine Muguruza. Their relationship seems to trace the same uneven path of her results. (Who can forget<a href="https://en.as.com/en/2017/03/25/other_sports/1490442333_434519.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:this" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"> this</a>, still more evidence that on-court coaching makes for great YouTube clips, but undermines the credibility of the WTA product.) With Sumyk away in California as his wife, former WTA player Meilen Tu, gives birth, Muguruza had her best tournament in more than a year.</p><p>• Last year, the feel-good story came in the form of Marcus Willis, a British player whose raking was so subterranean that he had to go through <em>pre-qualifying</em> and then qualifying. He survived both, though, won a main draw round and then fell to Roger Federer on Centre Court. The feel-good story of 2017 may have been… Marcus Willis. He has since married and become a father and moved to Tennessee (long story, <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/04/26/tennis-podcast-marcus-willis-wimbledon-vero-beach" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:you can hear more from him here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">you can hear more from him here</a>), but did little in the past year in terms of results. So it was that he found himself in the qualifying draw yet again where he lost in the final round to Illya Marchenko. In doubles, however, he teamed with Jay Clarke to upset second seed and defending champs, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert and reach the third round.</p><p>• It&#39;s not quite Marcus Willis, but our Feel-Good Story Award, women’s division, goes to Magdalena Rybarikova. Injured and ranked close to No. 500 a few months ago, she is now inside the top 40, having beaten Pliskova, Vandeweghe and three other opponents to reach the semifinals. Whether it was the occasion of simply the superior opponent, she didn&#39;t mount much of a fight in the semis against Muguruza. But what a career highlight.</p><p>• Next time you see a player hold a novelty check—and hear those gauche Americans whistle when the U.S. Open emcee tells winners how many millions they’ve won—balance this by taking a gander at the parched badlands of the qualifying draw a/k/a The Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It’s remarkable how many familiar names don&#39;t make the 128-player main draw. And it’s remarkable, too, how many well-known players lose in week one of a major, and are then off chasing points elsewhere during Week Two.</p><p>• A lot of you asked and vented about those two Aussies inevitably yoked together, Bernie Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. I realize that I am in the minority but I have a hard time finding outrage. (On this point you might say I’m unmotivated and bored and disengaged and unable to commit fully.) Yes, the two players are both—albeit in different ways—squanderers of talent, a universal sport crime. But there is abundant evidence that both are damaged and emotionally fragile. Tomic is burdened by a childhood and a father who has always been (euphemism alert) overbearing. In Kyrgios’ case, his talent is undeniable; so is his uneasy relationship with it and with tennis more generally. In any field, it’s hard to be the absolute at an endeavor you don’t necessarily love to do.</p><p>• There’s naked journalistic self-interest here, but I also give Tomic and Kyrgios full points for candor. They are many things, but they are not fraudulent. Both speak openly and honestly, even when their handlers would no doubt prefer they default to cliché or at least self-edit.</p><p>Let&#39;s be clear: this is meant as contrast and not as critique; we’re illustrating difference and not making a value judgment. But the Aussies’ forthrightness and absence of filter was sure thrown into sharp relief by Novak Djokovic. Early in the tournament, John McEnroe likened Djokovic and his decline to Tiger Woods. (There was a time when all athletes would have relished a comparison to Tiger. That time is no longer.) Here’s McEnroe: <em>“</em><em>He had the issues with his wife, he seemed to go completely off the rails and has never been even close to the same player.”</em> Whoa. That’s a highly flammable statement that, predictably, fed directly into the tabloids’ maw. Djokovic was clearly not pleased. So much so that Andre Agassi confronted McEnroe during the tournament.</p><p>Yet the following day, when asked about McEnroe’s remarks and given a chance to defend his honor, here’s what Djokovic had to say:<em> “</em><em>I have heard about it today. Look, you know, John has a complete right to say—anybody, really, in the world has a right to say what they want, and I respect that right. Especially coming from John, because he&#39;s someone that has earned that right because of who he is and what he has meant to the sport and what he still, you know, is representing as a former player and still being very active on the tour. And he&#39;s very well known for his, you know, kind of bold comments and not really caring too much about being politically correct but saying whatever is on his mind. That&#39;s all I can say. I really don&#39;t take anything personal.”</em></p><p>Djokovic cannot possibly believe any of this. And the logic here—such as any logic exists—collapses on so many levels. No one questioned McEnroe’s right to free speech; it’s the searing and potentially defamatory content that’s at issue. Shouldn’t McEnroe’s role as “a former player still being active” make him more inclined, not less, toward discretion and courtesy? And you “really don’t take anything personal” when someone references “issues with his wife” and likens you to Tiger Woods? Isn’t that the very essence of a personal remark? The mind reels trying to imagine a remark that could possibly be <em>more personal</em>.</p><p>You suspect that Djokovic’s answer in no way reflected his actual feelings. You also suspect that Djokovic had the good sense to know that—especially when trying to win his first major in a year—no good was going to come from further enflaming this fire. For the folks who thrive on candor, it was a disappointing response. It’s far preferable when the Tomics and the Kyrgios of the world treat press conferences as their personal confessionals. Yet for Djokovic—a guy trying to win the tournament—it was the perfect response. A pragmatic, professional move aimed at dousing controversy. Which it did.</p><p>• Long as we’re here and talking about balancing candor with caution…. I was surprised about how many of you wrote in about John McEnroe, his regrettable Tiger Woods/Djokovic comparison, and the continued fallout over his (correct in fact; deaf in tone) remarks about Serena Williams. Upon further review, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Precise and tactical as McEnroe’s game may have been, he employs the opposite tack away from tennis, spraying haphazardly, shooting first and taking questions later. (I just listened to this <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuIklBfJeBs" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:podcast" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">podcast</a> on which he casually discusses Nadal in flattering terms, but then, unaccountably, adds that Nadal is “so OCD, touching every part of his body every point would drive anyone crazy.”)</p><p>McEnroe is also a man who—and this is not a knock—desperately wants to remain relevant, to be “constantly talking and constantly talked about” <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/09/biggest-threat-to-the-west-australian-journalist-demolishes-trump-after-g20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:to borrow a phrase" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">to borrow a phrase</a>. And he largely succeeds. Even as he closes in on age 60, McEnroe remains complex and polarizing and captivating and, yes, flawed. He also remains a seeker, someone who nourishes his curiosities. And I think there’s a certain integrity to that. McEnroe could lead an anesthetized life. He could retire to the Hamptons. He could mute his public profile. Instead he’s chosen to remain vital and outspoken. If that means stepping in it every now and then, so be it.</p><p>• Back to Tomic, lost in the chatter of lack of effort…what do we make of his admission that he called a mid-match injury timeout for no reason in particular? We’ve talked a lot about the cheating epidemic that infects junior tennis. (I was speaking to Martin Blackman, head of USTA Player development, the other day about this and suffice it to say that cheating—and parents who encourage it—is an issue that echoes with the highest levels of the USTA pyramid.) Anyway, a friend of mine raised this point and I think it’s a good one: When you see a top pro like Tomic flout the rules—at Wimbledon, on a court ringed by spectators and cameras, with a full complement of officials nearby—what hope is there for sportsmanship and honesty to prevail on the back court of a junior event?</p><p>• After his quarterfinal defeat, top-seeded (in the men’s draw, that is) Andy Murray got plenty of plaudits for <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/07/12/andy-murray-reporter-response-women-tennis-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:correcting a reporter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">correcting a reporter</a> who claimed that Querrey became the first American semifinalist since 2009. Good for Murray for his sensibilities (and attentiveness to a journalist’s question). But—hard as it is to argue against precision and sensitivity of casual sexism—I would push back ever so gently here. When McEnroe claimed that Serena Williams wouldn’t beat the 700th-ranked man, the objection went like this: “It’s irrelevant. Men and women don&#39;t compete against each other and never will, so why even bring that up? We need to consider men and women’s tennis as separate and distinct endeavors.” Does the logic of that erode when suddenly every tennis statement must be specified for gender?</p><p>• As part of a sponsor promotion with (obligatory product mention goes here) Tempur-pedic mattresses, Serena Williams to spoke to SI for a few moments during the tournament. One snippet:</p><p><strong>Q: What have you learned about yourself during pregnancy?</strong></p><p><strong>Serena Williams:</strong> “Honestly I think tennis has prepared me for this. I know that sounds really weird but it’s been all mental for me—a supermental experience—and my tennis game is mental. I feel like I’ve been pretty strong throughout this whole process.”</p><p>• Continuing with a maternity theme: Nice to see Kim Clijsters—a week from her Hall of Fame enshrinement—working the commentary booth for the BBC. And nice to see her take her duties seriously, at one point accusing Victoria Azarenka of benefiting from <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tennis-wimbledon-showcase-azarenka-co-idUSKBN19S2V4" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:illegal coaching" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">illegal coaching</a>. One irony: Clijsters did her best work after becoming mother. Azarenka was playing—and playing encouragingly well—her first event back after maternity leave.</p><p>• If his daughter’s tennis career doesn&#39;t work out, Caroline Garcia’s father has a second career as a <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/10/caroline-garcia-denies-father-broke-rules-signalling-match-johanna/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:third base coach" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">third base coach</a>. Here’s the deal with illegal coaching from the stands a) inevitably, cameras will pick it up and you will be exposed. b) consider the message the opponent receives knowing your player must rely on others to solve problems c) on the other hand, do it long enough and rather than confront you, cravenly administrators will capitulate and <a href="http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2017/07/us-open-to-try-serve-clothing-warmup-clocks-in-qualifying/67427/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:adjust the rules" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">adjust the rules</a>.</p><p>• Tennis generations are not unlike consumer products. You have the classics that are durable and keep their value and consumers’ brand loyalty. You have new and exciting models to roll off the assembly line. And you have some less successful innovations. You’re forgiven if you think the ATP regards its middle generation much as Samsung does the Galaxy S7. Inside the ATP’s sponsor tent, the walls were plastered with images of the Big Four and the Next Gen… with virtually no reference to players ages 22-29.</p><p>• A few of you noted the A-to-Z mixed doubles team of Victoria Azarenka and Nenad Zimonjic. Their origin story: they met at the Wimbledon daycare where both had dropped off their spawn.</p><p>• Upset of the tournament: results from the ATP and WTA board votes on the players’ side. Without getting too inside baseball, it will be interesting to see where Roger Rasheed and Gary Brody—the two new elected officers—line up on tennis’ equivalent of the health care bill.</p><p>?</p><p>• Honk if you are a player and you are NOT being trailed by a camera crew for a documentary project. Victoria Azarenka is the latest.</p><p>• As is always the case this time of year, for many players the U.S. Open represents the last chance to salvage what’s been a disappointing season up until now. Consider Madison Keys a member of this tribe. After cracking the top ten last year and making the Singapore year-end championships field, Keys was beset by a wrist injury. She returned in Indian Wells, but lost early in Paris and then underwent another round of surgery in June. Here, she won a match and then lost to streaky Camila Giorgi. Keys is only 22. She hits titanic balls. She is surrounded by a first-rate team. But suffice it to say that at the start of the year, she didn’t envision that she’d enter late July with a match record of 5-6.</p><p>• Rough event for Leander Paes. Less than a week before the event, he was dumped by Martina Hingis who decided to go to prom with Jamie Murray instead. Then, teamed with Adil Shamasdin of Canada, Paes lost in the first round 10-8 in the fifth set. He entered the mixed event with a shotgun partner, Yifan Xu. They lost in the first round, but not before Paes was conked in the back of the head with a serve.</p><p>• Reason No. 6,392 why tennis data is often problematic. (Note the attempt at meta: the 6,392 itself is bad data.) Through the first week we kept hearing that Gilles Muller was the tournament ace leader. Good for him. Except that it told us very little, neglecting to mention that this was a raw number not normed for games played. In his second round match, Muller beat Lukas Rosol 9-7 in the fifth set, a match that entailed 60 games. No one is denying Muller comes armed with a lethal serve. But when you play twice as many games as others, it distorts the numbers. Aces-per-service-points-won would, of course, be a better barometer.</p><p>Speaking of stats, you guys know that “aces” are included a player’s “winners” tally? Clearly not everyone knows this because you often hear broadcasters say something to the effect, “He had 10 aces to go along with 25 winners.” What they really mean is, “He had 25 winners, which <em>included</em> ten aces.” Think about someone like John Isner. In his second round, match he posted 100 winners; but that included 45 aces. Dudi Sela, the opponent, had 64 winners but only five of them were aces. Translation: Sela actually had more winners from the net and baseline. And, not surprisingly when framed that way, Sela won the match.</p><p>• The International Tennis Hall of Fame has been delicate in the presentation and the p.r. But the message has been received that the admission standards ought to be elevated. Players will automatically be eligible if they have won three majors and held the No. 1 ranking for 15 weeks. This doesn&#39;t preclude other players from being nominated. But this sends a message about the level of credentials we ought to be considering from now on. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, as a decade, the 2020s could be an interesting one in terms of enshrinement. The Big Four are laughably obvious candidates. Wawrinka gets in easily, I’d predict. The Bryans as well. But that could still leave several years without real candidates, at least on the men’s side.</p><p>• Genie Bouchard has lost in the first round of eight of the ten events she’s played since Australia. You have to wonder whether the pressure of her lawsuit against the USTA is a factor here. You’re trying to build a case—literally—that you are a better player than your rankings suggests. That’s an awfully big burden to bear each time you take the court.</p><p>• We all know how tennis—<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Inner-Game-Tennis-Classic-Performance/dp/0679778314/ref=la_B000APB9KK_1_1?s=books&#38;ie=UTF8&#38;qid=1500137701&#38;sr=1-1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:specifically Timothy Gallwey’s book" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">specifically Timothy Gallwey’s book</a>—influenced the Golden State Warriors dynasty. Who knew about the role tennis played in the <a href="http://www.patriots.com/video/2016/12/21/nfl-films-presents-robert-kraft-and-boston-lobsters" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hegemony of the New England Patriots" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">hegemony of the New England Patriots</a>?</p><p>• We’ve written before about <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2014/01/10/camila-giorgi" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Camila Giorgi’s" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Camila Giorgi’s</a> um (to the euphemism-mobile!) idiosyncratic team. We got a glimpse here. In Giorgi’s matches against both Keys and Ostapenko, her father was observed coughing when the opponent served. Said Ostapenko: “[I was] a little bit [shocked], yes, because I think it was from her dad actually, or her box. I mean, the people who are in her team, they&#39;re probably very close to tennis. They probably have to understand how to behave during the points or before the serve.…It was just before my serve, after first serve and before second serve. That was pretty disappointing, yeah.”</p><p>• Credit the great Martina Navratilova for calling this to our attention. But of the 128 players in the women’s draw, nearly half—60 of 128—are from originally Slavic countries. (That counts the transplants such as Wozniacki and Kerber. But still…)</p><p>• Reason No. 6,393 why Wimbledon is such a super-fantastic event. At so many events, the fans are gouged on concessions, paying $15 for water-beer and $7.50 for a pretzel. At Wimbledon the club subsidizes the food. The signature dish, <a href="https://www.si.com/tennis/2017/07/12/wimbledon-food-strawberries-and-cream-snack" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the strawberries and cream" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the strawberries and cream</a>, are priced at £2.50—and has been for the last eight years.</p><p>• One of the ironies of working TV at these events: you actually catch very little of the television coverage. Crowd sourcing you guys: Mardy Fish was a welcome addition to the ESPN team. (And it was heartening to see him back in the public view.) Mary Pierce does excellent work for Eurosport. Boris Becker rates high on the unintentional comedy scale. (“Muguruza is from Venezuela slash Spain. And now she doesn’t want to become a slash potato.”) Per my friend, Jeff: ESPN’s Howard Bryant—teller of truth, enemy of fluff—needs some sort of on-air role. Without specifying the offending broadcaster, we submit that no good had ever come from a male asking, “Am I right, ladies?”</p><p>• Pet peeve: why in the world would Wimbledon allow its own feed to show fans asleep in the stands? Message: “The entertainment value is so low and the product is so stultifying boring, even people who pay for tickets can&#39;t stay awake!”</p><p>• Good soldiering: who wants to go to <a href="http://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/services_and_amenities/sports/tennis/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:tennis camp" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">tennis camp</a> in Hawaii next month?</p><p>• The Tennis Channel clip art: your comments, compliments and criticisms are read and considered. Yes, Lindsay Davenport is the best. Yes, we have a lot of fun and really do like each other in spite of on-air digs and Paul Annacone’s questionable prognostication skills. Yes, the network will be back throughout the summer and have a well-publicized presence at the U.S. Open. </p><p>And if you have enjoyed the SI.com Wimbledon coverage you owe a robust thanks to our extraordinary producer, Jamie Lisanti.</p><p>ALWAYS FUN GEEKING OUT ON TENNIS WITH YOU GUYS. ENJOYED YOUR TEXTS, TWEETS AND EMAIL. WE’LL DO IT AGAIN IN NEW YORK….</p>
50 parting thoughts from Wimbledon 2017

LONDON – Wrapping up two weeks of tennis at the All England Club at Wimbledon 2017, where Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza walked away with the championship trophies.

Roger Federer, almost 36, wins his eighth Wimbledon and 19th major beating a compromised Marin Cilic in the final. He won all his matches here without dropping a set and played at a level comparable to the one he displayed in his mid-twenties when he won as a matter of ritual. We'll be writing about this more for SI this week, but this performance was "the will and grace" brand extension. As talented and stylistic as Federer is, don't overlook his effort and work ethic. Potential is one thing. Maximizing it is another.

• Garbine Muguruza is your 2017 women's champion, beating Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0 in the final. Muguruza has won two tournaments over the past 13 months: the 2016 French Open (beating Serena in the final) and 2017 Wimbledon (beating Venus Williams in the final.) The athleticism and ballstriking have never been in doubt. Can Muguruza now consolidate this? If so, the WTA has a new star with a lot of years left.

Pity Marin Cilic who played six generally immaculate matches here and then fell apart in the final. His loss to Federer may leave scar tissue—for the second year in a row. But he ought to recall this: he is younger than any of the Big Five.?

Let's get this out of the way: Venus Williams had a rough go of it in the final, failing to hold serve in each of her last four attempts. Now the good stuff: at age 37, she is a still a threat to win majors—she's already reached two finals this year alone. And her ability to win six (increasingly tough) matches here while dealing with an unpleasant off-court situation is still more testament to her professionalism and powers of compartmentalization.

It was a contrasting championships for the doubles finals this year. In the men’s final, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo beat Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 13-11 in a match that lasted 4 hours, 40 minutes—only 21 minutes shorter than the longest men's doubles final in history.

Then, at 9:30 p.m. local time under a closed Centre Court roof, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina cruised to a 55-minute, 6-0, 6-0 win over Chan Hao-ching and Monica Niculescu for the women’s title.

In the mixed doubles final on Sunday, Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis teamed up to beat Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen 6-4, 6-4 to win the title. For Hingis, her second Wimbledon mixed doubles title comes 20 years after she won her first Wimbledon singles title. For Murray, Sunday's win marked his second Wimbledon mixed doubles title, 10 years after winning his first in 2007.

Tomas Berdych can remind you of a master candle dipper at the dawn of electricity. He’s an expert craftsman who was simply born at the wrong time. After another run to the Wimbledon latter rounds, he ran into Federer and lost in three sets.

• Sam Querrey becomes the only active American male to reach the semis of a major. Last year Sam Querrey was a quarterfinalist taking out the defending champ (Novak Djokovic) in the process. This year he was a semifinalist, taking out the defending champ (Andy Murray) in the quarterfinals. Let’s see where he goes from here.

• Lots of positives for Jo Konta, who reached the semis—outlasting Andy Murray as the last Brit standing—and won an outright war against Simona Halep in the quarters, preventing the latter from inheriting the No. 1 ranking. But she simply had no answers against Venus.

• More than ever, I was struck by how much I enjoyed the women’s matches. The supremacy of the Big Four is something to behold. But so is the spectacle of two athletes locked in a Who-wants-it-more? combat. Equal prize money and mixed events continue to polarize—and disrupt tour boards—but tennis is a stronger product when both men and women are together. It’s a great hedge. If you come to see excellence, you’re well served. If you come for competition and battle, you’re well served, too.

?Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain beat Axel Geller 7-6(2), 6-3 to win the boys’ singles title, and in the battle of the Americans in the girls' final, California's Claire Liu defeated Pennsylvania's Ann Li 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to win the second-ever all-American girls final at Wimbledon, dating back to 1947. With the win, Liu became the first American girls' singles champion at Wimbledon since Chanda Rubin in 1992. But why even talk about junior tennis, when you can simply link to Colette Lewis?

?

Imagine you’re the crew that’s been following around Novak Djokovic for roughly a year now. You sign on thinking you’re memorializing a potential Grand Slam season. While hardly lacking in narrative tension, your project has morphed into something altogether different. After five full years of unbroken excellence, Djokovic has now gone five majors without a title—failing to reach the semis in four of them—after retiring here with an elbow injury. Writing Djokovic off is the equivalent of responding to a Nigerian email scam. Don't be fooled. He’s only 30. He’s intelligent and pragmatic. He’s surrounded himself with good people. History tells us that champions appear, disappear and re-appear. But this slump now encapsulates the physical as well as the spiritual.

• Gilles Muller won—and we emphasize “won”—the match of the tournament, beating Rafael Nadal on Manic Monday 15-13 in the fifth set. It was a career win for Muller who, at age 34, is the latest of late bloomers. And he played so well that Nadal could do little but shrug, say “too good,” and move on.

• Four cheers—one for each round she won—for Jelena Ostapenko. How often have we seen players win their first major and then retreat, overburdened by the heightened expectation? On the heels of her unexpected win in Paris, Ostapenko reached the second week before losing to Venus Williams. During the first week, Ostapenko wasn’t shy about voicing displeasure with her court assignments. Too small a venue. A court lacking Hawk-eye. “I am Grand Slam champion!” she huffed, not wrongly, to more than one official. Go ahead and call her a diva but we love it. We’ll take that confidence and self-regard over girl-next-door niceness.

• Nadal was no doubt disappointed by his campaign. After coming within a few games of winning in Australia and then clay-GOATing through the Roland Garros draw, you expected more than a fourth round showing at the next major. But his loss to Muller was, more than anything else, about an opponent playing lights-out tennis.

• After every major, we play “the frame game,” pondering how certain players perceive this event. The contestants for Wimbledon 2017, please. If you’re CoCo Vandeweghe, wich emotion prevails: pride at reaching Week Two (under new coach Pat Cash) of your second Slam of 2017? Or disappointment with your strangely-vacant effort against No. 87 Magdalena Rybarikova in the quarters? If you’re Simona Halep, are you pleased you confronted your French Open disappointment with professionalism and reached the second week of the subsequent Slam? Or are you dispirited that, with the top ranking on the line, you couldn’t out-battle Jo Konta? As the comedian might put it: tough room, tough room.

• Speaking of games, Blame The Media, has, regrettably—and I would contend, dangerously—become a popular parlor game at least in the U.S. But I come to praise, not bury. The notion that a star athlete might have been involved in an auto fatality makes for a sensational story. Yet, when the Venus Williams news broke, the tennis media showed real restraint and an admirable wait-for-the-facts-to-come-in approach. This caution was rewarded when Venus Williams was essentially cleared of any wrongdoing in this unfortunate accident.

A lot of you asked about Bethanie Mattek-Sands who, of course, suffered a hideous injury in Week One. Full disclosure: she and her camp were kind of enough to send a video update, but we are dealing with technical difficulties. She is in rehab everyday and is hooked up to electric modalities and ice compression throughout the day to assist in the recovery process. She's optimistic that she will ultimately make a return but there is still no timeframe to talk about as it is far too early. After undergoing surgery, she has a long rehab road ahead but is trying to stay in strong spirits and is deeply appreciative of the response from the tennis world.

• Sascha Zverev may be pushing the edge of the eggshell but he has yet to claw his way out. Another major, another premature exit. This time, a five-set capitulation to Milos Raonic. Know how we always talk about tennis “never being more physical”? Here’s a prime (or not-yet-in-his prime, as it were) example. Zverev, 20, simply doesn't have the leg strength and physical base of players a decade older. His loss here recalled his Australian Open loss to Nadal in which he struggled to stand up by the fifth set. The good news: Zverev will get there. And then he’ll beat the next flavor-of-the-month in part because of his superior durability.

• This might have been our favorite press room exchange:

Q. I asked Venus what advice she would give to you about your game. She said nothing, you're good already. What do you think you need to improve on, to work on?

NAOMI OSAKA: Did she really say that?

Q. Yes. That's exactly what she said.

NAOMI OSAKA: Oh, cool.

• Speaking of Osaka, four players who didn’t survive week one but impressed nonetheless: the young Canadian Francois Abanda, Donna Vekic (who should have beaten Konta), Jared Donaldson, and, once again, CiCi Bellis, who lost to Azarenka in round one (no shame, that) but stuck around for Week Two in the doubles.

• With Angelique Kerber falling short at another tournament this year, Karolina Pliskova took over the WTA’s top ranking when Halep lost in the quarterfinals. Yes, the ranking is based on 52 weeks worth of results. But this has to be one of the most anticlimactic coronations. Pliskova, seeded third here—and first with the oddsmakers—bowed meekly in the second round. (How a player with her serve can reached the semis in Paris but lose early each Wimbledon will continue to mystify.) A week after one of her worst Slam results, she summits the rankings.

• We fear the job security of Sam Sumyk, the coach of Garbine Muguruza. Their relationship seems to trace the same uneven path of her results. (Who can forget this, still more evidence that on-court coaching makes for great YouTube clips, but undermines the credibility of the WTA product.) With Sumyk away in California as his wife, former WTA player Meilen Tu, gives birth, Muguruza had her best tournament in more than a year.

• Last year, the feel-good story came in the form of Marcus Willis, a British player whose raking was so subterranean that he had to go through pre-qualifying and then qualifying. He survived both, though, won a main draw round and then fell to Roger Federer on Centre Court. The feel-good story of 2017 may have been… Marcus Willis. He has since married and become a father and moved to Tennessee (long story, you can hear more from him here), but did little in the past year in terms of results. So it was that he found himself in the qualifying draw yet again where he lost in the final round to Illya Marchenko. In doubles, however, he teamed with Jay Clarke to upset second seed and defending champs, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert and reach the third round.

• It's not quite Marcus Willis, but our Feel-Good Story Award, women’s division, goes to Magdalena Rybarikova. Injured and ranked close to No. 500 a few months ago, she is now inside the top 40, having beaten Pliskova, Vandeweghe and three other opponents to reach the semifinals. Whether it was the occasion of simply the superior opponent, she didn't mount much of a fight in the semis against Muguruza. But what a career highlight.

• Next time you see a player hold a novelty check—and hear those gauche Americans whistle when the U.S. Open emcee tells winners how many millions they’ve won—balance this by taking a gander at the parched badlands of the qualifying draw a/k/a The Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It’s remarkable how many familiar names don't make the 128-player main draw. And it’s remarkable, too, how many well-known players lose in week one of a major, and are then off chasing points elsewhere during Week Two.

• A lot of you asked and vented about those two Aussies inevitably yoked together, Bernie Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. I realize that I am in the minority but I have a hard time finding outrage. (On this point you might say I’m unmotivated and bored and disengaged and unable to commit fully.) Yes, the two players are both—albeit in different ways—squanderers of talent, a universal sport crime. But there is abundant evidence that both are damaged and emotionally fragile. Tomic is burdened by a childhood and a father who has always been (euphemism alert) overbearing. In Kyrgios’ case, his talent is undeniable; so is his uneasy relationship with it and with tennis more generally. In any field, it’s hard to be the absolute at an endeavor you don’t necessarily love to do.

• There’s naked journalistic self-interest here, but I also give Tomic and Kyrgios full points for candor. They are many things, but they are not fraudulent. Both speak openly and honestly, even when their handlers would no doubt prefer they default to cliché or at least self-edit.

Let's be clear: this is meant as contrast and not as critique; we’re illustrating difference and not making a value judgment. But the Aussies’ forthrightness and absence of filter was sure thrown into sharp relief by Novak Djokovic. Early in the tournament, John McEnroe likened Djokovic and his decline to Tiger Woods. (There was a time when all athletes would have relished a comparison to Tiger. That time is no longer.) Here’s McEnroe: He had the issues with his wife, he seemed to go completely off the rails and has never been even close to the same player.” Whoa. That’s a highly flammable statement that, predictably, fed directly into the tabloids’ maw. Djokovic was clearly not pleased. So much so that Andre Agassi confronted McEnroe during the tournament.

Yet the following day, when asked about McEnroe’s remarks and given a chance to defend his honor, here’s what Djokovic had to say:I have heard about it today. Look, you know, John has a complete right to say—anybody, really, in the world has a right to say what they want, and I respect that right. Especially coming from John, because he's someone that has earned that right because of who he is and what he has meant to the sport and what he still, you know, is representing as a former player and still being very active on the tour. And he's very well known for his, you know, kind of bold comments and not really caring too much about being politically correct but saying whatever is on his mind. That's all I can say. I really don't take anything personal.”

Djokovic cannot possibly believe any of this. And the logic here—such as any logic exists—collapses on so many levels. No one questioned McEnroe’s right to free speech; it’s the searing and potentially defamatory content that’s at issue. Shouldn’t McEnroe’s role as “a former player still being active” make him more inclined, not less, toward discretion and courtesy? And you “really don’t take anything personal” when someone references “issues with his wife” and likens you to Tiger Woods? Isn’t that the very essence of a personal remark? The mind reels trying to imagine a remark that could possibly be more personal.

You suspect that Djokovic’s answer in no way reflected his actual feelings. You also suspect that Djokovic had the good sense to know that—especially when trying to win his first major in a year—no good was going to come from further enflaming this fire. For the folks who thrive on candor, it was a disappointing response. It’s far preferable when the Tomics and the Kyrgios of the world treat press conferences as their personal confessionals. Yet for Djokovic—a guy trying to win the tournament—it was the perfect response. A pragmatic, professional move aimed at dousing controversy. Which it did.

• Long as we’re here and talking about balancing candor with caution…. I was surprised about how many of you wrote in about John McEnroe, his regrettable Tiger Woods/Djokovic comparison, and the continued fallout over his (correct in fact; deaf in tone) remarks about Serena Williams. Upon further review, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Precise and tactical as McEnroe’s game may have been, he employs the opposite tack away from tennis, spraying haphazardly, shooting first and taking questions later. (I just listened to this podcast on which he casually discusses Nadal in flattering terms, but then, unaccountably, adds that Nadal is “so OCD, touching every part of his body every point would drive anyone crazy.”)

McEnroe is also a man who—and this is not a knock—desperately wants to remain relevant, to be “constantly talking and constantly talked about” to borrow a phrase. And he largely succeeds. Even as he closes in on age 60, McEnroe remains complex and polarizing and captivating and, yes, flawed. He also remains a seeker, someone who nourishes his curiosities. And I think there’s a certain integrity to that. McEnroe could lead an anesthetized life. He could retire to the Hamptons. He could mute his public profile. Instead he’s chosen to remain vital and outspoken. If that means stepping in it every now and then, so be it.

• Back to Tomic, lost in the chatter of lack of effort…what do we make of his admission that he called a mid-match injury timeout for no reason in particular? We’ve talked a lot about the cheating epidemic that infects junior tennis. (I was speaking to Martin Blackman, head of USTA Player development, the other day about this and suffice it to say that cheating—and parents who encourage it—is an issue that echoes with the highest levels of the USTA pyramid.) Anyway, a friend of mine raised this point and I think it’s a good one: When you see a top pro like Tomic flout the rules—at Wimbledon, on a court ringed by spectators and cameras, with a full complement of officials nearby—what hope is there for sportsmanship and honesty to prevail on the back court of a junior event?

• After his quarterfinal defeat, top-seeded (in the men’s draw, that is) Andy Murray got plenty of plaudits for correcting a reporter who claimed that Querrey became the first American semifinalist since 2009. Good for Murray for his sensibilities (and attentiveness to a journalist’s question). But—hard as it is to argue against precision and sensitivity of casual sexism—I would push back ever so gently here. When McEnroe claimed that Serena Williams wouldn’t beat the 700th-ranked man, the objection went like this: “It’s irrelevant. Men and women don't compete against each other and never will, so why even bring that up? We need to consider men and women’s tennis as separate and distinct endeavors.” Does the logic of that erode when suddenly every tennis statement must be specified for gender?

• As part of a sponsor promotion with (obligatory product mention goes here) Tempur-pedic mattresses, Serena Williams to spoke to SI for a few moments during the tournament. One snippet:

Q: What have you learned about yourself during pregnancy?

Serena Williams: “Honestly I think tennis has prepared me for this. I know that sounds really weird but it’s been all mental for me—a supermental experience—and my tennis game is mental. I feel like I’ve been pretty strong throughout this whole process.”

• Continuing with a maternity theme: Nice to see Kim Clijsters—a week from her Hall of Fame enshrinement—working the commentary booth for the BBC. And nice to see her take her duties seriously, at one point accusing Victoria Azarenka of benefiting from illegal coaching. One irony: Clijsters did her best work after becoming mother. Azarenka was playing—and playing encouragingly well—her first event back after maternity leave.

• If his daughter’s tennis career doesn't work out, Caroline Garcia’s father has a second career as a third base coach. Here’s the deal with illegal coaching from the stands a) inevitably, cameras will pick it up and you will be exposed. b) consider the message the opponent receives knowing your player must rely on others to solve problems c) on the other hand, do it long enough and rather than confront you, cravenly administrators will capitulate and adjust the rules.

• Tennis generations are not unlike consumer products. You have the classics that are durable and keep their value and consumers’ brand loyalty. You have new and exciting models to roll off the assembly line. And you have some less successful innovations. You’re forgiven if you think the ATP regards its middle generation much as Samsung does the Galaxy S7. Inside the ATP’s sponsor tent, the walls were plastered with images of the Big Four and the Next Gen… with virtually no reference to players ages 22-29.

• A few of you noted the A-to-Z mixed doubles team of Victoria Azarenka and Nenad Zimonjic. Their origin story: they met at the Wimbledon daycare where both had dropped off their spawn.

• Upset of the tournament: results from the ATP and WTA board votes on the players’ side. Without getting too inside baseball, it will be interesting to see where Roger Rasheed and Gary Brody—the two new elected officers—line up on tennis’ equivalent of the health care bill.

?

• Honk if you are a player and you are NOT being trailed by a camera crew for a documentary project. Victoria Azarenka is the latest.

• As is always the case this time of year, for many players the U.S. Open represents the last chance to salvage what’s been a disappointing season up until now. Consider Madison Keys a member of this tribe. After cracking the top ten last year and making the Singapore year-end championships field, Keys was beset by a wrist injury. She returned in Indian Wells, but lost early in Paris and then underwent another round of surgery in June. Here, she won a match and then lost to streaky Camila Giorgi. Keys is only 22. She hits titanic balls. She is surrounded by a first-rate team. But suffice it to say that at the start of the year, she didn’t envision that she’d enter late July with a match record of 5-6.

• Rough event for Leander Paes. Less than a week before the event, he was dumped by Martina Hingis who decided to go to prom with Jamie Murray instead. Then, teamed with Adil Shamasdin of Canada, Paes lost in the first round 10-8 in the fifth set. He entered the mixed event with a shotgun partner, Yifan Xu. They lost in the first round, but not before Paes was conked in the back of the head with a serve.

• Reason No. 6,392 why tennis data is often problematic. (Note the attempt at meta: the 6,392 itself is bad data.) Through the first week we kept hearing that Gilles Muller was the tournament ace leader. Good for him. Except that it told us very little, neglecting to mention that this was a raw number not normed for games played. In his second round match, Muller beat Lukas Rosol 9-7 in the fifth set, a match that entailed 60 games. No one is denying Muller comes armed with a lethal serve. But when you play twice as many games as others, it distorts the numbers. Aces-per-service-points-won would, of course, be a better barometer.

Speaking of stats, you guys know that “aces” are included a player’s “winners” tally? Clearly not everyone knows this because you often hear broadcasters say something to the effect, “He had 10 aces to go along with 25 winners.” What they really mean is, “He had 25 winners, which included ten aces.” Think about someone like John Isner. In his second round, match he posted 100 winners; but that included 45 aces. Dudi Sela, the opponent, had 64 winners but only five of them were aces. Translation: Sela actually had more winners from the net and baseline. And, not surprisingly when framed that way, Sela won the match.

• The International Tennis Hall of Fame has been delicate in the presentation and the p.r. But the message has been received that the admission standards ought to be elevated. Players will automatically be eligible if they have won three majors and held the No. 1 ranking for 15 weeks. This doesn't preclude other players from being nominated. But this sends a message about the level of credentials we ought to be considering from now on. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, as a decade, the 2020s could be an interesting one in terms of enshrinement. The Big Four are laughably obvious candidates. Wawrinka gets in easily, I’d predict. The Bryans as well. But that could still leave several years without real candidates, at least on the men’s side.

• Genie Bouchard has lost in the first round of eight of the ten events she’s played since Australia. You have to wonder whether the pressure of her lawsuit against the USTA is a factor here. You’re trying to build a case—literally—that you are a better player than your rankings suggests. That’s an awfully big burden to bear each time you take the court.

• We all know how tennis—specifically Timothy Gallwey’s book—influenced the Golden State Warriors dynasty. Who knew about the role tennis played in the hegemony of the New England Patriots?

• We’ve written before about Camila Giorgi’s um (to the euphemism-mobile!) idiosyncratic team. We got a glimpse here. In Giorgi’s matches against both Keys and Ostapenko, her father was observed coughing when the opponent served. Said Ostapenko: “[I was] a little bit [shocked], yes, because I think it was from her dad actually, or her box. I mean, the people who are in her team, they're probably very close to tennis. They probably have to understand how to behave during the points or before the serve.…It was just before my serve, after first serve and before second serve. That was pretty disappointing, yeah.”

• Credit the great Martina Navratilova for calling this to our attention. But of the 128 players in the women’s draw, nearly half—60 of 128—are from originally Slavic countries. (That counts the transplants such as Wozniacki and Kerber. But still…)

• Reason No. 6,393 why Wimbledon is such a super-fantastic event. At so many events, the fans are gouged on concessions, paying $15 for water-beer and $7.50 for a pretzel. At Wimbledon the club subsidizes the food. The signature dish, the strawberries and cream, are priced at £2.50—and has been for the last eight years.

• One of the ironies of working TV at these events: you actually catch very little of the television coverage. Crowd sourcing you guys: Mardy Fish was a welcome addition to the ESPN team. (And it was heartening to see him back in the public view.) Mary Pierce does excellent work for Eurosport. Boris Becker rates high on the unintentional comedy scale. (“Muguruza is from Venezuela slash Spain. And now she doesn’t want to become a slash potato.”) Per my friend, Jeff: ESPN’s Howard Bryant—teller of truth, enemy of fluff—needs some sort of on-air role. Without specifying the offending broadcaster, we submit that no good had ever come from a male asking, “Am I right, ladies?”

• Pet peeve: why in the world would Wimbledon allow its own feed to show fans asleep in the stands? Message: “The entertainment value is so low and the product is so stultifying boring, even people who pay for tickets can't stay awake!”

• Good soldiering: who wants to go to tennis camp in Hawaii next month?

• The Tennis Channel clip art: your comments, compliments and criticisms are read and considered. Yes, Lindsay Davenport is the best. Yes, we have a lot of fun and really do like each other in spite of on-air digs and Paul Annacone’s questionable prognostication skills. Yes, the network will be back throughout the summer and have a well-publicized presence at the U.S. Open.

And if you have enjoyed the SI.com Wimbledon coverage you owe a robust thanks to our extraordinary producer, Jamie Lisanti.

ALWAYS FUN GEEKING OUT ON TENNIS WITH YOU GUYS. ENJOYED YOUR TEXTS, TWEETS AND EMAIL. WE’LL DO IT AGAIN IN NEW YORK….

What to Read Next