The Australian Open starts 17th January, and Rafael Nadal enters it as the current holder of the other three grand slams; winning here means he would become only the third man in history to hold all four simultaneously. True, it wouldn’t be a ‘grand slam’ in the conventional sense, but this so-called Rafa Slam would underline his credentials as possibly the greatest player of all time. Can he do it? Having been on antibiotics since the start of the year, and coming off the back of a disappointing loss in Qatar, it isn’t looking great, but do you think Nadal got to world number one by being a quitter?
Britain has not had a female player come close to major success in yonks. But with two standout prospects, former junior grand slam winners in Heather Watson (18) and Laura Robson (16), the tides may have turned. Watson started the year ranked 178, but just last week won the ranking points to put her inside the top 150. Meanwhile Robson has spent the first week of the year competing alongside Andy Murray, picking up experience that her new coach will look to convert into improving her ranking of 206. While 2011 is too early for fireworks, there’s no reason we can’t enjoy watching the future unfold.
Delpo, where did you go? From being world Number Four and looking a fine candidate to break the Federer-Nadal duopoly, beating both players to win the 2009 US Open title, Juan Martín del Potro had a tough 2010. Specifically, he was a walking injury, and his misfortune cost him his ranking, leaving him an ignominious #258 at the end of the season. The young Argentine first entered the upper echelons of the tennis world with a 23-match undefeated streak in mid-2008; putting together similar form would do nicely for getting his career back on track. Could this be the year del Potro belatedly roars back into life?
Women’s Number One Caroline Wozniacki has never won a grand slam title. Women’s rankings are less skewed towards the slams than in the men’s game, such that the winner of two such tournaments last year, former Number 1 Serena Williams, is ranked only fourth in the current standings. Kim Clijsters, Jelena Jankovic, Justine Henin, Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina and Venus Williams make up a total of eight players who have at one point topped the rankings still active on the tour, and the race to be Women’s Number One is wide open. Wozniacki might be the front-runner right now, but a lot can – and will – change.
Yes, we’ve got another 11 months to wait, but the season finale always delivers something special. The Murray-Nadal semi-final of last year’s ATP World Tour Finals was rated by the sport’s governing body as the best match of 2010, closely followed in many eyes by the Federer-Nadal final. True, the tournament – to be held in London until 2012 – can feature some insipid matches in the earlier rounds, but if you have spare hundred quid, then spending it on tickets for the final weekend of this event will guarantee you the best that professional tennis has to offer. It’s also on TV for those who can’t be there.