- Alex Sharp

Let's have a look at the 2019 tennis landscape and imagine how the season could be!

Rafael Nadal's back during Roland-Garros 2018©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

2018 gave us a feast of captivating action, but now the players are locked into their pre-seasons hoping to fine tune their game to launch into the next campaign as a serious title contender.

Simona out to rule alone


Unfortunately, due to family reasons, coach Darren Cahill amicably parted ways with Roland Garros champion Simona Halep at the end of the season.

Now the world No.1 has told reporters she’ll ignite her 2019 without a coach: “I want to go to some tournaments on my own and we’ll see how that goes.”

That’s a pretty bold move, but the warrior instincts installed by Cahill over the past few seasons will surely keep Halep on the right path. Perhaps in the latter stages of Grand Slams the decision to play without a coach will be truly tested as the mental burden increases.  

Expect another stellar season from the Romanian.



Can anyone oust the legendary triumvirate?


No shocks here - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic claimed the Grand Slams in 2018. The trophy-laden trio continue to dominate and they will push for even more accolades.




However, their grip on the Major prizes will surely be loosened if Juan Martin del Potro can fend off injury in 2019. The ‘tower from Tandil’ is a real momentum player and if his body holds up to the force of his tennis, then we’re in for a treat.

Along with world No. 5 Del Potro, three-time Grand Slam champions Stan Wawrinka (No.66) and Andy Murray (No.258) take the ‘dark horse’ tag.




Wawrinka can blast through any defence on his day and Murray appears back to his imposing physical peak.

Forget their stints on the sidelines, these guys will be eager to remind the Tour of their talent.

 

Serena on the brink of more history?


Serena Williams put in an astonishing effort to reach two Grand Slam finals on her return in 2018. With training blocks under her belt, can the American level Margaret Court on the all-time record of 24 Majors?

Her aura might have slightly diminished, but time and time again Serena has proven doubters wrong. Watch this space, Serena has history within her grasp.



Chasing pack have the artillery to do damage


Nobody doubts Djokovic is back to his destructive best.

His sublime second half to 2018 relinquished just three defeats. Significantly they were from Next Gen prodigies Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas.




That’s the perfect portrayal that the young guns are ready disrupt the established order.

Add into the mix the likes of Hyeon Chung, Alex De Minaur, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov and Nicolas Jarry. All of them have versatility, raw power and most importantly – belief.

Any complacency or vulnerability and this Next Gen pack will pounce. Maybe at the Masters level in 2019, echoing Khachanov in Paris, but we forecast a clutch of Grand Slam upsets too.



Svitolina and Zverev in symmetry


Much maligned for a lack of deep progress at Grand Slams, Elina Svitolina and Sascha Zverev are pretty similar.

Both have undeniable Grand Slam pedigree and they both lifted the season-ending finals with a staggering level of tennis.

Svitolina has relentless fight but could add some variety, a plan B. That goes for Zverev too, who in tight Major matches has been guilty of being entrenched too far behind the baseline.

Ivan Lendl helped Murray overcome the mental magnitude in winning Majors, so Sascha has the ideal man in his corner.

It feels like Svitolina and Zverev are poised to utilise their season-ending exploits to perform on the Grand Slam stage.



 

Legends return in coaching carousel


A plethora of players have switched coaches in the off-season already, but two caught the eye.

Lucas Pouille has hired former world No.1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Amelie Mauresmo. An astute move for a player who needs a reinvigorated outlook.

Also, Grigor Dimitrov had an underwhelming 2018 to plummet down the rankings to No.19. In response the Bulgarian has teamed up with Andre Agassi in an intriguing partnership. Dimitrov has all the components, whilst Agassi will be primed to offer endless advice and belief.



 

Young stars soaring on WTA


The women’s game is fascinatingly open, with eight different Grand Slam champions crowned in the past two years.

Naomi Osaka’s launched the Next Gen into the limelight with a US Open title and the witty Japanese youngster has gifted her peers with the blueprint that the likes of Williams, Halep and Wozniacki are not insurmountable challenges on the Grand Slam stage.




Step forward the gregarious duo Aryna Sabalenka and Daria Kasatkina. Their games are explosive, bursting with variety and they never seem fazed by an opponent.

Off the radar but full of danger


Never discount former Grand Slam champions – that includes the likes of Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko and Maria Sharapova.




Perhaps even further off the radar Belinda Bencic and Nick Kyrgios raise more questions than answers. Bencic has been blighted by injuries but is capable of pulsating performances.

Meanwhile Kyrgios has every imaginable tennis weapon at his disposal, he’s the human highlights reel. His social media accounts point to a dedication to the fitness aspects of tennis. Is the Australian ready to fulfil his exceptional promise? If so, grab the popcorn!