2020: a guess at what this new season will look like

Predictions are never easy, but the tennis landscape promises to be a thrilling watch with many players vying for the top.

 - Alex Sharp

Barty and Andreescu to lead the charge

These aren’t surprising names, but Roland-Garros champion Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu are primed to take home the sport’s top honours again in 2020.

For Barty, 2019 was about fulfilling potential, but the Australian frequently speaks of the journey and doesn’t seem satisfied with one major. If the 23-year-old can replicate the consistency and craft of last season, then multiple trophies will have her name engraved.

Bianca Andreescu smiling after she won the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Andreescu is also poised to remain in major contention with similar attributes to Barty – an assurance in her game, brave play, a versatility to tactics and approach. If hype from winning the US Open doesn’t become to encompassing, Andreescu has the firepower and perspective to keep enjoying the process. More importantly everything is done with a smile.

The Canadian even recently tweeted that 2020 could be even ‘bigger’ than 2019. Now that would be worth watching.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem posing with their trophies at the ATP Finals 2019©Julien Finney/AFP

‘Big three’ finally displaced?

The tennis world has been talking of the changing of the guard, the Next Gen, for most of the past three years. Just when injuries and surgeries have cropped up for Grand Slam winners Juan Martin Del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, alongside the ‘Big three’ defying all logic, a gap for major glory has been slowly growing.

Obviously, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will remain in the picture, but finally, it appears a crop of players believe they can do damage on the Grand Slam stage.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was hailed ATP Finals champion, is now the front runner, but Dominic Thiem was also electric at the season-ending finale.

Daniil Medvedev, fearless in his approach en route to the US Open final, joins the line-up.

Too many players have been intimidated in the past. This trio realise they have to dictate the matches against the ‘big three’, they have to go for most shots at the finest of margins. It has worked for this triumvirate as a combination several times in 2019 and next season must be their statement season, to lift a Grand Slam.

There is just a sense that a new Grand Slam champion will arrive.

©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Last chance of 24 for Serena?

The likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Carla Suarez Navarro are retiring in 2020, but the Williams sisters will remarkably continue to write more history.

Particularly the cloud of major No.24 still looms over Serena following back-to-back near misses. 2018 Wimbledon and US Open final defeats were repeated last season. With the youth building momentum, Serena’s chances to clinch that significant Slam are fading.

If the 38-year-old can gain match practice in the Spring, Wimbledon presents the best opportunity. It’s easy to say Serena is a diminishing force, the tennis world has known for too long to never doubt a Williams.

©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Chasing pack with conviction

The reason the Grand Slam champion predications are becoming increasingly difficult is because the pool of players that are climbing the rankings are a kaleidoscope of styles and characters.

Look at Roland-Garros 2019, the likes of Marketa Vondrousova (F), Amanda Anisimova (SF) Iga Swiatek and Sofia Kenin (both 4R) are soaring talents already with a taste of success. They might not be top seeds yet, but these players are hungry, relentless and appear to dismiss the past achievements of higher ranked opponents. Respectfully of course…

Even on the men’s side, Next Gen Finals winner Jannik Sinner, the doggedly determined Alex de Minaur, the captivating Canadian duo of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov have all made giant strides.

With such an abundance of talent, the generations are at a crossing point and fans should expect a series of shocks. The seeds will be sent tumbling across 2020 and a collection of names are set to lift trophies next season.

Andy Murray waving goodbye to the fans at the 2019 Australian Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Quick fire thoughts

Belinda Bencic has dismissed a multitude of injuries in the past couple of years to launch back into the Top 10 for the first time since June 2016. The US Open semi-finalist clinched several marquee victories last season and qualifying for the WTA Finals provides the platform for sustained major contention in 2020.

Somehow Andy Murray’s defiance never shows signs of waning. His gruelling comeback from hip resurfacing has forced the Scot away from the main prizes for too long. Murray will be desperate to prove his doubters wrong and feature in the second week of the Slams. A Top 20 spot is well within his grasp.

Purely from a fans perspective it would be sensational viewing to see Nick Kyrgios dig deep and disrupt the upper echelons. Everyone is aware of the mercurial Australian’s talent, but consistency and temperament haven’t been in his vocabulary in 2019. However, the Davis Cup reunion with Lleyton Hewitt and the squad indicates the 24-year-old is ready to knuckle down. This electric talent needs to be in the primetime matches.

Off the radar but full of danger

Hyeon Chung has Grand Slam pedigree (2018 Australian Open semi-finalist) and has shaken off a succession of injuries. With a strong pre-season, the South Korean will only have 45 ranking points to defend until July. No one will fancy drawing Chung in early rounds.

Garbine Muguruza has made a very canny coaching appointment, reuniting with Conchita Martinez, who was in the corner for her last Grand Slam triumph at Wimbledon in 2017.

Similarly, Kei Nishikori, signing up former doubles world No.1 Max Mirnyi, will be seeking fresh impetus on the injury comeback trail.

Here is a hope, that Taylor Townsend’s serve and volley masterclass at the US Open (approaching the net 106 times to defeat Simona Halep in one of 2019’s highlights reels) becomes a fixture on the major stage.

As a result of Fed Cup final heroic exploits, Kristina Mladenovic is in a perfect position to climb up the rankings.