2017 was a year full of surprises, notably with a dazzling return to the top for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, allowing us to relive their legendary rivalry once again. This past season has also allowed us to see the emergence of a new generation of players who are hungry for success and who wish to add their names to the history books. With the expected return of Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Raonic and Nishikori, what will the 2018 season look like? It is without the use of any special science or insider knowledge that I will try my luck with some predictions.
It is difficult to predict if Rafael Nadal will be able to remain at the top of the ATP rankings. In his case, injuries remain an omnipresent concern and although he won the US Open, his performances on hard court have not always been convincing. On the other hand, he still seems as untouchable as ever on clay. Dominic Thiem has shown himself to be one of the only players who could potentially rival Nadal on clay, but he will not be able to dethrone the king. That’s why I predict an 11th title for Nadal at the French Open.
Although it is believed that the young German player has not stopped improving and is positioning himself as a future World No. 1, he has yet to prove himself at the Grand Slam tournaments. In 2018, I believe that Zverev will continue to win Masters 1000 titles, but will have to wait until the following year before being able to lift one of the four most coveted trophies in tennis. He will, however, continue to improve his game and will participate in his first Grand Slam final.
The return of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are certainly highly anticipated to say the least. Whether it was due to injury or personal problems, the two players who dominated the past few years of men’s tennis have gone downhill and will now return to the game with a new aggressiveness after a long break from competition. I predict a more convincing return for the Serb at the Australian Open. In fact, he should be able to add another major title to his collection, either in Melbourne or New York.
Over the past year, the 36-year-old has surprised everyone. After missing several months in 2016 due to an injury, he has now returned to the top. It will be difficult to follow-up his success from last year, especially since many of the top seeds will be back in action. It would not be surprising to see the Swiss Maestro skip out on the clay season in order to be in top shape for the grass court season. It is at Wimbledon that he will, in my opinion, win his 20th Grand Slam title and possibly the last of his career.
Denis Shapovalov will be on everyone’s radar at the start of the 2018 season. Even if no one doubts his level of talent, he will have to deal with an enormous amount of pressure, especially when he plays in his hometown tournament in Toronto to defend several important Rogers Cup points. He should be able to gain some ranking points at the beginning of the year as he will not have many points to defend, but by the end of 2018, he hopes to be able to maintain his place in the Top 50, which will be an achievement in itself. I predict that he will compete for a second consecutive year at the ATP NextGen Finals, and this time he will make his way to the final. Félix, for his part, will continue to garner attention thanks to his exceptional results despite his young age. His rise will continue to be constant and he will thus break into the Top 100 for the first time in his career.
Unsurprisingly, Milos Raonic will make a return to the Top 10 in 2018. As he continues to mature, he will better manage his tournament schedule in order to stay healthy for the majority of the season. Although he will consistently reach the quarter-finals at major tournaments, with a number of talented competitors standing in his way, his name will not be on the list of Grand Slam champions.
Denis Shapovalov was the story of the 2017 edition of the Rogers Cup, but we cannot overlook the outstanding tournament that Alexander Zverev had. Seeing as the young German player got his first triumph on Canadian soil, it would not be surprising to see another player win his very first Rogers Cup in 2018. Who knows, maybe Grigor Dimitrov or Nick Kyrgios?
After winning their first silver medal in 16 years, ending a sequence of three consecutive defeats in the Davis Cup final (2002, 2010 and 2014), France will continue its winning ways and will dominate the team competition. Captain Yannick Noah will once again be able to count on an abundance of talent on his team, while putting more confidence in Lucas Pouille, who will have a major breakthrough in 2018 after winning the crucial point to help his team beat Belgium in the final this year.