Sunday, December 13, 2015

16 questions for 2016

1. How many majors will Serena win? 
After what was at once a magnificent and an ultimately disappointing 2015, what will the world number 1 do? I don't like to ever count Serena out, but a certain amount of common sense says that 2016 has to be the year she wins the Grand Slam, if she wins it at all. It is a very hard thing to do. So will she win all four? Three? Two? One?

2. Will Genie Bouchard recover her position as the greatest all-around threat on the tour?'
The Canadian star's slump was of epic proportions, only to be followed by her sustaining a concussion, only to be followed by a lawsuit. Will all of this adversity make her tougher than ever, or has the wind been knocked out of Bouchard? Also, will she have sufficiently recovered from her injury by the start of the season?

3. Will Aga Radwanska win a major?
The former Wimbledon finalist redeemed her less-than-stellar season with a great fourth quarter, which included winning the WTA Finals. Is 2016 the year that the WTA's greatest shot-maker ever wins something really big?

4. Will Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova overcome Santina?
They certainly could.  The pair won two majors last year. Safarova's illness and Mattek-Sands' injury caused them to wind down toward the end of the season, but they are legitimate threats.

5. Can Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina overcome Santina?
They shouldn't be counted out.

6. Can Venus stay in the top 10?
It won't be easy, but Venus could possibly travel in and out of the top 10 next year.

7. Will Simona Halep win a major?
This is hard to predict. She should, but the Romanian star has problems closing big matches. Still, she has her wonderful 2014 French Open final performance to use as a reference. She lost, yes, but she played magnificently. With the right help, Halep can get past her psychological issues and go home with a very big trophy.

8. Will The Rock finally win something really big that isn't Wimbledon?
She has the ability to win any of them, but seems to be best suited to win in Melbourne, and the least suited to win in New York. But this is tennis, and "best suited" doesn't always mean that much. And anyway, this is Petra we're talking about. Here's hoping.

9. Will Vika Azarenka return to her former position of high relevance?
She was looking very "Azarenka-like" in the second half of 2015, so there's reason to believe that the two-time Australian Open champion will be ready to compete seriously in 2016.

10. Can France beat Italy again?
They play one another again in the opening round of Fed Cup!

11. Will Maria Sharapova finally win Miami?
I always have to ask.

12. Will Camila Giorgi, Caroline Garcia and Kiki Mladenovic (or any of them) overcome their particular demons--which include double-faulting, choking, anxiety, and inconsistency--and race up the rankings? 
If I had to pick one who can do it, I'd go with Mladenovic.

13. Where will Schmiedy's backhand take her in 2016?
It could be somewhere with a very nice view.

14. Garbine Muguruza, Belinda Bencic, Karolina Pliskova--will one of them do something really big next season?
They are a charming, exciting triple threat. Muguruza has the momentum at the moment, but any of these three could stage an even bigger break-out in 2016.

15. Will Ekaterina Makarova take it to the next level?
The under-the-radar Russian has improved her play in majors in increments, and she's taken her time about it. If she continues to follow her consistent pattern, she'll make it to the final of a major in 2016. That means, of course, that she could win a major, but given Makarova's slowly creeping progress, maybe this would just be a runner-up year.

16. Who will retire in 2016?
Roberta Vinci has already announced that she will retire at the end of next season, but who could join her? Common sense dictates that Francesca Schiavone is highly likely to retire. There are several older players who could retire, but these days, players stick around longer and longer, so there's no way of telling who might leave.