The 2017 ATP tennis season is just over two weeks away from starting. The season promises to be unlike any other that we’ve seen in recent years as Novak Djokovic enters the campaign feeling far less threatening than he has in recent seasons. That he finished 2016 ranked 2nd after his tremendous start to the year was shocking. Furthermore, Djokovic recently split with long-time coach Boris Becker, a move that could have an adverse effect on the Serb’s performance going forward.
Djokovic, who will turn 30 in May, will need to sort out his problems sooner than later in order to avoid a further ranking slide. Remember, he was strong in the first half of the season in 2016, meaning that he has tons of ranking points to defend in the months ahead. In January alone he has 2250 ranking points to defend from Doha 2016 and the 2016 Australian Open titles. If losing Becker and losing momentum does have an adverse effect on him then he may have trouble defending all those points. Furthermore, Djokovic won both Indian Wells and Miami last season, adding up to an additional 2000 ranking points he will have to defend before mid-April.
On the positive side, both Djokovic and Andy Murray are run-away leaders in the rankings right now. For instance, Djokovic is in 2nd place with 11,780 points – a total is more than double that of 3rd-ranked Milos Raonic. Even if the Serb was to miss a chunk of points in the early months, he might not actually fall out of the 2nd spot. My prediction with Djokovic is that he will slip down in the rankings as Wimbledon approaches several months from now. I’m looking for him to enter that tournament as the third seed or worse in June with failed title defenses in both Melbourne Park and Roland Garros.
When it comes to players gaining what Djokovic will probably leave on the table, I don’t see Roger Federer as a big beneficiary. I think Murray, Raonic, Kei Nishikori, and even Rafael Nadal improve their ranking points totals significantly in the first half of the season. Murray’s outlook is interesting as he can at least think about claiming a career Grand Slam in the months ahead. That will require winning both the Australian Open and the French Open, tasks that will be very difficult. However, after making the final last season for the first time at Roland Garros and after playing so well over the years in Melbourne, Murray’s career-Slam possibility can’t be discounted.
If Djokovic does slide down to third ahead of Wimbledon, then my guess is that Raonic or Nishikori will be the player that budges up. Furthermore, Juan Martin del Potro could take a big title away from the Serb as could Marin Cilic. However, I have less faith in those players doing much better than 4th or 5th. Even when Delpo was the US Open champion, he wasn’t able to get into the top three.
With Roger Federer, I do not see him winning a Grand Slam in the next calendar year. Not only that, but I don’t think he will win any Masters Series events in 2017 either. It’s not just his age, which will be 36 before 2017 ends, but it’s also the improving field of younger players. Nishikori and Raonic should be plenty of trouble for the Swiss Maestro going forward, not to mention Djokovic, Murray, del Potro, and Cilic. None of those players will have mercy for Federer given how many accomplishments he blocked them from during his stronger years. It’s possible that even Dominic Thiem and David Goffin combine for something like a 4-1 record against Federer next season.
Swiss tennis promises to take another hit in 2017 in regard to Stan Wawrinka. The US Open champion won four tournaments in 2016, including at Flushing Meadows, however here’s the strange thing about his season. He got a top-four ranking despite only actually beating one player who held a top-5 ranking at the time of their match. Wawrinka had some soft draws in 2016, including at both the French Open and the US Open. If you believe in ‘regression to the mean’ theory then perhaps Wawrinka’s luck comes back to Earth in 2017. As such, he could fall down to 8th or so by season’s end and my prediction is that he will finish the year ranked that or worse.
What Nick Kyrgios will do in 2017 is up in the air. He got some tough love from the ATP in late 2016 and maybe he will respond to it. However, his tennis is a little over-rated even if he does respond positively to his match-tanking suspension from Shanghai. I’m looking for the Aussie to win at least three tour titles this upcoming season, but none higher than a 500 series. Furthermore, I think one Grand Slam semifinal is in the cards, but not a final appearance in 2017.
Prediction 1: Djokovic enters Wimbledon ranked 3rd or worse
Prediction 2: Djokovic does not win the Australian Open
Prediction 3: Djokovic does not win the French Open
Prediction 4: Raonic or Nishikori are ranked higher than Djokovic going into Wimbledon
Prediction 5: Federer doesn’t win a major
Prediction 6: Federer doesn’t win a Masters Series title
Prediction 7: Wawrinka finishes season 8th or worse
Prediction 8: Kyrgios wins at least three titles but none better than the 500 series
Prediction 9: Kyrgios makes a Grand Slam semifinal in 2017, but no further