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Christmas Countdown: Tackling the burning questions facing tennis in 2019

Hannah Wilks in Opinion 18 Dec 2018
  • The LiveTennis team celebrates the off-season by tackling the sport's biggest issues
  • Find the latest in our Christmas Countdown series and all articles here

LiveTennis's Christmas Countdown: Weighing in on the biggest issues facing professional tennis in 2019!

Livetennis.com is celebrating the off-season with a Christmas countdown series of articles in which our editors give their take on the burning questions facing tennis in 2019, from the stars to the schedule to the sport’s very structure. 

Each day, one of our top writers tackles a different question left with us by the 2018 season and looks ahead to 2019 as we weigh in on topics such as the future of some of tennis's most popular events; whether the sport's biggest stars are actually stunting its growth; and what next year might hold for Simona Halep, Alexander Zverev and more. 

Here is the master list of the articles we've released so far - and don't forget you can join in the debate on our Twitter and Facebook pages! 

1. Is the longevity of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic stunting the growth of men's tennis?

By Andrew Hendrie

Of course, it’s not Federer, Nadal and Djokovic’s fault that nobody is capable of consistently challenging them and the ATP has capitalised on their unprecedented stretch of dominance. But, when you look to the future of men’s tennis, is their elongated time at the top of the sport going to hurt the ATP in the long run? Will the interest of casual fans still be there after they retire? Will spectators find fresh players to support after Federer, Nadal and Djokovic move on, or will they retire from the sport with them? Read more...

2. WTA on-court coaching - yes or no?

By Andrew Hendrie

I’m a firm believer of no on-court coaching at any time on both tours. Tennis has always been an individual sport and players should be able to solve their own problems on the court without the assistance of their coach or any outside influence. It’s one of the many factors that sets tennis apart from most other sports: there’s a certain beauty in an individual figuring out tactics by themselves and then implementing accordingly. Tennis IQ is a big part of our sport and some players are better at it than others. In some cases, it can be the difference between a top 10 player and a top 20 player. It can separate Grand Slam champions from Masters 1000 or Premier Mandatory champions. We need to stop meddling with tennis and calling for it to conform just because other sports are doing it. Point of difference in a niche sport like tennis can never be overstated. *Read more*...

3. Why are the ATP Finals so dull - is it the tournament, the players or the length of the season?

By Hannah Wilks

The fact that it was Alexander Zverev, the youngest man in the field, who lifted the ATP Finals trophy this year after back-to-back victories over Federer and Djokovic had the effect of obscuring just what a dull, plodding business the first eight days of the tournament were. Eleven of the 12 round-robin matches were settled in straight sets, and overwhelmingly, these were not fun straight-sets matches either. [...] You shouldn’t have to wait eight days for a tennis tournament to get even vaguely interesting – and when more surprising results emerged, they didn’t exactly manifest through great matches. Ultimately, a pretty good Zverev beat a mediocre Federer and then a low-energy Djokovic in straight sets. It was fun because it wasn’t supposed to happen, but is a mild sense of surprise really worth the (high) price of admission? Read more...



4. Does women's tennis need the 'next Serena Williams'?

By Kachi Wachuku

In an era with a myriad of very good players, the women's game simply lacks excellent ones. Serena Williams has dominated women's tennis for the better part of the last two decades, accumulating 23 major titles and 72 career singles trophies overall. She has conquered the best of the best from Graf to Safina to Henin, Sharapova, Wozniacki and Halep. Now a 37-year old mother of one, with a significantly reduced playing schedule, the American legend has given way to the rise of younger players - current World No.1 Halep, Osaka, Stephens and upsurging Svitolina to mention a few. Though the depth of the WTA is intriguing, the lack of consistency from top players in the big events could dampen the level of prominence of the women's game. Read more... 

5. Does Alexander Zverev need to win a Slam in 2019?

By Leye Aduloju

Alexander Zverev has been built up as the next big thing in tennis; a future great who will go on to become No. 1 in the world, and win numerous Grand Slam titles, but if all of that is to happen, the German has got to start delivering sooner rather than later. The argument often offered in defence of Zverev's poor Grand Slam record is that he is still quite young, which is fair enough, but for how long will he continue to be 'quite young' before he runs out of time? Read more...

6. Is it over for Maria Sharapova?

By Kachi Wachuku

31-year old Maria Sharapova was once one of the most dominant forces in women's tennis, her fighting spirit and aggressive game style was second only to rival Serena Williams. But in recent years, the Russian has struggled both on and off the tennis court, first testing positive for banned substance meldonium in 2016 to the 15-month ban that followed. More than a few eyebrows have been raised since her return to competitive tennis in April 2017, her form has wavered significantly and she has struggled more with injury and an array of shock upsets. Read more...

7. No active male Slam champs under 30 - is it a problem and why has it happened?

By Andrew Hendrie

We are witnessing an unprecedented era in men’s tennis. While it’s nothing new for players to compete well into their thirties and even forties in some cases (Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi are prominent names that spring to mind in the last few generations), it is unusual for an entire era to dominate the pinnacle of the sport (Grand Slams) for an extended period of time while in the so-called ‘twilight’ of their careers. What is causing this anomaly in men’s tennis? What created this paradox and shift in reality? Read more...

8. Should Roger Federer play clay in 2019?

By Leye Aduloju

I have thought long and hard about why Federer would want to return to clay in 2019, but I cannot not find a logical reason. Has he been swayed by his recent dominance over Nadal to believe that he can take on the Spaniard at Roland Garros? No. Federer is smarter than that. Is he reacting to claims by some (aka. Rafael Nadal fans) that he is avoiding a clash with Nadal in Paris? I don’t think so. Read more...

9. Can Sloane Stephens become a truly dominant force?

By Andrew Hendrie

While women’s tennis has arguably never been more competitive (at least depth-wise), there is a big window of opportunity for a player to step up in this era and become a truly dominant force as far as winning major titles is concerned. At 25 years of age, with the perfect mix of youth and experience, is Sloane Stephens the player to do just that? Read more...

10. Has time run out for tennis's 'lost generation' to win a Slam?

By Andrew Hendrie

Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic were supposed to be the players to challenge the hierarchy established by the Big Four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, but unfortunately they haven’t come close to usurping those aforementioned titans of tennis - and now time may have run out for them to capture the biggest prizes this sport has to offer. Indeed, it appears as if Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic are about to be expropriated themselves by the rising ‘Next Gen’ stars, including Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, with all of that group making big strides and leapfrogging Dimitrov and Raonic in the rankings in 2018. 
So what’s gone wrong for the ‘lost generation’? Were they unlucky to be born into arguably the strongest era of men’s tennis in history, with Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray all operating at the peak of their powers? Was it just bad timing? Or, are Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic simply not good enough? Read more ...

11. Who will be the next male player under 25 to win a Grand Slam?

By Leye Aduloju

A lot has been said about the continuing dominance of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and how the sport will cope when these legendary icons inevitably depart. Tennis will definitely miss these guys, but I think the sport will be fine, once it recovers from that initial shock. It is highly unlikely that we ever get another era like the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic era, but I think the men’s game is fairly prepared for that transition. The ATP had done an excellent job of promoting the younger players in my opinion, and these Next Gen stars have also got the diversity of skill and personality to keep the sport exciting. Read more ...

12. Will it be Djokovic or Nadal who dominates clay in 2019?

By Hannah Wilks

Despite Dominic Thiem’s run to the French Open final in 2018 and the emergence of a group of promising young talents who might, perhaps, make an impact, Djokovic is still the only player who can mount a serious and sustained challenge to Nadal across the four biggest events played on European clay – Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome and the French Open. (Stan Wawrinka is the only other man who even comes close to fitting that bill, but his brilliance tends to be more about flares and fades than the kind of relentless excellence in which Djokovic specializes.) But who will ultimately rise to that challenge? Read more ...
 
13. Will the rise of Naomi Osaka continue in 2019?

By Hannah Wilks

For me, it’s one of the most intriguing player-centred questions heading into the 2019 tennis season: What should we expect from Naomi Osaka? Recent years have seen various WTA Tour players flare up and grab a big title – and then struggle to back it up or sustain their place at the top. Ana Ivanovic set the template all the way back in 2008 when she won the French Open and became world no. 1, only to melt in the spotlight and spend the rest of her career trying (and failing) to get back to those heights. Garbine Muguruza backed up her French Open title in 2016 by winning Wimbledon in 2017, but a torrid 2018 season saw her end it well outside the top 10; Angelique Kerber won two Slams in 2016, then crashed and burned in 2017. Read more...

14. Has Nick Kyrgios missed his window for greatness?

By Andrew Hendrie

With his booming serve and incredible shot-making ability from the baseline, Kyrgios can be unplayable when he’s operating at the peak of his powers. And remember, all it takes is for the Australian to catch fire for two weeks and a Grand Slam title could easily fall into his lap. 
But, make no mistake, Kyrgios has a LOT of work to do. He’ll be 24 next year and Kyrgios doesn’t strike me as someone that is going to be playing too long after turning 30. It seems as if he has a lot of time for everything to come together, but if he goes another couple of seasons without winning a major, the pressure is only going to increase and the window of opportunity is going to narrow. Furthermore, the question that also needs to be asked is this: has Kyrgios continued to improve and evolve his game? Read more ...

15. Too many Cup - Why can't tennis get out of it's own way?

By Hannah Wilks

You’ve heard the saying – ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’ Well, in the case of tennis, it’s too many Cups which are threatening to make tennis’s future a messy and unpredictable affair. When it comes to the tennis schedule, it’s not so much a case of the cup runneth over (to switch cup-centric metaphors) as the calendar runneth-ing over with cups.  The 2019 season will see the first edition of the new-look Davis Cup, revamped and repackaged thanks to a $3 billion deal with Gerard Pique’s investment group Kosmos, held at the end of November and involving 20 nations and at least 60 players. Read more...

16. Will Kvitova ever shine at Grand Slams again?

By Hannah Wilks

She’s a two-time Wimbledon champion, winner of five WTA titles in 2018 and made a triumphant return to the top 10 despite suffering career-threatening injuries during a traumatic knife attack. But will Kvitova’s struggles to perform her best at Grand Slam level endure into 2019 and beyond? Read more...

17. Is preferential treatment for top stars helping or hindering the growth of the sport?

By Hannah Wilks

Check in on tennis twitter any day of the year, and you’re likely to find a debate raging somewhere about whether Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic were treated fairly or unfairly by the organizers of a particular tournament – with the consequent implication that said treatment affected the outcome at the event.  
Fuel was added to this inextinguishable fire by comments made by the recently retired Julien Benneteau to French radio station RMC Support in November, who either lifted the lid on the degree to which a supposedly level playing field has been undermined or unfairly slammed Federer for receiving nothing more than the kind of consideration merited by one of the greatest ever to play the game, depending on your viewpoint. Read more...

18. Can Halep end another season as world no.1?

By Hannah Wilks

Where the rankings are concerned, Halep does have a lot to defend – most obviously at the Australian and French Opens – but there are also quite a bundle of events at which she will have the opportunity to add points: Miami, Wimbledon and most notably, the US Open and the Asian swing, which could position her nicely for a very strong finish to the year. I also feel that Halep really cracked her scheduling in 2018 after years of a tendency towards over-scheduling, so she has a good blueprint to follow.  
There are two big question marks hanging over Halep’s fate in 2019 (not including the back injury and her ability to stay fit and healthy overall, which is not really something that can be anticipated). The first is how she will fare without coach Darren Cahill by her side. Read more ..
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Christmas Countdown: Tackling the burning questions facing tennis in 2019

Livetennis.com's core team of editors weigh in on the biggest issues facing professional tennis with a series of daily articles from 1-24 December, assessing the state of the sport, its stars and structures ahead of the 2019 season

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