by Daniel 2nd January, 2017
What an end to the 2016 tennis season, with Andy Murray becoming the new world number one and winning the ATP Tour Finals in London. Both the men’s and women’s tour rankings saw a change from the start of the year, as Angelique Kerber finished 2016 as world number one on the WTA Tour, in place of Serena Williams. So, what does the start of 2017 have in store for us?
Having seen in the new year, there is little time for professional tennis players to let their hair down, as several tournaments get things going on the 2nd of January. On the ATP Tour, there are four events, in Brisbane, Perth, Doha and Chennai. Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios, Richard Gasquet and Jack Sock are competing in the Hopman Cup. Federer will team up with Belinda Bencic and world number 11, Petra Kvitova is the top female player taking part in the mixed doubles event.
Men’s world number one, Andy Murray, will begin his year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, as the number one seed. Interestingly, Novak Djokovic will also be taking part in this event and if both reach the final as expected, it will be a very exciting start to the new season on the ATP Tour. Murray will want to cement his place at the top of the rankings, whereas Djokovic will be aiming to knock the Scot off his perch.
Five of the men’s top ten will be in action at the Brisbane International, with Milos Raonic going in as the top seed. Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal are all in the draw, for what is arguably the most exciting first tournament of 2017 on the ATP Tour.
The ladies get their season started in Brisbane, Shenzhen and Auckland. World number one, Angelique Kerber is in action at the Brisbane International, along with several top players on the WTA Tour, including Diminika Cibulkova, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Three of the world’s top ten are playing the Shenzhen Open, with Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep and Johanna Konta all in action. If you want to see Serena Williams, you must head to New Zealand for the ASB Classic, where she will be competing alongside her sister, Venus.
A handful of players will contest another tournament following the conclusion of the ones above, including Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominic Thiem. However, many of the top players will have their sights firmly set on Melbourne and the Australian Open.
The first Grand Slam of the year comes around very quickly and players cannot afford to come into the tournament anything less than 100% prepared. Therefore, the events leading up the Australian open are crucial, more so for player’s development, match fitness and fine-tuning of their game, than actual results. However, there is an interesting sub-plot to the early tournaments of 2017.
Novak Djokovic had been the men’s world number one for 122 consecutive weeks until Andy Murray took over in November 2016. Serena Williams had been the women’s world number one for 186 consecutive weeks until Angelique Kerber took over in September 2016. Both Djokovic and Williams are not used to being anything other than number one and they will be determined to wrestle back their place at the top of the sport, as soon as possible, thus making it a very exciting start to the 2017 tennis season.