The New Year was upon us and with that, so was the 2019 tennis season. Even before the New Year wishes died down, a quick two weeks of warm-ups kicked off to enthrall tennis enthusiasts. In fact, based on the calendar, some years like 2019, see the season begin even before January 1.
The team-event Hopman Cup kicked off along with ATP tournaments in Brisbane, Doha and Pune. 2018 memories, results and form remain bygones.
Favorites for the early part of the season, specifically the Down Under Slam (Australian Open) imminently start to take shape.
World number 1 and 14-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic started the season as the obvious favorite, not only in Doha, but also for the Australian Open and the foreseeable future.
However, a testing week in Doha for Djokovic came as a bit of a surprise with him dropping a set each against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics and Georgia’s Nikiloz Basilashvili. This was followed by a three-set loss in the semi-finals to Spaniard Bautista Agut, who went on to eventually win the tournament in what was an impressive week for him.
World number 2 Rafa Nadal’s injury woes continue with him pulling out of Brisbane, but is still expected to be ready and healthy in time for the Australian Open.
20-time grand slam winner and six time Australian Open winner and defending champion Roger Federer seemed to be at his best in the Hopman Cup, leading Switzerland to a repeat win against Germany in the finals, alongside teammate Belinda Bencic.
Federer’s singles winning streak in Australia is now at 22 matches, with him winning his singles matches at the Hopman Cup this year without dropping a set against some of the primary next generation players – Tiafoe, Tsitsipas, Zverev.
Kevin Anderson, who had by far the best year of his career in 2018, got off to an impressive 2019, winning the Maharashtra Open in Pune. Over in Brisbane, Kei Nishikori ending his nine finals losing streak beating Medvedev in what was a repeat of the Tokyo finals from last October.
Alexander Zverev, who is expected to be among the favorites in Melbourne, had another good Hopman Cup run at the back of his ATP Tour Finals win, despite losing to Roger Federer in the finals, in what was a rematch of last year.
Another noteworthy performer in week 1 of 2019 was young Russian Medvedev, with both Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga having impressive returns from long injury lay-offs.
Week 1 was disappointing for promising Khachanov, Thiem, Dimitrov, Kyrgios among others. Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka continue their return from long standing injuries, and hope to be more of a factor with time and match practice.
Although the season is just getting started, and Auckland and Sydney tournaments remain before the Australian Open, one can already be thinking of who’s hot and who’s not for the first slam of the year. Novak Djokovic still remains the frontrunner favorite, with Roger Federer a somewhat close second, followed by Rafa Nadal ( if healthy) and Sascha Zverev.
There remain quite a few dark horses, as injury updates await for 2018 runner-up Marin Cilic, whereas Argentine Juan Martin DelPotro will be strongly missed for the Down Under swing.