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Predicting the biggest comebacks next year for this year's new parents in tennis

All-time great Serena Williams gave birth to her first daughter last September. Dennis Acosta (file photo)

By Kristoffer Bellen

THE 2017 Tennis Tours went a little shaky as different tennis stars were forced to take an early rest due to various reasons which was dominantly highlighted by different injuries.

However, some of the stars in both the ATP and WTA maximized the sidelines to welcome a new chapter in their lives.

Ending the season with a number of reasons, some of the players in the tour hailed their new children and finally staged into their parenting endeavors.

With an expected turn of events that would surely happen next year, the return of some of the big names in the sport are very much anticipated. 

Here are the three tennis stars who would surely come back and assert mastery as they play for their newly-born children:

Andy Murray

After a quarterfinal exit against Sam Querrey at Wimbledon this year due to an ongoing hip injury, British tennis sensation Andy Murray has not been seen actively playing competitively although he appeared for the first time in public last month for a Charity Match against Roger Federer at Glasgow where the latter prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 10-6.

Murray, who entered this year as the top-ranked male tennis player, now sits at the top 16 when he began to suffer an on and off hip injury that derailed the majority of his matches in this year’s tour.

Since dropping the world number one status which he held for 41 weeks after defeating Novak Djokovic in the ATP Finals in 2016 and clinch the year-end number one, the 36-year old continued to drop.

Despite winning an ATP Title in this year’s Dubai Tennis Championships by defeating Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in two straight sets to somehow save his personal record of winning a championship trophy for the 12th straight season, Murray failed to maintain his body composure that eventually paid him back.

After almost four months of being out of the tennis tour, Murray is a favorite contender in the Australian Open.

While he remains to recover from a derailing injury, reports from various sports media companies have already confirmed how the former Wimbledon titlist sets his eye for the first Grand Slam tournament next year. 

In fact, his brother Jamie revealed how Andy progresses just fine when he mentioned in the ATP Finals in London last month how the latter’s “goal is obviously just to get ready for next year and be…fit and healthy for Australia.”

Nevertheless, while certain tournament-related affiliations are coming at Murray’s back, he and her wife Kim Sears welcomed their second daughter whose name is yet to be revealed in public.

After welcoming their first daughter, Sophia, Murray and Sears confirmed that they applauded the arrival of the newest addition in the Murray family.

Sears, a proud and vocal supporter of her husband, could expect nothing but greatness for Murray next year as the latter tries to avert his collapsing career.

Last year, Murray posted 25 wins while losing ten times to win a title while also bagging home a total of 2-millon dollars of prize money. Despite a small sample size of wins, Murray remarkably posted a winning record in the Grand Slam events (12-3) although he was 2-4 at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000.

In 2018, Murray is one of the early picks for the winner of the inaugural Australian Open in Melbourne where he was a consistent finalist appearing in five of its last eight editions missing only the 2012, 2014, and 2017 AO finals. 

Should Murray make a statement in New Year and can get through that first week, we can expect another spectacular performance for the two-time Grand Slam title holder.

As Federer also said, “Nobody really knew how he was doing. Definitely, he can move better, he can serve better. We know all these things.”

Novak Djokovic

On a familiar note, Novak Djokovic was on his way to enjoy the success of his post-prime season where he started the year with an emphatic ATP World Tour title for the 12th straight season in Doha, Qatar against Murray, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

As Murray is slowly leaving the spotlight, Djokovic could have joined the likes of Rafael Nadal and Federer come the end of the tour yet he suffered a gruesome injury that forced him to withdraw from the rest of the season as early as July.

Djokovic announced in his website and as well as in a Facebook live post and in a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia that he will officially take a rest for the remaining major and minor leagues of this year’s ATP season.

To this extent, his decision is somewhat affected by his ailing right elbow injury which confirms the mystifying saga on how did the Serbian suddenly fell off from his historic 2016 season.

This year, Djokovic managed to win 32 of the 40 matches that he played while also winning two championship trophies including the ATP World Tour 250 title against Murray in the inaugural Doha Open to kick off his 2017 campaign, and the dominant victory against Frenchman Gael Monfils, 6-3, 6-4, at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.

After an undefeated record at the grass season, however, Djokovic pulled out of the Wimbledon to take an early rest and look forward for the competition next year. 

Luckily for the 30-year old tennis superstar, who now ranks 12th in the ATP Emirates Rankings, the competition became wide open for the entire ATP Tour as new up and coming stars, particularly NextGen contenders emerged and delimited the rebirth of the classic rivalry of Nadal and Federer and provided him at least a vulnerable opportunity to go back within the Top 10 at the first quarter of 2018.

While at rest, the 12-time Grand Slam winner became a two-time father after her wife Jelena gave birth to their daughter Tara last Sept. 2, two months after leaving the tennis action.

As much as the inspiration and the hope that her daughter can potentially bring him as he joins the list of the returning superstars next year, the Serbian welcomes another additional members in her resume next year.

Djokovic, who is considered as one of the all-time greats, will try to rebuild his legacy as he attempts to reunite the ‘Big Four’ status of the new era himself in Nadal, Federer, and Wawrinka and solidify his comeback at the Australian Open which he prevailed for a record of six times.

Notably, Djokovic will be playing alongside his new coach and retired professional tennis player Radek Stepanek who was confirmed joining his long-time mentor Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic. 

Since the odds of Federer tying Djokovic’s record of most Australian Open titles are very high, Djokovic should consider turning back the clock and did what he do in 2016 where he defeated Murray in the same Grand Slam event to make an early statement about his comeback.

Although many fans are now writing off his name in the scene, Djokovic can still pull out something in his sleeve knowing that he is a competitive player.

Besides, even former world number 1 Lleyton Hewitt said, “If [Djokovic]…can get through that first week and give himself a chance then he is going to be tough to beat.”

Serena Williams

Of course there’s no beating the greatest woman player to ever step up in a tennis court. 

None have ever done what Serena Williams did looking back at this year’s Australian Open as she pushed her way through a record of 23 career grand slam titles after defeating her sister Venus in their first ever singles final matchup at the Rod Laver Arena, 6-4, 6-4.

Quite indeed, it was an amazing yet normal run for the younger Williams who was last upset in Jan. 4 this year by compatriot Madison Bengle at the Auckland Classic, but to think that she have done it while carrying a baby inside her womb sounds surreal.

The most fascinating narrative that the tennis sport have ever witnessed this year cannot be denied onto how Williams managed to clinch her seventh Australian Open title before announcing her maternity leave to prepare for the delivery of her first ever daughter with husband and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. 

Last Sept. 1, Williams gave birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., and more and more highlights and milestones continue to go along her way inside and outside the sport including the Nike building which was named after her just recently.

As early as October, reports have already confirmed the return of Williams in Jan. 15-28 at the Australian Open to defend her title.

Williams posted an 8-1 win-loss record this season including her only title before the 36-year-old American dropped out and went outside the Top 10 in July with her no-show in Wimbledon after holding the record as the active player with the longest streak inside the Top 10 since holding it for 276 consecutive weeks. Williams now ranks 22nd in the WTA rankings but that should change as early as the next four weeks.

In just nine games this season, Williams managed to hit 71 service aces while averaging 56.3 percent in her first service success.

She also won 82.4 percent of her service games, proving how deadly her services could be. 

Nonetheless, the atmosphere and the environment of the tennis tour alone should suffice how Williams can give us another entertaining and dominating season that’s sure will be recorded for the records once again.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of Dugout Philippines.

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