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2013: WHAT TO EXPECT IN TENNIS

By NBF News
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http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/?attachment_id=122036 With action already underway for the men in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai and the ladies in Brisbane and Auckland, the 2013 season has started and the usual top four men, Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray will be up again trying to undo each other in the court.

Absolutely, 2012 proved a breakthrough for Andy Murray, who ended Great Britain's 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion with a famous victory in New York, as well as winning Olympic gold. Therefore, 2013 would see more of the Scot and Serbian dynamic, Novak Djokovic.

The dynamic of the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry makes every meeting an automatic must-see affair for even the least devout of tennis fans, but sometimes less of a good thing is better. This is the situation we find ourselves in 2013. After being out of action since July with persistent knee issues, Nadal announced during the week that he will miss the upcoming Australian Open due to a stomach virus.

Conspiracy theories aside, what is certain is that Spain's soon-to-be number two will not be back on court for months. Moreover, when he does return, his level of play will most likely resemble that of Juan Martin del Potro after his comeback from wrist surgery in 2011: slow and cautious.

As Nadal begins his decent down the rankings, Andy Murray is surging, fresh off his maiden Slam title at the U.S. Open. In 2012, he elevated his game to firmly entrench himself as a member of the Big Four and even took three of seven meetings from Novak Djokovic. The two good friends are the top returners in the game possess arguably the best backhands and employ exceptional agility in their court coverage.

Augmented by Murray's newfound confidence, their similar styles have resulted in the most riveting matchup of the year. Whereas Roger and Rafael's recent meetings have been devoid of much drama (2011 French Open Final the exception), the Nole-Muzz rivalry was raised to new heights in 2012, with two stellar five-set affairs in Melbourne and New York and a sensational Shanghai final. Based on these facts, ten fans cannot wait to see more of the Serb and the Scot in 2013.

Juan Martin del Potro converted momentum into success. In 2009, parity was rampant on the ATP Tour. Both Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick reached Grand Slam finals, Nikolay Davydenko claimed the Tour Finals title, five different players took home Masters 1000 trophies and Juan Martin del Potro won his maiden Slam at the U.S. Open.

It's hard to believe that was four years ago. Now, as the calendar flips to 2013, Del Potro is looking to turn back the clock and make a serious charge into the top-five and return to the semifinals of a Grand Slam. Since coming back from a lost 2010 due to wrist surgery, Del Potro has painstakingly returned to prominence, however, the Argentine's goals are undoubtedly higher than what he's accomplished thus far. 2011 was a rebuilding year. The foundation of his game was stripped and had to be re-laid, learning how to play with his repaired wrist.

In 2012, Delpo made a strong statement, cracking the top-ten, reaching three Grand Slam quarterfinals, winning four titles and earning the bronze medal at the Olympics. The Argentine had serious momentum at his back as the year came to a close, winning his first non-250 series event since his U.S. Open title, at the Swiss Indoors.

There, he upset home favorite Roger Federer in the final and later defeated the world number two once again, at the Tour Finals a few weeks later. Moreover, Rafael Nadal's absence to start 2013 has revealed a significant opportunity for Del Potro to make a deep run in Melbourne and continue his push towards the top-five.

From the women angle, it will be more of Serena vs. Vika, less Serena vs. Maria. They may be the most recognizable and highly marketable names in women's tennis, but Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova has not provided quite the spark as it did in the mid-2000s. Serena's domination of Maria is impressive. In eight head-to-head meetings since 2005, she has only relinquished one set and has registered seven 6-1 frames against the Russian.

Serena makes her shotmaking arsenal look like a kid with a water pistol and she notably exposes her serving yips, often mentally removing Sharapova from the match altogether. As good as you may be, there are some players that simply present a bad matchup for their opponent and this is Exhibit A.

On the other side of the coin, amidst Serena's scorching comeback to the top of the women's tennis landscape, world number one Victoria Azarenka has held her ground. Vika has come a long way in just one year, winning the Australian Open and giving Serena a serious run for her money with her valiant effort in the U.S. Open Final. When Serena ball is kicked into high gear, there are very few who can make a match interesting, let alone win a set. Along with Angelique Kerber, Vika has proven to be one of those few. It will be fascinating to see these two go head to head for the top year-end ranking in 2013.

Venus Williams to remain relevant (and healthy) and reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal. If there was a menu of retirement preferences, Venus would scan the list and choose 'The Andy Roddick'-and she deserves it. Going out on your own terms is what every tennis player dreams of as their career winds down, and if this is in fact Venus's final hurrah it would be fitting for her to step away from the game, rather than be forced out by injury.

The elder Williams sister's contributions to American tennis have been extraordinary, since her first of five Wimbledon titles in 2000. At the age of 32, her willingness to play in a lower-tier event in Luxembourg, with the hope of raising her ranking enough to be seeded at the Australian Open, is a testament to her work ethic and hunger to return to the top of women's tennis.