Looking back at 2014, it shows that it was a watershed year and the cartel of the "big 4" was broken and although not over, the domination is certainly is. Novak Djokovic is still in his prime and will be the guy to beat in 2015, but as the US Open showed that when he is slightly distracted and his priorities were marriage, a baby due and full of the joys of life, he got beat by the young Kei Nishikori. Winning a Slam is a tough business, that even the best need to have as an all-encompassing mission, one that takes enormous energy and focus. Rafa Nadal is interesting because it is hard to imagine that he will be able to come back as quickly and strongly to top level form as he did after a similar injury break in 2013. I will stick my neck out and discount him for the Australian Open and see if he can win the French again. Wimbledon is a week later for the first time in 2015, so he will have the extra week to recover for Wimbledon. Roger Federer has had a great year and is attacking the net more to shorten points, benefitting greatly from Stefan Edberg, one of the greatest volleyers in history. However time slowly ravages at the edges of an athlete’s body and a little speed, flexibility and recovery time is lost. Winning seven matches is probably beyond him unless he can get through six of them without a marathon as he did at Wimbledon this year on his way to the final leaving enough in the tank to push Novak to the limit in a five set thriller. Roger is such a great champion and I have so much respect for his ability to keep reinventing himself to keep pace, for his pure love of the sport, competing because he enjoys it, not just to win. I humbly say that Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that he can still win. Andy Murray has not been mentally on it at Grand Slam focus level since he won Wimbledon. He has to somehow find the level of calm aggression that he had for eighteen months from January 2012 through to his Wimbledon triumph where he was arguably the best player on the planet.
So where would one put their money in 2015?
The smart money will be on Djokovic who will probably have a good off season and be ready to push for every Slam, with his main aim being the missing trophy of Paris. I expect Novak to be very inconsistent in the rest of 2014 as he settles into fatherhood. Look for upsets in his direction until next year. His main challengers will be new US Open Champ Marin Cilic, defending champ Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Federer. Raonic is close and performing consistently in the Slams and Austarlia could be his breakthrough. The next tier who all have the ability to break through but as yet not quite there are Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori and the Aussie Kyrgios. I would place Andy Murray in this second band unless he shows over the next few weeks in Asia and the Paris Masters that he can win bigger titles again. Unless Nadal plays towards the end of this year and shows form, I believe Melbourne will come too soon for him and Del Potro.
Rafa Nadal and Novak will fight it out as they did this year. However I can see Wawrinka, Nishikori and Cilic as dangers with Dimitrov ahead of Raonic on the clay. Gael Monfils is always a dash of hope for the French, but I fear will never win the title. My wild card bets are for one of Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric, Dominic Thiem or Diego Sebastian Schwartzman to cause surprises and create names for themselves not as winners but to feature possibly as late as the quarter-finals. It is difficult at this stage to see beyond Nadal and Djokovic.
There is one early bet that is unbelievable value and will not last too long. Viewing the tennis betting odds at William Hill, Marin Cilic has an odd of 20/1. His game with the confidence of the US Open behind him and the belief of Goran Ivanisevic in another mission to win his beloved Wimbledon as a player and coach is irresistible. Certainly Wimbledon is a long way away but this is where the value lies as I would have Cilic as joint second favourite with Federer and a fit Nadal (if he has done well on the clay) behind Djokovic. This is where I expect Kyrgios to shine again and if he has done well during the hard court swing in America in January/February/March, he will arrive a much more experienced campaigner and therefore very dangerous on grass.