December 31, 2019

2020 Vision: The Farewells...and the Comebacks

All right, we've finally come down to it -- the last day of the year and the final part of my "Things to Watch in 2020" series. We've looked at everything from the players set to continue their dominance in the new decade to the ones ready to take over the top ranks, from the breakout stars hoping to build on their success of the past year to the ones who really need to step up to the plate soon.

But there are some other changes coming to the tennis field next year -- some to be excited about, and others a real shame.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. Caroline Wozniacki announced earlier this month that she'd end her storied career after the Australian Open, the same stage on which she won her first and only Grand Slam. It's been a long ride for the 29-year-old, who went nine years between her Major final debut and her big win Down Under. But over that time she racked up a total of thirty singles titles and 71 weeks as the #1 player in the world. She's had some struggles -- she's only managed one win over good friend and clear superior Serena Williams over her career, and an injury dropped her as low as #60 during the 2016 season. But she's always managed to claw her way back, even when we counted her out.

On the personal side, she's endured a terrible break-up square in the public eye and found new love and ultimately decided this is the time for her to focus on her family. Of course she's not done yet -- she'll be teaming up with Serena for doubles in Auckland and she'll try to put up a fight in Melbourne. Win or lose, though, it'll be fun to watch her try.

Of course, even when Woz leaves the game, we can't truly rule out a return down the road. If anyone taught us that it was Kim Clijsters. I've already expressed my excitement that the 36-year-old is coming out of retirement for a second time, and now we have a little more detail. Originally planning to play in Melbourne, she had to put things off a bit when she tore her MCL, but she now promises she'll hit the courts again in March in Monterrey and expects also to make a run for another title in Indian Wells. Will she have the same success she enjoyed in her prior two careers? Let's not forget she actually won more Grand Slams in her encore than she did in her first run, even briefly re-claiming the top ranking. Of course, we're now eight years -- and two more kids! -- removed from that era, but I wouldn't count out another title or two.

My final entry on this list may seem a little misplaced, but over the last few months and years Andy Murray certainly has straddled the line between bidding adieu and bounding back into the spotlight. At the start of last year, it seemed like we were prepping for the Scot's farewell tour -- after a near career-ending second hip surgery last January, he gave an emotional press conference before the 2019 Australian Open saying it could be the last time he played. Now I haven't always been his biggest fan, but even I had to admit the game wouldn't be the same without him.

Murray wasn't able to get a win in Melbourne -- and only played doubles (also with Serena, go figure) at his homeland's Wimbledon -- but he stunned the world by capturing a title in Antwerp this past October, outdoing Stan Wawrinka, himself on the rebound, in the final. Unfortunately his fate for the new year is again in question -- a pelvic injury this time has forced him out of at least the first few tournaments of the year. But if he does get back on court at some point, you know he can never be counted out.

Well that does it for my set of story lines for 2020 (though, tune in -- I may have a little extra coming in tomorrow). As I mentioned, I hope to be back to posting like I used to -- maybe not quite as much, but hopefully I'll be more tuned in to what's going on. So keep on coming back, and let me know what's on your mind as we kick off and party through the new year.

'Til then...

Oh my god, I nearly forgot the biggest looming departure of the year, which is doubly depressing because it involves not one but two champions. After more than twenty years on tour, sixteen Grand Slam and four year-end championships together -- not to mention the hundred plus other titles they've captured with each other or partners -- the Bryan Brothers are hanging up their rackets for good after the U.S. Open. I've always said that doubles is an underrated segment of the game, and to watch truly great players like the twins is a privilege. While they've certainly set the standard for excellence in their specialty and ushered in an era of equally talented athletes, there's going to be something missing when we no longer get to witness their signature chest bump of victory.

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