2007: predicting the future in tennis Part I

We’ve been looking back at 2006 lately but it’s almost New Year’s Eve so it’s time to look forward and make a few hapless predictions for 2007. I’m not being self-effacing about my predictive abilities as much as realistic. Last year, Philip Tetlock published a book called Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? After studying predictions of political pundits for twenty years he discovered that experts were no better an predicting the outcome of world events than a well-informed intelligent adult. Too bad we didn’t know this before the war Iraq.

Will Roger Federer continue his reign?Is Wimbledon played on grass?

Luckily, James Surowiecki published a book called The Wisdom of Crowds and that’s where you the reader come in. Surowiecki showed that the best predictions come from a large group of independent people. The large group should include experts but it should also include non-experts and even a few idiots here and there.

So, I’m going to make a few predictions and your job is to join in and voice your opinion and together we’ll do a much better job of predicting the future than any of us could do alone.

Will Andy Murray get over himself? When his game is off Murray frequently launches into a non-stop barrage of verbal self-flagellation loud enough for television cameras to overhear. His coach Brad Gilbert isn’t the quietest guy in the world either. In between telling Murray when to challenge calls and his own ongoing nonstop chatter, the ATP has its own entertaining version of Laurel and Hardy. It’s unlikely that Murray’s personality will change. Has Tommy Haas changed? Has Nicolas Kiefer changed? No they haven’t but I do expect Murray’s game to improve and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him win a Masters title this year

Will Ivan Ljubicic get over his Rodney Dangerfield complex? Even when he was ranked number three in the world, tournament workers confused him with the qualifiers. He don’t get no respect and he won’t get any until he wins a big one. He’s one of those players who are perennially ranked high but don’t have a lot to show for it. Davydenko used to fit into that category before he won a Masters Series Title and doubled his career titles in 2006. David Nalbandian is another though he did win the Tennis Masters Cup in 2005. Ljubicic doesn’t have to win a slam, that might be asking too much, but one of the indoor Masters Series titles on the slick fast carpet surface should be within his reach. In my expert opinion, though, the window of opportunity might be closing for him. I expect one of the younger players to pick up a Masters shield instead of Mr. Ljubicic.

Djokovic, Gasquet or Baghdatis? So which of these young players will it be? Gasquet has never met an injury that didn’t have his name on it. I can’t think of another tennis player who’s been injured so much. Baghdatis can rise to the occasion like nobody’s business, his interest perks up considerably when a slam comes round, but he won’t win any big titles until he gets into better shape and stays there. That leaves us with Djokovic and he’s either an idiot or he’s supremely confident. He had the audacity to suggest that he was in control of his quarterfinal match with Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros despite the fact that he lost the first two sets and retired in the third. I’m going with confident and I predict he’ll be the first young player to break through with a big title. That is, after Andy Murray.

Will Roger Federer continue his reign? Is Wimbledon played on grass? Expect three more slams.

Will the Williams sisters rejoin the tour and play a significant schedule?Too late to put the cat back in the bag. Serena and Venus carried women’s tennis into the prime time, they did their job and they did it well, and now it’s time for someone else to come along and take over. Lindsay Davenport is pregnant and the rest of the US women are either over the hill or too short. Honestly, Shenay Perry is 5’7” and she’s taller than Jamea Jackson and Vania King. Martina Hingis is 5’7” and she looks like a shrimp out there. I forgot about Justine Henin-Hardenne (5’4 ¾”) so maybe my theory is falling apart, it’s just that it doesn’t look that promising. The best thing the US can hope for is to lure Maria Sharapova into becoming a US citizen. It’s only fair. She’s trained in the US since she was 7 years old. Look for her to win a another slam this year too.

I’ll be back with more predictions next week. Meanwhile, throw in some of your own and we’ll argue about them.