Story of the year: Ashleigh Barty
If you’re sick of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, I have two words for you: Ashleigh Barty. She had a sensational 2017 and is now our best hope in the n Open in January. The former junior Wimbledon champion took a break from tennis to deal with depression and try her hand at cricket for the Brisbane Heat in the women’s Big Bash League. The 21-year-old returned to tennis in 2016 and started this year at the lowly ranking of world No.325.
Barty made the third round of the n Open and has gone from strength to strength since then. She won her first WTA singles title in Malaysia and has defeated a host of top players including Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta to soar up the rankings to No.17. Oh, and she made the French Open doubles final with Casey Dellacqua.
Barty, this year’s Newcombe medallist, is now ‘s highest-ranked singles player and is exciting tennis pundits with her all-court game. Even better, she has the fighting spirit of Lleyton Hewitt and the humility of Pat Rafter. Do yourself a favour and read Konrad Marshall’s profile of Barty in last week’s Good Weekend because we reckon you’ll be hearing a lot about Barty this summer.
The winners: Our major tennis tournament
The n Open. Cast your minds all the way back to January and the tournament organisers were rubbing their hands with glee when the Williams sisters, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal contested the singles finals. Federer and Nadal battling it out in a five-set epic at Melbourne Park to settle the ‘greatest of all time’ debate was arguably the global sporting moment of 2017.
After taking six months off to recover from a knee injury, few expected Federer to add to his tally of grand slam titles. But the Swiss master enhanced his legacy, winning the n Open and Wimbledon to go to 19 grand slams. Federer also went undefeated against Nadal, beating him four times – all in finals.
If you look past Kyrgios and Tomic, n tennis had a pretty good year. made the semi-finals of the Davis Cup, where Lleyton Hewitt’s men narrowly went down to Belgium in a high-quality battle. Women’s tennis is doing well with Barty and Daria Gavrilova ranked in the world’s top 25. Honourable mention to Aussie doubles player John Peers, who won the n Open and ATP tour finals with his Finnish partner Henri Kontinen.
The losers: Tennis brats draw ire
Nick Kyrgios had a shocker in 2017 and continued to frustrate fans. It started when he lost to Andreas Seppi in the second round of the n Open despite leading two sets to none. Kyrgios played great tennis to make finals in Cincinnati and the China Open and played one of the matches of the year against Federer in the semi-finals of Indian Wells. But these bright spots were few and far between. Kyrgios retired midway through his first-round match against Steve Johnson at the Shanghai Masters without any clear injury concern.
Underperformer: Nick Kyrgios didn’t make it past the second round of a grand slam in 2017. Photo: AP
Kyrgios is our most talented and exciting player but didn’t make it past the second round at grand slam level this year. It’s unclear if or when Kyrgios will take the next step in his career, but he will need to overcome the belief that he plays his best tennis in smaller tournaments when the stakes are low.
Injury cruelled much of Kyrgios’ year, with a consistent hip complaint forcing him to withdraw from several matches and end his season early. But the world No.20 says he will be good to go for the n summer and will continue without a coach in 2018.
As for Bernard Tomic, he has slid to world No.141 and it appears increasingly unlikely he will play the n Open. His once promising career has sadly disintegrated.
Quote of the year
Following his first-round loss at Wimbledon, Tomic gave a fascinating press conference in which he said he was bored on the court and his only motivation for playing tennis was prizemoney.
“I don’t know why, but, you know, I felt a little bit bored out there. You know, to be completely honest with you.”
“I just believe playing many years on tour now has sort of …taken a toll. You need to find that sort of energy. I’m just trying to find something.”
“So I feel holding a trophy or, you know, doing well, it doesn’t satisfy me anymore. It’s not there. I couldn’t care less if I make a fourth-round US Open or I lose first round. To me, everything is the same. You know, I’m going to play another 10 years, and I know after my career I won’t have to work again.”
It sparked a divided response on social media, with some praising Tomic’s refreshing honesty while others slammed Tomic for setting a bad example and not playing sport for the right reasons.
Social media moment
The world went into meltdown in April when 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams revealed she was pregnant, posting a photo of herself on Snapchat captioned “20 weeks”. This suggested Williams was about eight weeks pregnant when she won the n Open in January – an incredible feat. On September 1, Williams gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian and by all accounts is training and plans to play in the n Open.
???The return of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray from long injury lay-offs will make the men’s circuit very interesting in 2018. A young star is bound to break through soon and Germany’s Alexander Zverev is my pick to win a grand slam. On the women’s side, Serena Williams’ return will be closely watched but big-serving Czech Karolina Pliskova is a big chance to win a maiden grand slam. Barty has shown she can beat the top players and has the potential to do deep into the second week of grand slams. Barty and Dellacqua have made all four grand slam finals but fallen just short. I’m predicting they will break through for their first grand slam doubles title next year. And Kyrgios? Who knows.