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10 fearless predictions for 2018

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We look into the crystal ball to see what's in store for the rest of the year.

1. Simona Halep to win maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros
Looking to make history as the first woman to win a Grand Slam title after surviving match points in two matches, Halep admitted she was ready mentally for the Australian Open final, but not physically. After taking a break to heal her battle-weary body – namely her aching feet and suspect ankle – expect Halep to be hungrier and not broken mentally after her third Grand Slam final defeat. Her best chance at breaking through remains Roland Garros where she will likely amend for letting a winning lead slip in last year’s decider to clasp her first major trophy.

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28 Jan 18
Simona Halep press conference following her valiant efforts in the women's final of Australian Open 2018.

Simona Halep press conference

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2. Caroline Wozniacki to suffer the first-slam slump
It took her 12.5 years on tour, 67 weeks as world No.1 and 811 matches to get there but Caroline Wozniacki finally broke her Grand Slam duck at Melbourne Park. An astonishing 10 of the past 11 first-time women’s Grand Slam champions (including Marion Bartoli, who retired) have not featured beyond the fourth round at their subsequent major. Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko broke that run of nine in a row when she reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last season but US Open champion Sloane Stephens became the latest to join the list with her first-round capitulation at Melbourne Park. Wozniacki has advanced past the third round in Paris only twice in 10 appearances so an early departure on the clay would not be a huge surprise.

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28 Jan 18
The women's final was a fantastic tussle between two quality players in Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.

The fight to the top: Wozniacki v Halep

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3. Ash Barty to crack the top 10
Three years ago, struggling to cope with the strain of life on tour, the talented prodigy ditched tennis for a stint playing cricket in the Women’s Big Bash League. After reaching the third round at Melbourne Park in 2016 the prediction that she would crack the top 100 could not have been more understated. With her passion for the game reignited, Barty is playing with extraordinary discipline and maturity and after finishing the season at No.17 in the world, the 21-year-old Aussie is primed for a tilt at the top 10. Expect a top-16 seeding in time for Wimbledon where she will make her first deep run at the slam where she won the junior title seven years prior.

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18 Jan 18
Australian Ashleigh Barty takes second round against Camila Giorgi in Australian Open 2018.

Ashleigh Barty def. Camila Giorgi match highlights (2R)

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4. Angelique Kerber to bring back shades of 2016
She can laugh about it now – joking about hitting the reset button on her annus horribilis in 2016 – but gutsy German Angelique Kerber is back ready to do some serious damage again in 2018. Looking as fit and focused as she did in her standout 2016 season, in which she won two Grand Slam titles and finished the year at No.1, Kerber’s 14-match winning streak was finally broken in a nail-biting semifinal against Halep at Melbourne Park. Don’t expect miracles at Roland Garros – typically her worst of the majors – but with a hard court or grass under foot, expect to hear those fist-pump cries of “kommt jetzt” with increased frequency again as she surges back into the top five.

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26 Jan 18
A look back at Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber's epic Australian Open SF.

As it happened: Halep v Kerber (SF)

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5. Denis Shapovalov to crack top 30 before August
Provided his big-serving countryman returns to full fitness, it might be a bit much to expect Denis Shapovalov to surpass Milos Raonic as the new flag-bearer in Canadian tennis just yet. But while Raonic continues to struggle with form and injury, Shapovalov is giving those north of Niagara Falls plenty to cheer about with his swashbuckling shot-making and fearless swagger. Casting aside a second-round choke against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Melbourne Park, the Israeli-born 18-year-old is poised to make huge strides up the rankings following that breakthrough run to the Montreal Masters 1000 semifinals last season, where he felled world No.1 Rafael Nadal en route. With time on his side before he has to defend that swag of points, the kid dubbed “El Shapo” will crack the top 30 before Toronto hosts Canada’s Masters 1000 event in August.

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17 Jan 18
Match highlights from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's epic five set win over Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open 2018.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Denis Shapovalov match highlights (2R)

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6. Nick Kyrgios to reach first Slam semifinal at Wimbledon
Showing his most promising signs yet of channelling that raw emotion and extraordinary talent into on-court feats, Nick Kyrgios left Melbourne with his head held high after a determined display against third seed Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round. Brilliant, volatile, gracious and charitable throughout his Australian summer, Kyrgios captured his first home-soil title in Brisbane and has made no secret of Davis Cup being his primary goal for the year ahead. It bodes well for Lleyton Hewitt and the boys in green and gold. Expect a fully fit Kyrgios to make inroads on the turf at SW19 where he is a strong chance to push deeper than that maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance three years ago.

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22 Jan 18
A tight tussle for a spot in the 2018 Australian Open quarterfinals.

Kyrgios falls in epic battle

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7. Grigor Dimitrov to resurrect Grand Slam-winning credentials in time for Wimbledon
Pencilled in to potentially breakthrough for his maiden major title Down Under after a career-best trophy run at the season-ending ATP Finals, Grigor Dimitrov was brought crashing back to earth last week. Humbled by Kyle Edmund in a defensive quarterfinal boilover, doubts again began to swirl about the Bulgarian as to whether he had what it took to take the next step up and end Federer and Nadal’s Grand Slam-winning resurgence. Roland Garros is typically a write-off for Dimitov but a rebound in confidence in time for the grass-court season will see him back in the fray.

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23 Jan 18
Kyle Edmund's win in the the quarterfinals against Grigor Dimitrov at Australian Open 2018.

Kyle Edmund def. Grigor Dimitrov match highlights (QF)

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8. Roger Federer to enjoy stint as oldest world No.1
If it’s going to happen, it’ll be sooner rather than later but Roger Federer’s chances of ascending to No.1 for the first time in five years now hinge largely on two factors. Nadal could be forced to miss Acapulco next month with the upper right leg injury that derailed his Australian Open quarterfinal. In contrast, Federer – now just 160 points behind the Spaniard – could make up ground in Dubai, where last year he fell to world No.116 Evgeny Donskoy in the last 16. The 36-year-old Swiss would have a huge swag of points to defend soon after with the defence of his US spring double in Indian Wells and Miami so expect him to push deep in Dubai, where as a seven-time champion he would steal Andre Agassi’s record as the oldest to have held top spot.

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25 Jan 18
Tennis legends express their admiration for Roger Federer

The legend that is Roger Federer

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9. Hyeon Chung to displace Nishikori as top-ranked Asian man
A litany of injuries and subsequent confidence woes continue to plague long-time Asian No.1 Kei Nishikori and with the Japanese star having turned 28 many are beginning to cast their eye to the younger brigade in the search for Asia’s first men’s singles Grand Slam champion. Long carrying that burden alone as the continent’s best prospect, Nishikori will be thankful to share some of the limelight, following the breakout run of South Korea’s Hyeon Chung at Melbourne Park. The 21-year-old, who started the tournament ranked No.58, will carry his Djokovic-esque baseline splits and backcourt power to further success on hardcourts and grass with a season-ending top 20 ranking not out of the question.

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25 Jan 18
Hyeon Chung's stunning run to the semifinals of AO18

Hyeon Chung's road to the SF

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10. Serena Williams to return Down Under as title favourite
Too nervous to watch her friend claim a first major title at Melbourne Park, Serena Williams was among the first players to offer her congratulations to Caroline Wozniacki. After a brief hit-out in an exhibition event leading in to the Australian summer the proud mother to baby Alexis realised she still had a ways to go before she mounted a full-scale comeback. The all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles crowns is well within reach and when Wozniacki returns to defend her title Down Under next season she will have a tough time of it with Williams likely to have played herself back into enough form to become the pundits’ top pick once again.