NEW YORK - The new year is made for resolutions and predictions. So here's what will happen in the world of tennis in 2017 in a season that will feature a comeback for veteran stars Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
Federer to make a slam final. At Wimbledon, where he has won a record-equaling seven titles. Federer has some work to do to return to the top five, given his inactivity since deciding to end his season in July.
Motivation remains sky high for Federer, the 35 year old plans on playing a couple more seasons and even when injured he came close to reaching the final at Wimbledon. He returned to action Monday at the Hopman Cup in Perth and quickly dismissed Britain's Dan Evans.
If Federer, the men's leader with 17 majors, makes the final and plays defending champion Andy Murray, his chances would appear to be good. Federer has won five straight matches against Scotland's two-time Olympic gold medalist and new world number one.
But no new men's winners now. Grigor Dimitrov. Kei Nishikori. Milos Raonic. By now, some would have expected at least one of the trio to have won a grand slam
The 'Big Four': Federer, Nadal, Murray and Novak Djokovic, however, continue to reign supreme, with Stan Wawrinka adding to a superlative quintet. Advances in recovery, nutrition and training mean those five players are able to sustain their high levels for longer periods.
Since the beginning of 2010, 28 majors ago, only six players aside from the quintet have appeared in a grand slam final, including Raonic at Wimbledon this year and Nishikori at the US Open in 2014.
Expect the dominance of those five to continue and don't expect any new men's grand slam winners.
Several women's pros said last year that Angelique Kerber's win over Williams at the Australian Open gave them the belief that they too could topple the American. Kerber added a second major at the US Open.
If Williams' aura has faded slightly, she certainly wasn't far off winning three majors in 2016 instead of the one title she secured at Wimbledon. Williams endured injury throughout 2016, which no doubt made her more vulnerable.
At 35 such physical issues aren't a surprise but Williams should return to the circuit refreshed and with less pressure than 11 months ago when the California native had to back up a sensational 2015 season that saw her come within two wins of achieving a calendar year grand slam.
She won Wimbledon, the Australian and French Open titles in that year but went out in the semifinal of the US Open.
Kerber to add to slam collection
Is Kerber, who ended Williams' stay at No. 1 in September, a one-year wonder destined to fade in 2017? Her game, and the current WTA landscape, suggest not.
The German left-hander is no longer a defensive player largely retrieving at the back of the court. Rather, aggression has slowly but surely found its way into the 28-year-old's game. She is also competing better than ever.
And with the pregnant Victoria Azarenka off the tour for a while longer and Sharapova not back from her drug suspension until late April -- with the Russian needing time to return to form -- Kerber will, if healthy, remain in the top two for a while yet.