Tennis in 2018: The Sky Sports team preview the return of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic
Last Updated: 24/12/17 3:32pm
After Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer's renaissance in form during 2017, focus turns to how they will fare with Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic back in the fold?
So what do Marcus Buckland, Barry Cowan, Barry Millns and Mark Petchey think will happen to the two former world No 1s on their return to the sport?
I am very worried about his comeback, to be honest. We saw during the charity event in Glasgow, although it was a great night, he was struggling to move as well as he would have liked.
The one aspect I was very encouraged about was that Jamie Delgado (his coach) told me during the week (of the ATP Finals) that he was getting better day by day. It is hard to say for certain until we see what he is like after his period of pre-season preparation in Miami.
We will know quite early in the New Year just where he is at, but at the moment there have to be doubts. We shouldn't expect too much at the start of the season but if he can just start to convince himself as much as anything that he can move as well as he wants to then by the spring we might start to see the real Andy Murray emerge again. However, the verdict is definitely out at the moment.
We shouldn't expect too much at the start of the season but if he can just start to convince himself as much as anything that he can move as well as he wants to then by the spring we might start to see the real Andy Murray emerge again.
Marcus Buckland on Andy Murray
Assuming he recovers from the injury, I believe he is the player to return to the top of the world in 2018. However, we can't be sure of that until we see him playing.
He is young enough and good enough to be as good as he was before. It is easy to forget just how good he was when he completed the career Grand Slam. Having been out of the game for six months, you don't realise how much you miss the game until you are sidelined, so if he has got that intense hunger back and he has got himself fit again then there is no reason why he can't be as good as before - if not even better.
I think it's impossible to say what will happen with Andy in 2018. He hasn't played for six months - the hip injury was serious. He hasn't played competitively since, so he won't know how that hip will hold up after a rigorous five-setter, or two matches, or three days. Will it be stiff or will it be fine?
He's going into the new season fully rested, full of ambition, but full of apprehension. I would want to revisit that question after the first couple of months and that doesn't necessarily mean winning tournaments. It's about how he's moving, how he's turning, how is he in terms of his recovery? If he can't then we all know what that means, but if he can then he's at an age where there's plenty of great tennis in him.
He's fresh and from all accounts he's fit. We'll know more in Doha and Australia, but he's only going to get better as the season goes on. He dominated the sport at a ridiculous level for a period of time and in the end, he burned himself out mentally.
He has the advantage of coming up from the bottom of the rankings and working his way up. When Novak was 100 per cent fit and 100 per cent focused two years ago, it was impossible to beat him in big matches.
You never lose it - it just takes time to get it back and I've got great hopes for him. I think he will have a phenomenal year.
The Panel predict 2018 Grand Slam winners:
|Marcus Buckland||Barry Cowan||Barry Millns||Mark Petchey|
|Australian Open||Roger Federer||Alexander Zverev||Novak Djokovic||Roger Federer|
|French Open||Rafael Nadal||Rafael Nadal||Rafael Nadal||Rafael Nadal|
|Wimbledon||Grigor Dimitrov||Roger Federer||Roger Federer||Roger Federer|
|US Open||Juan Martin del Potro||Novak Djokovic||Novak Djokovic||Novak Djokovic|
I'm less convinced at this stage about Andy. I think we're all waiting to see just how fully recovered he really is from the hip injury.
We've seen hip injuries end careers of players in their late 20s and early 30s, so if it's a chronic problem then for all the rest he's having, you sort of wonder when he's back on tour competing, he will have to fight so hard again.
How long will that hip last before it's another issue again? I hope he can come back and play at his very best because Murray at his very best is an absolute joy to watch. The issue he's having to deal with is the most significant one of the lot.
If the elbow injury has fully recovered then I expect to see him coming back stronger than ever. I don't see why he can't recapture the form where he was at a couple of years ago.
There was obviously a lot of things going on behind the scenes so maybe the timeout has calmed that all down. His focus now is 2018 with his team in place. Radek Stepanek is on board with Andre Agassi, which is a great combination. I think he will be a severe test for anybody if he clicks into gear.
For Andy, the most important aspect heading into Brisbane is to be able to play 100% physically to enable him to get back to match fitness and playing at the elite level pretty quickly.
I don't have any doubt that he will return to his best assuming he is physically capable of doing so. He is at a stage where he is going to have to do things a little bit differently and manage the hip issue that he has right now.
He has enough wise men to help him make those decisions. It is not fair to say he needs to take a leaf out of Roger and Rafa's book in terms of scheduling.
He has to focus on what is right for him - whether that is playing two lead-up tournaments heading into a major and missing hard court events to protect his hip and playing more on clay then I do not know. He needs to concentrate on what will allow him to compete for however long he has left in tennis at the peak.
It is not fair to say he needs to take a leaf out of Roger and Rafa's book in terms of scheduling. He has to focus on what is right for him
Mark Petchey on Andy Murray
Looking at some of the pictures from training in Monte Carlo it looks as though he is playing with a slightly different weight balance on that frame which is in some way trying to help him alleviate whatever problem he was having with his elbow.
Anytime you start changing and tinkering with the racket that has served you so well could be another contributing factor in how long it takes him to recover.
There are a number of factors that are unknown on Novak's side heading into 2018 but the positives he has on his side are having Andre Agassi in his corner, who firmly believes he is going to be back at the top of the game. He has also got someone who was an outstanding player in Radek Stepanek, who is so astute and also knows a lot of the current players.
The pundits were speaking to Sky Sports' Raz Mirza and Mathieu Wood.
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