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Alix Ramsay’s Ramblings As She Waits For ATP | WTA Tennis 2019 To Begin

A basket of tennis balls for practice on Kids Day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, in New York, New York ,USA, 29 August 2015. EPA/PETER FOLEY

Being at a loose end over the festive season, we popped round to visit Mystic Mavis yesterday. Billing herself as a fortune teller to the stars and a psychic reader of great renown, we thought she could liven up a dull afternoon.


We had actually popped round the day before only to discover that her place was shut. The sign on the door read: “Closed due to unforeseen circumstances”. [This joke was brought to you by the Steve Bierley Save an Ageing Joke Foundation. The great Stevie B spent those few hours between his work as the tennis correspondent for the Guardian, his hobby as a bird watcher and his life-long struggle to remember the name of the person he was speaking to by rescuing wizened old gags and breathing life back into them. His one about the psychic was a particular favourite.]


Anyway, we thought Mavis could gaze into her crystal ball and reveal the secrets of 2019. After much persuasion and the crossing of her palm with several pieces of silver, she lifted the veil on the coming year to reveal these few nuggets of wisdom.


1 – The youngsters are revolting

This has happened before, mind you. Generations of young hopefuls have gathered in numbers with the aim of storming the ramparts, ousting the establishment and taking over the world. Alas, all have failed as the old boys – Roger, Rafa, Djoko and Muzz – have stood firm to repel the intruders.


But life is very different now. Roger will be 38 this summer and much as he has an army of artists retouching that portrait he keeps in the attic, even he knows that he cannot go on forever. Then there is Raf: the spirit is willing but the knees are weak. A 12th French Open title does not seem beyond the realms of possibility (and what is the Spanish word for 12th? And is there such a word as dozenth? If not, why not?) but it all depends on how those knees and the other assorted joints hold up. As for Muzz, he has recently admitted that his hip is still causing him some grief so he and the rest of us must wait to see how much pain he can cope with as he launches his comeback proper.


Djoko, of course, could well dominate again – after all, he only lost four matches between leaving the French Open and the end of the season. But three of those defeats were to the young guns.


Khachanov has stated his intentions by winning in Moscow and Bercy (and beating Djoko in Paris to do it). Tsitsipas announced himself in 2018 by winning his first title (Stockholm), reaching two other finals and beating Djoko in Toronto. And then there was Sascha Zverev who grabbed his first big boys’ title by beating Djoko to win the ATP Finals (do you sense a theme developing here?).


Revolution, then, is definitely in the air.


2 – Mum’s the word

Serena Williams will win Wimbledon and so match Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles. She will then march on Flushing Meadows to try and set her own record of 25 major wins only to fall in the final and retire to a life of motherhood and legendhood. Venus, meanwhile, will vow to keep playing until all the Brexit issues have been resolved and on the back of that, will pencil herself in for the LA Olympics in 2028 (doubles at the very least).


3 – Unstoppable Me

While Serena makes headlines and the others huff and puff, Simona Halep will keep on winning when it matters (and when she is fit). Having taken an eternity to get to No.1, no one now seems able to shift her from her perch while in her fourth grand slam final, she finally worked out how to get her hands on the trophy. Simona, it seems, takes her time to learn her lessons but once she has learned them, she never forgets.


4 – Getting the band back together

Like the Beatles, tennis’s Fab Four have long since split up and gone their separate ways. Like the Beatles, they topped the charts for a decade but then age and life got in the way and they drifted apart. Roger – like Paul – keeps on going and may well be staging one-off gigs into his 70s (sans the Botox and the hair dye, we hope). Raf is more your Ringo – everyone’s favourite and always on hand for a star turn. Djoko and Muzz are harder to read, though. But if Muzz can find a way to resolve his dodgy hip, he could have one last hurrah in him and we may well see one last performance by the Fab Four in the latter stages of a grand slam in 2019. Get your tickets now, though: this will be a once in a lifetime show and we will not see its like again (see 1 – The youngsters are revolting).


5 – The hills are alive

Having found true peace and the meaning of life up a French alp, Djoko will incorporate hill walking into his regular training routine. His French trek helped him win Wimbledon and the US Open and regain his No.1 ranking; in the clean air and tranquillity of a mountain top, he regained his focus and his love for his sport and became all but unbeatable. This, then, is a winning formula for the future. Keep your eyes peeled for lone Serbs wandering the hills around the Yarra Valley in January.


Of course, it doesn’t always work out so well. Theresa May tried the same approach back in 2017. Taking a break, she went hill walking in Wales with her husband and, atop a Welsh hillock she decided to call a snap election thus proving herself to be a Prime Ministerial pillock. She lost her majority in that election and has been clinging on to power by her kitten heels ever since. Still, some you win, some you lose…


6 – Digging deep

While the other grand slams are doing their bit for the players by introducing final set tiebreaks to stop the matches dragging on for days, the French stand resolutely apart. Six and a half hour matches? ‘Bof,’ they say. Bof is a uniquely French word that defies translation, a sort of verbal equivalent of a Parisian shrug. Nothing will change their beautiful game so, no, they will not be having final set tiebreaks. That said, whenever John Isner is serving at Roland Garros, he will be required to stand in a four foot hole.


7 – And the winners are…

Just as Mavis was asking the spirits for the names (and contact details) of the 2019 grand slam winners, her crystal ball went dark and a large bloke in a trilby and trench coat appeared at the door. It was Bloggins of the Tennis Integrity Unit and he had been following Mavis for weeks. He had her banged to rights for selling insider information so her salon was closed down until further notice. Just another one of Mavis’s unforeseen circumstances…

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