olympics games

Twelve Storylines to Watch Out for in 2012

Tennis at the London Olympics

The London Olympics Games adds another dynamic to the 2012 tennis calendar. Coming just three weeks after Wimbledon, players will have to adjust their already busy schedules for a shot at Olympic gold. Although the Games do not hold as much gravitas as the four Grand Slams, the London Olympics should attract a lot of interest due to its familiar location at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, host of the Wimbledon Championships.

The defending Olympic champions are Rafael Nadal and Elena Dementieva, both of whom won the singles competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It should be interesting to see if Roger Federer can add Olympic gold in Men’s singles to his collection or if Andy Murray can win it for the home team.

Can Novak Djokovic repeat his 2011 magic?

Novak Djokovic had one of the most memorable tennis seasons ever in 2011. The test now becomes whether the world No. 1 can sustain his dominance in 2012. At only 24-years-old, the Serbian is in prime position to add to his four Grand Slam titles. Even with nagging injuries and a target on his back, Djokovic looks to be the man to beat as the new season unfolds.

Will Caroline Wozniacki win her first major title?

The Slam-less world No. 1 may not have an aggressive game, but she continues to perform consistently well on tour (as evident by her second consecutive year-end No. 1 ranking.) Can she finally break through in 2012 and win her maiden Grand Slam? With a new coach, Spaniard Ricardo Sanchez, in hand – Wozniacki has the chance to finally put this question to rest with a Grand Slam victory and prove to critics that she is worthy of her ranking.

What’s next for Donald Young?

One of the more surprising stories of 2011 was the emergence of Donald Young. Long touted as the future of American tennis, Young turned pro in 2004 at only 15-years-old after an extremely successful junior career. Young spent the following years toiling in the Challenger Tour and losing to players below his ranking. But 2011 was a turnaround year for the 22-year-old.

Young upset then world No. 5 Andy Murray at Indian Wells, which was followed by his first ATP semifinals appearance at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. He brought his exciting game to the U.S. Open and fought his way to the fourth round, reinvigorating fans that have yearned to see him succeed. Young also reached an ATP final in Bangkok, losing to Andy Murray. At world No. 39, Young’s confidence is at an all time-high and a successful 2012 will go a long way in proving that he is ready to be player that everyone expected him to be.

The return of Sam Querrey and Robin Soderling

The 2011 season was a frustrating one for both Sam Querrey and Robin Soderling. Because of an elbow injury that required surgery, Querrey was forced to miss most the season, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The towering American began the year at a career high world No. 17 and has the talent to contend at Grand Slams. Querrey was able to play in a couple Challenger tournaments towards the end of year and now sits at world No. 93.

Two-time French Open finalist Soderling suffered a wrist injury and was diagnosed with mononucleosis that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open and will keep him out of the 2012 Australian Open. Previously ranked as high as world No. 4, the hard-hitting Swede is currently ranked No. 13 in the world.

Like Juan Martin del Potro this year, the return of these two talents will be much welcomed in 2012.

Is Petra Kvitova the real deal?

With the current parity in women’s tennis, there is an absence of a dominant player that can contend in every Grand Slam. There were four different winners in the 2011, with three earning their maiden major title. The 21-year-old Kvitova has the game to cement herself as a favorite going into tournaments and finished the season strong, with a win at the WTA Tour Championships and Fed Cup victory. It remains to be seen, but 2012 can be a statement year for the world No. 2.

Which maiden Grand Slam winner will back it up in 2012?

Speaking of first-time Grand Slam winners, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur will all have a chance to defend their 2011 victories on the big stage. Li, Asia’s first Grand Slam singles winner, struggled after her win at Roland Garros, losing in the second round at Wimbledon and exiting in the first at the U.S. Open. The streaky Stosur finished the year in style with a convincing win over Serena Williams on Arthur Ashe stadium and will be an early favorite going into her home Grand Slam at the Australian Open, which begins January 16.

Can the young Americans make a push in the rankings and Grand Slams?

At the 2011 U.S. Open, young Americans made headlines for scoring upsets, which provided a glimpse of American’s tennis future. Players such as Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens, Irina Falconi, Madison Keys, Ryan Harrison, Donald Young and Jack Sock all rose rapidly in the rankings in 2011 and could be a factor in tournaments next season, including the Grand Slams.

Will there be a No. 17 for Roger Federer?

The 2011 season marked the first time since 2002 that 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer did not win a major title. But with at least a quarterfinals appearance in each Grand Slam this year, the 30-year-old Swiss proved he has much left in his tank. Federer ended Djokovic’s undefeated streak of 43-consecutive wins at the French Open semifinal and was “a shot” away from reaching the U.S. Open finals. He should not be counted out for any of the Grand Slams in 2012.

The return (and retirement?) of Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijster’s 2011 campaign was cut short due to an abdominal injury, but she appears healthy and ready to make a push in 2012. At 28-years-old, Clijsters is one of the veterans on the WTA Tour and had said earlier in the year that the 2012 Olympics may be her last “big event.” Her return instantly makes her an early favorite at the Australian Open and the will she/won’t she retirement talk will certainly be a topic throughout the year.

The young guns

In addition to young Americans ready to make a run, several fresh faces on the ATP Tour made a name for themselves in 2011. Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov made an early statement by reaching this year’s Australian Open quarterfinals, knocking out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling along the way. With his unorthodox style and go-for-broke shots, the 23-year-old Dolgopolov has plenty of upside.

Canada’s Milos Raonic brought his country’s tennis hopes back into conversation with booming serves that reached 150 miles per hour. In 2011, the 21-year-old Raonic won his first career ATP title at the SAP Open and reached the finals at Memphis. Currently ranked No. 31 and recovered from hip surgery, Raonic is eager to continue his ascent in 2012.

As a qualifier, Bernard Tomic stormed all the way into the Wimbledon quarterfinals where he lost in four-sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. The 19-year-old has a powerful game and could be a real threat at the Grand Slams next season.

The health of Venus Williams

At 31-years-old and suffering from various ailments, Venus Williams appears to be in the tail end of her illustrious career. Williams suffered another set back when she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain, during the U.S. Open. She was scheduled to play in Auckland next week in preparation from the Australian Open but withdrew to continue her recovery. There will be a lot of focus on her status as the season approaches and the game will be missing one of its biggest stars until she returns.

Tennis Grandstand writer Lindsay Gibbs contributed to this list. All photos were taken at the 2011 U.S. Open by managing editor Romana Cvitkovic.