We're just days away from ringing in the new year with family and friends, but more importantly, the beginning if the 2010 tennis season is inching closer and closer. The first week of tournaments is January 4th, so we have a few days to make our predictions and look ahead to the year's first slam, the Australian Open. We'll begin by looking for 5 players that will make big-time noise this year.
1. David Nalbandian- This Argentine had a crummy 2009, with a severe injury that shortened his campaign, and disappointing results, but with one of the best backhands in the game, and the experience to match it, Nalbandian will return to the elite. He now sits with a ranking of 64, but after surgery and a long 7 months of preparation, look for the former world number 3 to make a surprising run in Melbourne.
2. Sabine Lisicki- After winning her first ever title in Charleston, upsetting Caroline Wozniacki in the final, Sabine Lisicki continued her impressive play, finishing the season just outside the top 20. The 20 year old reached a GS quarterfinal at Wimbledon, and was 2nd on the WTA Tour in aces behind Serena Williams. Expect this German to make a lot of noise in 2010.
3. Richard Gasquet- Cleared if his now infamous cocaine scandal, Frenchman Richard Gasquet is ready to return to the ATP Tour with a chip on his shoulder. Once a fixture in the top 15, Gasquet career took a turn for the worse with zero titles in 2008 and a 2009 cut short by suspension. Now just outside the top 50, Gasquet, who is still just 23, will be a danger to the elite.
4. Shahar Peer- This Israeli has been on the tour for quite some time, but at just 22 years old, she has her whole career ahead of her. Shahar Peer won two titles in 2009 at recorded 39 match wins. She has said she plans to have an even better year in 2010, so the ladies of the tour should be aware of Peer and her fierce groundstrokes.
5. Petra Kvitova- Petra Kvitova made her mark on the WTA in 2009. At just 19 years old, she defeated then world number 1 Dinara Safina en route to the US Open 4th round. She won her premiere title earlier in the year in Hobart, and she reached the top 50. This Czech could definitely become a threat on the big stages.