On The Line podcast: 2018 preview

Oliver and I return for first podcast of the new year. We discuss key stories which ended the 2017 calendar year and take a look at the opening events of the 2018 season.

On The Line podcast: 2018 preview
The last time tennis fans saw Victoria Azarenka hit a tennis ball competitively was at Wimbledon (John Walton/PA Images/Getty Images)

The offseason moves swiftly in tennis, and December 2017 was no different. Despite no tour-level action in either the ATP World Tour or the WTA, there was still plenty of news that was still to be heard. Andy Murray replaced Novak Djokovic in Abu Dhabi which gave tennis fans hope that the Brit would be back sooner rather than later, but his withdrawal from Brisbane leaves him in doubts just like the Serb.

Victoria Azarenka was given a wildcard to the ASB Classic and the Australian Open, but due to the ongoing custody battle for her son Leo with the father, she is unable to play in Auckland and certainly looks unable to play in the Australian Open as well. 

Marion Bartoli announced her comeback to tennis as the Miami Open will be her comeback event. The Frenchwoman has taken to commentary ever since her retirement not too long after winning Wimbledon and looks much healthier after her time off. It will be intriguing to see how she schedules herself for the rest of the 2018 season.

Things To Look For

One of the things we discussed was players to look out for in the opening week's events. Oliver noted that he would be looking out for David Goffin and Angelique Kerber were two of his players to watch out for. Goffin had a tremendous 2017 season which saw him win his biggest title in Tokyo and reach his biggest final in London so how he backs that up this season is going to be massive.

For Kerber, her 2017 season was poor by her standards but even more poor due to the fact she was defending so many points. Despite it being an exhibition, how she played would be key for her this season.

The two players, I wanted to focus on were Thanasi Kokkinakis and Naomi Osaka. Kokkinakis is finally injury-free and looks to get back to the level of tennis which saw him as a high as world number 69. For Osaka, this is going to be her first event with new head coach Sascha Bajin. Bajin joins the Japanese's team after working with the likes of Serena Williams, Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki so how he helps her makes improvements throughout the year will be interesting to see.