Jack Draper is going to be VERY dangerous, the only way is up for Emma Raducanu… while Andy Murray could make an emotional Wimbledon farewell in 2024
Emma Raducanu's commercial activities are attracting a lot of comment, but there could be little criticism of the fact that she dropped by earlier this month to support a charity that helped her when she was still a little-known junior.
Without fanfare, Raducanu joined Jack Draper at Wimbledon to add extra sparkle to a black tie fundraiser for Tennis First, which provides financial assistance to those on their way to the professional game.
As the new season dawns with events spread across Australasia, these two must look ahead with optimism, provided they can avoid the injury mishaps that plagued them in 2023.
Raducanu is the lesser known quantity after a month of preparation that underlined that she does things her own way.
For example, she headed to Hong Kong for a sponsorship gig and posted photos of a late-night training session with two local coaches unknown to the Lawn Tennis Association staff who helped her at the National Tennis Center. A few eyebrows were also raised when she did a Porsche photoshoot at the same NTC.
Emma Raducanu hopes to put her injury nightmare behind her during the 2024 season
Jack Draper has also been hampered by injuries, but his progress will be fascinating to watch
Draper showed off his improved fitness as he won the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in London
On the plus side, her work with Nick Cavaday is earlier Christmas It seems an encouraging move if the arrangement were to be finalized.
The 37-year-old from Kent is a familiar face from Raducanu's time developing at Bromley's tennis academy and enjoys a good reputation as a quietly thorough coach with a fair amount of experience in the professional game.
Raducanu is headed to Auckland and the ASB Classic, where it all started to go wrong last year after she twisted an ankle while being forced to play indoors by rain.
A new reality is that, according to tournament sources, she will not receive an appearance fee this time.
That's a result of her ranking dropping to the low 200s as she hasn't hit a ball in anger since mid-April.
A reasonable projection of what could happen, assuming she can stay fit, is that she struggles in the early stages of her comeback before hopefully hitting her stride again. She remains a very special athletic talent, is still young and will no longer have any points to defend from mid-March, so the only way will be up.
As Draper, who has known her for a long time, recently said: 'I know sometime next year, or the year after, she will be back in those finals and big positions because she has everything it takes. It's just a matter of when.'
Andy Murray may be about to enter the final season of his professional career
Some have predicted that Murray could make an emotional retirement at Wimbledon in 2024
Rafael Nadal returns to the tour after saying this will be the final season of his career
Draper's own progress will be fascinating to watch this season.
While it was easy to dismiss the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in London before Christmas as a mere exhibition, his winning performance there showed not only how good he is, but also how his basic fitness appears to have improved.
You can be sure that the strong field gathered there will have taken notice, with a view to when they might face him this season.
A key task for Draper at the Grand Slams will be to get past opponents he needs to beat without being dragged into unnecessarily long matches. If he does that, he will become very dangerous, even for the best players on the ATP Tour.
While he and Raducanu make promises for the future, Andy Murray – who headed to Dubai for training this month – will look to recall the glories of the past as he embarks on what could be the final season of his career.
There have been predictions that he would make an emotional exit at Wimbledon, and that could happen.
However, there are those close to him who also offer the prospect that if he achieves decent results, he will see no reason not to continue squeezing the last straw from his career.
Never underestimate the 36-year-old Scot's pure, unadulterated love for tennis and competition.
There were also times this year where a single point here and there could have turned things around differently, such as against Stefanos Tsitsipas at Wimbledon, where he was eliminated in five sets.
He is also someone who changes his mind quickly, so it should not be assumed that what would be his 16th Wimbledon – he has missed three through injury – will be his last.
That might not be the case for Rafael Nadal, another who is heading out on what he originally announced as a farewell tour. Both he and Murray will kick off the ATP event in Brisbane.
Cam Norrie, Dan Evans and Katie Boulter will represent Great Britain at the United Cup team event, which will take place in just two cities this year, Perth and Sydney.
Tennis had a problem in 2023 as too many of its most interesting names – including Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Raducanu and Nick Kyrgios – were barely seen or not seen at all.
It would be a good thing for everyone if everyone were present and correct much more often in 2024, although in Kyrgios' case seeing is always believing.
Another characteristic of this season was that Novak Djokovic only played twelve ranking tournaments, but nevertheless he will start this year with some distance as number 1 in the world.
For Djokovic, who also plays in the United Cup, the Australian Open usually provides the perfect way to get ready for the year.
He will be going for his eleventh title where he performs best, where the surface is ideal and he gets favorable scheduling treatment by being used repeatedly on the first match of the evening session.
If he wins there, and he probably will, expect him to still be the dominant player even when he turns 37 in May.
The fact is that while Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner may be closing in, they still need to prove they can beat him consistently over five sets, even taking into account the Spaniard's extraordinary afternoon at Wimbledon this summer.
Novak Djokovic, left, remains the man to beat, but players like Carlos Alcaraz are getting closer
World No. 1 Iga Swiatek remains the player to beat on the WTA tour heading into 2024
Should someone in Melbourne cause a disruption, the story could be very different.
Ultimately, the women's game will likely be less predictable, as is now common, and Iga Swiatek is the player to beat – everywhere but Wimbledon.
Overall, 2023 was not a great year for tennis, a sport that is too resistant to change and is currently undergoing a transition as a golden generation leaves.
Still, it always bounces back, and it will be a surprise if this globetrotting sports soap – which is largely moving to Sky in Britain this year – isn't significantly more intriguing over the next twelve months.