This year has had its fair share of surprises, and most of the predictions made for 2011 were simply tossed out of the window as soon as the first ball was hit in January. Likely as that is to happen again, I'll still take a stab at it.
Here are five significant observations from 2011, which should help us estimate to some degree what to expect in what should be a scintillating 2012.
Many names have been touted to take over at the helm of men's tennis in the near future. Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, Latvian Ernests Gulbis and Americans Donald Young and Ryan Harrison have received the greatest media attention as far as bright future prospects go. Dimitrov's development has been disappointingly slow, while Harrison and Gulbis continue to battle temperament issues.
One person who has quietly but consistently been climbing the rankings and getting good results, however, is likable young Australian Bernard Tomic. He became the youngest ever male winner at the Australian Open when he won his first round match at 16-years-old in 2009.
He's been refreshingly consistent since, and his breakthrough came at Wimbledon this year when he defeated Nikolay Davydenko and Robin Soderling in straight sets, reaching the quarterfinals and even taking a set off the red-hot Djokovic.
People have drawn comparisons to Boris Becker. Only a brave man would bet against it, particularly given Tomic's age.
Andy Roddick had an exceptional start to 2010, but there's nothing exceptional about how this year has panned out for the outgoing American. He was annihilated at the Australian Open in the fourth round by Wawrinka, and the only positive this season has been Memphis, where he beat Raonic, pulling out arguably the shot of the year on championship point.
He lost to Gasquet in Indian Wells, and then went on a winless streak lasting Miami and all of the clay court season, with his next victory coming only three months later on the grass at Queen's. He lost in the third round of Wimbledon and was humiliated by Nadal at the US Open.
He's been ordinary after that, not able to compete with the best players, even his serve letting him down at crucial moments. It's hard not to feel sorry for him sometimes; a great player, after all, is slowly being cast into tennis irrelevance.
People point to Federer lacking motivation every time he makes an early exit from a Masters 1000 tournament, but the truth of the matter is that, stunningly, since Wimbledon 2010, Federer has made the quarter finals of every one except two tournaments that he's played. (Rome 2011, lost to Gasquet, and Montreal, 2011, lost to Tsonga, both third round, are the only exceptions.) He's been giving every tournament his all, and besides going deep into the Slams, he's doing outstandingly well in the Masters Series as well.
He has nothing left to prove, but he still believes he has the game to take him to the top again and add to his bulging collection of 16 Grand Slams. After what we've seen him do in the last couple of weeks in Basel and Bercy, there's no reason he can't.
What is it that makes people think Nadal is on a downward slope? That he couldn't beat Djokovic, who's had one of the most dominant seasons in tennis history? True, all three titles he's won this season have been on clay, but three Grand Slam finals in a season is nothing other than a marvellous achievement.
He still firmly belongs in the tennis elite; his desire is possibly greater right now than even Djokovic's, and he'll be snapping at the Serb's ankles as soon as 2012 starts. Count on him winning at least one Grand Slam next year, and being a threat for many after.
Didn't he wilt in the heat in Australia? Didn't he give up and pull out of matches far too easily? Wasn't his family too loud and an unwelcome distraction? Wouldn't he just be a Djoker but never really become a champion?
Besides, wasn't Nadal just too good on clay? Wasn't grass Djokovic's weakest surface anyway? Wasn't he clearly the third best player in the world, with Nadal and Federer simply better than him?
The answer to all of those questions might have been "yes" at one point, but is a resounding "no" now.
This year was supposed to be about Nadal dominating the tour like the Federer of 2004-07, but it's safe to say that hasn't happened. A run of 41-consecutive wins to start the year that included victory Down Under and defeats of Nadal in California and Miami, and much more significantly, on the European clay of Madrid and Rome, only tells half the story. He would go on to win both Wimbledon and the US Open, beating Nadal in yet another two finals.
A new record of five Masters Series shields in a year is only of secondary importance. Maybe the most crucial, yet subtle, achievement for Djokovic is that if "Nadal vs Djokovic" is indeed the rivalry of the future, the Serb well and truly has the upper hand.