Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tennis Year-In-Review

It's a new year, which means it's a new tennis season. I'm sorry to say that if you had blinked, you might had missed the off-season. Tournaments are already underway and in fact Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer appropriately opened up the new year by getting to the finals at Abu Dhabi beating Tomas Berdych and Robin Soderling respectively. The Spaniard won the exhibition match in two very tight sets. But before 2011 gets ahead of us, let's take a moment to take a look back at what happened in the tennis world in 2010...

Nadal's Historic Year

When he retired during his semifinals match at the Australian Open to start the year, everyone wondered if the 6-time grand slam champion's best days were over. It wasn't... by a long shot. He went on an historic run on red clay going undefeated sweeping all three Masters titles and reclaiming his French Open crown. He followed it up by taking his second Wimbledon title and then just for good measure becomes the youngest player to achieve a career Grand Slam by winning the US Open. He'll attempt to get the "Rafa Slam" at Melbourne in a few weeks.

And The Best Woman Player Is?

Take your pick, because no one has a clue. We have the #1 ranked woman Caroline Wozniacki who won the most matches on tour, but not a single major title to her name. There's of course Serena Williams who won TWO major titles, but played a severely limited schedule even by her standards mostly due to an injury sustained post-Wimbledon. Then there's Francesca Schiavone who won her first Grand Slam title at the French and helped Italy with the Fed Cup, but her results elsewhere are nothing to get excited about. Two other women had breakthrough years as both Vera Zvonareva and Samantha Stosur were first-time slam finalists and ended the year with their highest ever ranking. Their lack of a major title though leaves us just one possible contender...

Clijsters Keeps Re-writing Legacy

If I had to pick, it'd go to Kim Clijsters who has really taken advantage of her second chance in tennis after coming back on tour at the latter end of 2009. She successfully defended her US Open title, adding to the two she already had. Other than Wozniacki, she was probably the most consistent woman on tour winning titles from both halves of tennis season including two Masters titles. She also won the year-end championships for the third time and has gone 6-0 in finals since her comeback. Plus she has also dominated her fellow countrywomen Justine Henin during her comeback winning every match they've played this year.

The Longest Tennis Match of All Time

Lasting over 11 hours over three days of play, the first round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon was far and away the longest tennis player played... ever. With the scoreline as ridiculous as the match time of 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(3), 70-68, the two men showed incredible grit throughout the whole ordeal. There's nothing left to say, but wow. And also? I'm confident we'll never be seeing this ever again.

Federer's Book-End Successes & Charity Work

Federer failed to defend his French Open and Wimbledon titles and in fact he was unable to even reach the semifinals at either tournament ending his insane major semifinals streak at 23. And yet, he began and ended the year with style and class. Early last year, he won his 16th major title at the Australian Open as well as spearheaded an impromptu charity event dubbed Hit For Haiti to benefit those affected by the deadly earthquake. Then when many thought he was down and out, he went on a 35-4 run post-Wimbledon (21-2 post-US Open) capturing four titles including the year-end champion beating Nadal in the finals. He would end the year with Nadal yet again, playing two exhibition matches in both of their home countries to benefit their respective charities.

Best of the Rest Men on Tour

While Nadal and Federer took the lion-share of major titles during the year (what else is new?), let's give props to a few men who almost reached those summits. Andy Murray may have lost to Federer at his first Australian Open final, but he avenged it by defeating the Swiss twice this year. Robin Soderling yet again made a splash at Roland Garros defeating the world no. 1 and defending champion and reaching the finals before losing to the best player of the year two years in a row. Tomas Berdych hit lightning becoming the first player not named Nadal to take Federer out of Wimbledon in forever and as a reward, reached his first ever slam final. Finally, Novak Djokovic was THIS close to the top two all year beating both in some thrilling matches, but ultimately fell just short. He ends the year on top though, leading Serbia to its first ever Davis Cup victory.

Other Tidbits

Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi need to remember that those rivalry days are long over and they should just simmer down in their retirement. Issues regarding on-court coaching, doping, and illegal gambling were still around and will probably show up yet again in the upcoming year. Huge props to 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm for showing the world that age is just a number. And finally, we say our fond goodbyes to Elena Dementieva, Carlos Moya, Nicolas Kiefer, Virginia Ruano Pascual, Younes El Aynaoui, Sébastien Grosjean, Paradorn Srichaphan, and Taylor Dent.

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