2011 Tennis-X Year-end Awards: the Best of the Best (and Worst)
by Staff | December 21st, 2011, 1:21 pm
  • 43 Comments

In some case it wasn’t the year-end No. 1 we expected, in some case it wasn’t the year-end No. 1 that the people wanted. Everybody was injured (again), and the WTA Tour struggled (again) without players who could get the ball back enough, or stay uninjured enough to challenge the reign of the ever-present Caroline Wozniacki.

Roger Federer kept cresting the hill (but not quite looking over the hill), Rafael Nadal struggled with injuries and motivation, and Maria Sharapova with her shoulder. Kim Clijsters, just when it looked like she would wrestle No. 1 away again, was sidelined with injury.

The gluten-free Novak Djokovic exploded out in a career year, one of many highlights of 2011, so here we go:

MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Unbeatable and gluten-free at the start, faded at the end, but no denying one of the greatest years ever. Won 10 titles, three Slams and began the year winning his first 41. If that wasn’t enough, he beat Rafael Nadal like a drum during the season (six times), saved a match point against Roger Federer at the US Open, and overall finished with a 73-6 win-loss. Not bad. Also aged-out of calling the trainer every time he had to blow his nose, and has matured into one of the most entertaining players on the tour and off it.
Honorable mention: No one even worth mentioning

WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Czech it out — Kvitova finished No. 2 in the rankings behind Caroline Wozniacki, but the nod has to go to Kvitova since she won Wimbledon (Woz has still never won a Slam), beat the best to capture the year-end championships, and had four fewer losses than Woz on the season with the same number of wins (60) and titles (6). Won Brisbane in first event of the year, beat Kim Clijsters in the Paris final, won Madrid beating three Top 10ers, and ended the year on a 12-match win streak, winning Linz, the year-end championship and leading the Czechs to the Fed Cup title. Done and doner.
Honorable mention: Your mom and Caroline Wozniacki

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR — Milos Raonic (CAN)
Big year for newcomers, but Milos “Big Baby” Raonic stole the show, playing great at start of the year before injuries made the second half of his year spotty. Likes to utilize his outstanding reach at the net, and height and G.I. Joe-body-on-a-tiny-baby-doll-head set-up allows him to crush the serve and forehand, with a serviceable backhand. The Canadian John Isner. Qualied at the Aussie Open then beat Top 10er Mikael Youzhny en route to the 4th rd., but coming-out party was at San Jose where he beat Top 10er Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco in the final, then the next week narrowly lost to Andy Roddick in the Memphis final.
Honorable mentions: Christina McHale, Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR — Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
In January DelPo was trying to look ahead, rather than behind at the awful 2010 that saw him play only three tournaments due to a wrist injury that required surgery. Started the year with a couple semis in the first couple months before winning the Delray Beach title, and lost to Nadal in Indian Wells semis. Looked to be back, but wisely took a month off after Miami to get stronger, returning to beat Robin “Mild Sauce” Soderling and Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco en route to the claycourt Estoril crown. Broke back into the Top 20 after Wimbledon, and ended the year by beating Novak Djokovic in the Davis Cup semifinals to lead Argentina into the final where he showed Team Spain just how tough an out he is. Still hungry for titles with many years ahead of him, watch out.
Honorable mentions: Serena Williams, Gilles Simon, Sabine Lisicki

COACH OF THE YEAR — Marian Vajda (CZE)
Novak Djokovic’s coach guided his charge to the top spot in 2011. In the Djokovic camp since 2006, he has dealt with a family some describe as “difficult,” and weathered experiments such as bringing in Todd Martin as a temporary coach and at times has dealt with some disturbing family members. Not an easy task — just ask Brad Gilbert or other coaches how easy it is to establish a long-standing coaching relationship without the player either getting sick of your face or blaming a slump on you. “He is like my second father, and I have much more than a player-coach relationship with him,” Djokovic says. “He’s a very emotional guy, and we have a lot of fun outside of the court, which is important. There is just good spirit on the team, a positive energy.” Vajda also essentially oversees Djokovic’s entourage, keeping it tight and lean and fun.
Honorable mentions: “Uncle” Toni Nadal, David Kotyza (Kvitova coach), David Nainkin (Fish)

SHOT OF THE YEAR — Andy Roddick (USA)

Andy Roddick was all strut and umbrage in the 2011 Memphis final, defending his U.S. turf from a newcomer invader from the north, Milos Raonic. Two tiebreaks and most of a third set later, Roddick was still giving it his all against the unknown Canadian to simply stay in the match. With Raonic serving at 5-6, 30-40, the Canadian approached the net and hit a sharp cross-court volley that appeared to be a winner until Roddick dove for the ball and scoop-forehanded it down the line for a winner. Roddick never ever saw the match point winner, rolling over then slowly getting up, looking around and realizing that the cheering crowd and his opponent approaching the net for the handshake meant the match was over, and he would be a highlight on ESPN SportsCenter.
Honorable Mention: Novak Djokovic’s go-for-broke shot against Roger Federer to save match point at the US Open

BEST INJURY — Fabio Fognini
He’s the ATP version of Jelena Jankovic. Drama King Fabio Fognini loves the spotlight and during a fourth round match against Albert Montanes at the French Open the Italian found himself once again under the brights. Late in the fifth, a visibly cramping Fognini request for immediate treatment was granted. Rules prohibit in-game treatment of cramps without time violations, but Fognini worked his magic arguing he wasn’t cramping. So he got the trainer to patch him up and he somehow – in large part to Montanes choking – won the match. Did he skirt the rules or was he really injured? Who knows. Speculation moved to would he or wouldn’t he play in the quarters against the streaking Novak Djokovic. But the Fabulous One withdrew arguably interrupting the Serb’s mojo. With a full four days off Djokovic lost in the semifinals to Roger Federer. The Fabio Effect?
Honorable mentions: Sabine Lisicki’s full body cramp at French Open, Rafael Nadal’s US Open press conference cramp, Nadal’s burnt fingers

BIGGEST CHOKE — Thiemo de Bakker (NED)
Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker led Gael “Force” Monfils two sets to love and serving 5-3 at the Australian Open when the yips set in — and then some. De Bakker missed an easy volley, hit a super-tight overhead, lost the game for 5-4, then the cavalcade of errors and throat-grasping began. Losing the third set, in the fourth de Bakker inexplicably seemed to start tanking the match, giving minimal effort. He took an injury time-out, then came back and gave even less effort, and eventually started limping and complaining to himself. In the fifth set the Dutchman smashed his drinks next to his chair, losing 16 of the last 19 matches. In the end Monfils accused de Bakker of tanking, and Monfil’s coach Roger Rasheed accused the Dutchman of hitting the “panic button.”
Honorable mentions: Federer-Tsonga (Wimbledon), Nadal-Dodig (Canadian), Berdych-Robert (French Open), Troicki-Murray (French Open), Murray-Djokovic (Rome), Murray-Haase (US Open), Verdasco-Soderling (Rome)

verdasco-cheeseburger1BEST IN-MATCH DINING — Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco is an American food connoisseur. With Spain and the U.S. locked in battle this year in the quarterfinals, David Ferrer vs. Mardy Fish, Hot Sauce while rooting on the sideline took the opportunity to on-the-sly shove a burger in his hole. Unfortunately the Tennis Channel cameras caught him, to the delight of commentators Ted Robinson and Justin Gimelstob. “I said the guy that was helping us, the whole team, to bring one hamburger and some popcorn,” Verdasco explained afterward. “So I enjoy a lot eating all that American way.” Apparently. Nice effort.
Honorable mention: Nadal crushing a whole plate of olives in the Tennis Channel profile? “I love olives.”

BEST MELTDOWN — Serena Williams

Would it BE a US Open if Serena didn’t have a meltdown? It’s like an annual event now. Who will she throw a shit-fit at in 2012? Wait and see. This year was another gem from the younger Williams sister, who when the tension got to high when she was being out-Serena-ed by Sam Stosur in the final, melted down. After losing the first set and looking at a break point in the first game of the second set, Serena hit a shot and yelled “Come on!” thinking Stosur had no shot at the ball, but she did. The chair umpire then ruled a hinderance, point to Stosur. “I’m not giving her that game,” Serena barked. “Aren’t you the one who screwed me over last time here? Do you have it out for me? That’s totally not cool.” Things went further downhill from there, with Stosur playing some sparkling power tennis. In typical Serena fashion, after the final she implied that Stosur treed: “She played really, really well. I mean, I don’t think she’s ever played that well. Maybe she has. I haven’t seen her play that well.” Golf clap for Serena for another ugly-American performance.
Honorable mention: Andy Roddick exploding at Brian Early at the US Open for trying to get him on court

MATCH OF THE YEAR — Djokovic d. Nadal in Miami

I guess we are lucky with no consensus for the single great match of the 2011 season. There were so many to choose, and that’s just from the Djokovic-Nadal series! But from the rivalry that set the tone for the year there was the Djokovic win over Nadal in Miami. In the end it went right down to the wire with Djokovic staying perfect 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) and sending a strong message to Nadal and the rest of the field that it was the Serb’s world. Had Nadal won things may have turned out differently on the year, but Djokovic took it to Nadal in that final leaving the proud Spaniard beliwidered and gassed. Two things you just don’t see from Rafa.
Honorable mention: Djokovic v Murray (Rome), Djokovic v Nadal (US Open), Federer v Djokovic (US Open), Montanes v Fognini (French Open), Federer v Djokovic (French Open), Djokovic v Nadal (Rome), Nablabdnain v Hewitt (Australian Open), Schiavone v Kuznetsova (Australian Open), Serena v Zvonareva (Eastbourne), Date-Krumm v Venus Williams (Wimbledon), Radwanska v Petkovic (Beijing), Schiavone v Jankovic (Cincinnati), Sharapova v Dulgerhu (Miami)

QUOTE OF THE YEAR — Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Hot Sauce keeps raking in the awards, this time for losing to Canadian Milos Raonic twice in the span of a few days. Verdasco lost to Raonic in the San Jose final and then in the opening round at Memphis. Then he said neither match was “real” (because neither was on clay). “For me that’s not a real match in tennis. I hope to play soon against him in claycourt to show him what it is to play tennis, and play rallies, and run, and not [just] serve. I think he was more lucky than me in the tiebreak. He hit the line at 5-5 with a return and when you are at that point in the match and are lucky to put a ball on the line then you have big options to win the match.” Stay classy Hot Sauce. Have another burger.
Honorable mention: Serena Williams speaking to the chair umpire at the 2011 US Open: “If you ever see me walking down the hall look the other way. You’re out of control, you’re out of control, totally out of control, you’re a hater and you’re — you’re unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? And I never complain. Wow. What a loser.”

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Girl, you gotta win a Slam. And develop a kill shot. Winning all the low-level events and racking-up the titles while everyone is injured is great, but you gotta get that Slam. We love your smile, the blonde hair, the sexy shimmy and the fun attitude, but damn, like your boyfriend Rory McIlroy — WIN A F’ING SLAM. Beat some Top 10 players.
Honorable mention: French Open champ Li Na lying down 6-1, 6-0 to Sam Stosur in the WTA year-end championships round robin, Andy Murray in general, Roger Federer’s first 7/8ths of the season, The 2011 WTA Tour season, Barack Obama’s presidency. Etc.

WORST OUTFITS — Venus Williams (USA)
Sheeeeeeat…this wasn’t even close. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, you been trumped. Venus has gone all-in, starting her own clothing line and dominating the category. From outfits that look like negligee for whores out of the HBO series “Deadwood” to “[pushing] her own boundaries of tackiness with a dress whose top is some yellow net and bottom a blur of undefinable colors” according to one reviewer to dresses where the straps snap, giving tennis fans a shot of boob. Venus is way out front.
Honorable mention: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (now a distant second), Serena Williams

Thanks to all the players for stuffing the ballot boxes. If you didn’t win you can always try again next year. Trophies are in the mail, COD of course.

Happy Holidays to everyone.


Also Check Out:
Serena Collects Three WTA Awards; Clijsters, Oudin Also Winners
Right Or Wrong? Kvitova Bumps No. 1 Wozniacki For WTA Player Of Year Award
ATP Awards: Djokovic Wins Player Of Year, Federer Named Fan Favorite
Federer, Henin Edged for 2007 AP Athlete of the Year Awards
Rafael Nadal: The Australian Final Was The Worst 90 Minutes I’ve Spent On A Tennis Court!

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43 Comments for 2011 Tennis-X Year-end Awards: the Best of the Best (and Worst)

Ben Pronin Says:

Why is the Nadal-Djokovic Rome match an honorable mention for best match? It was probably their worst encounter all year.


Eric Says:

Serena Williams gets a honorable mention for worst outfit? What? Serena’s outfits with Nike are so mainstream that she’s become boring. Nadia Petrova or Aravane Rezai would have better choices.


jane Says:

Great List! I might add a few more in HM best matches: Tsonga/Nole at Wimbledon and Tsonga/Dimitrov.

A friend sent me this today; it’s utterly ridiculous and so cute.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLjmZw4MiZw


Dan Martin Says:

Ben that pointy was just sick and to my mind is the point of the year.


Kimberly Says:

The Federer/Nadal US Open was a very competitive well played match for the first three and a half sets and the most competitive of the GS finals.

To rank GS finals in terms of competitiveness IMO:

1. RG
2. USO
3. Wimbledon
4. AO


Humble Rafa Says:

Thank you for not making Roger “the honorable mention” in the men’s player of the year. I didn’t deserve it because I didn’t have a good year.

Injuries happen. Burnt fingers, cramps during press conferences, choking on a banana…happens only me. In the off season, I while crying. Cramping of the upper cheek and chin.


Dan Martin Says:

Maybe I will do a 2011 Awards list for my site – Any suggestions for unique categories?


grendel Says:

Ben: 3 things occured to me. 1)The rally was started off with an ordinary serve, a Connors type serve to get the show on the road.2)The aggressor was all Djokovic, although one or two neat placements from Nadal. But really, Nadal was hanging in, hoping for the error. 3) Particularly on the 15th stroke, it seemed to me Djokovic was in an ideal position to finish the rally with a drop shot. Easy ball, Nadal miles behind the base line. Makes you wonder, when you’re involved in such a physical tussle, I suppose you must get into a kind of jungle rhythm which precludes dainty shots. Even so, just to save energy and also to deny rhythm to your opponent, I’d have thought a dropper would have been tactically sound.

Easy to say, eh?


jane Says:

Dan, best on court dance? Best off court style? Best press conference, best on court post-match interview. Best forehand, dropper, backhand? Best commentator, worst commentator. You could get more specific. Best tiebreaker? Best bagel match? I.e, Most competitive match with skewed scoreline. Best dogfight. Best 5 setter, best 3 setter. Best men’s style. Worst men’s style. Tactically bad shots. Wildest shanks and misses? I dunno. Suppose there are better ones, but these are off the top of my head.


Kimmi Says:

I agree grendel, just to add..there was couple of occasions where djokovic could have finished the point at the net..but didnt.

This is the thing with rafa/djokovic matches. very long rallies from the baseline. That could be one of the reason they always seem to kill each other.


Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t know about the dropper. Sure it would’ve been a good idea, assuming it had gone over. I think the point encapsulates their whole rivalry this year unbelievably well. Nadal threw in his best defense and Djokovic ended it by scorching a backhand down the line.

Kimmi, I was definitely thinking about when Djokovic could have approached the net and honestly I didn’t see any great chances. Some of the shots from Nadal that seemed like floaters landed in really amazing places. Even if Djokovic had run in, he’d have to had run across the entire court and would’ve probably been passed by a floater. Considering how many times these two have played I get the feeling Djokovic knew that and knew he had to either hit a winner from the back of the court or wait for Nadal to miss.


Kimmi Says:

seriously ben, i can see a point where djokovic could have approached the net. when he hit a good FH down the line, rafa float it back..the lob was good but not good enough imo, it landed deep but i think djokovic could have gotten a volley on that.

I think the guy like federer or maybe tsonga for example would have approached the net sometime during that point.


grendel Says:

“Assuming it had gone over”? But why shouldn’t it have gone over? Alright, people miss drop shots. But Djokovic was going quite often for the lines. He could have missed one of them, too. These guys always look like they can’t miss, when they don’t miss. It sort of looks preordained. But that’s got to be an illusion. Of course Djokovic in particular was taking risks all the time, carefully calculated risks, but still risks. If you wanna win at this level, you have to take risks. And in the end, either Djokovic was more prepared to take risks than Nadal, or he was more able to – I don’t know which.

Absolutely, Kimmi, about Federer or Tsonga. Still, Ben is right, “the point encapsulates their whole rivalry this year unbelievably well”. Wonder how it will go next year.


jane Says:

If you look at the highlights of the match Tennis X staff picked for match of the year, between Rafa and Nole in Miami, Nole actually finished a lot of points at the net. More than he did during the USO final. Not sure why that is, but he is capable. Also, partly spurred on by Tsonga’s style, Nole played lots of net points in their Wimbledon semi.


skeezerweezer Says:

Ben,

Great post for point of the year. Alot was going on there. First, a power stroke rally, who can out hit whom? Then, the tactics change to just getting it in and deep, stratigizing as the point went on someone would error. Then, it changed into a rally of positioning until the right opening came to hit the strike. An amazing point.


steve-o Says:

I would have to nominate the Kvitova-Azarenka WTA final for some kind of award. That was the first women’s match in a long time that I enjoyed.

I’m rarely invested in the outcome of a women’s match these days, but I was very much into that one, hoping Kvitova would prevail.


grendel Says:

“….. Nole actually finished a lot of points at the net. More than he did during the USO final. Not sure why that is, but he is capable”

One possibility is that when a player is engaged ina life and death struggle in a hugely important match, he sticks to what comes naturally to him. And going to the net definitely does not come naturally to Djokovic. Of course he is capable – Borg, for instance, was capable, he use to s and v away at Wimbledon. But noone for one second would pretend that he was natural at it in the way McEnroe was natural at it.


Baily Says:

I think if you put the match of fed and tsonga (wimbledon) as honerable mention for biggest choke, you should def. also give a mention of fed-djoko US open in there. That was a way bigger choke by roger IMO.


jane Says:

That makes sense grendel. Agree Nole is not a natural at net amd is definitely a baseliner, but I was impressed by how he has worked on that part of his game and improvement is there. I wonder too if it is because he was feeling confident and fresher back in Miami than he was by the time the USO came round, as he was definitely struggling more – in Canada, Cincy and the USO. So he reverts back to what is natural.

Would you say volleying is natural to Murray or no? To me, it seems like it, and yet he too stays back much of the time, which is a pity. I loved watching Murray play Santoro at Wimbledon a while back because Fabrice seemed to bring out all the magical variety in Andy M’s arsenal.


dave Says:

grendel,
Just got around to answering your comment in the other blog. My post there is waiting approval from a moderator.
http://www.tennis-x.com/xblog/2011-12-15/8424.php


tennisfansince76 Says:

I love how patient Djoker was in that pt. he did not allow himself to get freaked out when nadal got a lot of balls back as he does. he just patiently reset the pt and kept jerking Nadal around w/out going for too much until he got the kill shot. i also love the look Nadal gives back at Djoker as he is toweling off after the pt. its a look of bafflement as if to say what do i have to do to beat this guy


Skorocel Says:

I’m just clueless how can everyone here at tennis-x.com be SOOOOOO blind to don’t even mention this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61qc2uIlyIk

Do you people watch tennis or what? This was hands down THE shot of 2011.


Ben Pronin Says:

Not that it wasn’t a great point but what made it awesome was how it ended. The other point is awesome because of how it played out.

How about we just agree that Nadal and Djokovic played some of the greatest points in history throughout this year.


skeezerweezer Says:

^ya that was an awesome shot at the end by Rafa, but still think the previous vid was a better “point” played imo. All in all, 2 great points played & thanks for sharing( skorocel I can’t believe I missed that point but never saw that, yikes and awesome. Looks like he hits with Fed ;) ).


grendel Says:

May I put in a dissenting note? I’ve never been quite as struck on the hot dogs as some. There’s something of the circus about them, especially in the reaction they draw from the crowd.
I thought the most significant shot in that quite excellent rally was the 4th, where a lovely looping fh from Nadal to the base line had Djokovic in real trouble, and put Nadal into the driving seat. It is a mark of how astonishingly well Djokovic was playing at the time that he managed to work his way back TWICE. For the 12 th shot, with Nadal pounding the ball down the line when standing in the tramlines had winner written all over it. Djokovic scrambled it back and 3 shots later did a shortangled bh that had Rafa in trouble.
He got out of it in the end with the hotdog, and won the point deservedly – but, in terms of actual skill, was it so difficult? For these guys, I mean? Just because it’s unorthodox? Sure, a great shot. But in a season where we have seen so many great shots, the greatest? Even one of the greatest? I think not.


skeezerweezer Says:

I know that she wasn’t “player of the year”, but Li Na winning the French, being from China, has to be a undenible historical feat. China, historically, has never made deep dents on the Tennis scene. It was, and, is an amazing accomplishment in the tennis year of 2011.

And hey, she won a Slam and you guys mention her in “biggest disappointment?”

Just sayin….


jane Says:

I find Fed and Nole’s matches exciting, full of great points and shot making too. Fed makes Nole play aggressively and Nole brings put some great defense from Fed. Their matches are often topsy turvy but there is usually one great set in them. Here are some nice points, throughout these highlights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbEHzlC9mCU


alison hodge Says:

jane i dont know if you will get it where you are,but for you and everybody else thats interested,both of the fo semis nole/roger,rafa/muzza,and the fo final are been repeated on eurosport over the next couple of days,a chance to see some great games all over again.


alison hodge Says:

talking about chokes what about t.berd against nole at the wtf.


alison hodge Says:

for all of noles fans,you will be pleased to know,he won the overseas spoty,a fantastic year for nole.


jane Says:

Thanks alison. Just curious, what’s the “overseas spoty”? :)


grendel Says:

sounds like “SPOrTsmanoftheYear”, jane. But dunno for sure. I know BBC did British sportsman of year tonight, but I didn’t catch it. Murray was a contender. Perhaps alison knows the result?


SuperDuper Says:

Worst meltdown? Murray against Nadal in Wimbledon! Unforgettable!


Wog boy Says:

@Dave

I answered your question on the other blog.

Happy holidays to all.


jane Says:

Of course grendel, thanks.


al Says:

Thanks tennis god for Novak-Nadal rivalry of 2011 that had brought us so many memorable points! Looking forward to 2012.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!


alison hodge Says:

hi jane sorry just read your post spoty is sports personality of the year, indeed a great year for nole.


alison hodge Says:

grendel and jane i didnt actually see the show, i only knew about nole as it was on my msn home page, murray was nominated but as far as i can tell he was left empty handed,still always nice to be nominated i suppose.


Cymru08 Says:

al, what Djoko-Nadal rivalry of 2011? Nadal was flat out owned. How did tennis’ toughest competitor become Nole’s personal whipping boy? Extraordinary.


jamie Says:

Cymru08: Connors is tennis’ toughest competitor.

Whoever thought Nadal was tennis’ toughest competitor saw this year that was a fallacy.

Tennis’ toughest competitor = Jimmy Connors


Dave Says:

The annual BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award is presented to a NON-BRITISH sportsperson “who has made the greatest impression in the world of sport” in that year. The award is decided by a panel of over 30 sporting journalists. Each panelist votes for their top two choices; their first preference is awarded two points, and their second preference is awarded one point. Both Muhammad Ali and Roger Federer hold the record for winning this award the most (three times).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Overseas_Sports_Personality_of_the_Year

Murray was probably nominated in this British-only category, won by Mark Cavendish, MBE, and the 2011 Road World Champion. Second place is Darren Clark, winner of the the 2011 British Open (a golf major). You can see why Murray did not win.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Sports_Personality_of_the_Year_Award

Djokovic should win the even more prestigious Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award, presented in early February.


grendel Says:

@Cymru08 and jamie:Well, there’s winning and winning. Nadal was close to Djokovic. For most of their matches, he was right in there. The matches were tense and exciting. I don’t really see that toughness came into it in terms of dividing them – both players, for the most part, were tough as you like. Djokovic was just that little bit better than Nadal.

Take Connors. An intimidating competitor, undoubtedly. Not much he could do about Borg, McEnroe and Lendl when they were playing better than him, though. I’ve always thought the mental side is important, in various kinds of ways, too. But just as players have different physical skills, so also they have different (positive)mental attributes. An in your face player, like Connors or Hewitt or Nadal or even Roddick (a strange case – he can also look like little boy lost), LOOKS tougher than his peers. But that is perhaps misleading. There is steel in Federer, in Lendl and so on, and in such players, it takes time to mature and expresses itself according to the differing characters. For example, Lendl always exuded a slightly petulant air, and that never quite left him. But whereas the petulance could impart a brittle quality to his play in the early days, once he found himself, it was more like a habit he hadn’t quite shaken off, and not too concerning.

In general, I suspect the top players are all much of a muchness in terms of toughness – which itself is variable, they are not automatons, after all. And although it is certainly possible that Djokovic will continue his dominance over Nadal, it will be no surprise if Nadal levels things up. They are really quite close, in my view.

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Rankings
ATP - Aug 18 WTA - Aug 18
1 Novak Djokovic1 Serena Williams
2 Rafael Nadal2 Simona Halep
3 Roger Federer3 Na Li
4 Stan Wawrinka4 Petra Kvitova
5 David Ferrer5 Agnieszka Radwanska
6 Milos Raonic6 Maria Sharapova
7 Tomas Berdych7 Angelique Kerber
8 Grigor Dimitrov8 Eugenie Bouchard
9 Andy Murray9 Ana Ivanovic
10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga10 Jelena Jankovic
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