Is there a better Christmas present than the Tennis-X year-end awards? Short answer — of course there isn’t. Rafa got his presents, and Roger has a baby on the way, so here’s your present wrapping up the best (and worst) tennis gave us in 2013:
MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Rafael Nadal
Plagued by chronic knee problems, the Spanish former (and now again-current) No. 1 looked done for 2013 when he took the last few months of 2012 off, and the respite extended into February of this year.
Would he come back at all? Would he come back, but only play on the forgiving clay courts? No one foresaw Rafa not only coming back full steam, but compiling perhaps the greatest abbreviated season in men’s tennis history.
After missing the Australian Open with a stomach virus/more knee issues (depending on who you talk to) Rafa wins the French (a record 8th title) and the US Open, bringing his Slam trophies to 13. He won 10 of the 14 finals he reached this year, and reached the final in 14 of his 17 tournament appearances. That is silly. He beat Novak Djokovic when the Serb was ranked No. 1 in three of their five meetings.
We’re not sure how you go from bad knees to winning 75 matches in an abbreviated year, but Rafa did it. Market your secret knee juice and make many more millions! If it’s legal! Did we just think that or say it out loud? Also use some of those millions for hair plugs as that comb-over soon won’t be cutting it. Or maybe that’s already a hair piece ala Andre Agassi, because that sure is a big Nike headband/scarf/thing.
Honorable Mention: Novak Djokovic
WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Serena Williams
Don’t doubt Serena, you’ll just make her angrier.
Not only did Serena confirm that the 30s are the new 20s these days in pro tennis, she did it in such a convincing manner that all other players were left far off in her wake. Maria Sharapova? She hasn’t beat Serena in 10 years or something like that? Victoria Azarenka? The other queen of scream turned around a 10-match losing streak against Serena before this year, but didn’t have the stomach to keep up.
Throughout her two Slam wins, 34-match win streak and overall 11-title year, Serena showed she has little interest in how she is held in regard by players, fans or the media. She got into a spat with fellow American Sloane Stephens when, instead of the “mentoring” view the media layered on their relationship, Stephens said Serena was a nasty person. Serena in turn said the only mentoring she does is helping her credit card find the Louis Vuitton store cash register. She also got caught bad-mouthing Sharapova by a magazine interviewer — but on the plus side she didn’t threaten to kill any lineswomen this year. To our knowledge. Oh, and she’s knocking boots with her coach.
She also won a record $12.3 million and became the oldest player to assume the No. 1 spot. That’s bad-ass. It’s Serena’s world, you’re just in it. Like one of her tweets this year said, “I made you.” And through it all, we can’t wait to see what Serena makes happen in 2014.
Honorable Mention: Victoria Azarenka, Marion Bartoli
MATCH OF THE YEAR — Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic (French Open SF)
The year 2013 put a bit of a mental hurting on Djokovic, who watched a solid year snatched away from him as Nadal stole the year-end No. 1 ranking in the final month. Hiring Boris Becker as your coach in 2014? Not exactly reeking of desperation, but…eh.
The 2013 Roland Garros semifinal between Nadal and Djokovic was a microcosm of their year, with the Serb giving his all, and the Spaniard…well, just having more. For almost five hours both players clawed and scratched with significant momentum changes.
When Nadal won the third set 6-1 to go up two sets to one, viewers started planning the rest of their day. Djokovic though would break Nadal as the Spaniard served for the match, then weather a tiebreak to bring it to a fifth and deciding set. The fifth set was more sick gets, incredible defense and incomprehensible winners from unbelievable angles. When the smoke cleared, Nadal stood victorious 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7.
“That’s why he’s a champion,” a glum Djokovic said. “That’s why he’s been ruling Roland Garros for many years, and for me it’s another year…It’s been an unbelievable match to be part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment.” Nadal has won eight French titles in nine years, losing once. ONCE. What can you do against the King of Clay, Novak? What can you do, besides produce the best tennis of the year and come away with second place.
Honorable Mention: Djokovic-Wawrinka (Australian Open), Azarenka-Serena (Cincinnati), Djokovic-Del Potro (Wimbledon), Serena-Kuznetsova (French Open)
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR — Vasek Pospisil
The future in Canada is looking oh so bright. Not just for snow anymore, the Land to the North is kicking America’s ass in tennis now thanks to a new crop of heavyweight stars. We’ve seen the mild-mannered Milos
Raonic, the gorgeous Genie Bouchard and this summer we saw the emergence of another Canuck, Vasek Pospisil. With a cannon of a serve and sufficient groundies, the 23-year-old Pospisil blossomed with his
semifinal run in Canada which spurred an almost 100 ranking spot climb to finish No. 32.
Honorable Mention: Genie Bouchard, Jiri Vesely, Pablo Carreno Busta, Madison Keys
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR — Rafael Nadal
Twelve months ago and still fighting bad knees, who foresaw that Nadal would return to not only finish No. 1 but also dominate on hardcourts?
Rafa hadn’t won a title on cement since October 2011, but this season made up for lost time time pocketing four trophies including the US Open during a furious 22-match hardcourt win streak.
Honorable Mention: Tommy Robredo, Dimitry Tursunov
SHOT OF THE YEAR — Radwanska volley flick winner v Flipkens (Miami)
It was a tough race, but in the end nothing could top this marvel on ingenuity from the under-appreciated Agniezska Radwanska:
Honorable Mention: Nadal slice winner v Harrison (US Open), Federer backhand winner v Dodig (IW), Dimitrov volley winner v Haas (Washington), Azarenka volley winner v Serena (Cincinnati), Paire tweener/volley lob
WORST SHOT OF YEAR — Gael Monfils !@)&$@#& (Halle)
Remember, our society has landed people on the moon, then there is this:
BIGGEST SURPRISE — Marion Bartoli (Wimbledon)
She didn’t beat a single Top 10 player en route, but that really doesn’t diminish what unheralded Marion Bartoli pulled off at Wimbledon this year. Injured entering the month, there was a strong chance she wouldn’t even play! But with some luck (Serena lost), Bartoli took advantage of all the upsets using her quirky game to stun the tennis world with the biggest crown of her career. It was such a major moment for the Frechwoman that she abruptly retired from the sport a month later.
Honorable Mention: Djokovic-Becker, Stanislas Wawrinka, Simona Halep, Vasek Pospisil
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Roger Federer
The Fed is getting older, but did anyone really think that Roger would regress so much in just one season? A year after winning his 17th major at Wimbledon, Federer was only able to collect ONE title (Halle) and
until the fall only managed ONE Top 10 win (Tsonga in Australia). The Swiss pointed out his back was bad during an error-strewn run that resulted losses to Delbonis, Stakhovsky and Robredo, but if you’re injured then take a cue from your buddy Rafa and DON’T PLAY! Stay home with the kids and the preggers wife.
Honorable Mention: Andy Murray’s Back, Milos Raonic (Del Potro incident), Samantha Stosur, American men, Viktor Troicki, Robin Soderling
BIGGEST UPSET — Steve Darcis d. Rafael Nadal (Wimbledon)
Nadal was clearly ailing after winning the French. The knees were hurting (or must have been), but still, Darcis put on a Rosol-like display in stunning the two-time champ 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 6-4 to end his 22-match winning streak.
“Rafa Nadal didn’t play his best tennis today,” the 29-year-old Belgian said. No shit. “The first match on grass is always difficult. It’s his first one. Of course, it’s a big win. I tried to come to the net as soon as I could, not play too far from the baseline. I think it worked pretty good today.”
It was the second straight Wimbledon shocker for Nadal after the previous year getting roasted by No. 100-ranked Lukas Rosol. Rafa though rebounded while Darcis, well, due to injury in part hasn’t won a tour-level match since. But hey, why bother, that’s a great “walkoff” win.
Honorable Mention: Stephens-Serena (Australian Open), Delbonis-Federer (Hamburg), Stakhovsky-Federer (Wimbledon)
BEST HOOK-UP — Maria Sharapova and Grigor Dimitrov
Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams have never been the closest of friends, but when Masha started dating Serena’s ex Grigor Dimitrov, it was ON. Serena referred to him in the media as the “guy with the black heart” (not a great break-up?). When their feud escalated in the media this year, Maria delivered the haymaker, asking why Serena was throwing stones when her glass house included the married man she was dating, who was also her coach?
Fending off rumors that she was pregnant earlier this year, it has otherwise been smooth sailing for Dimitro-pova. “I’m in a nice place in my life definitely,” said the 26-year-old former No. 1 Russian about the 22-year-old Dimitrov, who was dubbed “Baby Federer” when he came on tour, but even King Roger has said it’s time to dump that nickname. “It’s nice to see somebody that’s next to me that is building their own life and becoming their own individual.”
Sharapova was formerly engaged to pro basketball player Sasha Vujacic, and prior romantic connections included Andy Roddick and Adam Levine among others, rumors or not. But for now the Top 25 couple remain the toast of the tour.
Honorable Mention: Kaley Cuoco-Ryan Sweeting, Djokovic-Becker, Janowicz-Domachowska
BIGGEST CHOKE — Nicolas Almagro blowing 2-set lead to Ferrer (Australian Open)
Leading by two sets, Almagro served for his first career Grand Slam semifinal not once, not twice but THREE TIMES against his countryman David Ferrer. And we know how it turned out. As we close the season, Ferrer has still never lost to Almagro in 14 tries and after that crusher in Melbourne he may never have to worry about losing to him EVER.
Honorable Mention: Verdasco to Murray (Wimbledon), Sabine Lisicki to Bartoli (Wimbledon), Sharapova to Serena (Miami)
BEST MELTDOWN — Viktor Troicki (Rome)
It’s been a tough year for Viktor Troicki. The Serb who’s been suspended from the Tour for failing to take a drug test did manage to get this hallmark tirade in before his sentence. Can’t wait to get you back Viktor, hope you are keeping well!
Honorable Mention: John Tomic head butt, Jerzy Janowicz (Australian Open)
QUOTE OF THE YEAR — Tommy Haas on Ernest Gulbis (Wimbledon)
few can crack ‘em like the 35-year-old Tommy Haas, take it away Tommy, the floor is yours: “You can’t buy ATP points to buy your ranking. It’s not possible, otherwise Gulbis would be No. 1 in the world.”
Honorable Mention: Milos Raonic ( Canada) – “Hypothetically yes, technically no”); Rafael Nadal (US Open) – “Don’t worry. I will lose. Everybody lose.”; Federer – “But on the other surfaces, if I am playing well, it’s more in my racquet than in anybody else’s racquet.”; Maria Sharapova on Serena (Wimbledon) – “If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.”
TWEET OF THE YEAR — Serena Williams following loss to Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open
An easy choice as Serena lets Sloane know who’s still the boss.
I made you.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) January 26, 2013
BEST TWEETER — Tomas Berdych
Dry, robotic, almost without a pulse on the court, the Czech checks his vanilla-ness at the door when he logs in online transforming into an engaging comedian, poking fun at all things including himself, tennis, culture and other players and journalists. You might never win a Big One Tomas, but consider this honor among your best achievements.
Honorable mention: Ivo Karlovic, Roger Federer, Laura Robson, Stanislas Wawrinka
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
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