Year-End Review – Extended Grass: Federer and Murray Take the Reigns
by Ben Pronin | December 4th, 2012, 2:28 pm

A lot has been said about Rafael Nadal’s greatness on clay. Even more has been said about Roger Federer’s greatness in general. And yet he still managed to add so much more to the discussion during the grass court season it’s simply surreal.

First, I want to say that I loved this extended grass court season. For years, fans have been, at least, discussing how enjoyable it would be to squeeze in a grass court Masters event. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance we’ll never see that. But for one year, we got as close to it as possible. The Olympics, while obviously more prestigious than a Masters title, served as the grass Masters we’ve always wanted. It even played like an old fashioned Masters event by being six rounds and featured a best-of-five set final. And for even more excitement, it featured a mixed doubles event. I’m not usually into mixed doubles but watching it at the Olympics was plenty of fun, particularly the final that saw Max Mirnyi finally clinch a gold medal.

But there was a ton of tennis played before the Olympics. After the French Open, which featured the fourth consecutive major final between Nadal and Novak Djokovic, there was little reason to believe the Nadole show wouldn’t continue. After all, their streak had started at Wimbledon in 2011 where Djokovic won in four sets and also came out of the tournament as the World Number 1 for the first time. Djokovic once again skipped any warm-up events, as did Federer, who was slightly injured and fatigued.

Andy Murray was playing in Queen’s Club, where he was the defending champion. Murray had just one title all year and that came in his first tournament in Brisbane. One would have though that Queen’s Club would be a pretty good place to snap that title drought. Instead, he was ousted in his opening match by Nicolas Mahut (no slouch on the grass courts himself). It really looked like, despite hiring the great Ivan Lendl as his coach, Murray was arguably regressing.

Nadal, meanwhile, was upset by Philipp Kohlschreiber in his second match in Halle, Germany. I doubt anyone put much stock into this loss seeing as how Nadal often loses early in these tune-ups without any serious repercussions to his major results. As for Federer, he made it to the final in Halle but suffered one of the biggest upsets of the year in losing to comeback king Tommy Haas. I still think this was a match he never should have lost and it certainly didn’t foretell what was about to happen in the next few weeks.

Lukas Rosol scored one of the biggest upsets in sports history when he stunned Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon. He had about eight tour-level wins before and only won about eight more after this match. Unlike Robin Soderling, who beat Nadal at the French Open and used it as a springboard to become a fixture in the top 10, the context around Rosol is unbelievable. The guy is nothing more than a challenger-level player and has stayed at that level even after this huge win. And considering how well he played, it’s really bewildering. This also turned out to be Nadal’s last match of the 2012 season. And of course people are going to assume he was injured during this match which contributed to this loss. I don’t think this was the case. Especially considering how authoritative Nadal looked in the fourth set. But his momentum was surely broken during the roof-closing delay and Rosol just zoned in the fifth.

With Nadal out of the picture, the draw opened up for Murray. He was able to reach his first Wimbledon final and threw the kitchen sink at Federer, who threw the bathtub back at him. As Wimbledon champion once again, Federer reclaimed the number one ranking and, finally, broke Pete Sampras’s record of most weeks at number one.

At the Olympics, the Federer-Murray show continued. Djokovic would once again lose in the semis at the All England Club (after falling to Federer during Wimbledon) but this time it was to Murray. And Murray followed up big by avenging his Wimbledon defeat and simply crushing an exhausted Federer. Djokovic would miss out on a second Bronze medal by falling to Juan Martin del Potro, who showed serious poise by overcoming the 19-17 loss in the third set to Federer in the previous round.

Although Djokovic and Nadal have combined to win three of the last five Wimbledon titles, I feel like things finally made sense on grass this year. Not to discredit either guy, but Murray and Federer are much more naturally suited to grass than the other guys. And to see them make back-to-back grass court finals like that was a serious treat from a pure tennis perspective.

And with Federer back at number one and Murray finally securing a huge title with the Olympic gold in his pocket, the theme of historic performances was not even close to being over.

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39 Comments for Year-End Review – Extended Grass: Federer and Murray Take the Reigns

Skeezer Says:

You mention how we all shouldn’t be surprised when Nadal gets upset eat in tourneys, but should be with Fed. After Fed lost in Halle ( a final btw, not a first or second rd ) didn’t be WIN Wimbledon?

Other than that, nice article Ben

( btw a big bonus point for not blaming Nadal’s loss on “injury” )

Giles Says:

I wonder why Nadal had MRI scans before the start of Wimbledon! #JustForFun

Tennis Guy Says:

and still played doubles at Halle? #BecauseHeIsAm0r0n

skeezer Says:

“Nadal gets upset eat in tourneys”

“upset early”….sorry dang fro the typos there… Iphone and running…..never good results with that.

Giles Says:

Yeah, a moron who has 11 grand slams, 21 Masters titles, a career golden slam. Need I go on??? #UndisputedKingOfClay

madmax Says:

loved the extended grass court season too. It was an absolute bonus.

And seeing Federer play at Wimbledon this year, was even more of a bonus for me.

This was a special year. In more ways than one. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house with the wimbledon final and Murray’s classy, emotional speech. This is what we watch tennis for, to see the human side of our favourite players when things don’t quite go their way. We have seen it with all the top players and long may it last, I say.

I really look forward to 2013, and wish it would hurry up!

Brando Says:

WOW- calm down guys!

We are taking grass season here, NOT rafa’s season!

Geez, let’s talk about Fed, Haas, Muzza etc- people who did something during this period and are worth discussing!

For once: let’s not descend to the usual back and forth!

It’s the off-season in Tennis- let’s have an off season period from here forth and refrain from usual back and forth between fans- as God knows we’ll be doing plenty of that in 2013!

Brando Says:

‘Not to discredit either guy, but Murray and Federer are much more naturally suited to grass than the other guys.’


Fed and Muzza are just more at home on grass than the other 2!

Brando Says:

@Ben Pronin:

Re Rafa loss: Best summary by ANYONE here on Tennis X that i have read regarding that loss.

Very fair, accurate description of what occurred in that match.

Kudos to you for it!

Lloyd Walters Says:

Simple non-context sensitive spell checkers don’t help when similar or identical sounding wrong words are used.

A monarch reigns.
Ridden horses have reins.
Wet seasons have heavy rains.

Maybe Ben Pronin was testing his readers, or perhaps thinking of Mark Twain, who reportedly said “I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.”

Tennis-Lover Says:

Year Surface Federer Nadal Result
2004 Hard – Miami 46 58 Nadal
2005 Hard – Miami 157 150 Federer
2005 Clay – RG 114 125 Nadal
2006 Hard – Dubai 78 71 Nadal
2006 Clay – Monte Carlo 140 155 Nadal
2006 Clay – Rome 179 174 Nadal
2006 Clay – RG 109 121 Nadal
2006 Grass – Wimbledon 133 113 Federer
2006 Hard – WTF 75 65 Federer
2007 Clay – Monte Carlo 59 73 Nadal
2007 Clay – Hamburg 85 67 Federer
2007 Clay – RG 119 136 Nadal
2007 Grass – Wimbledon 165 158 Federer
2007 Hard – WTF 53 34 Federer
2008 Clay – Monte Carlo 62 76 Nadal
2008 Clay – Hamburg 106 113 Nadal
2008 Clay – RG 52 92 Nadal
2008 Grass – Wimbledon 204 209 Nadal
2009 Hard – AO 174 173 Nadal
2009 Clay – Madrid 63 58 Federer
2010 Clay – Madrid 84 85 Nadal
2010 Hard – WTF 74 56 Federer
2011 Hard – Miami 41 62 Nadal
2011 Clay – Madrid 93 111 Nadal
2011 Clay – RG 130 143 Nadal
2011 Hard – WTF 54 27 Federer
2012 Hard – AO 130 146 Nadal
2012 Hard – IW 62 50 Federer
Total 2841 2901 18-10

As you can see, Fed-Nadal rivalry is a lot closer than their actual head to head suggests with Nadal leading Federer (50.52% – 49.48%) points.

Just thought, its a pretty cool statistic to post it on the forums.

Tennis-Lover Says:

The above statistic is based on the points won by each player.

Humble Rafa Says:

The Arrogant One’s fashion advisor, Anna Wintour is under consideration by President Obama to be US ambassador to UK or France.

As a GOAT owner, I am worried. I like my goat to be dressed well at all times.

Tennis Guy Says:

nadal is a m0r0n because his scheduling is so stupid. if he was any smarter with his scheduling, he would be king of the court, not just king of clay. everything is in his favor…. slow courts, slow conditions…. it’s not lost yet. if he can be smart with his scheduling, he could still get atleast 5 slams in the next 5 years!

let’s not put the blame on toni. Nadal is a man and not a 16 year old boy.

jane Says:

Loving these year in review pieces Ben; looking forward to the fourth instalment, and of course … 2013! Eeps, should be fun. You should do a predictions piece – it’d be great.

Wog boy Says:


Ben saved the best for last:)

alison Says:

Wogboy/Jane i agree these are great end of year reviews,the whole year seems to have passed by so quickly,loved the 1st part about the AO hard court season,hated the CC review was so looking forward to it,but the thread turned into a warzone with people bickering nothing not many constructive posts at all,this one so far so good,however its early days yet,ans yes im looking forward to the final part,which was where Andy came of age,and claimed his 1st slam,anyway the GC season belonged to Roger and Andy,Wimbledon is Rogers home and that proved to be the case once again,but major congrats should go to Andy on making his 1st final there,and that speech after the game,there was not a dry eye in the house,should he go one better next year which is my hope then the situation will be exactly the same,but it would be tears of joy this time,and the uphoria in Britain would be amazing,he claimed a gold medal at wimbledon too which was also a fantastic achievement,well done Roger and Andy for cleaning up on grass.

alison Says:

^Sorry for any typos^.

alison Says:

Have to say im in agreement with Tennis Guy in regard to sheduling,,hes had an amazing career,but theres a chance it could have been so much more if only Rafa had been smarter at shedualing,still you cant change the past,however you can make changes to try to shape the future,we will see however.

Esrelle Says:

Roger has set up a youtube account for his SA matches. Enjoy

Deborah Says:

Loved reading this! Of course as a Federer fan, I love to watch him on any surface (someone once said he could probably play on ice and make it look good) but I fell in love with his game during Wimbledon 2006 so I have a soft spot for him on grass. I guess I agree he should have won the Halle final but since at this stage of his career, hunger and form on the day is all and I guess Tommy had it that time. What I love about Roger on grass is the way his problem solving skills seem more apparent. I have watched the Wimbledon final more times than I care to admit and each time I come away marveling at the difference between the way he played the first set vs the other three. It’s a shame he never had the option that Nadal has always had and that is enough grass court tournaments to accumulate points for the rest of the year. I was at work during that Olympic (in more ways than one)battle with Del Potro, sneaking glimpses at the scores. When he won, I told my coworker, at least he’s assured a medal because I don’t think he could beat one of the twins after that!

skeezer Says:


Thanks for that! Awesome ;)

Fed is always worth watching. Delpo too!

the DA Says:

Nice summation. The Olympic match that stands out to me, even more than the final, is the SF between Nole and Andy. It was a terrific match. Both were in top form and despite Nole throwing everything at Andy he was still beaten in straight sets. The way Andy saved those 4 BPs in the 2nd set were particularly memorable. Seems so long ago now but it was one of the best summers I can recall – not just for tennis but sport in general.

alison Says:

The DA brilliant post,i cant begin to describe how delighted i have been with the Brits this summer at the Olymics,its been a fantastic year for me both my favs Rafa and Andy also bagging a slam this year,just wish i could go back in time and see it all over again,with the exception of Rafa getting Rosoled at Wimbledon though lol.

Mike Dewar Says:

Why is it that Federer was exhausted when badly beaten by Murray? The difference between Wimbledon and the Olympics is that for once Murray had the majority of the fans and that really got to Federer. He couldn’t handle it.
Exhausted by what? £ sets of big serve short rallies against delpo? Murray’s time on court dwarfed federer so why denigrate Murray’s performance in this way? Is Federer incapable of losing gracefully?

alison Says:

Vidzy yeah not good granted,but this article came up on this very forum a couple of days ago,people have already made their feelings pretty clear about it,and joking or not what Toni said was in very poor taste,not much else to say really.

Wog boy Says:

I don’t really see big deal with what uncle Toni said. It was plain joke suggesting that it is only way for Rafa to get back to #1. Maybe not a best sense of humor but you don’t expect that from Don Vito anyway. As Nole fan I didn’t find anything bad in what he said but some people see what they want to see not what is said and how it is said.

volley Says:

@ Wog boy

it was clearly said in jest. certain fans will jump at any opportunity to demonize Rafa/Toni. i remember Fed fans enjoying the djokovic/tipsarevic video about whether nadal would pay janko to shoot nole. it’s selective outrage.

alison Says:

Wogboy/Volley two wrongs dont make a right,both jokes were in poor taste whichever way you cut it.

skeezer Says:

“i remember Fed fans enjoying the djokovic/tipsarevic video about whether nadal would pay janko to shoot nole. it’s selective outrage.”

Gimme a break. That one doesn’t stick. I was there also and it wasn’t “just” Fedfans. You continue to sneak in farts @ Fedfans.

I haven’t posted on the Toni quote, didn’t feel it was needed as it was in obvious jest and good natured.

Demonizing Rafa and Toni? C’mon…….Emotive pushing…

tennisfansince76 Says:

it was an interesting year w/ so,me memorable matches. the semis and f finals at AO. finals at FO. Wimby final. USO final. the only thing that would have made it more interesting would have been for Fed to stay in the hunt fr #1 until the WTF. it would have been fantastic for Fed and Djoker to have played the WTF final w/ year end #1 up for grabs

Tennis Guy Says:

I hope balanced and reasonable guys like volley and wogboy found my joke funny too!

I can also add djokovic and murray if you don’t find it funny enough! let me know guys!

John Love Says:

I can see Djokovic & Murray in the grass court finals. Fed? am afraid he is bit too old for the the competitive events. Don’t take me wrong – Federer is good but he is no longer the greatest he used to be.

Wog boy Says:

Tennis Guy,

Whatever makes you happy.

jamie Says:

In 2013 Murray will win Wimbledon.

RZ Says:

The grass court “circuit” made for my favorite storyline of the year, with Murray winning Olympic gold just a few weeks after losing the Wimbledon final.

alison Says:

RZ i agree with you to a certain extent,as i think this is where Andy became part of the Fedalovic equation,the big 3 is now the fab 4,although the USO HC season was where he made that final break through winning his 1st GS,although i also enjoyed the CC season,with Rafa winning the FO FOR THE 7th time,having said that the AO HC season was great too lol,a great year all round TBH LOL.

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