Saturday, 17 November 2012

2012: Andy Arrived, Serena Thrived

2012 posed many questions in the world of tennis.
How much of his amazing 2011 could Novak Djokovic hope to emulate?
Would this be the year for Caroline Wozniacki to place a Grand Slam title next to her number one ranking? Could Samantha Stosur ride the US Open triumph to finally reap some home GS benefits?  Would the year end championship wins of Petra Kvitova and Roger Federer roll into spectacular runs in the new year?  Would Andy Murray finally break through at the highest level and would Serena Williams exert her dominance again?
Unfortunately for Caroline and Samantha, the answers were in the negative, for Petra signs were promising with semi final appearances at the first 2 Grand Slam tournaments but the end of the year fizzled with erratic form and inadequate fitness.
Roger did have a great year, not spectacular by his standards but a Wimbledon win was memorable, the return to number one ranking notable if only for the statistic.  The true number one remained Novak Djokovic despite failing to defend his US Open and Wimbledon crowns.  He reached 3 finals at the highest level and won the year end championships defeating 5 top ten players in a week.

The second best performed male player at Grand Slam level in 2012 was Andy Murray.
Semi finalist at the Australian Open, finalist at Wimbledon and breakthrough winner of the US Open, Andy at last had laid claims to a place among the elite.  The Olympics provided a nice postscript with successive wins over Djokovic and Federer to take gold.

With Nadal sidelined, Murray has taken a temporary grip on the number 3 spot in the rankings; in fact David Ferrer is closing on his countryman for the number four seeding in Melbourne 2013.
A surprising dominator in women's tennis in early 2012 was Victora Azarenka.  Undefeated for several tournaments, including her first GS title at the Australian Open, it appeared that a battle for second may be of most interest.
Then Maria screamed NO! and dominated the clay not least that on Philippe Chatrier in Paris when she completed her career Grand Slam with the French Open.  In the process, the number one ranking moved back to Russia, and the two women would largely fight amongst themselves for the top two spots for the remainder of the year.

Realistically though these were only numbers,  just as Roger's number one ranking belied the truth.  The second part of the year was the possession of Serena Williams, the greatest player, male or female, of the past 15 years.  Serena tore through the field at Wimbledon twice to take out her 14th Grand Slam title and an Olympic gold medal.
Then in New York, the number one seeded Azarenka fought gallantly but couldn't deny the talent and determination of the now 15 times GS champ.  To put the finish on an incredible year, Serena cleaned up everyone she met in straight sets to win the season ender in Istanbul.
Serena is undeniably the best female player and she will be that for as long as she retains fitness and motivation.  Andy Murray will begin 2013 from a different place in his tennis time line.  He is, like Serena, the most recent winner of a singles Grand Slam crown, but is new to the feeling and knows that his best years lay ahead.  Serena could very well complete her illustrious career any time soon, and immediately be counted amongst the handful of greatest ever.  No one would blame her for walking away while at the top.
However, she is as fit as she has been for many years, and with her sister winning her final event of the year, the desire to play tennis is still very much alive in the Williams fold.
Players of the year Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic
Victoria Azarenka very close.