With our first helping of #Tennisgiving fare well and truly digested, Nick Nemeroff dishes out a second helping: 10 ATP things to be thankful for from the past year.
10. First-Time Title Winners
A great thing about first-time title winners is the emotion. In triumph, we are able to witness the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of work on the tennis court. Without question, the following players achieved the biggest victories of their tennis playing careers in 2014 by winning their first title: Federico Delbonis (Sao Paulo), Roberto Bautista Agut (‘s-Hertogenbosch), Pablo Cuevas (Bastad), Leonard Mayer (Hamburg), David Goffin (Kitzbuhel).
9. The Underdogs
The underdog is the lifeblood of sport. If you aren’t a fan of a particular player or team, it’s always easier to root for the underdog. In tennis, this is no different. David will often garner a lot more support than Goliath.
In 2014, David won out against Goliath many times.
Here are some notable instances: Gabashvili d. Ferrer (Barcelona); Kuznetsov d. Ferrer (Wimbledon); Cilic d. Federer (U.S. Open); Chardy d. Federer (Rome); Hewitt d. Federer (Brisbane); Almagro d. Nadal (Barcelona); Kyrgios d. Nadal (Wimbledon); Robredo d. Djokovic (Cincinnati); Nishikori d. Djokovic (US Open); Berankis d. Raonic (Moscow); Berlocq d. Berdych (Oeiras); Gojowczyk d. Tsonga (Davis Cup)
8. The ATP Challenger Tour
Each and every week, world-class players take to the courts at events in which they are underpaid and under-covered. The struggle of trying to make a living on the Challenger Tour has been well documented and we should all take time to appreciate their efforts.
The ATP has definitely made a step in the right direction by telecasting more matches online. However, the biggest thing for these players is money. Increased prize money on the Challenger Tour will allow them to hire coaches, travel to more tournaments and generally worry about playing tennis as opposed to worrying about how they will eat their next meal or get to their next tournament.
7. Davis Cup
Due to the efforts of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, Davis Cup got lot of attention in 2014. The two teams that ultimately made the final, Switzerland and France, were forced to get through some really tight matches in earlier rounds before they squared off in what was a particularly dramatic final. Though the quality of tennis wasn’t the highest from both teams throughout the final, some great individual performances made it a final to remember.
6. Nikolay Davydenko
Nikolay Davydenko, arguably the best player to never win a Grand Slam, retired in 2014. The Russian took the ball as early as any player in tennis history and dazzled fans and opponents with his ability to place the ball on a dime anywhere on a court. In his prime, he complimented his ball striking abilities with immense speed and court coverage. The highlight of his career came at the 2009 ATP World Tour Finals, when he beat Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro on his way to the title. He will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.
5. A Rally from Match Point Down
There’s nothing as exhilarating as snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Here is a list of matches in 2014 won by players who were down match points and the amount of match points they saved.
Federer d. Mayer (Shanghai): 5 match points saved
Federer d. Monfils (U.S. Open): 5 match points saved
Federer d. Wawrinka (ATP World Tour Finals): 4 match points saved
Murray d. Robredo (Shenzhen): 5 match points saved
Murray d. Robredo (Valencia): 5 match points saved
Simon d. Brands (Australian Open): 5 match points saved
Kyrgios d. Gasquet (Wimbledon): 9 match points saved
4. The Rivalries
Here is a list of some great 2014 rivalries that you should be thankful for: Federer-Djokovic, Nadal-Djokovic, Nishikori-Raonic, Nishikori-Ferrer, Robredo-Murray (for obvious reasons).
3. The Newcomers
Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and Nick Kyrgios had breakout years in 2014.
Kyrgios scored the biggest victory of his young career at Wimbledon, beating Rafael Nadal in four sets in a match which he thoroughly dictated from start to finis with his serve and forehand.
Raonic reached the semifinal of a grand slam for the first time at Wimbledon. In addition, he finished the year in the top 10 for the first time in his career and qualified for the World Tour Finals. Raonic was one of the most consistent players on tour this year and with his serve and big baseline game, don’t expect him to go anywhere soon.
Nishikori had the best year of all, reaching the top 5 and finishing as the runner-up at the US Open. Nishikori beat Roger Federer in Miami, Djokovic at the U.S. Open and nearly beat Nadal in the final of the Madrid Masters.
2. Doubles at the ATP World Tour Finals
The singles event at the ATP World Tour Finals left a lot to be desired. With no final and a week of extremely one-sided affairs, the doubles had a lot of slack to pick up and that was exactly what they did.
There was no shortage of three-set matches and the quality of the points and drama gave fans their money’s worth. Hopefully, this event helps boosts the doubles game and its prominence on the ATP World Tour.
1. New Grand Slam Winners
Coming into 2013, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had won 37 out of the previous 40 Grand Slams. The dominance these four have asserted over the game of tennis in the last 10 years has been astonishing. We’ve come to appreciate the relentlessness with which these four approach Grand Slam events and their willingness to give nothing up.
In 2014, “the Big Four” only captured two of the four majors. Rafael Nadal, as per usual, won the French Open and Novak Djokovic picked up his second Wimbledon title. But in Australia and Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic took away what seemed to be yet another Grand Slam title for Nadal and Federer, respectively. Of course, Cilic had to beat Nishikori in the US Open final but Federer was the biggest obstacle in his way to the title.
The tennis world has been waiting for new Grand Slam winners for quite some time and their wish was granted this year. Whether this year was an anomaly or sign of things to come remains to see. Regardless, be sure to keep your seat belts fastened.