Do you like Top 10 lists? Do you like surprises? Then have we got a post for you! TTI takes a look back on the ten most shocking ATP moments of 2014.
Get ready to make this face a lot:
10. Justin Gimelstob becomes John Isner’s Coach
Just three days ago, former player and current commentator and ATP Board Member Justin Gimelstob announced that he would be coaching top-ranked American John Isner, effective immediately. Gimelstob is a two-time Grand Slam champion in mixed doubles, and scored wins over Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter, and Gustavo Kuerten during his time on the ATP World Tour.
2015 is a monumental year for Isner. He will be turning 30-years-old in April and has yet to win a title above the 250-level. Though he has made deep runs at big tournaments, notching wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, that monumental title is still missing from his resumé. Gimelstob will be looking to add the proper elements to Isner’s game to push him over the top in 2015. With his many other commitments, how much will he be able to give to his charge? From an exchange on Twitter, it’s clear that he’s confident that he will get the job(s) done:
9. Rafael Nadal’s “Subpar” Clay Court Season
Coming into 2014, Nicolas Almagro was 0-8 on clay against Rafael Nadal. His compatriot, David Ferrer, was even worse – a paltry 0-17 against the King of Clay on his favorite surface since 2004. With proper context, Almagro and Ferrer both beating Nadal – in Monte Carlo and Barcelona respectively – proved to be one of the biggest underdog storylines of the entire year.
Regardless of Nadal’s suspect level of play, neither of these victories could have been seen as anything but stunning.
Nadal would, of course, get his revenge where it mattered, bageling Ferrer en route to a historic ninth Roland Garros title.
8. Vasek Pospisil Jack Sock’s Excellent Wimbledon Adventure
America’s Jack Sock and Canada’s Vasek Pospisil had never played a doubles match together before deciding to enter Wimbledon as a pair. One fortnight and six victories later, these two young guns etched their names into history, capturing the men’s doubles trophy. Making their feat all the more impressive, Sock and Pospisil defeated the Bryan Brothers in an incredible five set match in the final.
Perhaps even more surprising? Despite this monumental win, the pair didn’t qualify for the otherwise high-quality World Tour Final doubles event.
7. Jerzy Janowicz’s Regression
Jerzy Janowicz ended 2013 as the 14th ranked player in the world – nay! – on the planet. His big game was clicking in a big way, announcing himself to the tennis world with a run to the Wimbledon semifinals. Here we are a year later and the Pole is ranked No. 43. Between February and May, Janowicz had a stretch where he lost nine consecutive matches, having trouble against any type of opponent thrown his way.
With Janowicz’s high risk, high reward playing style, it would not be astonishing to see him rise back up the ranks in 2015, but it would also not be surprising to see him plunge even further.
6. The World Tour Finals’ Singular Shock
The singles competition at the World Tour Finals was the worst in recent memory. There was no final, only four three set matches, and a ton of one-sided matches. It was just plain bad. The mixing of the top eight players in the world is a great idea, but it just wasn’t meant to be this year. Luckily for viewers, the doubles event more than made up for the lack of quality in the singles event.
5. The Rise of RBA
When Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut beat a fading Juan Martin Del Potro in five sets in Australia, I had told a friend that it was a fluke, that such success would not continue. As we all know now, Bautista Agut did more than follow up on his Australian Open run. He won the first two titles of his career in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Stuggart, reached the semifinals of the Madrid Masters, rose to a career high of No. 14, and won the ATP Most Improved Player award.
He also ensured that nobody will be asking me for lottery numbers anytime soon.
4. David Goffin’s Second Half Success
After watching David Goffin get dominated by Andy Murray on Centre Court at Wimbledon in June, I asked myself where David Goffin’s career was going. Little did I know, the answer was big places. The Belgian, who began his post-Wimbledon campaign ranked No. 107, won 40 of the last 44 matches he played in 2014.
Goffin racked up four consecutive titles in the month of July, including three challenger victories and his first-ever ATP World Tour title in Kitzbuhel. He went on to win his second ATP title in Metz and record his first Top 10 win over Milos Raonic in Basel. His stunning second half of the year vaulted him to one final victory: winning the ATP Comeback Player of the Year.
3. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Trees in Toronto
In four days in August, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Diimtrov and Federer. Tsonga’s career has been blighted by a propensity to misuse his vast talent in the biggest moments, but there was no such prodigal sonning in Canada, and he channeled his potential all the way to victory.
It was a breath of fresh air to see the Frenchman put all together, if only for a week. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will also be turning 30 next season, and while he may have a few years left, 2015 will likely be one of the last where he can consistently challenge the game’s elite. If he is able to tap into whatever got him through Toronto, watch out.
2. Kei Nishikori, Period.
Despite coming up short in the Madrid and U.S. Open finals, Nishikori was one of the most awe-inspiring players of 2014. He first turned heads in Miami, upsetting Federer in three grueling sets before having to withdraw from a much anticipated semifinal against Djokovic. He turned up again in Madrid, reaching the final and taking an authoritative 6-4, 4-2 lead over Nadal. Again, his body failed him, losing this match after injuring his back. Yet, his mind was strengthening under coach Michael Chang.
He would end up having the biggest result of his career at the US Open. Proving his durability, he reached the final with highly physical wins over Raonic and Stan Wawrinka, and emphatic revenge over Djokovic in the semifinals. Nishikori qualified for the World Tour Finals and entered the Top 5 on the back of titles in Memphis, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo.
1. Two New Grand Slam Champions
A crevice was placed into hegemony of the Big 4 in 2014. Warwrinka stunned the tennis world Down Under, beating Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Nadal in the second week to take his first Grand Slam title. Wawrinka, who was slowly but surely ascending finally peaked in Australia. The Swiss electrified crowds with his brilliant ball striking and vicious intensity, his victory over Djokovic called one of the best matches of the year.
Bookending the chaos was Marin Cilic. At the US Open, he provided an even bigger shock, one unlike anything the tennis world has seen in more than a decade. The level of amazement over Cilic winning a Grand Slam trophy of his own was at an all-time high. The only real signs of Cilic’s big league potential came during two losses over the summer: one against Djokovic at Wimbledon and another to Federer in Toronto. In these two matches, Cilic really began to show what types of improvements he was making under Goran Ivanesevic.
Cilic and Wawrinka made 2014 a season to remember and one no one will soon forget.
Did your most shocking moment not make the list? Sound off in the comments!
Correction (Dec. 14, 2014): This article was edited to note that David Ferrer had not won a clay court match against Rafael Nadal since 2004.