Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tennis 2012 in Review

By Angus Saul

2012. What a year.

Novak Djokovic end the year as No. 1 as he won the ATP World Tour Finals earlier this week. He also has his Australian Open crown to add to that, with a further four titles along the way. He didn't dominate the way he did in 2011, but where it mattered, he pulled ahead of the rest of the competition.

Federer had a good run of it, too, taking tennis to new heights. The Wimbledon title he took this July marked an entire decade of grand slam winning performances. That's 7 Wimbledon titles, and 17 major titles overall, from 2003 to 2012.

He also returned to number one in the world briefly and overtook Pete Sampras' record of most weeks as No. 1. And in all honesty, it doesn't look like he's slowed down.

I said earlier this year that Federer was still a great player, and could beat anyone on a given day, but had lost some of the consistency in his game, meaning he wouldn't be able to challenge for the majors any more. I believe a large portion of humble pie is in order.

He's altered his game — the points are kept shorter, and if anything, he's hitting more aggressively than he did at the top of his game. He can't outrun his opposition any more, but he sure can outhit them.

And Andy Murray. 2012 has finally been his breakout year. He won both Olympic gold in the men's singles, and also won his first grand slam title at the U.S. Open. He hasn't done much since, and this has been a slight worry.

Most people expected him to go on and win the World Tour Finals, but two lackluster performances meant he was dumped out in the semifinals again.

People always say "the first major is the hardest to win," but it should be hoped that Andy hasn't taken that to heart, and feels he can win them without effort any more. Because that simply isn't true.

If Andy puts in the same effort and training as he has into winning that first one, he will come away with more major titles. The aggressive hitting that brought him Olympic gold and the U.S. Open title has become a little sparse.

Murray dominated against Federer in his semifinal, but simply gave up the ghost from winning positions in each set. Federer had a distinctly average game, playing well, but not really working too hard, as Murray forfeited point after point with sloppy play.

Against Djokovic, when he was in the mood, he could hold serve with ease and then break. But at crucial times, he couldn't seem to close out.

That seems to be a huge problem since the U.S. Open for Murray. Twice in consecutive tournaments, he has had match points against people and has failed to win. On several occasions, he has served for the set or the match and been broken.

Murray has the game to beat anyone nowadays, with the possible exception of Nadal, but he simply needs to tighten up, and keep a cool head under pressure. No one said it would be easy riding after winning a first major, but in theory, it should be easier. Murray seems to be making it harder.

Now onto Nadal. The Spaniard had a so-so start to the year, going all the way to the final against Novak Djokovic in Australia, before succumbing to nerves and, like Murray, failing to close out from a winning position.

This was perhaps to be expected. Nadal had lost to Djokovic in all of their meetings in 2011, and so perhaps there were some nerves. What was unexpected was how Nadal rebounded from this loss so quickly, and wrapped up the clay court season with titles in Monte Carlo, Rome, and the French Open title for the seventh time in eight years.

But then came Wimbledon. Nadal was knocked out in the second round in five blistering sets by Lukas Rosol, who subsequently lost in the third round. At the time, people couldn't believe it. Some said he looked injured, whilst others said he didn't have a look in on Rosol's serve.

Both camps were right on that one. Nadal didn't get a look in, but he certainly wouldn't have been able to, what with being injured. Nadal has since missed the remainder of the season, and it can only be hoped he makes a swift recovery in time for the Australian Open in January.

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