TENNIS ATP REVIEW – In our traditional review of the 2014 season we look back to the best players of the year, the rising stars, the best matches, the major upsets of the season and the biggest rivalries of the ATP Tour. Diego Sampaolo
The best player of the year: Novak Djokovic
The Serbian star confirmed his status as World Number 1 player for the fourth consecutive year after winning seven titles from eleven finals, including a Grand Slam at Wimbledon, four Master 1000 Tournaments (the US hard-court double in Indian Wells and Miami, Rome, Paris Bercy) and the ATP Finals in London after Roger Federer withdrew before the final because of a back injury. He ended his season with 61 match wins and just 8 defeats. This memorable year was also marked by his marriage to Jelena Ristic just a few days after his second Wimbledon triumph against Federer. Jelena gave birth to their first child Stefan shortly before Paris Bercy. Djokovic has become the first player to win three ATP Finals/Master titles since Ivan Lendl who clinched the end-of-year tournament in 1985, 1986 and 1987. The only other star to clinch three straight was Ilie Nastase who lifted this trophy from 1971 to 1973
The Swiss Maestro did not win any Grand Slam titles in 2014 but he enjoyed a very consistent year in which he scored 72 match wins, including two Master 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai, two ATP 500 titles in Dubai, Basel and the ATP 250 in Halle. He qualified for 13th consecutive year and reached his ninth final. The relationship to his coach Stefan Edberg which started with the 2014 Australian Open has certainly contributed to his successful season. Since Edberg joined his coaching team at the start of 2014, Federer has played a more aggressive game attacking the net more frequently. He crowned his great year with his first ever Davis Cup triumph with Stan Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer. He was narrowly beaten by Djokovic in a close and thrilling Wimbledon five-set final against Djokovic and lost the all-Swiss Monte-Carlo final against Stan Wawrinka. He withdrew from a match for just the third time in 1221 singles career matches when a back injury sidelined him before the ATP Finals title match against Djokovic. Federer enjoyed a great year in his private life. On 6th May Roger’s wife Mirka gave birth to their second set of twins. They named their boy twins Lenny and Leo. He has won the ATP Fans Favourite Award for the 12th consecutive year since 2003. He was voted by his fellow players for the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award a record ten times (from 2004 to 2009 and from 2011 to 2014) and for the fourth year in a row and received this Prize from his coach Stefan Edberg during the ATP Finals in London. He beat Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori who were also nominated in this category.
The king of the Roland Garros: Rafa Nadal
Rafa Nadal had a season of ups and downs compared to his extraordinary standards. The Majorcan legend did not dominate the clay season as in the previous years but he beat Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 in the Roland Garros final to lift his ninth title and his fifth consecutive win at the French Open. With his Roland Garros triumph he equalled Pete Sampras’ total of 14 Grand Slam wins for second place in the ranking of players with more singles Major titles. Nadal won just another title during the European clay season at the Mutua Open in Madrid against Kei Nishikori who was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. He lost in the Rome final in three sets against Djokovic and was stunned by David Ferrer in the quarter final in Monte-Carlo and by Nicholas Almagro in the quarter final in Barcelona. He won two more titles in Doha and Rio de Janeiro
After the Roland Garros Nadal was upset by Dustin Brown in the second round in Halle and by Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round at Wimbledon. After being sidelined from the US hard-court season by a wrist injury, Nadal was stunned by Martin Klizan in three sets in the quarter final at the China Open in Beijing He suffered further shock defeats against Feliciano Lopez in Shanghai in two sets and Croatian rising star Borna Coric in the quarter finals of the Swiss Indoor Open in Basel and ended his season to undergo appendicitis surgery on 3rd November
The best matches of the year:
Final Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer 6-7 6-4 7-6 5-7 6-4
Our best match of the year award goes to the memorable five set between Djokovic and Federer at Wimbledon. The Swiss Maestro was bidding to win his eighth Wimbledon title and his 18th Grand Slam but he had to settle to runner-up spot after a memorable final in which Djokovic came close to close out the match in four sets. He was leading 5-2 in the fourth set when he served for the set at 5-3. Federer, who was looking to win his first Major title since Wimbledon in 2012, bounced back by hitting an ace on Djokovic’s match point. Federer won five consecutive games to force the match to the fifth set. Djokovic missed three break point chances in the eighth game of the fifth set. The Serb clinched his second Wimbledon title on his second match point to claim his second triumph at Church Road after a 3-hour and 56-minute battle in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Semifinal ATP Finals London: Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka 4-6 7-5 7-6
The all-Swiss semifinal at the ATP Finals in London was the last match of the ATP Tour season, as winner Federer was then forced to withdraw before the final against Djokovic because of his back injury. The two Swiss friends tied 1-1 in their previous two head-to-head matches this year. Wawrinka beat Federer in the three- set final on the clay court in Monte-Carlo. Federer took a re-match by beating his fellow countryman in the Wimbledon quarter finals. In the O2 Arena Federer fought back from a set down to win a dramatic match with 4-6 7-5 7-6 after two hours and 48 minutes. Federer saved four match points (the first three opportunities at 5-4 in the third set and the fourth chance at 6-5 in the decisive set).
Quarter Final Australian Open: Stan Wawrinka beat Novak Djokovic 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7
Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic have always provided thrilling matches and this year was no exception. In January 2013 Djokovic edged Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set of a dramatic fourth round match of the 2013 Australian Open. Seven months later the Serb won another marathon five-set match in the 2013 US Open semifinal. At the 2014 Australian Open Wawrinka ended the three-year winning streak at Melbourne Park by recovering from a break-down in the fifth set. Stan saved break points in the fifth and seventh games before holding serve to clinch a dramatic win with 9-7. The Lausanne player went on to beat Rafael Nadal to lift his first Grand Slam title of his career. Later in the season Wawrinka also won his first Master 1000 in Monte-Carlo and his first Davis Cup with Switzerland in the Lille final against France.
Quarter final US Open: Kei Nishikori beat Stan Wawrinka 3-6 7-5 7-6 6-7 6-4
Kei Nishikori survived a dramatic fourth round match against Milos Raonic which ended at 2.26 am in the night but he found the strength to edge Stan Wawrinka in another five-set marathon match two days later in the quarter final of the US Open. Nishikori saved a break point in the 11th game before clinching the third set at the tie-break. The Japanese player recovered from a 0-4 deficit in the tie-break of the fourth set and came within two points from win at 5-5 but Wawrinka claimed the final two points to force the match to the decider. Nishikori got the decisive break in the 10th game to notch up the win after 4 hours and 15 minutes to become the first Asian player to qualify to a Grand Slam final. In the titles match Nishikori was beaten by Marin Cilic with 3-6 3-6 3-6. The US Open final featured a clash between two past Grand Slam champions Michael Chang and Goran Ivanisevic who now train respectively Nishikori and Cilic.
Quarter final US Open: Roger Federer beat Gael Monfils 4-6 3-6 6-4 7-5 6-2
Gael Monfils, a quarter finalist at the Roland Garros earlier this year, qualified for the US Open without dropping a set in the first four matches (including wins against Richard Gasquet and Grigor Dimitrov). The Frenchman claimed the first two sets against Federer in the quarter final. Federer broke serve at the start of the third set and at the start of the fourth set to force the match to the decider. Monfils broke back before earning two match points in the 10th game of the fourth set but Federer fought back to claim the set with 7-5 to force the match to the decider where he cruised to 6-2 in 27 minutes
Semifinal Madrid: Kei Nishikori beat David Ferrer 7-6 5-7 6-3
Kei Nishikori became the first Asian player to reach a Master 1000 Final in Madrid after winning a dramatic semifinal match against David Ferrer one week after claiming his first clay title in Barcelona. Six weeks after winning a dramatic match against Ferrer with 7-6 2-6 7-6 in Miami after saving four match points, Nishikori needed 10 break points to set up a final against Rafa Nadal. Nishikori qualified for the third of his six finals on the ATP Tour but he sadly retired in the third set of the final with a back injury after dominating Nadal for most of the match.
Final Valencia: Andy Murray beat Tommy Robredo 3-6 7-6 7-6
Andy Murray and Tommy Robredo met twice in one month in Shenzhen and Valencia and on both finals the Scotsman had to save five match points to claim two of his three titles of this year.
In Valencia Robredo fought back from a break down in the second set to force the tie-break. Murray saved two match points to win the second-set tie-break 9-7 drawing level to 1-1 and force the match to the decider. Murray fended off three match points in the tie-break before claiming a dramatic win in three hours and 20 minutes. Murray clinched the 31st title of his career and his second win in Valencia.
The Doubles team of the year:
Twin brothers Mike and Bob Brown claimed ten titles in 2014 including the US Open, the ATP Finals and six Master 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris Bercy) plus Houston and Delray Beach.
The Rising stars of tomorrow: Borna Coric and Dominic Thiem
Croatian 17-year-old rising star Borna Coric received the ATP Star of Tomorrow after an outstanding year in which he finished the year as the youngest player in the top 100 of the ATP Ranking. Coric started the season ranked outside the top 300 and reached a career high number 92 at the end of the season. Coric reached the quarter final in the Umag ATP 250 where he lost against Fabio Fognini. He reached the second round at the US Open where he lost to Estrella Burgos in his debut in a Grand Slam tournament. Coric upset Rafa Nadal to reach the semifinals at the Basel Swiss Indoor Open
Another outstanding rising star was Austrian 20-year-old Dominic Thiem, who upset Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in three sets in the second round of the Madrid Mutua Open. He was defeated by David Goffin in the Kitzbuhel ATP 250 final in three sets. At the US Open Thiem beat Ernests Gulbis and Feliciano Lopez before losing against Tomas Berdych in the fourth round. During his junior career Thiem lost a close final at the 2011 Roland Garros.
Among the other names to watch for the future we pick up Aleksander Zverev and Jiri Vesely. Zverev, a 17-year-old German player of Russian origin, became the youngest player to win a Challenger Tournament in Braunschweig since 2009 when Bernard Tomic won the Maccabi Challenger. Zverev won his first ATP Tour level match at the German Open in Hamburg again Tomas Kamke before losing in the semifinal against David Ferrer.
Vesely, Australian Open Junior champion in 2011, became the youngest player in the top-100 in 2013 at the age of 20. The Czech player lost against Andy Murray in three sets at the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Master 1000. At Wimbledon he beat Gael Monfils in five sets in the second round before losing against Nick Kyrgios in the third round.
The Most Improved player of the year: Roberto Bautista Agut, Marin Cilic, Nick Kyrgios, Kei Nishikori
The Spanish player moved up from World Number 59 at the end of 2013 to a career high Number 14 at the end of the 2014 season. This year Bautista Agut claimed two ATP titles in s’Hertogenbosch on grass and in Stuttgart on clay before reaching the final at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. He reached the fourth round in a Grand Slam Tournament for the first time in his career at the Australian Open after beating Juan Martin Del Potro in five sets in the second round and qualified for his first Master 1000 semifinal in Madrid before losing to Rafa Nadal. He claimed 45 match wins this season. Bautista Agut beat US Open champion Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios who were also nominated in this category.
Cilic, who ended the 2013 year ranked 50 in the ATP Ranking, won in Zagreb and Delray Beach and reached the final in Rotterdam last February. He lost a five-set quarter final against Djokovic at Wimbledon before lifting his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and secured his spot for his first ever ATP Finals by clinching the Kremlin Cup title in Moscow.
Australian 18-year-old rising star Nick Kyrgios grabbed the headlines when he beat Rafa Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon. In the previous match the young Aussie saved nine match points to come back from two sets down to edge former Wimbledon semifinalist Richard Gasquet with 3-6 6-7 6-4 7-5 10-8. This season he clinched his third ATP Challenger title in Nottingham and won on his main draw debut in a Grand Slam at the Australian Open.
Nishikori made the breakthrough in 2014 finishing the year in fifth place in the ATP Ranking after winning four titles in Memphis, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo and reaching his first Master 1000 final in Madrid and his first Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows. He was the first Asian player to qualify for the ATP Finals.
The Come-back of the year: David Goffin:
The Belgian player started the 2014 season at Number 110 in the ATP Ranking after breaking the wrist in September 2013. Goffin recorded a match winning record of 44-4 since the start of July and claimed three straight ATP Challengers titles and won his first ATP title in Kitzbuhel. He reached the Winston Salem quarter final to extend his winning streak to 25 consecutive matches. He lost in the third round against Grigor Dimitrov at the US Open before claiming the ATP 250 title in Metz and the ATP Challenger in Mons. He finished the year finishing runner-up to his idol Federer in Basel to end the year in a career high 22nd place in the ATP Ranking.
The humanitarian player of the year: Andy Murray:
Andy Murray was honoured with the ATP Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award as he raised awareness for Wildlife and Malaria No More and his Rally against Cancer charity exhibitions to support his friends Elena Baltacha, who was diagnosed with liver cancer and died this year at the age of 30, and Ross Hutchins, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2012 and announced he was in remission the following July.
The Team of the year: Switzerland wins the Davis Cup
Roger Federer finally fulfilled his lifetime dream to lift the Davis Cup Trophy in the 3-1 win of the Red-Crossed team against France in Lille. Federer bounced back from a defeat against Gael Monfils in the first day with a win in the doubles with Stan Wawrinka and sealed the Swiss triumph with a three-set win over Richard Gasquet. Wawrinka deserves a special mention as he claimed an important win over Jo Wilfred Tsonga in the opening match before helping the Swiss team score the crucial 2-1 point in the doubles. Switzerland could celebrate the first Davis Cup in history 22 years after losing their first final against the USA with 3-1.
Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games
A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro
For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.
In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck” in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.
After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.
The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.
Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”
Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.
The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.
Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?
Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?
By Roman Bongiorno
“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive. Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.
The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.
Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside. And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.
Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.
Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.
The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.
What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad. He survived the morning-after syndrome after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.
The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.
Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.
A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.
Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.
Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.
Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner
Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.
Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.
The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.
After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.
However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.
If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.
Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.
“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.
“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”
Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.
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