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.
Andrey Rublev: “I don’t expect anything from myself in Melbourne”
Russian 22-year-old rising star Andrey Rublev started the 2020 season on a high note winning back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide. He beat French Next Gen player Corentin Moutet in the final of the Doha Qatar Exxon Mobil Open in the first week of the new year and repeated the feat by beating South African rising star Lloyd Harris in Adelaide.
Rublev has extended his winning streak to 12 matches, including 8 wins in the first two weeks of the 2020 season. He won the Doha title without dropping a set during the week. In Adelaide the Moscow native had to dig deep to beat Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 in a hard-fought semifinal match. With the Doha-Adelaide double Rublev became the first player to win back-to-back titles in the first two weeks of the season since 2004, when Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty won two consecutive trophies in Adelaide and Auckland.
Rublev picked up where he left off in 2019, when he won the Kremlin Cup in his hometown Moscow beating Adrian Mannarino in the final and finished runner-up to Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Hamburg final. The player coached by Fernando Vicente scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Roger Federer in Cincinnati to reach his first Masters 1000 quarter final before losing to eventual champion Danil Medvedev. At the US Open he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios en route to reaching the fourth round at the US Open before losing to eventual semifinalist Matteo Berrettini.
“I was not thinking about this statistic, but it’s an amazing feeling. I am really happy. I hope I keep working. I hope I keep improving, and we’ll see what’s going to happen”, said Rublev.
Rublev will open his Australian Open campaign against local favourite Christopher O’Connell in the first round. The Russian player is projected to play against David Goffin in a potential third round match, Alexander Zverev in the fourth round and Danil Medvedev in the quarter final.
Rublev, who has never advanced from the third round at the Australian Open, has no expectations for the first Grand Slam of the season.
“I am not waiting anything from myself in Melbourne. The only thing is that I want to fight and I believe well on court in my first match. Then we will see. I don’t think I am invincible, but for sure I am more confident in what I do after two titles in a row. I am working to be more consistent, to be more mentally strong. This is what we were working for and I am happy that these two weeks went this way. I got two titles. It’s amazing. I never had this before”, said Rublev.
Ugo Humbert claims the first title of his career after winning all-French final against Benoit Paire in Auckland
Twenty-one year-old Ugo Humbert beat Benoit Paire 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 7-6 (7-5) after 2 hours and 34 minutes in the all-French final of the ASB Classic in Auckland to claim the first title of his career.
Humbert has become the first French player to win the Auckland tournament. He enjoyed a great week beating Denis Shapovalov and John Isner en route to reaching the final.
Humbert earned the first break of the match in the second game after a double fault from Paire and held his serve with a service winner in the next game to open up a 3-0 lead. Paire broke back in the fifth game with a backand return winner. Humbert broke serve again in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Paire broke back in the seventh game to claw his way back to 3-4. Humbert earned three set points, when Paire was serving at 5-6. Humbert reeled off five consecutive points from 2-2 to claim the tie-break with three mini-break after a forehand error from Paire.
Paire fended off three break points in the third game of the second set before breaking serve in the fourth game after a double fault from Humbert. Paire saved a break point at 5-3 with an ace and closed out the second set with a backhand down the line winner.
Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the decider with a backhand crosscourt passing shot, before saving three break points at 4-2. Paire hit three consecutive backhand winners, as Humbert was serving for the match at 5-3 30-0. Paire got the crucial break in the next point, when Humbert sent a forehand long. Paire saved a championship point with a backhand volley winner in the 10th game. Paire held his serve with a backhand volley winner to draw level to 5-5. Paire rallied from 0-30 down in the 12th game to force the decisive set to the tie-break.
Humbert earned a mini-break on the sixth point with a forehand return to take a 4-2 lead and earned three championship points at 6-3. Humbert sealed the win on his third chance when Paire sent a backhand wide after 2 hours and 35 minutes.
“It’s a tournament of revenge because I have lost to four of five players I played this week. It’s a great improvement for me and I could not dream of a beginning for the season”, said Humbert.
Roger Federer Plays Down Air Quality Concerns Ahead Of Australian Open
Roger Federer has rejected concerns that air quality will affect the Australian Open ahead of his first round match on Monday.
Roger Federer has rejected the idea that air quality concerns will be a factor at this year’s Australian Open.
Recently air quality has been fairly unsafe as a recent result of the Australian bushfires that have impacted many parts of the country.
Melbourne has been one of the cities that has been impacted the most with many animals, firefighters and civilians suffering.
As the Australian Open approaches, it has also affected the first grand slam of the year with many players in qualifying suffering on Tuesday and Wednesday with conditions being deemed unsafe to compete in.
This has raised concerns about the tournament itself, which starts on Monday and one player that has been criticised in his lack of action is Roger Federer.
The 20 time grand slam champion is on the ATP Players Council and today he broke his silence, insisting that the air quality shouldn’t be a factor at this year’s Australian Open, “No, I don’t worry. From what we were told yesterday in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300. Ours is set at 200,” Federer told the media on Saturday.
“From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range. We’re not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know. That’s when maybe effects really become bad. No, I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke. Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again. It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times.
“I think communication is key from the tournament to the people, to the media, to the fans, to the players, because you do hear it’s not safe to be outside, keep your pets inside, close your windows. You have court calls, then you look at the haze and everything, it doesn’t look good. I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.”
Conditions are expected to get safer in time for the first week of the grand slam as rain has hit the latter stages of the past week in Melbourne.
Although Federer has played down concerns of the air quality causing harm to the players, it is still is a cause for concern amongst tournament directors if the conditions played a part in the second week.
As for Federer, he starts his Australian Open campaign against Steve Johnson on Monday and is taking the tournament one match at a time, “I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,” Federer said.
“Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough. I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low. No, I’m excited to play Steve. He’s a good guy. I think with his old-school playing – big forehand, slice backhand, good serve – I think it’s going to be a nice match for me, as well.”
The Swiss will be looking for his 7th Australian Open title in Melbourne and his third in four years but will have to play Novak Djokovic before the final. The match with Johnson will be third on Rod Laver Arena on Monday after Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams play their matches.
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