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.
Daniil Medvedev Backs Djokovic’s Refusal To Disclose Vaccination Status
The Russian shares his view about comments made by Djokovic to a Serbian newspaper earlier this week.
US Open champion Daniil Medvedev says he agrees with Novak Djokovic that players shouldn’t be forced to disclose information about their medical history amid speculation over the vaccination status of the world No.1.
During a recent interview with Blic newspaper Djokovic refused to reveal whether or not he had been jabbed against COVID-19 which has raised questions over his ability to participate in next year’s Australian Open. According to a government minister, It is expected that only fully vaccinated players will be allowed to enter the country but an official confirmation is yet to be issued. The 20-time Grand Slam champion has hit out at the media over what he believes has been an unfair portrayal of those who have some reservations about the vaccine. Djokovic, who contracted COVID-19 last year, had previously said he didn’t want to be in a situation where he would be forced to have a vaccination.
“There is a lot of division in the society, not only in sports, but in the whole society, between those who have not been vaccinated and have been vaccinated. And that’s really scary. That we fell for discriminating against someone if he wants to decide for himself one way or another, whether he wants to be vaccinated or not,” he told Blic.
“It’s really…I am very disappointed with the world society at this moment and the way in which the media transmit and put pressure on all people. There is too much ambiguity, too much information that is not valid, so it turns out that it is, so it is not, everything changes a lot.”
Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in this year’s US Open final, says ‘likes’ the view of his peer. Speaking to reporters at the Kremlin Cup on Thursday, the world No.2 also said he would not be disclosing his vaccination status publicly. Medvedev was due to Moscow this week but withdrew due to fatigue.
“I liked what Novak said about this. He said the vaccination was a personal matter and he would not be making it public. And I also decided not to disclose medical things,” he said.
“As for Australia: there everyone will see who is vaccinated and who is not. Of course, the players can say that they are injured, but this will be a play on words.’
“I want to play in Australia, that’s all I can say.” He added.
According to Djokovic, Tennis Australia are set to confirm their rules for players wanting to play at the Australian Open at some stage next month.
So far this season Medvedev has won 50 matches and four trophies on the ATP Tour. Besides the US Open, he was also victorious at Marseille, Mallorca and Canada. Earlier this year he became the first player outside of the Big Four to crack the world’s top two since Lleyton Hewitt back in 2005.
The next couple of weeks will be a challenge for the Russian who will be aiming to defend his title at both the Paris Masters and ATP Finals. Looking further ahead, he hopes to one day dethrone Djokovic at the top of the rankings.
“The goal is to win more Slams, become world №1 and be in the top for many more years. For this I train and will continue to do it with even greater dedication,” Medvedev stated. “But again, the main goal is to improve and be demanding of yourself. It’s impossible to win everything, no one won 60 matches in a row, but if you play well, there will be victories.”
However, one obstacle in Medvedev’s way continues to be the Big Three who are a trio made up of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer that has dominated the men’s Tour in recent years.
“Like everything in life, their dominance will also pass,” he commented. “Roger and Rafa finished the season early, they had injuries, they didn’t play the US Open, that’s a fact. But still, out of the last 20 “slams” 17 or 18 were taken by those three guys. The three of them are the greatest tennis players in history. Due to the fact that they are getting old, it became a little easier for us to play with them, in this regard we were lucky.”
Medvedev is currently 1800 points behind Djokovic in the ATP rankings.
Andy Murray Blasts Own Performance Following Antwerp Exit
The Brit was far from happy about his latest match in Austria.
Former world No.1 Andy Murray said he had a ‘poor attitude’ during his second round defeat at the European Open on Thursday.
The three-time Grand Slam champion was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by second seed Diego Schwartzman who prevailed 6-4, 7-6(6). Murray started the match on good footing by opening up a 4-1 lead before losing five games in a row. The second set was a closer encounter between the two as they exchanged breaks before the Agretianian edged his way to the victory in the tiebreak.
“Mentally, today (Thursday) I was poor,” Murray told reporters after the match. “My attitude was poor on the court and those are two things you can control. If they’re not there, that also will make the decision-making harder.
“You’re not going to get every single one (decision) right in the match, but you also have to be present enough to acknowledge what is actually happening in the points and why you are winning and losing points.”
It was in Antwerp two years ago where Murray won his last Tour title by defeating Stan Wawrinka in the final. Since then it has been a frustrating journey for the Brit who now plays with a metal hip and has also been troubled by other issues over the past year. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 12-11 and he has only reached the quarter-final stage at one event which was in Metz. Murray also reached the third round at both Wimbledon and Indian Wells.
Outlining his plans for the rest of the year, Murray has confirmed that he will play in both Vienna and Stockholm. He also has his sight set on the Paris Masters where he could enter into the qualifying draw if he doesn’t receive a wildcard. Murray is currently ranked 172nd in the world.
“There’ll be a decision on the final Paris wildcard on Monday, but I might even play the qualis there,” he said. “Sport is a results business. Play well or poorly doesn’t really matter if you lose matches. You need to be winning. That’s what I want in the last few tournaments. They are really strong tournaments and there are no guarantees the results will come, but I want to win more matches.”
Meanwhile, Schwartzman will take on America’s Brandon Nakashima in the quarter-finals on Friday. This week the 29-year-old is seeking only his second Tour title on a hardcourt and his first since the 2019 Los Cabos Open in Mexico.
“It was a pleasure to play against Andy,” Schwartzman said in his on-court interview. “We had not played before and he is coming back and every week he is playing better and moving better. I have a lot of respect because when I grew up playing tennis, I was watching Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Andy and Novak [Djokovic] and right now playing against him, is a pleasure for me.”
Schwartzman is one of only three seeded players to make it through to the last eight along with Jannik Sinner and Lloyd Harris.
New British No.1 Cameron Norrie Inspired By Compatriot Raducanu
The Indian Wells champion believes Raducanu’s triumph will trigger a new generation of players in the country.
Cameron Norrie says he drew inspiration from Emma Raducanu prior to winning the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.
The world No.16 stunned the men’s field at the tournament where he had never won a main draw match prior to this year. Norrie defeated Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov and Nikoloz Basilashvili to become the first player from his country to win the prestigious title. The run has resulted in him achieving a series of career milestones. After claiming his maiden Masters 1000 title, Norrie has broken into the world’s top 20 for the first time this week and has overtaken Dan Evans to become British No.1.
Norrie credits Raducanu’s US Open run for inspiring him and believes her success is ‘huge for British tennis.’ The 18-year-old became the first qualifier in history to win a major title in New York as she won 10 matches in a row without dropping a set. Her victories include wins over top 20 players Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari.
“That was utterly incredible what she did in New York. To come through qualifying and then to go out and just whack every opponent that she had,” he told Sky Sports.
“She won in straight sets and to do that at such a young age. To do it with that kind of confidence and come out and own every match was extremely impressive.
“It will definitely give the girls around her ranking where she was before the US Open a lot of confidence and a lot of belief.
“I was inspired by her triumph in New York. It’s huge for British tennis. I think for sure it’s going to put a lot of rackets in hand for the next generation of younger boys and girls to start playing tennis at home in the UK.”
Norrie himself is currently in the midst of what has been a breakout season for the 26-year-old who was a former top-ranked player in the US during his college years. He ties Novak Djokovic for most appearances in a Tour final this season at six. Three of those finals were on a hardcourt, two on the clay and one on grass. He won his maiden Tour title in July at the Los Cabos Open. Norrie has also scored multiple wins over top 10 players this season for the first time in his career – beating Dominic Thiem in Lyon and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.
“I want to get to world No 1, that’s the ultimate goal. Everyone on my team has the same target. Clearly it’s extremely difficult to do, and there’s a long road ahead. But we set high expectations and we’re going to strive towards them.” Norrie told The Telegraph earlier this week.
Norrie enters the final stretch of the 2021 season with 47 match wins to his name and is within contention of qualifying for the ATP Finals. To put that into perspective, since its inception in 1970 only three British players has ever participated in the event.
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