It’s hard to say what defined 2009 in tennis, or who… Rafael Nadal dominated the first four months of the year, beating Federer in the Australian Open, tightening his grip on the world no. 1 spot. Fed couldn’t buy a win anywhere, with many (including me) thinking his best is way way behind him. Rafa won three masters tournaments in March and April, and seemed truly unstoppable. After losing to the Spaniard in the Masters in Rome, Novak Djokovic said that next time, he’ll go on the court with two rackets, ’cause that’s the only way he can stop him. Yes, that was the feeling in the world of tennis about 6-7 months ago. Federer was out, Nadal was king, Djokovic and Murray also looked good, hoping to pick up on some crumbs that the Spaniard drops along the way.
Then came May, and the world (of Tennis) got turned upside down again, to the pecking order it was used to in the Years 2004-2007. Federer beat Nadal, on clay, in the Madrid Masters final, winning his first tournament of the year and breaking Nadal’s 33 match win streak on clay, stopping Nadal from winning all three Clay Masters tournaments in 2009.
Two weeks later it was the French Open, and Federer didn’t even need to beat Nadal to finally conquer the Roland Garros. Robin Soderling (Sweden), in the best form of his career, beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open, ending Nadal’s 31 match winning streak and cutting his run for a fifth straight title there short. Soderling went on to meet Federer in the final, who had a grueling five setter against Juan Martin Del Porto in the semi’s (we’ll be back with Del Potro soon enough). The final was a bit anti-climatic, as Federer beat Soderling in three sets, but who cared about the match – Federer finally won in Paris, matching Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam Singles titles and completing a career grand slam, something Pistol Pete never managed to do.
Federer was riding high on momentum into Wimbledon, as Rafael Nadal announced he will not be there to defend his title due to injuries. He didn’t return to the courts until August, and hasn’t looked like his old self since returning. Everyone is waiting for the 2010 Australian Open, to see if the old Rafa will be back. Back to Federer – Roger made it to the Wimbledon final dropping only one set along the way. On the way he reached his 21st consecutive grand slam semi final, extending his all-time record. The final was his 20th career grand slam final, setting the all-time mark, on better than Ivan Lendl’s 19.
This final was nothing like the French Open’s, as Andy Roddick stunned Federer by taking the first set. The game eventually entered a tie break, after the fifth set, and in Wimbledon fashion, it’s not in point, but in games. Roger went on to win 16-14 in the final set, winning his 15 grand slam, the new all-time record. The match itself was a record breaker in quite a few ways, including the most games played in a singles final (77) and the longest fifth set ever, 95 minutes, which included 30 games. Roddick won a lot of fans from that finals and the way he spoke and handled himself in the awards ceremony. Federer? He became the greatest player ever to many who still had doubts, this time the numbers proved it. He also got back his number one spot back.
Next, the US Open – Federer was the clear favorite, despite Nadal back in action, to win his sixth straight US Open. He beat Soderling again (third slam in a row) and capped of his three set win over Djokovic in the Semi Final with an incredible between the legs shot, which Federer called “… the greatest shot I’ve ever made”. Juan Martin Del Potro, the colossal Argentinian, destroyed Nadal in the other semi final (6-2, 6-2, 6-2) and went on to shock Federer in the final in five sets, winning his first grand slam title and stopping Federer’s 40 match winning streak at New York.
The year end ATP World Tour Finals was won by Nikolay Davydenko, beating Del Potro in the final. Djokovic was another player to finish the year on a high note, winning the final Masters of 2009, beating Gael Monfils in the Paris Masters finals. Grand Slam title next year for ‘Nole?
As far as single titles go, Andy Murray was the most succesful, winning six, two of them being Masters. Nadal, Davydenk and Djokovic had five, with Nadal clearly the more impressive, with one slam and three masters. Federer? He setteled for four singles titles, two grand slams and two masters. Del Potro’s grand slam victory was one of three tournaments he won in 2009.
Roger Federer led the list, winning 6.7 million dollars, way infront of Nadal who won 5.4 million dollars. At 3-4-5 we find Djokovic, Del Potro and Murray, all winning over 4 million dollars, and closing the top 10 are: Davydenko (3.6), Roddick (2.3), Soderling (2.1), Verdasco (1.7) and Tsonga (1.6).
A special mention to Ivo Karlovic, who recorded the most aces this season, with 890 in 43 games, an amazing 20.6 aces per match. He also was the best at winning his own service games, with 92%. Federer for example, is third with 90% and fifth regarding aces, with 657 in 71 matches.
The return of Rafa? Is Del Potro the threat on the top 2, finishing fifth in the end of year rankings? Will Murray finally win a slam in 2010, preferably on grass, in front of the Brits? And what does Roger have to say about all this – how consistent can he be next year, how much gas does he have left in the tank? It’ll be interesting to see Federer fight for his retained crown, but it will be more difficult than ever, with him getting closer to the big 3 0 and more than just one player capable of taking him down.