Tennis review 2011
It has been a memorable 12 months in the world of tennis. Joe Drabble takes a look back at the last year and picks out his leading personalities and top moments from 2011...
Last Updated: 21/12/11 9:58am
Tennis enjoyed a year to remember as Novak Djokovic swept all before him en route to a record-breaking year on the ATP Tour, while on the women's side, variety was the spice of life as four different players tasted Grand Slam glory.
Check out skysports.com's highs and lows of the 2011 season and share your thoughts on the year using the feedback box below...
Player of the Year - Novak Djokovic
The 2011 season will forever be remembered as the 'Year of the Djoker'. Boy spectacularly turned man as Serbian sensation Djokovic set new standards and smashed all kinds of records to claim the world number one ranking for the first time in his burgeoning career. Djokovic became only the sixth man in Open era history to win at least three majors in a single season, only the French Open title eluding him during a remarkable campaign. The Serb was simply untouchable at the start of the year, winning 43 consecutive matches before tasting defeat for the first time in the semi-finals at Roland Garros. He swept Britain's Andy Murray aside to claim his second Australian Open title in Melbourne in January and four successive Masters crowns swiftly followed to leave the rest of the world in a state of awe. Even the 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal was schooled on his beloved surface, the Spaniard suffering defeats after taking the opening sets at Indian Wells and Miami, before being handed claycourt lessons in Madrid and Rome. Djokovic finished the season with a staggering 70-6 record, with fatigue eventually telling in the latter stages of the campaign.
Most improved player - Petra Kvitova
Move aside Venus and Serena, there's a new girl in town. That girl is Petra Kvitova. Starting the 2011 season as the world number 34, the Czech left-hander finished it as No.2 after a breakthrough year which brought six singles titles - Wimbledon and the WTA Championships included. The 21-year-old won her first tournament of the year in Brisbane and clinched the season-ending event in Istanbul. In between, she took four more titles, peaking in June with her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon. At SW19, with her swinging left-handed serve and powerful groundstokes perfectly suited to the All England Club grass, Kvitova ousted five seeds - including former champion Maria Sharapova in the final - to lift the famous Venus Rosewater Dish.
Rising star - Milos Raonic
2011 was quite a year for 20-year-old Canadian Raonic, who shot up from 156 in the world rankings to a career-high 25 before ending as the world No.31. Gathering a reputation as one of the biggest servers on tour, Raonic set a new tournament record of 129 aces during his run to the final of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis. After qualifying for the Australian Open at the start of the year, Raonic became the first Canadian in 10 years to reach the third round of a Grand Slam and he then eliminated world No.10 Mikhail Youzhny in four sets to become the first qualifier to make the fourth round since 1999. His run was eventually stopped by David Ferrer, however Raonic built on his strong start to the season by capturing his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose with victory over Fernando Verdasco. He made his Davis Cup debut in March and is certainly a player to keep an eye on in 2012.
Moment of 2011 - Djokovic wins WimbledonSmarting from his first defeat of the season to Roger Federer at the French Open, Djokovic arrived at Wimbledon looking to achieve what he had failed to do in six previous visits - lift the famous trophy. This looked his best chance to do so and, after grass-court supremo Federer had fallen to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a quarter-final classic, the door opened for the Serb, who in turn became the first world number one not named Federer or Nadal since 2004. Former champion Nadal, who defeated Andy Murray in yet another Grand Slam semi-final, stood in Djokovic's way in the final, however the Serb produced a stunning grass-court display to prevail 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3. In doing so he became the first Serbian man to win Wimbledon and the emotion in his celebrations showed just how much it meant to him.
Best match - Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer (US Open semi-final)
Plenty of candidates in this category as always but Djokovic's come-from-behind victory over Federer at Flushing Meadows was something very, very special. Having fallen two sets down to the Swiss star, few gave Djokovic a prayer of coming back, despite his stunning start to the season. But, with a final date against Nadal up for grabs, Djokovic drew upon all his mental strength to record a sensational 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5 victory. The fifth set had been of brilliant quality until the eighth game, when Federer broke Djokovic to take a 5-3 advantage. With two match points on his racquet, Federer seemed to fold when Djokovic ripped a forehand return winner cross-court to save the first. Djokovic would go on to break and win the next three games as well to close out the comeback victory. Simply sensational viewing.
Low point - Health concerns
The Williams sisters were conspicuous by their absence in 2011 and Serena, who returned to the tour in June after a serious foot injury and then a pulmonary embolism, quickly re-announced herself with titles at Stanford and Toronto and a final run at the US Open. For Venus, 2011 was even worse. The seven-time major winner was plagued by abdominal injury, featuring in only four events and losing early in all of them. Then came the announcement that Venus was suffering from the autoimmune virus, Sjogren's Syndrome. Venus ended the year ranked outside of the world top 100 for the first time since 1997. On the men's side, Robin Soderling missed the second half of the season with mononucleosis. The Swede dropped from world number five to 13 as a result of the illness and he also confirmed his absence from the upcoming Australian Open due to the problem.
Controversy - Serena's strop part II
There seems to be something about playing in New York that turns Serena Williams into a very unpleasant human being. After threatening a line-judge at Flushing Meadows in 2010, the American superstar turned her anger on the umpire in 2011. Serena branded chair official Eva Asderaki a 'hater and a loser' after the three-time champion was penalised for "intentional hindrance" during her final with Sam Stosur. Williams was so incensed at the change of ends that she warned Asderaki "don't even look at me" and her actions later landed her in hot water with the authorities as she was fined $2,000. Australian Stosur put the distractions behind her to win her maiden Grand Slam title 6-2 6-3 on Arthur Ashe.
Year to remember - Spain
King of Clay Nadal reinforced his status as the master of the red dirt yet again in leading Spain to Davis Cup glory for a third time in four years. The world number two came from a set behind to record a 20th successive singles win in the competition and secure his country their fifth Davis Cup title, with a 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-6 (7-0) win over Juan Martin del Potro in Seville sinking Argentina 3-1. It was the perfect remedy for a disappointing campaign for Nadal, who lost his world number one status and six finals to Djokovic, ensuring it was his nation that knocked the Serb's off their perch at the top of the game. Spain's glory was in stark contrast to Argentina's misery as they endured a fourth loss in as many Davis Cup finals, with an inconsolable Del Potro showered with sympathy after losing out in an epic five-setter with David Ferrer before failing to resist Nadal's comeback.
Year to forget - US Open organisers
When play did get under way at Flushing Meadows, it was truly unforgettable. However it was the getting started, which was the problem. Heavy rain for the third year running wreaked havoc with this year's event and organisers now face increasing pressure from fans and players alike for a roof to be erected on Arthur Ashe court. The men's final was yet again played on a Monday and officials made a number of glaring calls throughout the tournament - deeming courts dry enough to play when the players thought otherwise. The US Open is the only Grand Slam tournament without a roof on the main show court but the climate suggests that fact needs changing.
Talking point - Player strike
British number one Andy Murray was among the leading players who threatened strike action unless changes were made to the sport's exhausting calendar. Strike talks gathered pace after the US Open following a number of high-profile retirements from the American slam. A meeting was scheduled between the players and ATP Tour organisers later in the year in Shanghai, however nothing materialised. Federer later described plans to strike as "nonsense", however it is clear that a number of players are not happy with the current schedule and it will be interesting to see if any changes are made in 2012 and beyond.
Best celebration - Andrea Petkovic
Andrea Petkovic wins the award for the best celebrator/dancer on the circuit. Her 'Petko-Dance' ritual at the end of every victorious match certainly caught on with fans across the globe in 2011. The robot-like jig first came about after a bet with her coach and, despite her best efforts to shake it off, the crowd pressure continues to prove too strong.
Fond farewell - Justine Henin
Former world No 1 Justine Henin was forced to admit defeat in her attempt to beat a chronic elbow problem at the start of 2011. The Belgian seven-time Grand Slam champion retired for the second time after a disappointing third-round defeat to Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Australian Open. The former world number one leaves the sport with four French Open titles, one Australian Open and two US Opens to her name and will forever be remembered as having one of the most eye-catching one-handed backhands in the game.
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