After the year of the Djoker and the revelations, it is time for me to stop my 2011 recap on those players we did not expect to see doing so well during the year, those who sometimes flew under the radar but ended up doing so well that we could not help but notice.
There were quite a few such players this year, at one time or another, mostly on the ATP Tour, but there’s also one who rocked it on the Challenger Tour (especially in the second half of the season) and had some good results on the ATP Tour, enough to reach, at 28, his highest ranking. For length purposes, however, this part of my yearly review will spread over the next three days.
Alex Bogomolov Jr: another try that brings a lot
After an elbow surgery in 2008 and many hardships, Moscow native Alex Bogomolov Jr returned to play at the Challenger level in the middle of 2009 and for the most part of 2010 as well, where he improved his ranking to close to the top 150 (167) at the beginning of this season. He logged his first good result of the year in Zagreb, where he fell in the quarter-finals to the eventual finalist Guillermo García-López and then, a month later, won the Dallas Challenger.
His most incredible performance in the beginning of the season was without a doubt his 6-1 7-5 win over Andy Murray in the second round of the Miami Masters 1000. Back on the Challenger Tour after losing to John Isner in the third round, Bogomolov made the finals in Sarasota (l. James Blake), which made him enter the top 100 for the first time since 2003, and in Prague (l. Lukas Rosol).
However, it is really during the grass season that Bogomolov started having his best results on the ATP Tour, reaching the quarter-finals in s-Hertogenbosch (l. Xavier Malisse), then defeating Donald Young and Juan Ignacio Chela before falling to the 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych in Wimbledon, and then the quarter-finals in Newport (l. John Isner, who ended up winning the tournament).
He entered the top 50 by reaching the second round in Montreal (l. Gaël Monfils), having previously reached the semis in Los Angeles. Entering the Cincinnati main draw from the qualifications, Bogie defeated his second top 10 of the season when he took out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round, before falling to Andy Murray (who would also go and win the tournament). By reaching the third round of the US Open, he then entered the top 40, a place he would not leave until the end of the season, during which he did very well.
By ending the season ranked 34th in the world, a nudge below the career-high 33rd rank he held a few weeks prior to the end of the season, 28-year-old Bogomolov was elected Most Improved Player by his peers, an honour that is more than deserved. Having elected to now play for his native Russia near the end of the season, his ranking makes him his country’s no 1 player.
Janko Tipsarevic: what confidence can do
If Serbia’s Davis Cup win gave wings to Novak Djokovic and, at the beginning of the season, to Viktor Troicki as well, we can, in some measure, say the same for the third Serbian singlist, Janko Tipsarevic, who started the year by reaching the semis in Chennai, before imploding against Fernando Verdasco in the second round of the Australian Open, losing the match after having led two sets to none.
Consistency had never been a trademark of Tipsarevic until late this year, but his fire power makes him an exciting player to watch when he’s on. It’s this fire power of his, along with his unpredictable shots that permitted him to reach the finals in Delray Beach, where he lost to an impressive Juan Martín Del Potro on the comeback trail.
A leg injury suffered in Belgrade would not only make him retire from the tournament prior to his semi-final match against his friend and countryman Novak Djokovic, it would also make him miss nearly a month, and another injury suffered in the final match of the Eastbourne tournament made him retire a game away from losing in the third set, an injury that was more serious than we, at first, thought, as he was forced to retire in the first round of Wimbledon as well.
It is really in Montreal that everything clicked for the bespectacled Serbian. Defeating Tomas Berdych in the quarters, he fell to Mardy Fish in the semis, but his best performance in a Masters 1000 paved the way to an incredible season ending, during which he won his first title (after five lost finals) in Kuala Lumpur (d. Marcos Baghdatis), then his second a few weeks later in Moscow (d. Viktor Troicki), and losing in the final of the St. Petersburg tournament a week later to Marin Cilic.
His incredible second half of the year left him in the thick of the Race for a place in the ATP World Tour Finals in London. His loss to Tomas Berdych in the third round of the Paris Masters 1000 ended his chance to qualify for the year-end tournament, for which he was, however, first alternate, and which he ended up playing due to the withdrawal of Andy Murray after the first round robin matches. A nasty fall at the end of his round robin match against Tomas Berdych made him questionable for the last rubber, but not only was Tipsarevic present to face Novak Djokovic, he also ended up finally defeating his friend (after three losses), thus ending his season on a winning note.
The end of the season also saw Tipsarevic reaching at 27 a goal he admitted to have in the middle of the season: entering the top 10 for the first time, which he did just before the World Tour Finals, when he reached his actual 9th position in the world rankings.
However, to me, the question remains whole: will Tipsarevic have the consistency to maintain himself in the top 10 in 2012? I sure hope so for him, as he has worked very hard to finally get there.
Coming up tomorrow
The second part of the year of the resurgence, with Mardy Fish, Feliciano López, and Radek Stepanek. I will keep the last two for Wednesday.