The tennis season came to a close on the ATP Tour (as there are still Challenger and Futures events going on) last Sunday when the Czech Republic was crowned Davis Cup champion after a thrilling and very dramatic 100th final against Spain, and if there is one thing to say about 2012, it is that it was quite an outstanding tennis season.
Over the next few days, Running Forehand will make its annual review of the tennis season, and what better way to start it than with the player of the year?
A subjective concept
The player of the year is, in my mind, a subjective concept, as many factors can make a player or another the best there was during a tennis season. For most, the gauge to determine the player of the year is the performance at the Grand Slams, combined with the ATP World Tour Finals (WTF), the Masters 1000 performance throughout the year and, of course, the year-end ranking.
However, there can be as many ways to determine one’s player of the year as there are experts and fans all across the world. The player of the year might well be so or so, but he is not necessarily a person’s personal choice, for whichever reasons. Along with myself, a few tennis friends (bloggers, journalists) accepted to share who their player of 2012 is.
Diego Amuy is the Founding Partner of BATennis.com. He manages the company’s social networking, which counts, to this day, over 15,000 followers in both Facebook and Twitter. Self-proclaimed no 1 fan of Juan Martín del Potro, he hasn’t lost hope that Argentina will, one day, win the Davis Cup and is always on the lookout for the future stars of local tennis.
His players of the year: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Andy Murray
In my view, four players stood out from the others this season.
Novak Djokovic finished the year ranked no 1 for the second consecutive season, all this in the midst of a galactic era.
At 31 years of age, Roger Federer returned to the top of the ATP rankings, therefore leaving no doubt as to why the tennis world believes he is the best player of all time.
David Ferrer managed to win seven titles, including a Masters 1000, and shone in the Davis Cup final, showing that despite his 5’9”, he can play at the same level as the Galactics, converting himself into the Fifth Fantastic.
In an unforgettable year, Andy Murray won the Olympic Gold Medal and also managed, with the help of coach Ivan Lendl, to get a huge monkey off his back by finally winning his first Grand Slam title.
Jose Cavalli is a tennis entrepreneur, with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and a passion for sports and travels. He is the Managing Partner of BATennis.com, one of the most important tennis websites in Argentina, has travelled to all continents and covered the Grand Slams of Roland Garros and the U.S. Open, as well as the Masters 1000 of Miami and Indian Wells.
His player of the year: Tommy Haas
My player of the year is Tommy Haas. The 34-year-old German has a Tour longevity that calls for the utmost respect. This year, he showed that the classic brand of tennis remains a force to reckon with, is successful, and can adjust itself to the more modern style.
The Hamburg native made his professional debut in 1996. To get a time reference, that year, the actual World number one, Novak Djokovic, was only 9 years of age and had just started getting into tennis, whereas Roger Federer was not yet a professional player (he turned pro two years later).
Haas’s long career explains why many young tennis fans know little about this virtuoso of the game who was, ten years ago, second in the world (Aussie Lleyton Hewitt was then no 1). Ironically, he did not win any title that year, but his astounding 2001 season (with four trophies, including an ATP Masters Series) contributed to his positioning among the highest-ranked players.
Coming back on 2012, why could Tommy Haas be considered as the player of the year? For the German has been sidelined from the ATP Tour in 2010 and 2011 to recover from a hip surgery as well as from a right elbow surgery, and resumed his professional career in June of 2011, ranked 896. In the space of only 12 months, Haas has moved up almost 850 places in the rankings.
During this season, Tommy played 20 tournaments and, as shows his rise in the rankings, he obtained outstanding success. He reached the finals of the ATP500 events of Hamburg and Washington, falling respectively to Juan Mónaco and Alexandr Dolgopolov. Furthermore, he treated himself to a home triumph in Halle, defeating the Swiss Roger Federer in the final.
Having started the year ranked 205, he finished it 21st. Tommy Haas fought more than anyone in 2012 and his dedication bore fruit. This season, he earned his 500th career win, in Vienna, a feat only Federer, Nadal, and Hewitt have also achieved among the Tour’s active players. Haas has regained the respect of his peers and is, along with Roger Federer, a leader among the 30-and-over players who can still play great tennis for many more years.
Raúl de Kemmeter
Raúl de Kemmeter is a tennis journalist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a writer for Tenis Mañana Latinoamérica and Revista LINE, former community manager of Juan Mónaco, Revista GRIP, and Foot Fault, and also collaborator for BATennis.com and El Tenis Que No Vemos. You can also follow Raúl on Twitter.
His player of the year: Roger Federer
If I have to think of who would be the player of 2012, the first name that comes to my mind is Roger Federer, as he once again proved to be the truest GOAT contender. This season, the Swiss Master added another Wimbledon crown (his 7th), extending his all-time record of singles Grand Slam titles to 17. A month shy of turning 31, Federer reclaimed the no 1 spot thanks to a strong 2011 finish in which he won Basel, the BNP Paribas Masters (Paris) and the WTF as well as conquering the 2012 Grass Major, the ATP Masters 1000 of Indian Wells, Madrid and Cincinnati crowns, ATP500 titles in Rotterdam and Dubai, and reaching the ATP250 Halle finals.
I am tempted to turn this into a list of Roger’s résumé, which should also include the Silver Medal in the London Olympic Games as well as the 16 extra weeks at no 1 from this season, extending his record to 302 weeks at the top, or the fact that his Wimbledon championship meant a 9 Grand Slam title drought since his last win at the 2010 Australian Open… But Roger is so much more than that. His classy antics, ballet-style movement, blistering forehand, and his contribution to the game have overshadowed Novak Djokovic’s reign on the Tour, even though the Serbian Slayer has finished the year at the top. Federer’s longevity adds extra flavour to the circuit, proving himself to be one-of-a-kind after 14 years of activity on the pro tour. In a year where many rivals of his generation were saying goodbye to the sport (such as former World number ones Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero), Federer was beating the new stars in their primes left and right. Players of the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Juan Martín del Potro became victims of the Swiss Maestro this season.
Life on tour isn’t easy, as the ever demanding competition takes a big toll on the fitness and minds of those who, year after year, keep travelling around the globe looking for fame and glory. Age is slowly catching up on the Basel King, and still he excels. Between the lines, this season clearly states a farewell message from the (most likely) best player of all time. As recently announced, the 2013 season will see Roger playing only 14 events (skipping the ATP Masters 1000 of Miami and Monte Carlo, Basel and tune-ups for the Australian Open). The fairy tale of one of the best sportsmen of all time has room for a few more pages though, but all in all, the message seems clear: Roger is on his graceful way out of the game.
Robin Hosking is a tennis writer, fine connoisseur, and avid fan (mostly WTA) from London, UK. You can follow his tennis tweets via @TennisAddictRH.
His player of the year: Donna Vekic
My player of the year comes in the form of the talented Croatian 16-year-old, Donna Vekic. Vekic was born into a sporty family in Osijek, Croatia’s fourth largest city. Her main residence though, these days, is London, where she trains in West London. Vekic is managed by StarWing Sports Management who count Stan Wawrinka and Chris Evert as clients… she’s in good company!
The reason why I’ve been so impressed with Vekic this year is due to her attitude to the sport. She has shown solid improvement over the year in all facets of her game. Vekic reached the final at the WTA Tashkent Open 2012, eventually losing to Romanian tennis player, Irina-Camilia Begu 4-6 4-6. Vekic handled herself with absolute grace and seemed to deal with the pressure of reaching her first WTA final in a mature way, putting many of her older fellow players to shame. Throughout the year, Vekic has successfully won two ITF finals, at Bangalore, India and Fergana, Uzbekistan respectfully, and has been runner-up at countless others.
I often think that sometimes it isn’t always about what happens on court, but also off court which makes a player “complete”. In Vekic’s case, I have been very very impressed how she and her team use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to engage with fans. I think this is an important aspect of a player’s PR duties these days, and Vekic has more than fulfilled her duties to keeping fans informed and entertained.
I hope this does not sound patronising, but it is a privilege to watch a young person play a sport and be very good at that sport, and for that person to show such dedication in training and learning. I am looking forward to the 2013 tennis season when I hope to continue to follow Vekic’s exciting career. I think she is the absolute real deal, talented and a future top 10 star, and hopefully one day, a Grand Slam champion.
My player of the year: David Ferrer
Like a good wine, David Ferrer only improved with age. One of the hardest working (and most humble) players on tour, the 30-year-old has known, in 2012, the best season of his career.
Considered by many as mainly a clay court player, the Spaniard has shown over time that he can play on just about any surface, and this season, he proved it tenfold, being the only player with Roger Federer to win at least one title on every surface (hard, clay, grass, and indoors), and ended the year on top of all ATP players for the number of titles (7) and the number of wins (76), the last two triumphs being tennis clinics given Radek Stepanek and Tomaš Berdych on a very fast indoor court during the Davis Cup final.
It was a landmark year for David Ferrer, not only in terms of titles and wins, but in terms of overall performance. A player known for his great consistency, the Ironman of Javea has reached the quarter-finals or better in all of the Grand Slams, each time falling to either the eventual winner or runner-up, and topped his fantastic season by winning the first Masters 1000 of his career, in Paris, just before the WTF, where he narrowly failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
His great season made him finish 2012 in the top 5 for the second consecutive season (third time in his career), at only 290 points of Rafael Nadal, whom he might pass (or, as some journalists comically wrote, leapfrog) at the beginning of 2013, if he continues to play as inspired tennis as he did in 2012.