The Best of Tennis – 2013

In a season that saw several players achieve personal and career defining performances, here’s a brief look back at the very best of 2013. These selections are based on my own personal thoughts.

Players of the Year: Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams

No surprises here as both Nadal and Williams reclaimed the No. 1 rankings with truly awe-inspiring seasons. After becoming the oldest woman ever to be ranked as No. 1 on the WTA tour, Williams went on to notch a truly impressive 78-4 record this year that included two majors (Roland Garros, US Open). With Williams appearing unstoppable in the near future, the question now is how much more can she achieve in her legendary career.

Nadal’s road back was not as certain, at least during the early months of the year. After missing Melbourne and enduring a shock loss to Horacio Zeballos, on clay no less, in the finals of Vina Del Mar, many wondered how the Spanish superstar would bounce back. He did so, of all places, at Indian Wells that would prove a pivotal foreshadowing for the rest of his year. While his eighth Roland Garros title was, in some ways, expected, it was his domination of the North American hardcourts en route to the US Open title that led the way to a rightful coronation as No. 1 again later in Beijing.

Best Tournament: Wimbledon

For once, it was a relief and a pleasure to watch a Grand Slam from start to finish that didn’t rely on the same script of the top seeds coasting through. Though we never did find out why so many players had trouble in the first week staying upright on the grass courts, those unexpected tumbles culminated in two champions, Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray, achieving satisfying and life-changing victories. Some found the chaos of that fortnight disturbing, but “Wimbleweird” proved again that nothing is ever certain in sport.

Almost, But Still Amazing:

Bob and Mike Bryan came oh so close to completing the rare calendar Grand Slam. But still, it’s hard to complain about a season where the dynamic duo finished No. 1 again for a ninth time (a record) and won three Majors. And who’s to say that they won’t achieve the Slam before they hang up their matching outfits for good?

Best Unexpected Breakthrough: Marion Bartoli and Stanislas Wawrinka

After years of being in the shadows of his fellow and more famous Swiss Davis Cup teammate, Stan Wawrinka surpassed what many expected of him with arguably his best year ever. While his two bravura yet heartbreaking losses to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne and New York served as memorable bookends to his seasons, it’s safe to say we probably will see much more of the new and improved Wawrinka in the later rounds of events next year.

As for Marion Bartoli, no one, not even her, expected much when she stepped onto the grounds of this year’s Wimbledon. But her long-hoped for Grand Slam wish came true when she outplayed, outwitted and outlasted all others during an unpredictable fortnight to achieve her dream.

Though her run to the title wasn’t a tour-changing event, for me, Bartoli lifting the Wimbledon trophy was the best moment of the year. While many rue her sudden departure from the sport, at least Bartoli can proudly say after a long, turbulent career, “Non, Je ne regrette rien.”

Best Men’s Match
Djokovic vs. Nadal – Roland Garros SFs
Honorable Mentions:
Del Potro vs. Djokovic – Wimbledon SFs
Djokovic vs. Nadal – Montreal SFs

Best Women’s Match
Azarenka vs. Williams – US Open Final
Honorable Mentions:
Kuznetsova vs. Williams – Roland Garros QFs
Zheng Jie vs. Venus Williams – US Open R2

Ones to Watch:
Vasek Pospisil and Simona Halep

Glad to Have You Back:
Jelena Jankovic and Richard Gasquet

While Jankovic and Gasquet were certainly far from forgotten, we wondered at the start of 2013 if they would ever find themselves back in the elite mix again. Jankovic, thanks to a recommitment to fitness and training, is now back in the top 10 again. So is Gasquet, perhaps, in part, to a new willingness to keep fighting and show his fire, even if it means tossing his socks in protest for the world to see.

Many may remember those out of character outbursts from the often mild-mannered Gasquet, but I prefer to dwell on this shotmaking he produced in Beijing as the best viral video moment of his season.

Best Player on Social Media:
Tomas Berdych

Who knew Tomas was such a comedian?

Best Moment on Social Media:
Roger Federer’s “Ask RF” chat from Shanghai

Who knew Roger was the “Maestro” of the one-liner?

Thanks for the Memories:
All the best to Anna Chakvetadze, Marion Bartoli, James Blake, Jill Craybas, Anne Keothavong, David Nalbandian, Xavier Malisse, and Nicolas Massu who announced their retirements.

Let me know what your best moment in tennis for 2013 was.

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