Friday, December 18, 2009

The Top 9 Tennis Surprises of 2009

“The moments of happiness that we enjoy take us by surprise. It’s not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” – Ashley Montagu

While 2009 ended with Roger Federer and Serena Williams ranked No. 1 in singles, there was a whole lot of jockeying for position over the course of the year. If you can remember all the way back to the first quarter of the year, it wasn’t clear if Federer was going to finish in the top ten, let alone solidify his status as perhaps the best player in the history of the game.

In March, you would have been hard pressed to find anybody who didn’t think that Nadal was going to be half way to the calendar year Grand-Slam by early june. By July, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t think Nadal was past his prime at the tender age of 23.

When the dust settled, we were left somewhere in between, fearing the worst, but expecting the best.

Surprise # 9: Senior moment for Haas at 2009 Wimbledon

Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Tommy Haas all found themselves, after much hard work and a few smatterings of good fortune, in the 2009 Wimbledon Quarters. The top-10 seems to be getting younger and younger, but Hewitt (28), Ferrero (29), and Haas (31), used their considerable experience to score upsets over the likes of Del Potro (Hewitt stung him in the 2nd round), Djokovic (Haas took him out with surprising ease), and Simon (Ferrero executed him in straights).

Could this be a theme for Wimbledon going forward? Is experience on grass good enough against the amped-up games of the young guns?

Either way, the surprising performances of these 3 cagy veterans was a welcome surprise at this year's Wimbledon .

Surpise # 8: Djokovic Imitates McEnroe at the U.S. Open

Just when we thought his illustrious slew of imitations at the 2007 U.S. Open was a thing of the past, the wild Serb was cajoled by Darren Cahill into an encore after his absolute domination of Radek Stepanek in the 4th round at Arthur Ashe.

This was a hilarious moment, and it was nice to see Novak two years wiser, but just as funny.

When McEnroe appeared at the service line in dress clothes moment later, I was floored. How cool is that?

Surprise # 7: The Comebacks

If you told me that Kim Clijsters was going to win the U.S. Open at the beginning of 2009, I would have tried to sell you a million shares of Lehman Brothers stock. Well, Clisters did win it, and now Justine Henin is on her way back to the tour. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to unload some barrels of oil that I bought at $150.

Surprise # 6: Sam Querrey falls through a glass Table in Thailand

Sam, as a true fan who loves your game and your limitless potential, I’m begging you to please be more careful where you sit that massive rump of yours.

I guess stranger things have happened, I'm just not sure when.

Luckily the injuries weren't as bad as they could have been, and Sam should be back for Australia. Hopefully he’ll hire someone to carry around a nice bean bag for him with all that prize money he earned in 2009.

Surprise # 5: The Magical Misery Tour

I’m not surprised that Marat Safin was burnt out. We all knew that was the case. But I am surprised that Safin couldn’t manage one more run in a Slam – especially after his improbable run to the 2008 Wimbledon Semis (where he lost to Federer). Was I stupid? Why did I think he was going to at least make the quarters in New York?

I was dead wrong about Safin's last season. I thought he would pull something off in a Slam. I was sad to be wrong.

Either way, we still unconditionally love him, and he will still be unconditionally missed - along with Fabrice Santoro - not just for his tennis, but for his style, candor, and wit.

Surprise # 4: Roger Federer smashing a racquet in Miami

Tiger Woods could have slept with 20 million women, and it still would not have been as surprising as Roger Federer losing it in Miami.

To his credit, it was perhaps the most beautiful racquet smash of all-time. Federer’s technique was effortless, regal in fact, and the poor racquet was out of its misery before it ever knew what hit it.

Extra points for the way Fed coolly tossed the racquet over to his chair. This was the smash heard round the world, and it blew our collective minds when it happened.

Surprise # 3: Ana Ivanovic

When you check the WTA rankings before you sit down for Xmas dinner, please do not be shocked when you see that Ana Ivanovic is ranked No. 21. Yes, she was ranked No. 1 going into the 2008 U.S. Open, but that was then and this is now.

Still, it is hard not to be shocked when one looks at Ana's serve – that toss is just remarkably bad. Perhaps even worse is her confidence.

We are talking about a player who has all the tools – massive ground strokes, supreme fitness, and a positively alluring personality – and yet she finds herself mired in a severe slump.

Her fall is proof that confidence is everything in tennis. You can have the tools, but if you let your mind sabotage your strokes, trouble awaits.

Surprise # 2: The Israeli Davis Cup Team

I don’t know what was more surprising, the fact that the Israel-Sweden Davis Cup tie was played before zero spectators, or the fact that Israel won.

But forget about that surprise, how about Israel trouncing Russia 4-1 in the Davis Cup quarters to secure a date in the semis with Spain?

This amazing Israeli team, led by spunky Dudi Sela and the tough doubles team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich, overcame the tremendous set of distractions that followed the team around this season and scored ground breaking wins while doing so.

Even though they fell short in the semis, the Isreali team showed impressive fight in achieving its best ever Davis Cup performance.

Surprise # 1: Nadal Dethroned

This match was the ultimate surprise. I still can't believe it. No way.

What Soderling did to Nadal wasn’t just surprising: It was SHOCKING! Here we were, expecting Rafa to be the first man since Jim Courier to win the first two Slams of the calender year, and there he was getting blasted off the court by Soderling.

I still can’t believe it. No way.

The muted cheers of the French fans, ravenous for the upset. The chest thumping of Soderling as he mercilessly ran Rafa ragged. Did it really happen? Is this really how the empire crumbles? Without warning, without applause?

This was an upset as LARGE as any I can remember. After 31 super-human matches (the longest streak in the history of Roland Garros) Rafa was finally taken off his pedestal and forced to see things from the other side.

It is the law of the land in life, as it is in tennis: Anything can happen, and sometimes it will.

No comments: