The Best Tennis Moments of 2012 So Far
To date, the 2012 tennis season has lived up to expectations. It all began with the Australian Open in January, and is now working its way toward the last Grand Slam of the year.
Soon to get underway, the US Open will begin in Flushing Meadows on August 27, 2012.
Throughout 2012, the top four men continued their reign, dominating the majors by muscling their way through the draws to the finals.
For the ladies, we saw the emergence of a new No. 1 in women's tennis as well as the resurgence of two more seasoned pros at the French Open and Wimbledon.
What made 2012 special was the inclusion of the Summer Olympics at the All England Club—the birthplace of tennis.
Tennis at the Summer Games did not disappoint. The competition was fierce, scoring many memorable moments.
Add the 2012 Olympics to the regular calendar and you end up with a panorama of tennis to keep the tennis world fully engaged and entertained.
Following are the best tennis moments so far in 2012.
Victoria Azarenka Seizes the Title in Melbourne, Becoming the New World No. 1
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The 22-year-old Victoria Azarenka suffered with uncertainty about whether to continue struggling to find success on tour. She fought injuries and self-doubt, but never really gave up her dream to climb to the top of women's tennis.
Finally at the 2012 Australian Open, all the pieces fell into place and the lady from Belarus reached the final. There she met Maria Sharapova, who was also looking for her first major victory since winning the Australian Open in 2008.
Their final was a defining moment for Azarenka. She announced to the world that she had arrived and was ready to take her place with the other greats who had occupied the No. 1 spot in women's tennis.
Azarenka became the 21st person to be awarded the No. 1 ranking since the tour began keeping track in 1975.
Ultimately, Sharapova did not stand much of a chance against Azarenka during the final in Melbourne. The new world No. 1 took the match in dominating fashion (6-3, 6-0) in front of a stunned crowd who expected the match to go Sharapova's way.
Azarenka showed her nerves early on. After struggling to 3-3 in the first set, Azarenka stepped down hard on the accelerator and never let the Russian back into the driver's seat.
When the dust settled in January, there was a new No. 1 in town.
Novak Djokovic Makes It Three in a Row at the Australian Open
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As 2012 began, the tennis world wondered if Novak Djokovic could repeat his stellar season of 2011. Most assumed that would be close to impossible.
Once the 2012 Australian Open concluded, however, the skeptics were swayed, thinking that the Serb just might have the right stuff again.
That sent the two men who had met in the past two major finals to do battle for another Grand Slam trophy—No. 1 Djokovic versus No. 2 Nadal.
It was an epic final waged until the wee hours of the morning. The match itself lasted almost six hours, a modern record. For five hours and 53 minutes, these two top-notched tennis pros waged a war of nerves, endurance and intestinal fortitude, with Djokovic landing the last blow.
The Serb had invested almost five hours in quelling Murray to get to the final. Now, he found himself embroiled in another epic match of extremely high quality. Djokovic won his third title in Melbourne 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5.
At one point in the fourth set, it looked like Nadal would finally succumb. But the world No. 2 dug down deep, fighting back to level the fourth set.
The fifth set was tense. Each point played seemed to be a turning point in the match. When Djokovic finally won, he collapsed onto the court, exhausted and exhilarated.
It was a great beginning for the world No. 1 in 2012...
Team USA Upends Switzerland in Davis Cup
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Things looked bleak for Team USA when they drew Switzerland in the Davis Cup, especially since the tournament was to be played in Switzerland, the homeland of Roger Federer. The Swiss, rightly so, selected clay as their surface of choice in Fribourg.
Both Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka were playing for Switzerland, while the Americans, under the new leadership of captain Jim Courier, sent out Mardy Fish, John Isner and Mike Bryan.
Play began with Fish defeating Wawrinka in a four-hour, five-set match, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7. Then Isner stunned everyone, including himself, by upsetting Federer in four sets, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2.
That meant that the Davis Cup tie came down to the doubles match. With Mike Bryan's brother Bob not making the trip, Mardy Fish was inserted into the doubles to meet Federer and Wawrinka, the 2008 Olympic gold medalists in men's doubles.
The Americans won the doubles match 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. This gave Team USA a commanding and insurmountable 3-0 lead. Eventually, the Swiss team fell 0-5.
After defeating France in the quarterfinals, Team USA will face Spain in the semifinals scheduled in September. Switzerland will play the Netherlands in the World Group playoffs, also in September.
This was the most surprising upset in February.
Serena Williams Crashes out in the First Round at Roland Garros
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Serena Williams had been playing in Grand Slam tournaments since 1998. She owned 14 Grand Slam titles and knew how to win on the biggest stages in the world.
One of the proudest achievements of her career, however, had been never losing in the first round of any major she'd entered.
Prior to the start of the 2012 French Open, Williams had won on the clay courts at Madrid. She became one of the early favorites as the tour headed into Roland Garros.
Her opponent in the first round was Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano. Serena took the opening set 6-4. Then the two played to a tiebreak in set No. 2.
When Serena shot out to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak, and it looked to be all over. But then, inexplicably, she lost the next six points in a row to lose the second set. In the third set, Williams lost the first five games.
At that point Serena began clawing her way back into the match. She pushed the score back to 5-3 in the final set.
At 5-3, Razzano served for the match. The final game seemed to last an eternity, with Williams fighting off one match point after another. Finally, she could hold back Razzano no longer.
Serena Williams lost her opening-round match at the French Open in 2012, shocking the tennis world.
Rafael Nadal Scores Historic Seventh French Open Title
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Rafael Nadal had appeared in the last three Grand Slam finals, losing each time to Novak Djokovic.
The last time the man from Majorca won a major final was at the 2011 French Open when he defeated Roger Federer for the fifth time.
But in 2012, Nadal found himself facing world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final at Roland Garros. Considering the way Djokovic dominated Nadal throughout the clay season in 2011, all signs pointed to "The Joker" taking the match.
However, Nadal had defeated Djokovic on the clay in Monte Carlo and won the 2012 Rome title prior to the start of the French Open.
Regardless, Djokovic would be Nadal's severest test as he prepared to capture his seventh French Open trophy. The win would push the world No. 2 past Bjorn Borg, who also held six titles at Roland Garros.
In a rain-soaked final, the weather stopped play on Sunday with Djokovic slugging his way back into the match, taking the third set 6-2. Nadal had tucked away the first two sets 6-4, 6-3. As the two men started the fourth set, Nadal was broken right away. With Nadal trailing 1-2, play was postponed.
On Monday, as play resumed, Nadal could best be described as resolute, absolutely determined to win this match. He broke back to level the fourth set at 2-2. Then he held on to close out the final set 7-5.
Nadal had won his seventh French Open title, setting a new record and accomplishing something no other man before him had done.
Djokovic, on the other hand, lost his chance to win a career Grand Slam as well as a chance to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time—a feat no man had equalled since Rod Laver in 1969.
It was the high point in 2012 for Nadal.
Maria Sharapova Uses Her Clay Feet to Win Her First French Open Title
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According to USA Today, Maria Sharapova had described herself as a "cow on ice," as she tried to negotiate sliding on the clay surfaces of Stade Roland Garros—or any clay surface, for that matter.
Even though the act of sliding is still foreign to her nature, Sharapova has adjusted her movements on clay enough to accommodate her game. That fact became readily apparent in 2012, as Sharapova won in Stuttgart and Rome before winning her first French Open title in 2012.
The win gave Sharapova a career Grand Slam, having won titles at each major venue during her career.
The French Open was the major the Russian never expected to win because of her early trouble adjusting to the clay surface.
Sharapova met surprise finalist Sara Errani in the final, overpowering the Italian 6-3, 6-2. The match was not one of the great ones of 2012, but the results were historically significant.
By winning her first French Open and a career Grand Slam, Sharapova recaptured the No. 1 ranking. She seized it from Victoria Azarenka, who rose to the top spot after winning the 2012 Australian Open. Ironically, Azarenka had defeated Sharapova to win the final in Melbourne.
The last time Sharapova was ranked No. 1 was in June in 2008 in the wake of Justine Henin's retirement from women's tennis. The French Open win marked Sharapova's complete return to form since her shoulder surgery and subsequent recovery.
After appearing in the finals of Wimbledon in 2011 and the 2012 Australian Open, Sharapova claimed her fourth Grand Slam title in June of 2012.
Rafael Nadal Shocked by Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon
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Earlier in 2012, Rafael Nadal won his seventh French Open title. Once that milestone was accomplished, Wimbledon loomed ahead as his next major challenge.
In 2011, Nadal advanced to the finals at the All England Club, losing to Novak Djokovic and losing his No. 1 ranking as well.
He wished to redeem that loss and capture his third Wimbledon championship.
But there would be problems ahead during the constant rainy conditions at Wimbledon, which caused slippery footing on the grass courts.
Nadal's opponent in the second round was Czech Lukas Rosol, ranked No. 100 in the world. The Czech played the best match of his life, further complicating Nadal's hold on the match.
Although Nadal won the first-set tiebreak, he was not able to stop Rosol, who broke Nadal to take the second and third sets. But Nadal regrouped to take set No. 4.
Darkness, however, interrupted Nadal's momentum. The players waited while tennis officials closed the roof.
In the fifth set, Rosol resumed his remarkable serving prowess. Upon serving his 22nd ace of the match, Rosol collapsed to his knees, having upset Nadal 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
The crowd was stunned, as well as viewing audiences around the world. It was an unbelievable moment. Nadal was out of Wimbledon in the second round.
The loss changed the whole complexion of the men's competition at Wimbledon in 2012.
Roger Federer Shuts the Door on Murray, Winning His Seventh Wimbledon Title
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The tennis world was beginning to speculate if Roger Federer would ever win another Grand Slam title. His last major trophy came at the 2010 Australian Open, over two years ago.
In fact, 2011 became the first year Federer had not won a major since his first Slam title in 2003 at the All England Club. The naysayers' doubts grew louder with the passing time.
But Federer proved he was not finished. In fact, he not only won his seventh Wimbledon title, tying him with American Pete Sampras, but Federer also took back the No. 1 ranking. This allowed the Swiss to tie Pete Sampras in another record-breaking category—the number of weeks at No. 1.
Prior to Wimbledon in 2012, Federer had held the No. 1 ranking in men's tennis for 285 weeks, one week shy of Sampras' 286 weeks. Federer would equal and soon surpass Sampras in that category.
In the 2012 Wimbledon final, Federer defeated Andy Murray, Britain's great hope to win a Wimbledon title. The score was 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. The roof over Centre Court was closed, as the rains continued on the final day of the Wimbledon championships.
Murray continues to knock on the door, trying to enter the clique of Grand Slam winners, each time being denied. He contends he is getting closer. Time will tell.
In the meantime, Federer is back on top for the moment, happy to have reclaimed the Wimbledon championship and the No. 1 ranking.
Serena Williams Climbs Back on Top at Wimbledon
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The last time Serena Williams felt on top of the world was at Wimbledon in 2010 when she won her fourth championship at the All England Club.
Shortly after that event, the Wimbledon winner cut her foot on broken glass, which was the beginning of a series of medical crises that kept Serena out of tennis for the better part of the next 12 months.
Coming back has been quite a journey for the former world No. 1. It wasn't until this year's Wimbledon tournament that Serena Williams seized her fifth Wimbledon championship and her 14th career Grand Slam title, announcing to the world that she is back.
She defeated world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 7-5, 6-2, by winning the first five games of the match and then closing out the match by taking the last five games. In between, Radwanska showed why she had advanced to the finals. The Polish woman fought hard to win the second set.
Ultimately, Serena's serve and her powerful ground strokes proved to be too much for Radwanska to overcome. The youngest Williams sister won the tournament in typical Serena style.
But she not only won the singles title, as Serena teamed with sister Venus to win their fifth Wimbledon doubles title. Now the sisters have combined for a total of 15 Wimbledon titles. Each sister has five singles trophies and now five doubles titles to adorn their mantles.
Wimbledon became Williams sisters magic reborn.
Juan Martin Del Potro Battles His Way to Olympic Bronze
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During their Olympic semifinal match, Juan Martin del Potro fought Roger Federer for four hours and 26 minutes, producing the longest three-set match in Olympic history.
The final score was 6-3, 6-7,17-19, with Federer walking away with the victory.
For his part, Federer moved one step closer to winning that elusive gold medal in men's singles competition.
World No. 9 Del Potro had previously defeated Federer in five sets during the 2009 US Open finals, winning his first Grand Slam at age 20.
Injury had sidelined the Argentine from the men's tour for approximately one year. But in 2012, Del Potro appears to be all the way back; ready to resume his rightful place at the top of the men’s game.
Del Potro promptly broke Federer’s serve in the eighth game. Then he held his own serve to win the first set 6-3. At that point, the two had been on court for 36 minutes.
In the second set, both battled to the wire, needing a tiebreak to decide matters. Federer held on to go up 7-5, winning the tiebreak and the second set, 7-6.
The third set was one for the record books. The games, as well as the tension, mounted with the passing hours. Finally at 17-17, Federer broke the Del Potro serve to go up 18-17.
All Federer had to do now was to serve it out to win the match and advance to the gold-medal round.
Federer failed to win the match with his first match point at 40-30, but won it with his first "ad" to the delight of the crowd.
The loss was very disappointing to Del Potro and his fans, but Federer was thrilled, if exhausted, to find himself in the gold-medal final.
Unfortunately for the Swiss, this match took too much out of him and he had little left to offer up against Andy Murray in the final.
Del Potro, however, came back strong to win the bronze medal in the consolation match against Novak Djokovic. It was a proud moment for the Argentine to medal for his home country.
Serena Williams Wins a "Golden Slam" at the 2012 Olympics
Having just won her fifth Wimbledon title less than a month ago, Serena Williams began her quest to win her first gold medal at the same site. The All England Club was hosting the tennis competition for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Since losing her opening-round match at the 2012 French Open Championships, Serena Williams won her next 17 matches to rid herself of that awful losing feeling she suffered at Roland Garros.
Williams won at Wimbledon and Stanford before finally capturing the gold medal at the Summer Olympics, defeating Maria Sharapova in the final, 6-0, 6-1. The win was a total demolition of the superb Russian. Serena remained steely, determined to win her final match without wavering.
Unlike some of her previous matches, there were no ebbs and flows in the final—just a straight-out ascension to the end.
It was Serena's first gold medal in women's singles. By winning it, she attained the status of having won a "Golden Slam." Of course, Sharapova had hoped to accomplish the same with a win, but instead she settled for a silver medal.
By winning a gold medal, Serena equalled her sister Venus, who had won gold in 2000 in Sydney.
Andy Murray Conquers His Demons and Wins Gold at Wimbledon
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Andy Murray reached the finals of the Australian Open in 2010 and again in 2011. He also reached the finals of the US Open in 2008, plus the Wimbledon finals in 2012.
Each time he had come away empty-handed, unable to take that final step to win a major.
In the interim, Murray hired coach Ivan Lendl for the sole purpose of helping him take that last step. Contending that he was moving closer, Murray entered the 2012 Summer Olympics with renewed vigor.
In 2012, the Summer Games were being held in his home country on the fabled Wimbledon grounds where Murray had just reached the finals. He felt certain he would win it all this time.
Murray met Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, winning that match 7-5, 7-5. This sent the Scot into the Olympic finals where once again he would face Roger Federer—but this time for a gold medal.
This match, however, was far different from the one he played earlier that month. Murray took command of the five-set final, never allowing Federer into the match. He won 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Federer seemed to be a shadow of the man who had won the Wimbledon championships less than one month ago.
Murray was jubilant, winning the gold medal for his country and giving himself a huge amount of confidence in the process as he heads into the 2012 US Open.
Murray found redemption on the storied grounds of Wimbledon at long last.
Bryan Brothers Finally Take Home Gold from the 2012 Summer Games
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Bob and Mike Bryan got their reward for playing a lifetime of exemplary doubles in tennis by winning their first Olympic gold medal at age 34.
They defeated the talented Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the men's final, 6-4, 7-6.
After winning 11 Grand Slam titles plus 19 wins in Davis Cup doubles, the brothers were pleased to finally capture a gold medal.
They won a bronze medal in 2008 after losing to eventual champions Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals. They came back to win the consolation match to secure the bronze medal.
In 2004 as the No. 1 seeds, the Bryans lost to eventual champions Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the quarterfinals.
Their third try seemed to be the charm. They won and celebrated with Team USA.
Williams Sisters Capture Olympic Gold in Doubles, Again
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The Williams sisters won gold at the Summer Games for the third time.
Serena and Venus won their first gold medal in Sydney in 2000. At the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, the sisters once again won the women's doubles competition.
In London, the sisters defeated Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic (6-4, 6-4) under the closed roof of Centre Court.
The doubles win came less than a day after Serena had captured the gold medal in women's singles.
Serena and Venus Williams each have won four gold medals—three in doubles and one each in singles.
For Venus, at age 32, and Serena, soon to be age 31, the significance and the joy of winning gold together was evident in their on-court celebration.
Speculation centers on whether the sisters will be back to compete in the Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. We suspect that they will return in 2016 to compete in doubles.
It was a special moment in tennis to witness perhaps the greatest women's doubles team ever, win again on such an international stage.