2012 was simply a year defined by the “Big Four” in Grand Slams. However, unexpected storylines jumped out and records were broken, which will make the 2013 season very intriguing.
From just short of a six-hour final to a tearful goodbye, no Slam was dull.
It was the first time since the 2003 season where four different champions where crowned, including Andy Murray’s first major title in Flushing Meadows.
Let's revisit the best moments from each of the Grand Slams on the men's side.
This was a final that featured two gladiators exchanging fearsome and exhausting rallies. Just when it seemed like Nadal was down and out in the fourth set, about to be broken to give Djokovic the lead and pretty much the match, he fought back from love-40, with monster ground strokes, and took the set in a tiebreaker.
Later on, Nadal would go up 4-2 in the final set, seeming to finally take control and win his second Australian Open, but Djokovic dug deep, found another level and took the final set 7-5, in just short of six hours.
During the trophy ceremony, both players were well past exhausted, needing chairs while the sponsors and chairmen of the tournament made their respective speeches.
This match set the record for the longest final in any of the four Grand Slams, and the longest match in Australian Open history.
Djokovic came to the French Open determined to capture the only Grand Slam missing in his trophy case and to become one of the few men to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time.
In what would have seemed like a relatively easy fourth round match against Andreas Seppi, Djokovic quickly found himself down two sets to love. He was able to overcome his so-so play and the cold weather to down the Italian in the next three sets.
But that was only the first of his escape acts. In his next round, against crowd favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Djokovic found himself in a bigger hole, down four match points in the fourth set. However, Djokovic proved to the French crowed and the tennis world, why he was ranked No. 1 with gutsy and aggressive play, coming through that tiebreak 8-6, and putting away Tsonga in the fifth.
Though Djokovic would get his revenge, beating Roger Federer soundly in the semifinals, no such luck came to Djokovic in the final, succumbing to the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, in four sets in the span of two days.
Throughout the two weeks, it looked like no one could stop Rafael Nadal's quest for his seventh French Open title.
His opponent, Novak Djokovic, spent a lot more time on the court throughout the two weeks, as Nadal raced to the final without dropping a set. The dodgy weather came when Nadal dropped the third set to Djokovic and was broken early in the fourth, but rain forced play to continue on Monday.
If there was no rain, it would have been interesting to see how Nadal would have combated the momentum Djokovic was gaining. Nevertheless, Nadal came out Monday the stronger player, breaking Djokovic back and taking the final set 7-5, as Djokovic double faulted on the first match point.
With the win, Nadal surpassed Bjorn Borg’s six French Open titles, setting the record on the men's side.
The road back to the top of the men’s game has not been easy for Juan Martin Del Potro. After his 2009 US Open title, Del Potro was derailed by a wrist injury and later surgery, missing much of the 2010 season. His first year back showed promise, reaching the second week of Wimbledon and finished the year just outside the top 10. Not bad considering his 485 ranking eleven months ago.
Del Potro had much better Slam showings in 2012, reaching the second week in all four. Two to note are the French and US Open. In Paris, Del Potro was up two sets to love against Roger Federer, but a left knee injury kept Del Portro from closing out the match.
In New York, he played a high-quality tennis match against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, but in the end, was simply outplayed by the defending champion.
Del Potro also showed true class in New York after giving Andy Roddick his final loss of his career, hugging the American at the net.
Look for Del Potro to disrupt the “Big Four” next season, if he can stay healthy.
Brian Baker became a household American name during the French Open and Wimbledon, after thinking he would never play tennis again thanks to his multiple surgeries, derailing his career. But, with a dominant spring, winning the Savannah Challenger and a finalist at the ATP 250 event in Nice, France, Baker won his first Grand Slam match since 2005 against Xavier Malisse. Though he would lose in five sets to Giles Simon in the next round, Baker was setting the stage for Wimbledon.
Since he was not ranked high enough to get into Wimbledon’s main draw, Baker had to play the qualifying rounds, and eventually got to the main draw. Baker made it to the fourth round, his best appearance at a Grand Slam before losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets, ending his Cinderella run.
He later told UK’s Guardian that, “It's been an unbelievable run. I don't know if starting first round quallies I would have thought I would have got to the fourth round of Wimbledon."
Though he would not have the same success at home at the US Open, Baker still had a remarkable Grand Slam season proving it is never too late to have success.
The question of whether or not to have a fifth set tiebreaker in the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon really caught attention this year thanks to Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner.
Isner seems more of the victim when it came to fifth sets, having lost in five in all four Grand Slams this season. At the French Open, he battled against Paul-Henri Mathieu for five hours and 41 minutes, becoming the second longest match in French Open history, losing 18-16.
But Isner would tie another record at the US Open, for the latest finish, at 2:26 a.m. again in five sets to Phillip Kohlschreiber. Mats Wilander vs. Mikael Pernfors in 1993 was the other match to finish at the same time.
Sam Querrey on the other hand, played the second longest match at Wimbledon (Isner’s 70-68 match will probably hold that record for awhile) in the third round against Marin Cilic. The match would last five hours and 31 minutes, with Cilic taking the match 17-15 in the final set.
Although it's tradition to keep the non-tiebreakers, it's also getting to a point where the longer the match goes, the more harm it does for a player.
However with that said, someone needs to help Querrey and Isner with their return games.
One of the most shocking upsets in recent years on the men’s side came at this year’s Wimbledon. Nadal was up against the wall against the unknown Lukas Rosol, ranked 100th.
However Rosol, played like he was ranked in the top five, not missing anything, and moving Nadal off the court with heavy winners.
As Nadal sealed the fourth set, clearly having the momentum in the match, play was delayed for 45 minutes as the roof closed due to fading light. Rosol came back out with the same determination when he won sets two and three, breaking Nadal to begin the fifth, which was all he needed to secure the victory. Nadal was hoping for a lapse in play, but it never came as Rosol hit screaming down-the-line forehands and backhands.
This was the first time since 2005 that Nadal didn’t make it past the second round in a Grand Slam tournament.
Just a month before his 31st birthday, Roger Federer proved that he’s still in the mix when it comes to Grand Slams, capturing his first title in two years and tying Pete Sampras with seven Wimbledon titles.
Federer’s play was especially telling in the semifinals, dispatching an out-of-sorts Novak Djokovic in four sets and hometown hero Andy Murray in the finals.
Federer said afterwards, via Associated Press, that "It has worked out so many times over the years here at Wimbledon that I play my best in the semis and the finals. I couldn't be more happy. It feels great being back here as the winner."
With the win, Federer also regained the world No. 1 ranking.
Outside the “Big Four”, Ferrer was the most consistent player at the Slams, reaching two quarterfinals and two semifinals.
Giving up is not in his vocabulary, as evident at Wimbledon against Andy Roddick, regrouping after a slow start to dismiss the three time finalist in four sets.
Also, take his US Open quarterfinal vs. Janko Tipsarevic. Ferrer was down in the final set, 4-1 when Tipsarevic called a medical timeout to treat a toenail. During that time Ferrer was able to regroup get the break back and win in a thrilling tiebreaker.
Though he handled the wind a lot better than Novak Djokovic on Super Saturday, the tornado-like weather halted play, allowing Djokovic to regroup and win easily the next day.
Nevertheless, Ferrer lived up to his status as a fighter this season.
Whether you thought Andy Roddick’s retirement announcement was obvious or surprising, American tennis lost a great competitor that day.
Roddick, as we all know, competed in a difficult generation that saw the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, which made it hard for Roddick to get that elusive second Grand Slam title.
Despite that, Roddick’s career was a great saga for American tennis, as fans witnessed triumph, heartbreak, grit and determination.
Roddick left a tall task for his compatriots by being ranked in the top 10 for nine years and being the last man to win his national Grand Slam.
At least in the end, Roddick got the good press that he deserved throughout his career
Succumbing to tears during his interview at the Wimbledon trophy ceremony, Andy Murray won over many fans that day, seeing how much that title means to him, after losing in his fourth Grand Slam final.
But Murray got his revenge a month later, defeating Roger Federer easily on the same stage at the Olympic finals and looked like the front-runner for the US Open.
Murray lucked out in the draw, with Nadal’s withdraw and Federer’s surprising quarterfinal loss. On “Super Saturday” Murray handled the wild wind by dispatching a moody Tomas Berdych in four long sets.
During the final, Murray looked like the champion from the start, playing smart tennis against a somewhat nervous and very tight Novak Djokovic. Though Murray let Djokovic back in the match, he took quick control in the fifth, winning 6-2.
Murray’s win finally silenced his critics and proved the change from the "Big Three" to the "Big Four”.
Next up: winning his national title, Wimbledon. And with his 2012 season behind him, it looks more possible than in years past.