The Biggest Surprises in Tennis in 2012
2012 was another monster year for tennis.
From Andy Murray's breakthrough victory at the U.S. Open to the continued dominance of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, both the men's and women's game had huge years respectively and left tennis fans desperately looking forward to next season.
However, the year was not without its fair share of surprises, with several events and performances taking place that we simply did not see coming.
Here are the top 10 surprises in tennis in 2012.
10. Andy Murray's Olympic Gold vs. Roger Federer
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We kick off the list with Andy Murray's gold-medal victory over Roger Federer at the 2012 London Olympics—a memorable scene for both Britain and the man himself given the occasion.
Forever known as the bridesmaid of men's tennis—always at the wedding but never getting married—Murray had suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Federer earlier in the year at Wimbledon, where he tearfully jerked at the end of the match that he was "getting closer."
Now he had the opportunity to exact revenge on the Swiss maestro and prove himself as a genuine contender in the sport—something that Murray stood up and did with ease.
And whilst we knew that the moment where Murray would prove himself would finally come one day, for it to come on the biggest stage possible in front of his home crowd given the fact he had already lost to Federer in a final that year—that was somewhat of a surprise.
9. Laura Robson Upsets Kim Clijsters
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Kim Clijsters was supposed to say farewell to the women's game with a win at the US Open this season—only someone forgot to tell Laura Robson about it.
The 18-year-old proved too much for the veteran Clijsters, who bowed out of the game with a strong and illustrious career behind her but without the ending that she, and many others, desperately desired.
Robson showed that she is a real player of the future in the women's game. But nobody foresaw the former Wimbledon girls' winner toppling the experienced and dominant Clijsters in what would be her last match at the US Open.
8. Bernard Tomic's Giant-Killing Run
Up-and-coming Australian player Bernard Tomic entered his home Grand Slam carrying the weight of a nation and slowly went about proving himself as a genuine contender in the future in men's tennis.
The youngster toppled the No. 22 seed in Fernando Verdasco in the opening round of the tournament, following that up with a four-set victory over American sensation Sam Querrey in the second round.
No. 13 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov would be the next man to fall to Tomic in a five-set affair that appeared to take much out of the Australian heading into the fourth round, where he would fall in straight sets to arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport, Roger Federer.
Tomic would go on to have an up-and-down year in terms of performance on the court and issues off it, but his giant-killing run at the Australian Open remains one of the top surprises of the season.
7. Heather Watson's Debut WTA Title
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The HP Open in Japan might not have registered as the most important title to win on the WTA circuit this season, but for Heather Watson, the win was very important.
As small and as insignificant as the tournament might have been, Watson became the first British woman to win a WTA singles title in 24 years—also chalking up her first title win on tour in the process.
Perhaps what was more incredible than the record that the win broke was the actual win itself, with Watson saving four match points against Chang Kai-chen before going on to win the final tournament of the year in the third and deciding set.
A great surprise for Watson and Britain, and one that was certainly needed for both.
6. Andy Roddick Calls It Quits
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Andy Roddick's retirement from men's tennis at the age of 30 came as a great shock this season, with many expecting the American to play on for a few more years at least.
Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open and reached the final of Grand Slams on four other occasions—losing to Roger Federer all four times. He held the world No. 1 ranking for a short time also and will leave the sport with 32 ATP tour titles next to his name.
His presence will be missed greatly by many currently still on tour—particularly the older guys like Roger Federer and the younger, American guys like Sam Querrey, both of whom commented via The New York Times as to the importance of Roddick in their respective careers.
Roddick's was certainly the biggest retirement surprise of the year.
5. Victoria Azarenka Wins Final with Ease
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But what we got was something entirely different.
The 22-year-old Azarenka reduced Sharapova to next to nothing en route to the Grand Slam trophy—winning 12 of the last 13 games to record a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing of her opponent.
The match lasted less time than did a single set of the men's final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and turned out to be one of the most bizarre finals for the entire year—simply because it was so one-sided and dominant by Azarenka.
Few would have predicted her win would be that comfortable—particularly not against the hard-hitting Sharapova, who had proven herself before in Australia.
4. Rafael Nadal Loses on Clay
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Stop the presses: Rafael Nadal lost on clay.
That was the story following Nadal's shock defeat to Fernando Verdasco at the 2012 Madrid Open, where the Spaniard went down 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on the controversial blue-clay court.
Whilst one loss might not seem like that big of a deal, when we're talking Nadal and clay, then the story becomes a big deal, as we're talking about the man seemingly unbeatable over the past five or six years on clay—dominating everything from the Rome Masters to the French Open in that time.
Nadal's last eight years on clay courts? 228 wins, seven loses.
Perhaps that record puts the loss to Verdasco into context.
3. David Nalbandian's Brain Snap
After making the final of the AEGON Championships at Queen's, Argentinian David Nalbandian was disqualified for kicking a linesman—something that nobody would have predicted or expected to take place at the start of the season.
Nalbandian had won the first set in a tiebreak but was trailing 4-3 in the second set to Marin Cilic when the brain-snap took place. He was disqualified from the match, fined £6,400 by the ATP and had his £36,500 prize money taken away.
Cilic, on the other hand, was declared champion.
Said Nalbandian after the match (per The Daily Mail):
It is a tough moment to end a final like that. Sometimes we feel so much pressure from the ATP. It is a mistake and I have to pay for that.
I disagree with that (abandoning the final). Everybody makes mistakes. I don't feel it had to end like that, especially a final. I'm very sorry.
2. Andy Murray Wins Maiden Grand Slam
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We all knew it was coming one day, but 2012 was the year in which Andy Murray finally ended his Grand Slam drought and ended Britain's champion-less run as well.
The Scotsman's epic triumph over Novak Djokovic was a match for the ages—one that will shape the next generation of British and men's tennis for many years to come.
However, perhaps most importantly, the result will have given Murray the self-belief that he can indeed challenge the top players in world tennis week in and week out for the next few years and that he is a genuine threat during Grand Slam tournaments.
The bridesmaid of tennis finally got married in 2012—something that came as a surprise but a pleasant, feelgood surprise for all those who witnessed the victory.
1. Lukas Rosol Rolls Rafael Nadal
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However, there can be no greater surprise in tennis this year than the defeat that Rafael Nadal suffered at the hands of Lukas Rosol during Wimbledon.
The former Wimbledon champion, No. 2 seed and incredible talent Nadal was beaten in the opening few days of competition by the unseeded Rosol—going down 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4—to chalk up one of the worst defeats in his career to date and the greatest win in the career of his opponent.
Rosol is currently ranked No. 73 in the world, has never won an ATP title and has just over $1 million to his name in career prize money.
By comparison, Nadal is ranked No. 4 in the world and has won 50 ATP titles, 11 Grand Slams and over $50 million in career prize money.
This win truly was the greatest surprise of 2012.
What do you think was the greatest surprise in 2012?
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