Agassi Tops Federer for 2009 Tennis Story of the Year

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIDecember 20, 2009

Agassi Tops Federer for 2009 Tennis Story of the Year

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    The story of the year in Tennis should have been Roger Federer finally breaking through and eclipsing Pete Sampras' record of 14 career Grand Slam titles. It was going to take a major story that would cross the lines of pop culture to knock Federer off the mantel for 2009's top story.

    The 2009 tennis season saw some new stars rise, some old ones let us know they are still around, others that returned and one of the biggest come clean about his career.

    The 2010 season could see much of the same. Justine Henin is planning a comeback, we will see more upsets, rising starts, memorable matches and yet other revelations from star players. It will take a lot of it to match the drama of 2009.

10) Nikolay Davydenko wins ATP Masters Final

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    Nikolay Davydenko has been one of the most consistent performers on the ATP for the last four years. But he had yet to break through in a big event.

    Davydenko ended the 2008 season with a loss in the finals at the ATP Masters Final. He made a statement that he should be a player to be watched.

    Prior to the 2009 Master Final, Davydenko had won 19 tour events including three Master tournaments. However, the best finishes for Davydenko before this season in the big events had been four grand slam semifinals and the aforementioned 2008 Masters Final.

    He entered the 2009 Masters Final as the No. 6 seed. He went 2-1 in the round robin to advance to the semifinals.

    He stunned Roger Federer in the semifinals and then defeated US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets to win the championship.

9) Juan Martin Del Potro Wins US Open

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    Juan Martin Del Potro became a rising star on the ATP Tour in the summer of 2008 when the majority of top players were at the Beijing Olympics.

    Del Potro captured four consecutive tournaments that summer and had a 23 match winning streak. The streak was the second longest of 2008 and the longest by a player outside the top 10 in 20 years.

    He would crack the top ten that October after a run to the US Open Quarterfinals. He also advanced the Master Finals at the end of the season.

    His success continued into 2009. Del Potro advanced to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the semis in Paris before getting upset in the second round at Wimbledon.

    Del Potro was seeded sixth for the US Open and had an incredible run to capture his first Grand Slam title. He became the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same slam.

    Del Potro ousted Nadal in straight sets in the semifinal before completing an improbable comeback against Federer. DP won the final two sets including a dominating 6-2 margin in the final set.

8) Robin Sodering upsets Rafael Nadal at the French Open

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    Rafael Nadal had won 31 consecutive matches at Roland Garros entering his fourth round match against Robin Soderling earlier this year at the French Open.

    Nadal had won all nine of his sets through the first three rounds of this year's open and had never lost on the red clay in Paris.

    Soderling was making his first appearance in the fourth round of a grand slam.

    Soderling took an aggressive approach and blitzed Nadal 6-2 to capture the opening set.

    Nadal seemed to regain momentum after winning a second set tiebreak 7-2 to even the match.

    But Soderling never let Nadal get rolling. He captured the fourth set 6-4 and then outscored Nadal 7-2 in a decisive fourth set tiebreak to pull won of the biggest upsets in tennis history.

    Soderling proved his run wasn't a fluke by winning three more matches and advancing to the finals before falling to Roger Federer.

    Soderling capped an outstanding year by advancing to the semifinals at the end of the year Master Championship.

7) Serena Williams Regains the Number One Ranking

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    During the many ebbs and flows of her career, many pundits have questioned Serena Williams commitment to tennis.

    In 2009, Williams showed why she is one of the greatest players to ever play on the WTA tour.

    She won the Australian Open and Wimbledon to win her tenth and eleventh Grand Slam Titles. That places Serena sixth all time, just one behind Billie Jean King.

    Serena concluded her season with a win at the year end championships over her sister Venus at Doha, Qatar.

6) Serena Williams Loses US Open Semifinal after Point Penalty on Match Point

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    Much of the attention at the Women's draw at the this year's US Open had been on Kim Cjilsters' amazing comeback.

    Cjilsters and Serena Williams collided in the semifinals.

    Cjilsters had wins over three ranked players to reach the semis. The Williams-Cjilsters winner would be a huge favorite in the final against the Caroline Wozniacki-Yanina Wickmayer winner.

    The match was a slugfest that will be remembered for how the match ended instead of how it was played.

    Williams received a code violation after slamming her racket concluding her loss in the first set. She had to be careful the rest of the match. Any loss of temper could result in a bigger penalty.

    Cjilsters won a tight but sloppy first set 6-4.

    Williams played a better second set and was down 6-5, serving to send the second set to a tiebreaker. Instead of the dramatic tiebreaker, a moment occurred that would change tennis history.

    Down 15-30, a foot fault was assessed on Serena's second serve. It was reported on ESPN.com that Serena said the to the line umpire ""I swear to God I'm [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God."

    Williams response was ""I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious? I didn't say that." The line judge replied by shaking her head and saying, "Yes."

    The supposed threat to the line umpire resulted in a point penalty. Because the point penalty occurred on match point, the match ended as a result.

    US Open Tournament referee Brian Earley was quoted after the match as saying. "She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty, ....it just happened that the point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct." (ESPN.com)

    Many questioned whether or not Williams should continue in other events in the Open. She then went out and won the doubles with sister Venus the next day.

    Williams was fined $175,000 last month for incident and given two years probation. If she maintains her cool and has no other outbursts in the next two years, the fine will be reduced to $82,500.

    If she has another incident at any of the grand slams, than Williams will be suspended for the following US Open.

5) Federer-Roddick Wimbledon Final

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    The question over the last few years on the ATP has been what has happened to American men's tennis.

    Andy Roddick's appearance in the 2006 US Open final was the last time an American male played for a Grand Slam title. That marked ten consecutive Grand Slam events without an American in the title match.

    Roddick was flying high following a dramatic 6-4, 4-6, 7-6. 7-6 win over British favorite Andy Murray in the semifinals.

    Not many people gave Roddick a chance in the finals. He entered with a 2-18 record against Federer.

    Roddick captured the first set 7-5. He was up 6-2 in a second set tiebreaker. With four chances to take a two sets to love lead, A-Rod seemed in control. Going up two sets to love would have given Roddick a monumental boost.

    Federer won the last six points of the second set to win the tiebreak 8-6 and even the match. He won the third set 7-5 in another tiebreak. At that point, most tennis observers were probably counting Roddick out.

    Roddick showed a lot of mettle winning the fourth set 6-3 even the match once again. No one could have seen what was coming in the fifth set.

    Roddick held his serve ten straight times while facing the fact that if Federer broke he would end the match.

    The match was arguably the greatest in grand slam history only a year after Federer and Nadal staged another epic match in the Wimbledon Final.

    Roddick wasn't broken until the the final game of the match. Federer's 50 aces were his highest ever and one short of the Wimbledon record set by Ivo Karlovic. The 30 game final set was the most ever in the Grand Slam final by ten games. The previous record of 27 was set in 1927.

    It was also the longest Grand Slam final ever. The 77 games played surpassed the previous record of 71 also set in 1927.

    Roddick had been questioned frequently before his performance at Wimbledon. Few athletes are as revered in victory as Roddick was in defeat.

    It remains to be seen how Roddick's career will be going forward, but the 2009 final at Wimbledon will be one that will always be remembered.

4) Nadal Misses Almost Three Months With Knee Injury

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    Rafael Nadal opened the 2009 tennis season by cementing his number one ranking. After defeating Roger Federer in five sets in the Australian Open final, Nadal was the undisputed best player in the World.

    The win was Nadal's sixth Grand Slam title. He became the first player ever to hold three titles on three different surfaces at the same time. (AUS '09-Hard, WImbledon '08-Grass and French '08 Clay).

    Nadal first suffered a knee problem in 2009 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Nadal had to call for a trainer during his loss against Andy Murray in the final.

    The cause was apparently a tendon injury unrelated to the tendinitis in his right knee. The injury forced Nadal to withdraw from the Barclay's Dubai Tennis Championship the following week.

    Nadal entered the French Open seemingly cruising to a fifth consecutive French Open title. Along the way in the 2009 French, Nadal set the record for consecutive wins on the Red Clay of Paris with 31 and won 32 consecutive sets for second best all time there.

    However, his four year run came to a shocking end in the fourth round loss to Soderling.

    After getting eliminated at the French, Nadal was only able to compete in two exhibition matches during the grass court season. The tendinitis on both knees forced Nadal out until the Canadian Rogers Cup in August.

    The injury caused Nadal to miss Wimbledon. He was the first defending champion to miss the Fortnight since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.

    Federer took advantage of Nadal's absence winning both the French and Wimbledon.

    Nadal had mixed success after his return. He reached the semifinals at the US Open before losing to Del Potro. He also competed in the year end Masters Cup, but failed to make it out of round robin play.

    In December, Nadal helped Spain capture it's second consecutive Davis Cup and its fourth in the last ten years.

3) Cjilsters Caps Comeback With US Open Title

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    When Kim Clijsters announced her retirement in May of 2007, she surprised the tennis world. Clijsters was still among the top players in the World when she retired citing injuries and the desire to start a family. She had advanced the the semifinals of the Australian Open the previous January.

    Clijsters gave birth to daughter Jada on February 27, 2008.

    Clijsters announced her comeback last March. She receiving a Wild Card in Cincinnati and Toronto and also announced her desire to play in the US Open.

    Clijsters returned by playing an exhibition showing off the new roof at Centre Court at Wimbledon. She defeated Steffi Graf 6-4 in singles and teamed with Tim Henman to defeat Graf and Andre Agassi 7-6 in doubles.

    She made her return to the WTA by defeating three ranked players in her way to the quarterfinals before losing to world number one Dinara Safina.

    She entered the US Open as a Wild card. She defeated the 14th seed Marion Bartoli in the second round and would defeat five seeded players on the way to the title. Included in her conquests were Venus and Serena Williams. The win over Serena occurred in the infamous point penalty match.

    Her run was historic. She became the first mother to win a Grand Slam since 1980, became the first player to defeat the Williams sisters in the same tournament twice and the first wild card champion in US Open history.

    Her title catapulted her into the top 20 and loudly announced her return as one of the World's top players.

2) Roger Federer Breaks Grand Slam Record On Road Back To Dominance

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    Capturing a Grand Slam for most professional tennis players is a career achievement. When Roger Federer won only one Grand Slam in 2008, most so called experts said it was a down year for the Fed Express.

    In 2008, Roger Federer had many streaks broken. Ten Straight Grand Slam Finals came to an end in Melbourne. He failed to win a masters series title for the first time ever and only won one Grand Slam for the first time since 2003.

    Many were anointing Rafael Nadal the next king of the ATP. Nadal won his fourth straight French Open title and defeated Federer in an epic final. Nadal then continued his dominance over Federer by defeating him in the Australian Open Final earlier this year.

    At the French Open, the top of the tennis world started to tilt back to Federer. Soderling's upset of Nadal gave Federer a huge chance and he took full advantage. Federer defeated Soderling in the final to cap a career Grand Slam and tie Pete Sampras' all-time record of 14 slams.

    Federer continued his brilliance at Wimbledon. He competed in an epic final for a second straight year. This time he captured the title by defeating Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set.

    The win was Federer's 15th Grand Slam title, eclipsing Pete Sampras' all time record. The win also made Federer only the fourth player to win the French and Wimbledon in the same year.

    Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver were all in attendance. Federer's win at Wimbledon pushed him back to the number one ranked player in the World. If Nadal returns healthy in 2009, it should be interesting to see who lays claim as the world's greatest player.

1) Andre Agassi Admits to Use of Crystal Meth During Career

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    The story of the year in Tennis should have been Roger Federer finally breaking through and eclipsing Pete Sampras' record of 14 career Grand Slam titles.

    It was going to take a major story that would cross the lines of pop culture to knock Federer off the mantel for 2009's top story.

    Andre Agassi shocked everyone with his autobiography "Open". Agassi had many admissions in the book, but the most shocking was his admission to the use of crystal meth.

    Agassi's use of meth occurred during the low point of his career in 1997. He has slipped to 141st in the World on November 10th. It was earlier that season that Agassi used Meth. Suffering from a wrist injury, Agassi only played 24 matches that year.

    At the end of the 1997 season, Agassi had a positive drug test. Because it was for meth, a recreational drug, Agassi only faced a three month suspension.

    Had it been for a performance enhancing drug, Agassi could have been suspended for two years. A three month suspension wouldn't necessarily been devastating, but the fallout and possibility of losing major endorsements could have been.

    Agassi wrote to the ATP saying that a friend has spiked his drink. Trusting one of the game's most popular players at his word, Agassi got off with just a warning.

    Other Agassi admissions including having to piece to together his hair extensions right before a match at the French Open and his hatred for playing the sport.

    This was a story that was bigger than tennis. Agassi did an interview with Katie Couric on 60 minutes. "Open" topped the NY Times best seller list just two weeks after it was released. The revelations about "Open" had people talking about tennis, if just for a few days.