Men's Tennis 2011: Year in Review
2011 certainly did not go as expected. Few would have guessed Djokovic's sudden rise to power, or that Federer would go slamless for the first year since 2003, when he won his first major title.
Nadal's year was one that most would dream of, but paled in comparison to his 2010 and the standards which he has set for himself. If anything, 2011 was very much representative of the Fedal era coming to a close.
The purpose of this article is to examine closely each Grand Slam and the World Tour Finals, looking at what they meant this year and could signify for the next, as men's tennis is becoming increasingly dynamic, and reigns ever more ephemeral.
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Nadal fans had high expectations for this one, as it could have meant him winning all four slams consecutively (albeit not in the same year).
They were met with disappointment, though, as Rafa struggled in a winnable match against his compatriot, David Ferrer, losing in straight sets.
Novak Djokovic was brimming with confidence coming from his run to the US Open final the year before, and his match with Federer lived up to its blockbuster billing, with the match much closer than the straight sets scoreline suggested.
But the final ended up being a bit of a disappointment, with Murray never really in the match, and showing clear signs of the burdensome pressure that has plagued him in all of his finals appearances thus far.
Unlike in 2008, Djokovic's confidence from the win carried over to the rest of the season, which has been among the most dominant in history.
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Though a Federer versus Nadal final is always more than welcome for tennis fans, many were hoping to see Novak in the title match instead. He had beaten Nadal in consecutive clay court tournaments prior, and the Spaniard looked at a loss as to how to beat him, even on his favorite and most dominant surface.
Federer's play was reminiscent of his prime, though, and he took out the Serb in four tight sets. It was what many called the match of the year, and was a veritable wealth of shotmaking and class.
Unfortunately, the maestro was unable to repeat in the final, with his play rather reminiscent of the numerous devastating losses he has suffered there at the hands of his rival. There was some brilliance, but some nerves as well, as Roger was unable to capitalize on his break or even set points, leaving Rafa victorious with his sixth French Open title.
There were many surprises at the All-England club this year.
For the first time since Federer took it at 2003, the title went to somebody other than Nadal or Federer. Djokovic played increasingly intelligent grass court tennis, with his game transitioning to the surface better than ever before, and simply outplayed Nadal in the final.
It could be considered to be a sort of changing of the guard.
The other big surprise at the tournament was Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. His explosive style generally translates well to fast surfaces, but his best results had never come on grass.
He made a surprise run to the semifinals, though, overcoming six-time champion Federer to get there. He even took a set from Djokovic in a closely contested match.
Look for Wimbledon to become a lot more dynamic than the days when it was always Federer, Nadal, or both in a final have clearly come to a close.
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The U.S. Open should have been Djokovic's first major title.
He has always played well there, but was always stopped by the same person. Federer had Djokovic's number from 2007 until 2009, and always prevented the Serb from taking the title at what he has called his favorite Grand Slam event.
The past two years have been a different story. Both times Federer had match points, and both times it was Djokovic who emerged the victor.
Last year, he lost a tight four setter against Nadal, but this year he took down both legends to take his first U.S. Open crown. It was a fitting end to what was a remarkable season, as Djokovic proved time and time that he's a bona fide champion.
World Tour Finals
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It was a tough year for Federer fans.
He reached his 30th birthday, a dreaded milestone for all professional players, and did not manage to take a single major title on the year.
He has given hope for the future, though. Just as he did in 2010, he won the prestigious event without even dropping a match. Tsonga proved that he is very much a threat for next year as well, playing an excellent final against an in form Federer.
Hopefully, this will bode well for both players in the years to come.
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After 2010, many thought 2011 would be a continuation of Nadal's dominance. He took three grand slam titles, and looked to be reaching his peak, with his forehand more dominant than ever and other aspects of his game catching up.
Looking ahead to 2012, the same mistake could easily be made with Djokovic. It certainly is possible that the Serb could continue to take title after title, as this year alone has been more than enough indication of the talent and drive that he possesses.
But tennis is becoming more and more fickle, and the years where slams would be divided between Rafa and Roger have definitively come to an end. A new force could emerge next year, and, just as it did recently, the reign could easily shift.
Expect 2012 to be an exceptionally intriguing year.