The most common and obvious way to determine success in tennis is by keeping track of the number of matches and tournaments won by a player.
There are other ways, however, by which a season of a tennis professional can be—and should be—evaluated.
Winners are not necessarily only those who win major titles. Winners are players who accomplish something meaningful according to the stages of their careers and according to the goals they set for themselves.
It could be a breakthrough year for a rookie, a late career run for a veteran, reaching the highest career ranking and, of course, winning major titles.
In a sense, every player who manages to do better in a season than he or she did in the previous year, should be considered a winner.
Although tennis players compete among themselves on the courts, the best way to measure success is to compare one to oneself only, in their attempt to be better everyday than they were in the day before.
With this line of thinking, let’s take a look at the 10 biggest winners of 2011 in the tennis world.
Janko Tipsarevic deserves to be in this list after having the best year of his career.
The Serbian finishes the year at No. 9, having won two titles and played in the World Tour Finals, where he went as the alternate player.
Although it will be very hard for him to do better next year, the strong second half that he had in 2011 will certainly give Janko confidence going into 2012.
Paradoxically, the greatest source of criticism to Caroline Wozniacky is exactly what brings her to this list.
As many people don’t understand, becoming No. 1 in the world and remaining there for a long time is no easy task. Doing so without winning a major title is even harder.
Caroline deserves lots of credit for finishing another season as No. 1 in the world and showing her critics who is the best week in, week out.
Juan Martin Del Potro is one of the main forces in tennis.
After winning the US Open title in 2009, he had to undergo wrist surgery and missed most of the 2010 season.
Nevertheless he managed to finish 2011 as No. 11 in the world and is a true candidate for major titles in 2012.
Milos Raonic's performance in 2011, guaranteed him the Rookie Of the Year award.
The young and big serving Canadian started the year in top form, reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open, following it up by capturing the title in San Diego and by going all the way to the final in Memphis.
He is only 20 years old and should become a great player.
Mardy Fish is having a blast at the later stage of his career.
He committed to putting extra effort on his preparation, which included a weight loss and is playing some great tennis.
In 2011 he broke into the top 10 and qualified for the World Tour finals for the first time in his career, at age 29.
At least a couple of more top performing seasons should be expected from the top ranked American.
Sam Stosur is one of the protagonists of the recent trend in women’s tennis, where players are reaching their peak and winning majors in their late 20s.
Stosur, who once was mainly a doubles player, decided to invest time and effort in her singles career, which definitely paid off with the title won in the US Open, earlier in September.
She has an interesting and aggressive game and should continue to cause damages in 2012.
Li Na had an amazing first half of the year, reaching the final of the Australian Open and winning her first major, Roland Garros, at the age of 29.
In 2011 she became the first Chinese player to win a major title, wrote her name in the history of the sport and established herself among the top players.
Two major finals in the same year is well deserving of a spot among the biggest winners in 2011.
David Ferrer had a tremendous year.
This solid and hard working Spaniard finishes the year as the fifth best player in the world, after reaching the semifinal of the World Tour Finals in London.
Ferrer was the most important player in Spain's run for the Davis Cup title.
He won his two matches against the United States, in Austin, TX on a custom made fast court for the home team and won a key second rubber against Del Potro and the Argentine team in the final tie.
This often underrated player is a tough one to beat and is perhaps the best example of doing what it takes to be best one can be.
Petra Kvitova broke into the tennis scene in 2011 and it didn’t make it look like it was a casual thing.
She won Wimbledon, capturing her first major title and then crowned the year capturing the WTA Championship in Istanbul.
As if that wasn't enough, she lead the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title, ousting the dominant Russia in the final
Kvitova finishes the year and No. 2 in the world and leaves great expectations for 2012.
Novak Djokovic has to be considered the biggest winner of 2011 not only for all the major titles won, but also for shifting the dominance of the game that had been held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for a decade.
He had what many are considering the best season ever played on the tour, winning three out of the four majors.
All the attention will be on Novak in the beginning of next season and whether or not he can repeat the amazing run of 2011.