It’s probably quite obvious as to why it has taken me at least two weeks to write this rather bulky blog. The clue is in the title: this is a look back at the year 2009. Writing a ‘Looking back’ blog in sport is rather like writing about the history of a country with a 1000 word deadline. I.e. impossible. That is why historians write books that are around about 5 tombs in length and need a crane to get them off the shelves. A similar feat would be needed if I were to write an in-depth story of the past year in tennis.
So, how am I going to do this? By choosing ten highlights of the year as a way of looking back.
1) Federer cries at Aussie open
I know, this one has been done to death. But it just shows how perceptions of others’ emotions can be wrong. The world saw Federer dissolve into tears as Nadal took the Australian Open trophy from him after a gruelling final match, and they decided that it signalled the end of a shining career. It was soon obvious that this was not the case. Federer has hardly had a slump of a year, winning the next two Grand Slams in surprising finals.
2) Soderling takes out Nadal
We all know this one. ‘Pulling a Soderling’ is now in our tennis-related vocabulary. Soderling is now the one to watch at any tournament. And he recently topped this fantastic year with a finals appearance at the ATP World Tour Finals after Andy Roddick dropped out.
3) Serena blows up at referee, accuses opponents of cheating…
…and generally behaves as though she isn’t ranked consistently the top 3 women’s player in the world and has a host of young players looking up to her. First, she claims – in rather bitter tones – that Martina Sanchez cheated by letting the ball hit her arm instead of the racket in a tense rally. But her most famous faux-pas of the year was to threaten a line judge over a foot-foul. Not exactly the best example to be setting. Still, with an empire at her side, it would take more than a few mishaps to shake her from the spotlight.
4) Juan Martin Del Potro wins US Open
This time last year, very few people really knew who Juan Martin del Potro was or what he was capable of. Now, we have a little more of an idea. He took on a title-hungry world no. 1 in a Grand Slam final, won, and came away with more than his first Grand slam. He came away with a new legion of fans, arrived back in his home town of Tandil to a parade in which he rode a fire engine through the streets, and then won the celebrated position as Argentina’s Athlete of the Year 2009. On top of that, he announced to the public that he had had a great year, but he still didn’t have a girlfriend. Don’t worry Delpo, that shouldn’t last long.
5) Andy Murray fails to get his elusive grand slam
Once again, a Grand slam title has eluded him. Britain remains in mourning, but it’s not the end of the world. He has all of 2010. If he manages to get his foot in the door before all those new hopes get in line for the top spots, he should shoulder in a Grand Slam before next year is through. And if not, I think Britain may just throw in the towel altogether, the rest of the world are just too darn good at this sport…
6) Taylor Dent gets back to game after breaking back
Fans world over were inspired by Taylor Dent’s return to the sport after surgery on his back. From having operations on his lower back, being told it was likely he wouldn’t be able to walk again, to beating Spain’s Ivan Navarro in a gruelling five set match in the US Open. Taylor Dent proved that coming back from injury, even one as serious as a back injury, is not necessarily the end of a career.
7) Kim Clijsters takes one for the Mums
Clijsters showed that being a mother does not spell the end of sporting success when she won the US Open. Things had changed dramatically since Clijsters last played; she was married, she had an 18 month old little girl. They joined her on the court when she took her trophy in September this year.
8 ) Tennis takes to Twitter
Tennis stars have gone Twitter-mad. They’re liberated by being an independent sports person, not part of a team, and so they have more freedom to say what they wish. My pick of 2009: Andy Roddick. Always cheery, excitable, and seems to discuss any sport under the sun (his rounds of golf, his fantasy football team, what his favourite basketball team should be doing) other than tennis, but it’s fun and entertaining nonetheless.
9) Drugs drama
This year, WADA stuck their noses into every sportspersons business, and this was particularly pertinent to the tennis world. Rafael Nadal heavily criticised their heavy hand with sports players, and WADA responded with a shpiel about keeping drugs out of sport. Yes, but I’m sure there’s a way they can sort this out without having to take away the human rights of everyone who plays professional sport. Other drug dramas of the year was Richard Gasquet’s mission to get back into sport, after being banned for testing positive for cocaine. Despite some stubbornness on the part of ITF and WADA, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Gasquet of any wrongdoing, accepting that he kissed a woman in a bar who had taken cocaine herself.
10) Nadal’s body falls to pieces
First his knees, then his back, then his stomach. Who knows what is going to fall apart, fill with fluid, break, tear, or drop-off next year. Let’s hope nothing will, but we will have to keep an eye on that guy’s injury tally to see how he will fare in 2010.
And my sneaky little No. 11? During these credit-crunch days, even elite tennis players are having to diversify; Novak Djokovic has taken on the title role in a new Serbian television series to be aired in 2011. This ten part series will see the already colourful world no. 3 put his talent of mimicking to use as an actor, playing King Aleksander Karadjordjevic of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. His younger brother Djordje will be playing the King as a young man. They’re a talented lot, those Djokovic boys.
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