For the average person, January is a synonym of winter, a few extra pounds, and looking a bit off-color. For them, on the contrary, January means summer, and the joy of winning trophies. In both cases, New Year’s resolutions only last a month. More or less. Here’s a little selection of the guys who make New year’s eve last a little longer.
In the middle of the eighties, everyone fought over the Woodies. Made up of Woodforde and his mate Todd Woodbridge, the Wallabies pair won no less than eleven Grand Slam titles, of which two in Melbourne, and eight titles in January, with seven being won in Hewitt’s country. Of his five grand slam titles in mixed doubles, Woodforde won two at home. In the singles, out of four trophies, uncle Mark won three at home on that same period. In short, he was a guy who was relaxed after New Year’s eve. By the way, he will be in charge of Nicolas Mahut for the next Australian Open, which takes place from the 18th to the 31st of January. To give him a few tricks on how to play eleven hours in the boiling hot sun.
Deep down, Jarkko Nieminen prefers the heatwaves, the sweat rings under his armpits and Fosters over negative temperatures, chapped lips and petrol-black Salmiakki shots. Because it’s there, in the southern hemisphere, that the Finn completed his personal record. Nieminen started on January 9th, 2006, a year in which he topped his best ever ranking (13th) in Auckland. He destroyed Ancic, 6-2, 6-2. Then, after a quarter final in Melbourne - his best ever performance in a Grand Slam tournament - the lefty came back to lift his second and last trophy four years later in Sydney, at the Apia International, where he also reached a final - lost, this time, to the Byan brothers - in the doubles. Since then, Jarkko is considered to be the best Finnish tennis player in history and a man who is usually spoiled on Christmas day. Logical.
He shook up King Roger and went down in history of worldwide tennis. It was on January 16th, 2006, in the final of the Australian Open. Stepanek, Roddick, Ljubicic and Nalbian couldn’t resist his talent. Baghdatis crossed himself, kissed his crucifix, and won the first set against Federer. Before kneeling down in front of the evidence. Always a contender, never a winner, the Cypriot played another round of sixteen in Melbourne, in 2009. Between the two, he won an indoor tournament in Zagreb in January 2007, a performance he managed to recreate in the doubles five years later, after beating Gasquet for a title at the Medibank International in Sydney, in 2010. Five titles overall, of which three won just after new year’s eve. That’s what you call taking good new year resolutions.
Nothing, or almost. In 1999, the German won his first tournament in Doha, after defeating Tim Henman in three sets. A good start. The next year, Rainer tried to defend his title but saw red against Santoro. A turning point. Three years will pass before his recovery, and his once in a lifetime stunt in the tennis world : a final at the Australian Open, lost in 2003 against Agassi, who crushed him in three sets. One of the only Germans to manage this feat in the Open era - along with Becker and Stich - waited another three years to add a new line to his record : The Chennai tournament in 2005. Flashy, or not enough, for someone who was once ranked 5th at the ATP race, but who once declared : « I play very well during training ». That says it all.
Stefan likes to go fly through the new year like a prince. After having won the third and last title of his career in Doha in 2002, he turned up on the Qatari clay once again two years later, in the doubles, alongside Andy Roddick. In vain. His only feat in battle has been a quarter final in Melbourne in 2002, as he never did better than a round of sixteen at Roland Garros, with early eliminations in the other Grand Slam tournaments, and a last stunt with a lost final in Chennai in 2007 against Malisse forming the pattern of his career. Solid.