Dec 14, 2014, 9:26:28 AM

It was a huge year for tennis and in a two part series we look back on the season.

On New Year’s Day Caroline Wozniacki was flashing the engagement ring given to her by Rory McIlroy and the year was off to a flying start.

The Australian Open saw a new champion crowned with Stan Wawrinka breaking the “Big 4” dominance by playing the tournament of his life to win the men’s singles. He beat Novak Djokovic 9-7 in the fifth en route to the final turning the tables from the previous year when he lost a nail-biter to Djokovic and then stayed firm in four sets over an injured Rafa Nadal who struggled through the final with a back issue and received treatment a few times. Serena Williams crashed to Ana Ivanovic and Dominika Cibulkova upset Maria Sharapova. Also on the women’s side Eugenie Bouchard gave tennis a taste of what was to come. But for Li Na it proved to be third time lucky – she finally captured the Aussie Open women’s singles beating surprise finalist Cibulkova. This was one of the most popular tennis results ever in Australia. 

After what was a full-on start to the season with the first of the four majors, there was a bit of respite in February however Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round saw some interesting results as Federer and Wawrinka overpowered a Djokovic-less Serbia and France overcame Australia while Japan accounted for Canada in Tokyo. And for the first time in a long time the two original Davis Cup nations Great Britain and the USA squared off with the Brits winning in San Diego with Andy Murray.

The first of the two ATP Masters 1000 for the year happened; the BNP Paribas Open in stunningly beautiful Indian Wells which unveiled its brand new Grandstand Court, and the Miami Open, both combined events with the WTA. Novak Djokovic walked off with a rare double with these events taking both events in the same year for the second time. He defeated Roger Federer at the BNP Paribas Open 7-6 in the third. Alexandr Dolgopolov scored the upset of the event and the first quarter of the year by beating Rafa Nadal. Djokovic then accounted for Nadal in Miami.

On the women’s side ever-green delight Flavia Pennetta won Indian Wells the biggest title of her career beating Aga Radwanska in the final and in Miami, Serena Williams scored yet another win over Maria Sharapova in the semis and stopped Li Na in the final.

The quarterfinals of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas saw more than a dramatic tie between Switzerland and Kazakhstan in Geneva. Stan Wawrinka playing in front of a home crowd for the first times since winning the Aussie Open was struggling with the pressure and it was Roger Federer who kept things in check as the locals rallied from 1-2 to win. It was a similar nail-biter from France against Germany while the Italians beat Great Britain in Italy. Back on the regular tour and in the final of the Monte Carlo Open team-mates were on opposite sides of the net as Wawrinka beat Federer for only the second time, in the final. And Kei Nishikori was starting to make impressive in-roads with him winning Barcelona and at the same time Grigor Dimitrov won Bucharest, his second title of the year. In the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Germany and the Czechs went through to the final.

The sad news came down that British player Elena Baltacha lost her battle with cancer and passed away. Also bidding farewell, officially retiring, was former world No.1 Dinara Safina while on the courts it was a hectic month. In Madrid, Maria Sharapova came back from 1-6 to defeat Simona Halep who had beaten Petra Kvitova who’d had a walkover over Serena Williams while Rafa Nadal was lucky to win the men’s – Kei Nishikori had him on the ropes but had to quit with injury. The Internazionali BNL d’Italia had some riveting matches. Roger Federer was absent because of the birth of his twin boys and Grigor Dimitrov went to the semis where Rafa Nadal beat him while Novak Djokovic escaped from Milos Raonic’s grip to reach the final and then scored an important claycourt win beating Nadal for the title. In the women’s Williams gave the local fans nothing to cheer about as she demolished Sara Errani for the title.

It was time for the French Open and what a tournament this was. Within three rounds the likes of Serena and Venus Williams, Wozniacki, Li, Ivanovic and Kvitova were all gone. It was Serena’s second worst French Open and her loss to Garbine Muruguza was probably the biggest upset of the women’s year to then. The upset of the event on the men’s side was when Guillermo Garcia Lopez beat Stan Wawrinka 6-0 in the 4th in the first round. It was only the second time a first time Slam winner had lost in the first round of the following Slam.

Left standing at the end of Roland Garros were Maria Sharapova who beat Eugenie Bouchard, and Simona Halep and it was a fantastic final with Sharapova claiming the only title to elude her. Rafa Nadal claimed his millionth French Open beating Novak Djokovic again but story grabbing went to Ernests Gulbis who scored one of the year’s biggest upsets beating Roger Federer and backed it up by beating Tomas Berdych. 

Grigor Dimitrov started off the grass court season with The Queen’s Club title which gave him a boost for Wimbledon and Rory McIlroy did the dastardly deed by breaking up with Caro Wozniacki.

In the women’s at Wimbledon by the fourth round just eleven of the 32 seeds remained. It was another disaster for Serena Williams who crashed to Alize Cornet after winning the first set 6-1. It equaled Williams’s French Open loss as the biggest upsets of the year. Having been to semis at each of the majors in 2014, Eugenie Bouchard was making inroads and Grigor Dimitrov was being focused on but the talk of Wimbledon was the Aussie teen Nick Kyrgios.

His five set win over Richard Gasquet from nine match points down (a Wimbledon record) was the comeback of the year and then his win over Rafa Nadal on Centre Court was the upset of the year. Andy Murray was defending his title, Milos Raonic was powering down aces and Stan Wawrinka has righted his ship and as we were to discover it would be Li Na’s final event. The first half of the year was over!