It was a huge year on the tennis circuit and Craig Gabriel has pinpointed his highlights.

At this time of the year there are many media outlets that will list the best this, the worst that the players of the year and all that sort of stuff so I figured, as in previous years, I have my opinions as well and will put those forward. So here goes and no doubt I will face disagreement and that’s fine, but these are my views.

One match that stands out above all and that was the stunning outcome in the women’s semi-finals at the US Open as ROBERTA VINCI BEAT SERENA WILLIAMS. Certainly the Italian had played very well in the previous rounds of the Open and while Williams had been a bit questionable with her form, no one really thought she would get rolled – Serena always had a way of escaping in a Houdini-esq manner; she did it at the French Open so even when she was in trouble against Vinci most figured she would get out of the situation but the “pocket dynamo” from Taranto, Italy stayed firm to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and reach her first major final.

While not as shocking as the Vinci-Williams result, there was still a major surprise element when ANDREAS SEPPI OVERCAME ROGER FEDERER 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 at the Australian Open in the third round. Certainly capable, but Seppi had never beaten Federer before. It was almost a bit of de ja vu for Federer because a few years ago at the US Open he was shocked by Tommy Robredo who had never beaten the Swiss maestro before. There were similarities between the matches and when Federer started to sort of claw back in the match the view was that he’d sneak through … no sneak attack by Roger here (see later award). It was the season’s first surprise result.

Tennis saw no better a moment in 2015 than the final of the US Open when FLAVIA PENNETTA claimed the title over Roberta Vinci. This was an incredible “feel good” story and you saw what it all meant. Don’t get me wrong, for any of the big guns winning one of the majors it is a brilliant moment but because of the position and the proficiency of the superstars in winning the majors, things can get put to one side rather quickly. What tennis saw between Pennetta and Vinci was just the absolute best moment the sport could envisage. And at the end it was difficult to tell one had won and one had lost. If only the sport can see so much more of this.

After 2014 there was so much promised by EUGENIE BOUCHARD but the 2015 season fell in a screaming heap for the Canadian. The pressure to reproduce the previous year’s results really surfaced and she started to slip in the rankings and then there was the tragic locker room slip at the US Open which resulted in severe concussion and caused her to pull out of several events.

Roger Federer refined an aspect of the game that became an overblown talking point. The SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger) took chip-n-charge tennis to another level; taking an opponent unawares. There was nothing illegal in what he was doing but the likes of Boris Becker and John McEnroe slammed Federer for the tactic. The ploy became a major talking point mid-season and it was a ridiculous discussion. If he was doing something outside the rules then maybe it would be a legit discussion point, but that was not the case. It was actually fun to watch.

No other result had the historical significance than of GREAT BRITAIN WINNING THE DAVIS CUP BY BNP PARIBAS. The 79 year drought was brought to an end in Ghent, Belgium when they defeated the home side which was playing its first final since 1904. That was such an amazing weekend. Certainly Davis Cup is a team event but ANDY MURRAY’S drive and passion through the year to push the rest of his team was no small feat and his partnership with brother Jamie in the doubles rubbers was superb. Some said it was Dunblane, Scotland versus Belgium. Andy emulated a few records along the way. 

In 2015 this had to be the FRENCH OPEN with so many matches proving to be nail-biters and just brilliant. Novak Djokovic’s victory over Rafa Nadal was quite spectacular as Nadal was handed only his second ever defeat at Roland Garros. Stan Wawrinka’s upset of Roger Federer generated so much discussion, Serena Williams’s escapes, five of her seven matches were three setters, generated plenty of questions as to her situation and yet she found something deep inside to pull off the title, and then the men’s final that saw Wawrinka defeat hot favourite Djokovic for glory and his second career major.

And now a drum roll please for the final award …

Certainly there are just two players to be considered, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic. Sports Illustrated has named Williams as their Sportsperson of the Year which considers all sports. Nice they eventually got the title right because right to the end the award was being referred to as Sportsman of the Year.

Both athletes claimed three of the four majors. Serena won the first three legs of the calendar year Grand Slam, an achievement that is certainly phenomenal BUT in my view the Player of the Year is NOVAK DJOKOVIC. He actually reached the final of all four majors and also played through to the last event on the regular tour and won that too, the ATP World Tour Finals. Serena lost in the semis of the US Open and then did not play anymore as disappointment and injuries hampered her. His incredibly sustained effort was brilliant and he earned eleven titles to Serena’s five and more prize-money in a single year, $21.5million, than any player has ever done.