The first half of the tennis season generally stayed on script. There were a few surprises but overall there was not too much by way of results that had people blown away ... other than the women’s finals at the first two majors. By contrast the second half turned things upside down and had fans gasping and it all started at Wimbledon.
It was a third round shock that reverberated for the rest of the year. Novak Djokovic was chasing a fifth major title in a row and the third for the year but out on Court One, in a rain interrupted match any dreams Djokovic had for the third leg of the Grand Slam were buried in the grass.
In one of the great American upsets of recent times, Sam Querrey, who had never made the quarters of a major, brought to an end Djokovic’s streak of 30 consecutive Grand Slam matches, the longest such run in half a century or so. Querrey’s 76 61 36 76 victory also ended Djokovic’s run of 28 consecutive quarter-finals at the majors. This was a result of gigantic monumental proportions but there was way more to it than a bad day at the office.
Djokovic has been having some trouble with a wrist injury but he said the effort that went into winning the French took its toll. There was a letdown. He had removed a huge weight at Roland Garros and it took its toll. However, there was more and Djokovic even admitted that all was not right in his personal life and it was a massive distraction.
While that was the shock result, Roger Federer’s comeback from two sets to love down against Marin Cilic was one of the matches of the year. It was a glorious battle with some of the most magnificent tennis played. Houdini would have been proud of the Federer escape.
Into the semis Fed went and it was another showcase match but Milos Raonic shone through to the final. Late in the match Federer slipped and the thud echoed around the Centre Court. He finished the match but was not in a good way and that became his last match of the year while Raonic became the first Canadian man to reach a Wimbledon singles final.
On the women’s side Serena Williams reached her third final at the majors for the year and Angie Kerber was across the net, this time Serena turned the tables from about six months before and won the Championship for the seventh time. She tied Stephanie Graf with 22 majors, two behind the all-time record held by Margaret Court.
A day later Murray and Raonic played the men’s final. With the crowd led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William and Kate) in the front row of the Royal Box lifting him, Murray captured the nation’s heart and won the title for the second time. He said this time it was for him and it was more appreciated. The first time was just a whirlwind.
Tennis headed down to Rio and the Olympic Games and again there were surprises. The emotions were like waves coming ashore on Copacabana Beach. Murray won gold for the second consecutive Games but it was two Latin American players who stole the limelight – Juan Martin del Potro and Monica Puig.
In the most gripping first round of the year and a repeat of the bronze medal match in London, Delpo faced Djokovic and as he did in 2012, beat him again. The injury prone Argentine was flying, it was a terrific match that ended in floods of tears from both men. Del Potro went on to beat Rafa Nadal in the semis, again tears, while the four set final provided some breathtaking tennis. It was gold Murray, silver del Potro and bronze Kei Nishikori.
Monica Puig was not one of the expected medallists but now even if she does nothing else in her career, she will still be referred to as an Olympic champion. She played the tennis of her life to move through the draw in tennis’ feel good story at the Games. Players like the Williams sisters fell, Radwanska crashed, Muguruza and Wozniacki dropped by the way but Puig stayed firm.
She played her heart out to beat Kerber in the final and again floods of tears began. It was gold Puig, silver Kerber and bronze Petra Kvitova. Puig was later named Best Female Athlete of the Games.
Murray lost the Cincinnati final to Cilic and it was straight to New York and the US Open.
For the second year in a row Serena Williams failed to reach the US Open final, falling in the semis again, this time to Karolina Pliskova. It became Serena’s last event of the season, again for the second straight year. Pliskova was in her first major final and she was taking on Kerber who was guaranteed the world No.1 ranking if she won.
The nerves were showing in a touch and go match and finally the German got it. To win two majors in a year even with Serena still highly competitive is a truly remarkable. Wunderbar Angie!
Nishikori played a huge match to beat Murray in five and reach the semis but then fell to Stan Wawrinka. The frustrations for Djokovic continued. He made the final but lost in four to Wawrinka. For most others reach the US Open final would be brilliant, for Djokovic losing was a disaster.
The season-ending events came around fast. At the BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Singapore, Kerber was there at the end again but was thwarted in the final by Dominika Cibulkova, it was the biggest title of her career. The final of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas in Strasbourg was brilliant as the Czechs won it for the fifth time in six years beating France in the fifth and final rubber.
The BNP Paribas Masters in Paris heralded in a milestone as Murray beat John Isner in the final and became the new world No.1.
The ATP World Tour Finals in London was another spectacle with the year-end No.1 on the line and it went to the line. In the most dramatic finish Murray faced Djokovic, to the winner went that coveted ranking and Murray got it with his ninth title of the season. A great end of the regular season but there was some more to play out.
The final of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas was a fitting climax. Argentina became the 15th nation in the event’s 117 year history to win the amazing trophy. In its fifth final, they won it for the first time coming back from 1-2. Croatia came within a set of winning the Davis Cup. Never before had Del Potro rallied to win from two sets to love down but he did against Cilic to level the series 2-2 and then Federico Delbonis was superb in beating Ivo Karlovic in the deciding rubber.
It was a tennis year to remember.