The second half of the tennis season certainly created many topics of conversation and controversaries were created. We pick things up as the grass court season begins in June.
And onto the grass tennis went as the season moved from one extreme of surface to the other. Roger Federer returned to the tour after close to three months off and won Stuttgart for the first time and went back to the No.1 ranking. He also made the final at Halle while at Queen’s Marin Cilic won the title beating Novak Djokovic who at lost looked like he had begun to turn his miserable season around.
This year at Wimbledon opportunities went abegging. So many big names kept crashing out and in the end, it was Novak Djokovic winning it for a fourth time while Angie Kerber claimed the title for the first time and became the second German woman and the first since Stephanie Graf to do so.
Djokovic defeated Kevin Anderson in the final in straight sets, but Anderson had set point in the second. He was the first South African to reach the Wimbledon final since 1921. He played two of the most talked about matches, probably of the year (certainly Wimbledon) leading to the final. He survived match point to beat Roger Federer and in the semis survived John Isner 26-24 in the fifth – the lo gest semi ever played at Wimbledon and the second longest match played there – the longest was the infamous 70-68 fifth set match Isner won in 2010.
Kerber accounted for Serena Williams in the final which was a remarkable achievement by Serena considering her baby was born only ten months before. For Kerber it was her third major title.
The North American tour was well and truly underway. Alexander Zverev won Washington over Alex De Minaur. Rafa Nadal claimed Toronto over Stefanos Tsitsipas who upset Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev, while Simona Halep stood out as the champion in Montreal, but it was in Cincinnati where there was much talk (besides the incessant rain) over Djokovic.
He beat Roger Federer in the final and snapped Federer’s run of 100 consecutive service games won. But, by wining the title Djokovic became the first man to win every one of the Masters 1000 events at least once. He claimed what is known as the “Golden Masters”. The women’s title went to Kiki Bertens who saved match point to beat Halep.
Off court the most controversial discussion centred around Davis Cup as the ITF, at its AGM in Orlando voted to change the Davis Cup format starting in 2019. It had to get a two thirds majority, it passed by 71%.
The remarkable second half of the season for Novak Djokovic continued to set the pace as he won the US Open with a commanding win over Juan Martin Del Potro. This was another major that saw upsets galore and probably the most dramatic was the defeat of Roger Federer at the hands of Aussie John Millman. It was an amazing, very late night match in oppressively humid conditions.
Defending champion Rafa Nadal fell to Del Potro, retiring with a knee injury during the match which eventually ruled him out for the rest of the year. However, through all the matches and at times crazy scores and awful heat, the US Open in 2018 will be remembered for one match ... the women’s final and the controversy that ensued.
Serena Williams was chasing a record seventh title and a record equalling 24th major as she played surprise finalist Naomi Osaka who was the first Japanese woman and second Japanese p[layer to reach the final of a major.
Serena was warned for coaching, she addressed the chair umpire Carlos Ramos but then went on a tirade in which she smashed a racquet which resulted in another warning and a point penalty. She was in a rage and called Ramos a “thief” and a “liar” which resulted in a warning for verbal abuse and in turn a game penalty. She turned it into a sexist issue and that was proven to be wrong. She was fined $17,000.
The sad part was that Osaka amazing performance with the 6-2, 6-4 win was overshadowed. She even apologised for winning. The joy she should have had was taken away.
The Novak Djokovic train was still on the track and shunting away. He won the Rolex Shanghai Masters for a record fourth time beating Borna Coric, who beat Roger Federer in the semis, in the final.
The BNP Paribas WTA Championships were played in Singapore for the final time and it was won by Elina Svitolina which was her biggest career title. She beat Sloane Stephens in the final 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
The Paris Masters went to Karen Khachanov in stunning fashion. He beat Novak Djokovic in the final after the Serb had beaten Roger Federer in the semis in probably the best three set match of the year. For the young Russian it was his biggest title.
The Next Gen Finals in Milan went to Stefanos Tsitsipas over Alex De Minaur while the ATP Finals in London seemed to miss a bit of fire with matches – just one match went three sets but in the end the semis did feature the top four seeds – Djokovic, Federer, Zverev and Anderson. Novak beat Kevin and Sascha beat Roger.
The German closed out his year in style by stunning Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 and it was his biggest title. That seemed to be the line for much of the year. Still, Novak claimed the year-end world No.1 ranking and became the first man to go from outside the top 20 to year-end No.1 in a single season.
And by Zverev beating Djokovic it meant that Zverev was the only player in the top 10 to not be in deficit against Djokovic in the head-to-heads, he made it 2-2. And the only players to beat Djokovic in the second half of the year were the young guns – Tsitsipas, Khachanov and Zverev.
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas went to the Czech Republic over the USA 3-0 in Prague. The winning point was claimed by Katarina Siniakova from match points down 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 against Sofia Kenin.
The Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, played for the final time in its present format, was won by Croatia over France 3-1 in Lille. It was Croatia’s second title and the first since 2005. The winning point was claimed by Marin Cilic over Lucas Pouille 7-6, 6-3, 6-3, who has scored the winning point the year before.
And so, the tennis year drew to a close for 2018. It was definitely eventful.