It’s time for the second annual Slammy Awards, decided by me alone.
The ‘Roger Federer time-at-the-top longevity award’: Roger Federer
The Swiss just refuses to go away quietly. If he had had a slightly better final week than Novak Djokovic, he would have ended the season as World Number 1 for a record-equalling sixth time at the age of 33. Not bad for someone who was written off for the first time in 2010. He will not be happy that he failed to win a major in 2014, meaning his Slam-less run goes back to Wimbledon 2012 but the fact that he ended the season by winning his first Davis Cup means he is now just an Olympic gold medal short of a career sweep. He will look to add another Slam to his career tally in 2015 before going for Gold in Rio the following year.
The ‘Marion Bartoli/Francesca Schiavone late-bloomer’ award: Stanislas Wawrinka
Stan the Man became the first man to win his first Slam, first Davis Cup and first Masters 1000 title all in the same season, and he is now in his thirtieth year. There was a time little over a year ago when the Top 4 seemed like a mythical far-away land for the rest of the ATP tour, but the Swiss number 2 ridiculed that notion when he gate crashed the top table party in Melbourne in January by stunning both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the space of a few days. Wawrinka’s year after that was solid rather than spectacular and he’ll be disappointed with his showing in the Finals in London, but, like his compatriot Federer, he ended the season by performing tremendously in the Davis Cup final.
The ‘Svetlana Kuznetsova world-is-yours-for-taking’ award: Petra Kvitova
For the second time in four years, the big-serving Czech leftie captured the Venus Rosewater dish in South London, and she once again has the world on her racket. Can she kick on from here, having failed to do so at the end of 2011? My initial reaction was to analyse that after the US Open and, having failed to deliver in New York, it is a big ask to expect her to live up to these high expectations. However, she did end the season pretty well and, with a good off-season behind her, she can push on. She must target a better showing at the Australian Open – only one semi-final appearance is not good enough. I’ll be deeply disappointed if she doesn’t win a different Slam in the next nine months, but it wouldn’t be the first time Kvitova has disappointed. With Serena surely winding down at some point in the near future, Kvitova is the one player who has the ability to hit every other people off the court.
The ‘Juan-Martin Del Potro it’s-a-long-way-back-from-here’ award: Andy Murray
Andy Murray won 17 matches at Grand Slams last year. Most players would give their forehand for a record like that; however for a man who had the tennis world in his grasp when he won that elusive Wimbledon title in July 2013, it was a frustrating year. The 27-year-old Brit/Scot knows full well how hard it is to come back from major surgery. Rafael Nadal was an exception to the rule that dictates that players who undergo such surgery fail to ever recapture their previous level and form. Even the great Mallorcan has failed to recapture his very best form, but most players fall well short. The truth is that Murray had a great year. He almost ended the year back in the Top 4 and by the end of the calendar, he was beating all the players around him in the rankings. However, there is a chasm now between him and Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka and Federer and it gets shown starkly when they meet at major level.
The saddest goodbye: Elena Baltacha
As a British sport fan, it’s still hard to fathom that Bally announced her retirement only 13 months ago. In the following six months, she was diagnosed with liver cancer, she married her husband Nick Saviano, and she finally lost that fight with liver cancer. The fact that she had been playing at Wimbledon in 2013 and at the same event in 2014 people were wearing ‘Rally for Bally’ memorial wristbands really hammered the point home that life is fragile, even for sport stars who we hold in high esteem, like some kind of immortals. Elena Baltacha was never World Number 1, she never got past the third round of a Grand Slam but she was somebody who left everything on court every time she played. The tennis fighter had to succumb in a fight so many cannot win. Her legacy will be felt for years to come through the Elena Baltacha Tennis Academy. The kids that come through there will surely learn how important it is to never give in in a tennis match.
Predictions for 2015
Roger Federer will win one more Grand Slam title, which will ultimately prove to be his last.
Petra Kvitova will retain her Wimbledon title.
Eugenie Bouchard will win the Australian Open.
Serena Williams will win two Grand Slam titles, as will Rafael Nadal.
Agnieszka Radwanska’s collaboration with Martina Navratilova will lead her to a major final, at the very least.
Novak Djokovic will spend most, if not all, of the year at the top of the ranking charts.