The 2017 season has finally come to an end and we’ve got three words to describe it. What. A. Season. This was one of the most entertaining seasons in a long time. It was jampacked with a back to the future domination by two icons of the game, a major push by players we’ve long waited for to announce their readiness for the big stage, one of the most beautiful tennis weddings ever, and some heart-wrenching moments all around. This season had a little bit of everything.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the memorable stories from the ATP. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the WTA.
1. Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal (2017 Australian Open Final)
It is hilarious that at the start of the season, everyone was projecting a year dominated by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Murray had put together an inspired later part of the 2016 season, winning just about every tournament in sight, en-route to grabbing the World number one ranking for the first time in his career. And while Novak Djokovic hadn’t been firing on all cylinders, he was still… Novak Djokovic. Most people predicted that Djokovic, always the chaser, just needed someone else to hunt down to find his predatory form. This time, that person was Andy Murray. By the time the Australian Open came, almost everybody had penciled down a final featuring the then world number one, Murray, against Novak Djokovic who held the second position in the rankings.
Apparently, Roger and Rafa had other ideas. Over a period of two weeks, they took us back to a time when these two phenomenal players would out – tennis their opponents on the way to a final showdown that was usually a blockbuster. This one was no different. Federer and Nadal combined to give us the epic grand slam final of the year and surely one of the greatest grand slam finals ever played. This one was talked about for months after.
2. Federer’s Sunshine Double
The sunshine double is one of the hardest feats in tennis. Many great players fall short of accomplishing this arduous task simply because they are great at one tournament and not so good at the next or have had some tough luck over the years. Just ask Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. Federer continued what was then still a surprising resurgence by capturing both titles at Indian Wells and Miami. In both tournaments, he defeated Rafael Nadal without dropping a set. In doing so, Federer won the Sunshine Double for the third time in his illustrious career. It was after the Miami final that tennis pundits began contemplating the possibility of a throwback year from these two.
3. Tears on Clay
The picture of a Spanish player sobbing uncontrollably as a knee injury prevented him from competing, is probably etched in the minds of many tennis fans. That player was Nicolas Almagro. During his second round French Open match against Juan Martin Del Potro, a recurring knee injury forced him to throw in the towel. Nico broke. It was definitely not a scene for the faint of heart. It reminded us of how much these athletes put their bodies on the line to do what they love doing. We see them break their bodies, stitch it back up and get back to the grind and we think nothing of it. However, if we could imagine some impairment repeatedly stopping us from chasing our dreams, we might just begin to understand what Almagro was going through in that moment. We can only wish him the best in the future. He’s a phenomenal talent and deserves to play through his career on his own terms.
4. La Decima
Shrugging off the disappointment of the spring hard court season, Rafael Nadal got on his beloved clay and proceeded to annihilate the opposition with a world-class display of clay court tennis. The only tournament he did not win during the clay swing was the Rome Masters. He quickly shrugged off that disappointment too. What Nadal did to his opponents during the French Open was nothing short of brutal. He spun his heavy forehand at them with such unmatched ferocity, that no one could stop his charge or slow him down. Rafael Nadal won the French Open, without dropping a set. In so doing, he became the first man to win a single grand slam, ten times. It was a feat worthy of legend.
5. Ro8er, Ro8er
Not to be outdone by his all-time rival, Roger Federer – after avoiding the decimation Nadal wrought on the field during the clay swing – returned to action for the very brief grass-court swing. He played exactly three tournaments and won two without dropping a set. One of those tournaments was Wimbledon. This was Federer at his very best in 2017. His play was absolutely phenomenal and it became clear as the tournament progressed that no one could stop Federer – not when he was playing like this. The grand slam victory gave Roger Federer another standalone record. He became the first male tennis player to win Wimbledon eight times, breaking a three-way tie between William Renshaw, Pete Sampras and himself.
6. Tears on Grass
There were a lot of manly tears on the ATP circuit this season. Marin Cilic was the next to shower the court with his emotions. This was on an even bigger stage than Nicolas Almagro’s breakdown. The venue was Center Court, Wimbledon. The round? Championship match. Opponent? Roger Federer. Marin Cilic had not just defeated Federer. Cilic was crying because he sensed he could not defeat Federer. There were two reasons for this. The first was that Federer was playing lights out tennis, as he had been doing all tournament. The second reason was that Cilic had painful blisters on his foot. They prevented the big Croat from moving well or pushing off his foot to generate any significant power. Cilic, a grand slam champion, knew these chances don’t come around easily and it must have dawned on him that a golden chance to become a Wimbledon champion, was slipping away. Had Federer not won his eighth championship with this victory, I suspect Cilic’s tears would have been the story of the final.
7. Mass Exodus
It started right after Novak Djokovic retired from his quarterfinal match against Tomaz Berdych at Wimbledon. He pulled the plug on his season, citing an elbow injury that had been hindering him for most of the season. In the following months, a couple of big names followed Novak Djokovic out of competitive tennis for the rest of the year. Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Murray all shut down their season. That sort of top-tier exodus, smack in the middle of the season, was unprecedented. It should inspire a discussion about the tennis schedule at some point. The exodus meant that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – already in dominant forms – could have a field day with the rest of the field. Not quite.
8. The Shapovalov Fever
“It all started in Montreal.”
One day someone just might make that statement as they try to explain the greatness of Denis Shapovalov to a tennis enthusiast who is a bit too young now. Going into the second North American hard court swing, many pundits wondered who would capture the U.S Open. Roger or Rafa. It made sense. These two had combined to sweep the first three grand slams of the year. There was no reason to think one of them wouldn’t grab the last one. While that is exactly what happened, the journey was not without its dangers. The first danger was a relatively unknown Canadian named Denis Shapovalov. When the Canadian teen backed up his victory over Del Potro with a globe shocking upset of Rafael Nadal, many people began reassessing the Spaniard’s chances. Shapovalov’s fearless personality, his smooth shotmaking talent and his down to earth persona have quickly made him a fan favorite.
9. The Laver Cup
In our opinion, this was the best exhibition ever put together. The Laver Cup’s unique format of pitting the best of Europe against the best of the rest of the World, made for exciting clashes, entertaining team spirit and the chance to see some of the game’s greatest players – past and present – come together with the common purpose of winning.
The scoring format also made for fast-paced sets and a nerve-wracking ten-point tiebreak should a decider be needed.
That a tournament like this honored Rod Laver made it even more special. We can’t wait for the 2018 edition.
10. Grigor Dimitrov
When Grigor Dimitrov skipped the 2014 version of this tournament, many tennis fans thought he was being a bit overconfident and brash. He didn’t know that a chance to play at the O2 arena was one so many players would relish. That was three years ago. Since then, Dimitrov has come a long way with regards to his physicality and his professionalism. During the world tour finals, Dimitrov fell into the proverbial zone and refused to come out of it. Even an inspired performance from David Goffin in the finals was not enough to prevent the inevitable.
Dimitrov has stated that he will focus on staying consistent and doing much better in the grand slams in 2018. That’s good news for us. His play during the world tour finals was definitely one of the stories of the year.
So what do you think about our list? Do you have some inclusions on the ATP side that you’d like to see? If you have any input, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org