Last year Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer turned back the hands of time and dominated tennis as they had done when they where young. But the return of Novak Djokovic spoilt this year’s journey.
After the pair shared last year’s Grand Slams, winning two each, it seemed they would continue with their dominance.
Nadal started this year at the top of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings; Federer won his record 20th Grand Slam at the Australian Open.
At the age of 36 years and 173 days, Federer became the second-oldest man to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era after Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open at 37.
He was quoted on Tennis.com website saying: “I’ve won three Slams now in 12 months. I can’t believe it myself.”
And there was no sign he was ready for his resurgent run to stop. “I just have to keep a good schedule, stay hungry, then maybe good things can happen. I don’t think age is an issue.”
SLIDE Rafael Nadal slipped down the rankings
Nadal later won the second Grand Slam of the year taking home his favourite French Open. It was the 32-year-old’s 11th Roland-Garros title, making him the only player who has won a single Grand Slam more than any other player. In total, he now has 17 Grand Slam titles, three behind Federer.
At this point Nadal and Federer were exchanging position one and two. But their success was turned upside down when the Serbian started blocking their way.
After recovering from an elbow injury, Djokovic came to Wimbledon ranked outside the top 20, but fought all the way to the final where he defeated South Africa’s top-ranked Kevin Anderson.
Anderson had beaten Federer in the quarterfinals and played the second-longest Wimbledon match in the semifinal against American John Isner.
The match lasted six hours and 35 minutes.
Djokovic beat his long-time rival Nadal in the semifinals.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion went on to oust Federer at the Cincinnati Masters to win the title. In the process he made history by becoming the first player to win all nine Masters tournaments.
DOWN Roger Federer failed to maintain last year’s form
Then he was world number 10. Heading to the US Open in August, he was favourite to clinch the title that was won by Nadal the previous year. The Spaniard later retired in the semifinal from a knee injury while playing Argentinian Juan Martín del Potro.
Then in the final Del Potro succumbed to Djokovic, resulting in his third US title. The two Grand Slams of this year out of four were won by a man who played with an injury in the first half of the season.
“If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery done that I’d win Wimbledon, the US Open and Cincinnati, it would have been hard to believe,” Djokovic said.
“But at the same time there was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I could get back to the desired level of tennis very soon,” he told the New York Times after the win.
This led Djokovic to climb to position three in the ATP ranking.
At the Shanghai Masters he continued his form reaching the final without dropping a set.
He won the trophy and leap-frogged Federer, taking his second position in the ATP ranking. Federer had entered this tournament as the defending champion.
Nadal’s withdrawal at the year-ending ATP Finals guaranteed Djokovic that he would finish the year at the summit of the rankings, although he lost to 21-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany in the final last month in London.
So, in a nutshell, this was Djokovic’s year. Let’s see what next year holds for him. Will he continue to dominate? Will his two old foes recover their form or will a new name, such as Anderson, dominate the headlines?
Those questions will be answered around this time next year.