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Reflections on 2014, And a Look at 2015!December 13, 2014
Looking back to 2014 at the majors, the match of the year was the men’s Wimbledon final when Djokovic outlasted Federer in a classic five set marathon. If the result had been reversed, Federer would have not only won his 18th singles major extending his all-time men’s tally, but he most likely would have finished 2014 year-end #1. Instead, Djokovic won his 2nd Wimbledon and ended a major final losing streak that had seen him stuck on six majors for a while. I had picked Federer to win his 8th Wimbledon during our pre-event ESPN.com selections, knowing that in this golden era of men’s tennis, Federer understands grass courts best. He might be my selection again in 2015 in SW19 if he is healthy. I am afraid for his back now that his younger twins are entering the golden era of parents playing on the floor with their kids. When my twins were between one and four years old, my back was often out of whack. Federer is no longer the only Dad at the top of tennis, with Wawrinka being first one, and now Djokovic, we will see which player becomes a parent next? Andy Murray?
The other huge 2014 event for the men was Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic winning at the Australian and US Opens respectively, putting a serious dent into the ability of the “Big Four” in men’s tennis being able to continue to dominate the majors. We may look back in tennis history at the 2014 Roland Garros and 2014 Wimbledon as the last back to back win’s by two different players of the big four. The era, if not over, has certainly made a huge shift. In 2015 many more of the men who have been living in the fifth to fifteenth ranking plus the super talented 19-22 year old up and comers must feel their chance of achieving major tennis glory is not that far away. Speaking of Wawrinka and Federer, well done to Switzerland on their first Davis Cup. While the Davis Cup struggles to gain consistent year-in and year-out support by the top stars of men’s tennis, it would have been a loss for the history of the Davis Cup had the Federer era not produced at least one Davis Cup for his country. He and Wawrinka were Swiss one two punches in Davis Cup competition.
In women’s tennis, Serena Williams continued her amazing march to become the all-time greatest female player. Until the US Open her year in the majors was a disaster by her terms. The Wimbledon doubles disorientation on Court 1 was about the most bizarre thing I have ever witnessed at a major, much less try to convey to the television audience. If that doubles match, after her shocking loss in singles to Alize Cornet, was Serena’s rock bottom for 2014, she responded weeks later in typical champion style. During the US Open Series, Serena played three weeks in a row winning the matches she needed to be confident at the US Open. Serena had to hear hundreds of questions about why her year in the majors had been so disappointing, was her age catching up to her, had her serve, the greatest ever in women’s tennis, lost some of its zip? Serena remained patient, played with confidence, if not yet at her best and marched comfortably through to the finals to play her good friend Caroline Wozniacki. The former #1 had become a sympathetic figure as she had a high profile public break-up with the world’s best golfer and turned to her tennis and running for charity as a method of dealing with the sadness. It worked. Wozniacki played some of her most inspired tennis ever, but was no match for Serena in the Open final, as Serena joined Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with eighteen slams. Serena played her best match in the US Open final, another great trait for champions, to play their best in a final. As far as the match of the year on the women’s side, I have two. The French Open final, when Maria Sharapova outlasted Simona Halep, was a classic battle of contrasting styles, major champion veteran vs. debutant. The quality of the rallies and the drama throughout the three sets was terrific. Halep was a winner too, in defeat, and was especially gracious and mature in her post match press conference as she put her own effort into perspective. Sharapova, after beginning her career not liking clay, has won two of the last three finals at Roland Garros.
My other match of the year came from Wimbledon’s first week; when Kvitova and Venus Williams battled for about 2.5 hours on Centre Court each dropping serve ONCE!! The match was a throwback to an era when especially women on a grass court valued holding serve as much as the men. During that match, I thought Venus if she could win the match, might win Wimbledon again. Instead Kvitova never looked back claiming her second Venus Rosewater dish. Seeing Venus remain relevant and healthy in her mid 30s, along with Genie Bouchard’s major success in a year that she started out as a teenager, were enjoyable contrasts.
Game, Set, and Match to 2014. There is much to look forward to in 2015 and the Australian Open is now just about five weeks away.