2010: Rafa & Roger reigned again
By Scott Riley,
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It should come as no surprise that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, once again in 2010, accounted for all four of the Grand Slam titles.
I don't want to say that this is getting boring, considering that when all the smoke clears Federer and Nadal may end up being the two greatest players of all time, but only two other men have captured major titles over the last five years. Serbian star Novak Djokovic won the 2008 Aussie Open and towering Argentine Juan Martin del Potro captured the 2009 U.S. Open, otherwise it's been all Roger and Rafa.
Federer and Nadal have accounted for four of the last five Oz Open titles; the last six French Open crowns; the last eight Wimbledon championships; and six of the last seven U.S. Open titles. They've hogged up 25 of the last 30 Grand Slam titles all told.
Federer, of course, is the men's all-time leader with his eye-popping 16 Grand Slam championships, while Nadal is, perhaps, starting to close in, albeit with only nine to this point.
Rafa, who got off to a rough start in '10 when he was forced to retire from his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Andy Murray because of off-and-on knee problems, usurped Roger for the world No. 1 ranking for the second time in the last three years, as the powerful Spaniard piled up a trio of major titles and became only the seventh man in history to corral the career Grand Slam and the first man in 41 years to capture three straight Grand Slam events in one calendar year. "Rocket" Rod Laver was the last male to win three straight majors in one season when he completed a Grand Slam sweep back in 1969.
|Rafael Nadal finished as the year-end No. 1 for the second time in three years after winning the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and French Open.|
Nadal won his fifth French Open title in six years, second Wimbledon crown in three years, and first-ever U.S. Open title, in 2010. The masher from Mallorca had never even reached a U.S. Open final before this year.
The 24-year-old Nadal, a natural right-hander who plays his spectacular brand of tennis as a southpaw, has actually won in his last two trips to Wimbledon, as he missed last year's fortnight due to his well-documented knee issues.
Nadal's amazing '10 campaign saw him pile up a tour-leading seven titles in a tour-lead-tying nine finals. Three of the titles were of the major variety, while three others were prestigious Masters ones, including a title in Monte Carlo, where he ended a frustrating 11-month titleless drought. Rafa became the all-time leader in Masters titles, with 18, when he knocked off Federer in a final in Madrid back in May.
The fierce Nadal was a remarkable 71-10 and earned a record $10,171,998 in prize money this year.
Even Federer had to admit that Nadal was "supreme" this year.
The five-time year-end No. 1 Federer may not be the best tennis player in the world anymore...but No. 2 isn't too bad.
|Roger Federer captured the Australian Open and season-ending ATP World Tour Finals this year.|
The Swiss legend had a sub-par season, by his standards, but still managed to capture at least one Grand Slam title for a record-tying eighth straight year. In the 2000s, he won three majors in one season three times during an unmatched four-year stretch, from 2004-07.
Federer had also reached 18-of-19 Grand Slam finals before stunningly failing to get past the quarterfinals at this year's French Open. The Basel stalwart also failed to reach the Wimbledon final for the first time since 2002 and missed out on playing in the U.S. Open final for the first time since 2003.
Roger actually bowed out in only the quarterfinals at both the French and Wimbledon, and when he lost to Robin Soderling in the quarters at Roland Garros, it ended his unbelievable run of 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals, which had dated back to 2004.
Federer was stunned by big Czech Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarters and suffered a semifinal upset at the hands of Djokovic at the U.S. Open.
The 29-year-old Federer, like his great rival Rafa, also landed in nine finals in 2010, going 5-4. In addition to a fourth career Aussie Open title, Roger also tallied a Masters championship in Cincinnati and closed out his season with a big, big victory over Nadal in the blockbuster finale at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. The Fed was a perfect 5-0 and won 10 of his 11 sets in London.
Unfortunately for us tennis fans, Federer and Nadal met only twice this year, with Rafa prevailing in the Madrid Masters final on home soil and Roger coming out on top last week at London's O2 Arena.
For the record, Nadal is now 14-8 lifetime against Federer, who has won two of their last three meetings.
Note: Federer and Nadal will play each other in some exhibition matches on December 21, in Zurich in Federer's native Switzerland, and 22, in Madrid in Nadal's native Spain, as they look to raise money for their charitable foundations.
Federer, who's currently coached by former Pete Sampras coach and former ATP player Paul Annacone, crossed the '10 finish line at 65-13 on his way to $7.698 million in prize money. His career prize money now stands at a record $61 million.
And Federer has finished no worse than No. 2 over the last eight years.
|Novak Djokovic reached the U.S. Open final and led Serbia to its first-ever Davis Cup title.|
Not too shabby.
Can anyone step up to challenge Nadal and/or Federer in 2011?
Djokovic finished the year at No. 3 thanks to a 61-18 record and a pair of titles. The Serbian star claimed nice wins in Dubai and Beijing and was a runner-up at the U.S. Open and in Basel, where he gave way to the heavy, heavy hometown favorite Federer. The Djoker was unable to solve Nadal in the marquee U.S. Open finale, where the capable Serb lost in the final round in New York for the second time in four years (Federer 2007). Djokovic surprised Federer in a great five-set semifinal battle in New York.
The 23-year-old Djokovic just finished No. 3 in the world for a fourth straight year, which must mean that only Nadal and Federer are better.
Djokovic capped his '10 season in super fashion by leading Serbia to its first-ever Davis Cup title, as the host Serbs came from behind to beat France 3-2 in the dramatic World Group final in Belgrade. Djokovic won both of his singles rubbers in his hometown, as he forced a fifth and deciding match with a dismantling of world No. 12 Gael Monfils. And Viktor Troicki clinched the title for team Serbia with a straight-set beatdown of French lefthander Michael Llodra.
The world No. 4 Murray got off to a pretty good start in '10 by reaching his first-ever Aussie Open final, but the athletic Scot was handled by the mighty Federer there in Melbourne, marking Murray's second setback to the Swiss icon in a Grand Slam final. Federer also got the better of Murray in the 2008 U.S. Open title tilt.
|Andy Murray was an Aussie Open finalist and is ranked No. 4 in the world.|
Murray was a disappointing fourth-round loser against Berdych at Roland Garros and third-round upset victim versus Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka at the U.S. Open this past season. And he was among the favorites at Wimbledon for a second year in a row, but for the second time in two years, the Brit was unable to win a tension-filled semifinal affair at the famed All England Club. Nadal dismissed the Dunblane native this time around, after Andy Roddick doused him there a year earlier.
The 23-year-old Murray, however, did manage to upset the great Federer in a pair of sexy finals, at Masters events in Shanghai and Toronto.
Murray, who has now finished at No. 4 in the world three years running, settled for a 46-18 record this year, including a 2-2 mark in four finals, and cleared just over $4 million in prize money. He did suffer a bit of a drop-off after amassing no less than six titles in 2009.
The aforementioned Soderling looks like the real deal. The Swedish slugger reached the exclusive eight-player World Tour Finals for a second straight season, one in which he went 57-22, including a pair of titles in five finals and a second straight trip into the French Open finale, where he succumbed to, who else, Nadal. Soderling lost to Federer in the '09 Roland Garros final, but he avenged that setback by stunning Federer in the quarterfinals in Paris this year. (Federer would return the favor by beating the Swede in the U.S. Open QFs.)
|Robin Soderling captured his first-ever Masters title this year and has appeared in the last two French Open finals.|
Note: Soderling also fell at the hands of Nadal in this year's Wimbledon quarters.
And speaking of Paris, the 26-year-old world No. 5 Soderling captured his first-ever Masters title by running the table at the Paris Masters last month.
Soderling, who's coached by former world No. 2, former French Open runner-up and fellow Swede Magnus Norman, pocketed just over $3.7 million this year.
Berdych, meanwhile, enjoyed his first-ever top-10 finish, as he had a breakthrough season, of sorts, by landing in his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal, in Paris, and Grand Slam final, at Wimbledon.
The 25-year-old currently rests at No. 6 after reaching at least the final four in two of the last three majors. The Czech slugger went 45-26 and reached a pair of finals in '10, but failed to win a title for the first time since 2006.
In addition to his loss against Nadal in the Wimby final, Berdych also fell against Roddick in a Masters title match in Miami. The 6-foot-5 Czech struggled mightily after landing in that Wimbledon finale, going a dismal 9-15 the rest of the way in '10.
|Tomas Berdych landed in his first career major final at Wimbledon.|
The steady former No. 1 Roddick finished inside the top 10 for an eighth straight year. Unfortunately for the Nebraska native, he still hasn't won a major title since capturing his first, and only, one at the 2003 U.S. Open.
The No. 8 Roddick continues to be the highest-ranked American performer, but he no longer seems to be a championship-type threat at the majors. After pushing Federer to the limit in that epic five-set Wimbledon finale last year, Roddick suffered a third-round exit at the '09 U.S. Open; a quarterfinal setback at the Aussie Open; a third-round loss at Roland Garros; a fourth- round defeat at Wimbledon 2010; and a stunning second-round loss at the most- recent U.S. Open.
I'm sensing a pattern.
The 28-year-old Texas resident did win a pair of titles this year, including the big Miami Masters one back in April, and was the runner-up at two other tourneys, including the Indian Wells Masters event in the California desert. But he was a discouraging 0-3 at the season-ending World Tour Finals and suffered a semifinal loss against Federer in Basel, which dropped the massive- serving American to an embarrassing 2-20 lifetime against the Fed.
Roddick, who also lost to his model/actress wife Brooklyn Decker in an intelligence test earlier this year, came in at 48-18 this season and tallied just under $2 million. He also decided against playing any Davis Cup tennis this past year, as his beloved American squad lost to Djokovic-led Serbia in the opening round back in March.
|Andy Roddick struggled at the 2010 Grand Slams and needs to regroup for 2011.|
Will Roddick return to Davis Cup play for new American captain Jim Courier in 2011?
The latest year-end top 10 also includes No. 7 Spaniard David Ferrer, No. 9 Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and No. 10 Russian Mikhail Youzhny, who reached his second career U.S. Open semifinal before falling to the high-flying Nadal in September. Spain, spearheaded by Nadal, currently leads the way with three top-10 stars.
Whatever happened to the aforementioned del Potro?
The 6-foot-6 Argentine headed into 2010 ranked fifth in the world after stunning Federer in five sets in last year's outstanding U.S. Open final, but after suffering a wrist injury in Melbourne, the Tandil native opted for surgery and was sidelined for eight long months. He plummeted 254 spots and currently sits at 259th in the world.
Delpo finally returned to action in late September, but appeared in only two events, going winless (0-2) in Bangkok and Tokyo.
Hopefully for JMdP he can return to his winning ways in '11.
|Mardy Fish enjoyed a career year and finished inside the top 20.|
Roddick isn't the only American residing in the top 20, as he's joined by Mardy Fish (16th), Sam Querrey (18th) and "Big" John Isner (19th).
Fish enjoyed a 30-pound weight loss and his results improved mightily in '10. The 28-year-old Minnesota native was a solid 40-14 and captured back-to-back titles in Newport and Atlanta at one point. And he reached a Masters final in Cincy, only to lose to Federer in a quality three-setter.
Many thought Fish had a chance to make some serious noise at the U.S. Open, but the American was unable to stave off Djokovic in a fourth-round encounter in Flushing.
Note: Fish went 3-0 against the No. 4 Murray this year, with two of the victories coming at Masters events in Cincy and Miami.
Way to go MF.
The 6-foot-6 Querrey quietly captured four titles in 2010 and was a runner-up in Houston. Unfortunately for the lanky 23-year-old Californian, he failed to reach a quarterfinal anywhere after ousting Murray in a final in Los Angeles on August 1.
The 6-foot-9 Isner made news all over the world by outlasting Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in a Wimbledon opening-round affair in June. Their three-day odyssey resulted in the longest-ever tennis match, smashing several records along the way. The North Carolina native prevailed 70-68 in the seemingly- never-ending fifth set on Court 18 at the AEC. Isner needed 980 points to squeak past Mahut in their 11-hour, 5-minute marathon for the ages. The American scalded a record 112 aces, while Mahut settled for 103. The previous record for aces by a player in a match was 78.
|Carlos Moya became the latest former world No. 1 to call it a career.|
On the retirement front, former No. 1 and former French Open champ Carlos Moya called it a career last month.
The 34-year-old Spaniard was plagued by a right foot injury and decided that 15 years was enough on the ATP World Tour.
The 6-foot-3 Palma de Mallorca native captured the 1998 French Open, was the runner-up at the 1997 Australian Open, and helped Spain win a Davis Cup title in 2004. He went 20-24 in 44 career finals on the circuit, which he joined back in 1995.
Moya, who was ranked No. 1 for two weeks in 1999, finished inside the year-end top 10 on five occasions and was the first-ever Spanish man to reach No. 1.
The '11 season will get underway January 3 in Doha, Chennai and Brisbane, while the first major of the year, the Oz Open, will commence January 17 in Melbourne.