2009 IN REVIEW
The Players Of The Year
by ATP Staff|
Take a look back at the players who in 2009 had every reason to be delighted with their seasons...
When Roger Federer began the season crying on the shoulder of Rafael Nadal after losing an epic Australian Open final, it seemed improbable that the Swiss would go on to have one of his greatest campaigns.
Federer was made to wait until Madrid in May to win his first ATP World Tour title of the year, but it sparked an outstanding run for the Swiss. The 28 year old went on a 21-match winning streak taking in back-to-back victories at Roland Garros, where he completed the career Grand Slam, and Wimbledon, where he won a record-breaking 15th major singles title.
Federer, who also married long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec and became father to twin girls in 2009, was denied by Juan Martin del Potro in his fourth Grand Slam final of the year at the US Open, but his outstanding efforts during the season were rewarded at the conclusion as he reclaimed the crown of ATP World Tour Champion.
When he won four successive ATP World Tour titles in the summer of 2008, Juan Martin del Potro signalled he would be one to watch this season and the Argentine more than exceeded expectations as he clinched his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
The 21 year old had posted solid results in the first half of the season, most notably triumphing in Auckland (d. Querrey). The Tandil native came into his own on the North American hard courts though, defeating Andy Roddick to capture the Washington title and coming close to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy with a runner-up finish in Montreal (l. to Murray).
At 6’6’’, del Potro became the tallest-ever Grand Slam winner when he crushed Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals in Flushing Meadows before edging Roger Federer in an epic final tussle. The right-hander capped his stellar season with a runner-up effort at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he once again got the better of Federer.
Although he did not end Great Britain’s 33-year-wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion, coming closest with a semi-final effort (l. to Roddick) amidst “Murray Mania” at Wimbledon, Andy Murray turned in another hugely impressive season. The 22-year-old Scot finished the season with an ATP World Tour-best six titles and was just one game away from qualifying for the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
The Dunblane native was especially potent in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 play in 2009 – clinching two titles at the Sony Ericsson Open (d. Djokovic) in Miami and the Rogers Cup (d. del Potro) in Montreal; also finishing runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Following his victory in Montreal, the Scot rose to a career-high No. 2 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings and maintained the position for four weeks – making him the highest-ranked British player in ATP history (since 1973) and the first player to break the Federer-Nadal stronghold on the top two spots since Lleyton Hewitt ranked No. 2 on 18 July, 2005.
Since winning his 11th tour-level title at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open in October 2003, the same year he triumphed at Roland Garros, Juan Carlos Ferrero had endured a barren spell of over five years before hitting back in style in 2009.
Having fallen to No. 115 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, the former World No. 1 ended his title drought by lifting the trophy at the Grand Prix Hassan II (d. Serra) in Casablanca in April, but was to drop outside the Top 100 again before a stellar grass-court showing firmly re-established him back inside the game’s upper echelons.
The Spaniard advanced to the semi-finals at the AEGON Championships at the Queen’s Club before reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the second time; he was to be felled by home favourite Andy Murray on both occasions. Solid performances from the 29 year old for the remainder of the season, including a runner-up finish at the ATP Studena Croatia Open, saw him finish at No. 23 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings.
Having won just nine tour-level matches in the first five months of the season, there were few clues as to the impact Robin Soderling was about to make at Roland Garros. The Swede came into the clay-court major on an improved run of form, after winning three round-robin matches at the ATP World Team Championship, and stunned the tennis world as he put together a remarkable run to reach his first Grand Slam final.
In the fourth round, Soderling handed four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal his first-ever defeat at Roland Garros and went on to set up a final clash with Roger Federer. The Tibro native could not complete the fairytale, but the seeds had been sewn for the remainder of the year.
Finally delivering on his promise, under the guidance of former World No. 2 Magnus Norman, Soderling won his fourth ATP World Tour title in Bastad and a quarter-final effort at the US Open helped him to earn a spot in the elite eight-man field at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he reached the semi-finals. The 25 year old finished the year a career-high No. 8 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings.
Veteran German shot maker Tommy Haas, who throughout his career has battled a succession of injuries, including three shoulder surgeries, entered 2009 with few expectations. But after re-uniting with old coach Thomas Hogstedt, the 31 year old began what he called his “third career”.
Battling just to remain in the Top 100 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings early in the year, the former World No. 2 came within millimetres of serving for a straight-sets victory over Roger Federer in the Roland Garros fourth round.
Haas, who had dropped to No. 87 on 23 March, then won his first grass-court ATP World Tour title in front of home fans at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle – stunning World No. 4 Novak Djokovic in the final. He then defeated the Serb again less than three weeks later in the Wimbledon quarter-finals as he reached the semi-finals at the All England Club for the first time (l. to Federer). That success propelled him onto a Top 20 finish at No. 17, proving the veteran German will be a force to be reckoned with in the New Year.
Radek Stepanek took more than 150 tournaments to win his first two ATP World Tour titles. But the Czech veteran won two titles (Brisbane and San Jose) in his first four outings in 2009 and also reached the Memphis final in his fifth event of this season.
At 31, he remains one of the hardest workers and fittest players on tour. In September he toiled for more than six hours and survived a record 78 aces to beat Ivo Karlovic 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 16-14 in Davis Cup play as he helped take the Czech Republic into the Davis Cup final.
Exciting to watch with his improvisation and regular forays to the net, Stepanek finished the season with a career-high year-end South African Airways ATP Ranking of No. 12. He is also the oldest member of the year-end Top 20.