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2010 Players Of The Year - Djokovic, Murray, Soderling

Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic won two titles in 2010, but called Serbia's Davis Cup triumph the highlight of the season.

ATPWorldTour.com reviews the best players of the year, beginning with the World No. 3 to No. 5.

Novak Djokovic

For the fourth straight year, Novak Djokovic finished as the world’s No. 3 player. But in contrast to the previous seasons, 2010 was crowned not by his individual achievements, but by the collective effort of the Davis Cup team.

Djokovic was the backbone of the Serbian squad, going 7-0 in singles rubbers to lead the nation past the United States, Croatia, the Czech Republic and France. In the final, he kept the country’s hopes afloat after it’d fallen behind 0-1 and 1-2, drawing Serbia level with France each time and giving countryman Viktor Troicki the chance to become the hero with victory in the Cup-clinching fifth rubber.

Showing their solidarity, the 2008 Australian Open champion and teammates followed through on their promise of shaving their heads if they won the Davis Cup, each taking turns to complete the ritual on centre court at Belgrade Arena. Djokovic stated afterwards, “This is by far, individually and for the team, the best achievement in our career by far… Definitely the best feeling that we have experienced on a tennis court, ever."

In 2010, Djokovic also managed to break – albeit temporarily – the stronghold of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top two spots in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, holding down the No. 2 position for 26 weeks during the season and entering Roland Garros in a three-way battle for the No. 1 ranking.

At the US Open, Djokovic took part in one of the most memorable matches of the season when he saved two match points to defeat Federer in a five-set semi-final. Though he lost to Nadal in his third appearance in a Grand Slam final, Djokovic collected titles No. 17 and 18 during the season as he successfully defended his crowns at Dubai and Beijing.

But he finished the year with two question marks going into 2011. Can he finally push higher than No. 3 in the year-end rankings next season, and will he go a third year without adding to his first Grand Slam title won at the 2008 Australian Open?

Andy Murray

MurrayThe weight of a nation’s expectations was never more evident than at this year’s Australian Open. Andy Murray had fueled Great Britain’s hopes of its first Grand Slam champion since 1934, getting his 2010 campaign off to a stellar start as he made his way into the championship match without losing a set. But in a repeat of the 2008 US Open final, the Scot came up short to Roger Federer and said during a tearful trophy presentation, “Sorry I couldn't do it for you tonight. I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him.”

But Murray showed that he could indeed play like Federer; his best results of the 2010 season would come against the Swiss, whom he would meet on the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 stages at Toronto and Shanghai. He defeated Federer in straight sets on both occasions to claim the titles, with his triumph at Toronto made sweeter by his victory over Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. Murray, who became the fifth different player to defeat Federer and Nadal in the same tournament, said, “Winning a tournament is always great, but it's the first time I beat Roger and Rafa in the same tournament, which is probably the most pleasing thing, and then didn't drop a set against either of them.”

Murray also posted solid results in the U.K. capital, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals for a second straight year – with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in attendance – and the semi-finals at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he lost to Nadal in one of the best matches of the year. Murray reclaimed the No. 4 ranking with his showing at the season-ending finale, marking the first time in 25 years that the same quartet of players finished among the Top 4 for three straight years.

Robin Soderling

SoderlingRobin Soderling’s 2010 season started off with surprising first round exits at Chennai and the Australian Open, leaving some observers to wonder if his stunning 2009 breakthrough was a one-off.

But the Swede brushed aside memories of the rocky start by winning the ATP World Tour 500 title in February at Rotterdam and continued his climb in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings with semi-final showings at the hard-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami and a runner-up finish on clay in Barcelona.

One year removed from his breakout performance at Roland Garros, the Swede proved that his run was no fluke. He played the role of giant killer for a second straight year, ousting defending champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, and finished the week second to only Rafael Nadal. He continued to prove his status as one of the circuit’s best as he reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time and at the US Open for a second straight year.

Soderling’s consistency following the year’s final major helped him attain a career-high No. 4 ranking, as he reached the quarter-finals or better in all six of his tournament appearances to conclude the regular ATP World Tour season, capped by his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Masters.

“I feel like I’m improving and I like being a top player," said Soderling, who finished the year at No. 5. "It is what I have worked hard for. This is where I want to be.”

Tomorrow: Nadal & Federer

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