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2010 Players Of The Year - Nadal, Federer

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal became the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam. reviews the best players of the year.

Rafael Nadal

At the start of the clay-court swing, Rafael Nadal’s streak without winning a title had dragged out to 11 months. Who would have predicted at that moment that he would go on to end the year as a runaway ATP World Tour No. 1?

The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters lit the fire under what would go down as arguably one of the best seasons in history. In what he would later call “the most important moment,” Nadal was in devastating form as he dropped just 14 games in five matches – his fewest en route to a title.

Over the next month, the Spaniard triumphed at Rome and Madrid, becoming the first player in history to sweep the clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and giving him a record-breaking 18th Masters 1000 title just shy of his 24th birthday. The clay-court king continued his dominance at Roland Garros, where he regained his throne with victory over Robin Soderling – in the process stripping Roger Federer of the No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking.

A year prior, Nadal had missed out on defending his Wimbledon title due to injury, but he returned to the All England Club ready to reclaim his crown. After surviving a couple of in the early rounds, needing to rally from two-sets-to-one down against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschner, Nadal marched to the title and extended his celebration as he hoisted the World Cup with the Spanish team the following Sunday in Johannesburg. All eyes turned to Flushing Meadows to see if Nadal could complete his Grand Slam collection, and the Spaniard did not disappoint. In a rain-delayed Monday final, he defeated Novak Djokovic to become the youngest man to complete the feat.

Though he was slowed by a shoulder injury in the autumn, Nadal had a chance to complete his fairytale season with a final showdown with Roger Federer at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. He ultimately fell in three sets, but reflected afterwards: “I think [it] was a very emotional season. I am very happy for everything and just [want to] say thank you very much [to] all the people that supported me when I had the difficult moments [and] when I was winning.”

Roger Federer

FedererRoger Federer felt he was playing ‘some of my best tennis of my life’ after claiming the Australian Open title in January, a doubly special occasion for the Swiss, who was celebrating his first Grand Slam title as father to twin daughters.

But where opponents failed on the court, a lung infection set the World No. 1 back just weeks later. Upon his return in mid-March, Federer struggled to regain his form, uncharacteristically failing to convert on match points in losses at Indian Wells and Miami. He bowed out in the Roland Garros quarter-finals, ending his six-year semi-final streak at majors and leaving him one week shy of Pete Sampras on the list of all-time weeks at No. 1. He then made a quarter-final exit at Wimbledon, the first time since 2002 that he had failed to reach the final at the All England Club.

He stepped back out on court a month later, rejuvenated from a family vacation through the Mediterranean and the addition of Paul Annacone to his support team. He stated after a runner-up finish in Toronto, “That's definitely a good sign for what's to come.” True to his word, Federer snapped a seven-month title drought in his next tournament at Cincinnati.

Federer hit his stride in the final months of the season, compiling a circuit-best 21-2 match record following the US Open. He established himself as the player to beat at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after reaching the Shanghai final, and winning Stockholm and Basel back-to-back. At The O2, Federer won his round robin and semi-final matches without the loss of a set, and prevailed against rival Rafael Nadal in the championship match to hoist a record-tying fifth circuit finale title.

“I'm just really happy the way I was able to finish the season in style, playing some of my best tennis, really saving the best for last,” he said. “I believe I can have another great season in 2011.”

Best Players Of 2010 (Nos. 3, 4 & 5)

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