It’s the inaugural Tennis Tipster awards and it’s been quite a year so without further ado, let the ceremony begin!
Overachiever of the Year Award
Winner: Nicolas Almagro
Runner-Up: Robin Soderling
Two players who like to play the big dogs in a small yard are Almagro and Soderling. Almagro cleans up at the smaller clay events but you can understand why, since he gets blown away by Nadal and Ferrer in the bigger tournaments. Soderling follows much the same pattern. He won in Bastad, which is like batting practice for him, clubbing lower tier players all over court. What do these results really achieve except a larger trophy cabinet. At least Soderling can mix it up with the Top 4, which is why Almagro wins this category.
Underachiever of the Year Award
Winner: Fernando Verdasco
Runner-Up: Gael Monfils
Perennial underachiever Monfils, finally won another title this season, to bring his woeful finals record to 4-9. Verdasco on the other hand couldn’t close the deal in any of his 3 finals. Both have exceptional talent but perhaps Monfils is turning a corner in terms of discipline. He flirts with the top 10 and seems to match up against the higher ranked players more than Fernando. Verdasco needs a big season next year to remain a player to be feared, even Feliciano Lopez posed a bigger threat this season.
Newcomer of the Year Award
Winner: Milos Raonic
Runner-Up: Alex Dolgopolov
Raonic’s start to the 2011 season was remarkable. His Sampras-esque style of play proved that he had arrived and not many people saw it coming. Milos made back to back finals in the US, winning in San Jose and just missing out in Memphis. Had it not been for injury, I suspect he would have added to that tally. Dolgopolov is a throwback to Marcelo Rios and could well be as enigmatic and entertaining. It remains to be seen if both players can capitalize on their early season results but along with Bernard Tomic, the next generation looks promising.
Comeback Player of the Year Award
Winner: Alex Bogomolov Jr.
Runner-Up: Juan Martin Del Potro
Del Potro did go from being ranked 485 to 11 in 2011, but we all know he’s a top 10 or top 5 player, so I was not that surprised. For me, what is more surprising is a guy who a few years ago was coaching college tennis. Bogo was born in Russia and his Dad s a top coach to the likes of Andrei Medvedev, so a slap in the face to the USTA, now that he’s discovering his roots and wants to play Davis Cup for Mother Russia. Next season will be exciting for Bogo fans that’s for sure.
Veteran of the Year Award
Winner: Juan Carlos Ferrero
Runner-Up: Radek Stepanek
For a guy that’s picked up some injuries as well, Juan Carlos really impressed me. He won in Stuttgart on his return from injury and hasn’t shown any fragility since. He still has what it takes to challenge the best and not just on clay. Stepanek is a player who is hard to shake off and his style of play by keeping the points short, paid dividends. One of his biggest career wins, came this year in Washington and you can bet he’ll be back to defend next year with as much mojo.
Season to Forget Award
Winner: Marcos Baghdatis
Runner-Up: David Nalbandian
It all looked so promising for the Bagman at the start of the year. With a new fitness regime in place, he was meant to ‘do a Mardy Fish’, but maybe Marcos is better off on the pasta diet? Considering Baggy’s talent, this season has been a big disappointment with 27 losses to his name. As for another talent, Nalbandian, the writing’s on the wall after successive injuries, which is sad since many of his peers like Federer and Fish seem a much younger 30. He has publicly stated 2012 will be his last year, let’s hope it ‘s injury free.
Tournament of the Year Award
Runner-Up: London World Tour Finals
A tough category, but I have to give props to Wimbledon for continuing to blend tradition with modernism. They unveiled a new court 2 with some improvements to other outside courts and the surface continues to create great matches if a little slower than in previous decades. The season closer at the O2 Arena is building a strong reputation with the players and fans alike. It’s also a successful collaboration between the ATP and ITF, which is not always the case. Nice to see a proper use for the Millennium structure as well!
Challenger Player of the Year Award
Winner: Cedrik Marcel Stebe
Runner-Up: Carlos Berlocq
The Challenger tour is a strange beast. Some players are forever doomed to play them, some top players drop down to pick up points or come back from injury and some young players come up through the ranks in order to begin getting main draw appearances. Stebe is in the latter group while Berlocq you could argue is in the former after 12 years on tour. With 5 titles, Berlocq needs mentioning but Stebe is one to watch headed into 2012.
Golden Bagel Award
Winner: Novak Djokovic
Runner-Up: Janko Tipsarevic
There must be something in the water in Serbia. These two served up a combined 24 bagels, enough for a bakery.
Bad Apple Award
Winner: Philipp Petzschner
Runner-Up: Daniel Koellerer
Petzschner put on a show at the US Open with some bad sportsmanship, which helped himself and Jurgen Melzer claim the doubles crown. With 50 cameras on you, that’s not cool and everyone knows it. What everyone doesn’t know was if Crazy Dani Koellerer took illegal bets but his life ban from tennis was a long time coming for general ass-clowning on the tour.
Lifetime Achievement in Tennis Award
Winner: Andre Agassi
Runner-Up: Oscar Hernandez
Agassi was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame this summer, which alone wins his this modest award. That aside, his charter school and contribution to society is remarkable. Hernandez, recently retired, has battled back from post-surgery problems and a rare complication that affects just one in 1,000 patients so deserves a mention.
Player of the Year Award
Winner: Novak Djokovic
Runner-Up: Mardy Fish
Anyone who thinks that Djokovic doesn’t deserve this needs their head examined, so let’s give props to Mardy Fish who is almost 30 and has had the year of his life. He dropped 30 pounds and found a way to win consistently and scare the top players for real this time. Fish swam in the shadow of Andy Roddick for years, but now gracefully accepted his place as USA’s top guy with modesty and class. If this year was his breakthrough then next year might see at least a Masters Series win or two. For Djokovic, is it humanly possible to repeat 2011?
Tennis Nation of the Year Award
A new kid is on the block were 2010 Davis Cup winners Serbia, the most improved nation boasting Djokovic, Tipsarevic, Troicki and doubles specialist Zimonic. Tipsarevic had a break through year wining his maiden title plus one more and now threatens the top 10. Spain are pound for pound the best with 4 players in the top 25 and a steady stream of promising players.
That’s a wrap. I’ll leave you with some of the best points of 2011. Thanks for reading and see you next year!