Roundtable: ATP year in review
With the Davis Cup final behind us, the men's season is officially in the books. The players get a nice, long break (what, three weeks isn't enough for you?) to rest for 2012. Since the holidays are a time for reflection, SI.com writers look back on key stories from the men's season that was.
We must mention Donald Young, too. As recently as April, he was the standard bearer for clueless entitlement. After that infamous tweet, it was as if the wires connected and he suddenly got it. Making his bones the old-fashioned way, by earning 'em, he ceased relying on wild cards and coddling and simply started winning matches. Projecting likability and humility while playing with flair, he reached the second week of the U.S. Open and finished the year in the top 40. In terms of tennis years, Young is still relatively young. Part of what makes this story so uplifting is that he saved himself from himself; and now has a chance to fulfill the potential that had so many excited for so many years.
But while Raonic was the "come out of nowhere" surprise, it was Janko Tipsarevic who surprised me the most. Here's a guy that was completely written off as a career journeyman, forever to reside somewhere between the 20s and 40s, destined for a big upset every once in a while but otherwise quite forgettable. A nine-year pro at 27 years old, Tipsarevic hadn't even won a Tour-level title. He was remembered for his tattoos, his glasses, and his reflective, articulate press conferences after he came so close to pulling off big upsets at the Slams. Tipsarevic was hampered by injuries through much of 2011, but he kept grinding away and was finally rewarded in the fall. The man who was the highest ranked player not to win a title finally won one, in Kuala Lumpur, and from there, his confidence soared. He picked up another title in Moscow a few weeks later, and backed that up by making the final in St. Petersburg. With that Tipsarevic broke into the Top 10 for the first time, qualified for London, and beat Djokovic in three sets while serving as an alternate. A 40-spot ranking jump is one thing. But to break into the Top 10 when you've never even had a sniff? That's impressive.
2) Tennis will shine at the Olympics. It tends to be an overlooked sport at the Summer Games. As well it should be. Let some of the amateurs soak up the glory and air-time. But next year at the London Games, tennis will held on the grass at Wimbledon and the mixed doubles competition is an easy storyline. Sorry, rhythmic gymnasts and kayakers; when Serena Williams and Andy Roddick are on the same side of the net, it will siphon attention.
3) The Olympics hold tremendous allure for players. When they are over, a good many players will be left to wonder, "What's left for me to achieve?" While Federer will not be among them, a rash of mature players will likely call it a career around the time of closing ceremonies.
4) The U.S. Open will announce creative plans for a covered court. We can dream, can't we?