Ranking the Slams
From marquee matches to feisty feuds, to major meltdowns and the tennis Twitter, and all of fashion faux-pas and sexy, skillful shots in between, SI Tennis' Year-End Awards have the entire span of the 2014 tennis season covered. Check back throughout the month of December to see the best and worst of the season.
Men's Champion: Novak Djokovic (d. Roger Federer, 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4)
Women's Champion: Petra Kvitova (d. Eugenie Bouchard, 6-3, 6-0)
Men's Doubles Champions: Jack Sock/Vasek Pospisil (d. Bob and Mike Bryan, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-5)
Women's Doubles Champions: Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci (d. Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic, 6-1, 6-3)
For the second straight year, Wimbledon takes the strawberries and cream cake for the best Slam of the year, thanks to a first week that yielded big upsets and controversy and a second week that delivered two (in their own way) compelling finals. Serena Williams took her second loss of the year to Alize Cornet, losing 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the third round, then wobbled out of the tournament completely a few days later when she had to retire from doubles with a viral illness that left her looking incapacitated on court. Then 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios pulled off the biggest upset of the season, blasting Nadal off the court in the fourth round with a 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3 win in his Centre Court debut.
But the biggest "what if" match of the tournament came five days into the tournament, when Petra Kvitova narrowly edged Venus Williams 5-7, 7-6 (2), 7-5 in the third round. If not for the French Open final that came just three weeks before, Kvitova and Venus' masterclass of grass court women's tennis would have been the women's match of the year.
Kvitova rode the confidence she gained from that match all the way to the title match, where she dominated Eugenie Bouchard in the final in the most assertive Slam final performance of the year. Bouchard, 20, added some major intrigue to the fortnight as well, as she charmed the British tabloids -- she's named after British royalty! Let's adopt her! -- and slugged her way through the draw to make her first Slam final without losing a set.
The men's final elevated what was already a fantastic two weeks into one of the best Slams we've seen in years. Djokovic and Federer took care of business in the semifinals, putting an end to Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic'syouthful runs and then battled it out for nearly four hours in a five-set classic under the sun in the final showdown.
Djokovic came into the match battling the mental demons from a string of near-misses on the Grand Slam stage. Federer looked poised to turn back the clock and win his first Slam since 2012. The match had all the momentum swings you would want in a final encounter: Federer stole the first set, Djokovic scrapped his way to a lead by winning the next two, then Federer saved a championship point late in the fourth set (with the assistance of Hawk-Eye) to force a final set. Djokovic was the grittier player in the end to win his second Wimbledon title and regain the No. 1 ranking from Nadal.
Wimbledon men's final highlights:
Men's Champion: Rafael Nadal (d. Djokovic, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4)
Women's Champion: Maria Sharapova (d. Simona Halep, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4)
Men's Doubles Champions: Julien Benneteau/Edouard Roger Vasselin (d. Marcel Granollers/Marc Lopez, 6-3, 7-6 (1))
Women's Doubles Champions: Peng Shuai/Hsieh Su-Wei (d. Errani/Vinci, 6-4, 6-1)
When the French got the opportunity to host 256 of the game's best players, the tournament delivered the "No way, did that just happen?" moments day after day after day. Here are some highlights, just from the first week:
Day 1: The French Federation created its own headlines when it announced eight-time champion and No. 1 Nadal would begin his title defense on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Day 2: Stan Wawrinka got bageled and lost to Guillermo Garcia Lopez, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0. Kei Nishikori, who won the Barcelona Open and made the Madrid final a few weeks earlier, didn’t win a set against Martin Klizan.
Day 3: Australian Open champ and 2011 French Open champion Li Na lost to Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 in the first round. Grigor Dimitrov also tumbled out, losing in straight sets to Ivo Karlovic (on clay!).
Day 4: Serena Williams took her worst Slam loss ever when she went down 6-2, 6-2 to Garbine Muguruza. Her sister Venus lost just an hour before her, losing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to 19-year-old Anna Schmiedlova. But it was Taylor Townsend who put on the most electric and dramatic performance of the day with her win over No. 20 Alize Cornet 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen to become the youngest American in the third round in Paris since 2003.
Day 5: Gael Monfils did this:
Day 6: Ajla Tomljanovic knocked out Aga Radwanska 6-4, 6-4 and for the first time in the Open Era the top three women's seeds were out before the fourth round at a Slam.
Day 7: Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils played the most entertaining match and also the worst match of the year. Andy Murray's fourth round against Philipp Kohlschreiber gets suspended for light at 7-all in the fifth set.
The drama didn't die down when the competition turned the corner into the second week. Ernests Gulbis injected the men's tournament with intrigue when he stunned Federer in the fourth round to eventually advance to the semifinals. Andrea Petkovic and Bouchard marched to the semifinals on the women's side. And Maria Sharapova pulled off a Houdini act several times during the week, coming back from losing the first set, and in some cases a handful of points, to win three consecutive three-setters to make her third straight French Open final. That final would go down as the best match of the season, as Sharapova and Halep played an incredibly high-level match from start to finish before Sharapova finally dropped to her knees in celebration after over three hours of play.
Women's final highlights:
The men's final didn't have the quality of the Wimbledon final. After two weeks of playing in heavy and cold conditions, Nadal and Djokovic both showed signs of fatigue on a hot final Sunday. Djokovic led by a set and 5-5 in the second when Nadal took control of the match, winning 20 of the next 26 points and racing to a 3-0 lead in the third and never looking back. The win was his ninth at Roland Garros and 14th major title overall. And so, despite all the chaos over the course of those two weeks in Paris, it was two champions, the two best on clay, hoisting the trophies and providing some semblance of order.
Men's final highlights:
Men's Champion: Stan Wawrinka (d. Nadal, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3)
Women's Champion: Li Na (d. Dominika Cibulkova, 7-6 (3), 6-0)
Men's Doubles Champions: Lukasz Kubot/Robert Lindstedt (d. Eric Butorac/Raven Klaasen, 6-3, 6-3)
Women's Doubles Champions: Errani/Vinci (d. Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5)
Never has a line from Samuel Beckett earned so much airtime. Both Wawrinka and Li, who had great runs in Melbourne the year before and fell short, "failed better" this year. Wawrinka returned to his breakout tournament and played yet another five-set classic against Djokovic. Only this time he won, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7, to end the Serb's three-year reign in Melbourne. A few days later, Wawrinka would become the lowest seed to win a Slam since Gaston Gaudio at the 2004 French Open, beating an injured Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. With Nadal's injury and Wawrinka fighting off the nerves, it was an awkward final. A strong first set of tennis quickly gave way to spotty play, concerns over Nadal's health and a retirement watch. But Nadal gamely finished the match to give Wawrinka his moment.
The women's tournament was a lackluster one, saved only by Li's feel-good win (and, likely, the best winner's speech ever). Ana Ivanovic announced her season with a fantastic performance to beat an injured Serena in the fourth round, as did Bouchard, who then beat Ivanovic to make her first of three Slam semifinals in 2014. But the tournament belonged to Li. She finally won the title she wanted so badly and that had eluded her time and time again. In her third Australian Open final she steeled herself to scratch out the first set and then roll to the title. It wasn't a match we'll cue up to watch every again, but the relief on her face after winning said everything.
Li Na's speech:
Men's Champion: Marin Cilic (d. Kei Nishikori, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3)
Women's Champion: Serena Williams (d. Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-3)
Men's Doubles Champions: Bob and Mike Bryan (d. Granollers/Lopez, 6-3, 6-4)
Women's Doubles Champions: Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (d. Flavia Pennetta/Martina Hingis, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2)
This year's U.S. Open was trucking along like a well-oiled machine until the Cilic and Nishikori shocked everyone by teaming up to derail what was looking to be the second big showdown of the year between Djokovic and Federer. Federer saved two match points in an electrifying night on Arthur Ashe Stadium against Gael Monfils, rallying from two-sets to love down to win 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. A few days later he was rendered a spectator by Cilic, who played the best match of his tournament and won 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Cilic would win the title two days later in an easy straight set win, but the U.S. Open remained Kei Nishikori's tournament. His run to the final was a surprising one given his reputation for being physically soft. He beat Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 in a match that lasted past 2 a.m., then turned around to beat Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(7), 6-7(5), 6-4, and was the more physically resilient man in his 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 upset over Djokovic in the semifinals.
Federer-Cilic semifinal highlights:
On the women's side it was -- finally! -- business as usual. After failing to make the second week at three straight Slams, Serena finally got her hands on No. 18, joining Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova at No. 2 for the most Slam singles titles in the Open Era. Serena was back to her old dominating ways, winning the title without dropping a set and capping it off with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Caroline Wozniacki in the final. She didn't have to face a top ten opponent through the fortnight, but the way Serena had been playing all summer it wouldn't have mattered.