Tuesday December 23rd, 2014

Between major retirements, resurgent play from top players and record-breaking wins, the 2014 tennis season was a memorable one. SI's Courtney Nguyen chose her ten favorite moments from the year. 

How Serena got her groove back

Ben Van Hook/SI

Was Serena's odd Wimbledon a sign of final fade or fuel for resurgence?
-- S.L. Price
2014 was yet another quintessentially Serena Williams year, in that it was so confounding on every level that we were left throwing up our hands by the end of July. Although she was so dominant in 2013, Serena's 2014 struggles hit a new low with her wobbly performance at Wimbledon, which began with a terrible third-round loss to Alize Cornet and ended with a dizzy withdrawal from doubles that left some laughing, some worrying and others investigating. Leave it to Serena to respond to all the speculation and criticism by marching all the way to her Slam title at the U.S. Open without dropping a set.

Ernests Gulbis does himself right at the French Open

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Gulbis is learning how good he can be -- Courtney Nguyen

Tennis is an incredibly cruel and lonely sport. And Gulbis, the son of one of the richest men in Latvia, doesn't have to play it. At the start of 2013 he was ranked well outside the Top 100, playing in Challengers and losing. His mom told him to just quit the sport. But there's something about the challenge that calls to him. Every athlete will tell you they play because they love the game. But when it came from Gulbis, after he beat Roger Federer and eventually made his first Slam semifinal the French Open, not even the biggest cynic could argue.

Banking on a breakthrough: The Camila Giorgi Story

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Giorgi has talent to stay on Tour, but finding finances a struggle 
-- Jon Wertheim

It's gauche to talk about money but that's all any tennis player can do these days: there's the ongoing discussion about the merits of equal prize money, the wisdom of unprecedented prize money increases and the debates over how tennis federations should spend (or not spend) their money. But no story this year brought to light the individual financial perils than Jon Wertheim's look into Camila Giorgi's quest to find private backing to bankroll her career.

Eugenie Bouchard's breakout season

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Bouchard a WTA star in the making -- Courtney Nguyen

No other woman made three Slam semifinals this year. Bouchard burst onto the scene at the Australian Open with her first semifinal run, which included lots of stuffed animals, an Army and some Bieber. She did it again at the French Open. And she did one better at Wimbledon, making her first Slam final at 20-years-old. By the time the U.S. Open rolled around she was signing deals with Coca-Cola and leaping on the cover of magazines. 

But don't let all the glitz and glam fool you. If Bouchard showed one thing all season it's that she's cutthroat competitor.

Never ever doubt Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros 

Bob Martin/SI

Relive Nadal's win over Djokovic at the French Open -- Courtney Nguyen

Nadal went into the French Open on the heels of one of the worst clay-court seasons of his career. He won just one title on European clay, via retirement against Kei Nishikori in Madrid. He had lost to David Ferrer in straight sets in Monte Carlo. He lost to Nicolas Almagro in three in Barcelona a week later. After winning Madrid, he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final in Rome. If ever there was a year to say he wasn't the French Open favorite, this was the one. And then he won his ninth Roland Garros title dropping just two sets.

The Year of the Swiss

Julian Finney/Getty Images

The best moments from the 2014 Davis Cup Final -- SI.com staff



That used to be true, Stan. But not anymore.

Federer has flown the Swiss flag solo throughout his career but after Wawrinka played the biggest year of his career at the youthful age of 29, Federer rebounded from a rough 2013 to return to No. 2, and the pair's efforts to bring home its first Davis Cup title, it was all about Switzerland in 2014.

Li Na wins...then says goodbye

Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

An exclusive interview with Li Na after her retirement announcement
-- Courtney Nguyen

Both felt like inevitabilities. Knocking on the door for a third time, Li seemed destined to finally get her hands on the trophy that had been eluding her at the Australian Open. Then, after taking heavy loss after heavy loss at the French Open and Wimbledon, it was impossible to shake the sense that it was over.

Tennis takes on corruption. Kind of. 

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Tennis' flawed anti-doping program -- Jon Wertheim

2013 was dominated by anti-doping violations. This year saw Marin Cilic come back from his suspension to win the U.S. Open. Viktor Troicki came back from his and rose over 1,000 spots to finish the season at No. 102. While there were no headline grabbing suspensions this year, 2014 was all about match-fixing and courtsiding (betting on the outcome of points or games from courtside in hopes of beating the delayed livescore data). It started at the Australian Open when a British man was arrested for courtsiding (the charges were subsequently withdrawn). Then came allegations of match-fixing against a number of Italian players. Now we're left wondering if the black cloud of gambling interests that hovers over the sport has touched on the higher echelons of the tennis.

Maria Sharapova just would not lose in Paris 

Bob Martin/SI

Sharapova and Halep's final was the best match of the year
-- Courtney Nguyen

We live-blog every Slam final here at SI Tennis, and no final was more fun to live-blog this year than the women's French Open final. The contrast of styles, the chance for Halep to win her first major, the sheer confusion at the prospect of Sharapova winning the French Open more than any other major. There were so many things to keep track of. Oh, and the tennis was great too. 

In the end it was Sharapova roaring through the third set to win, which perfectly encapsulated her fortnight in Paris, where she won four consecutive three set matches -- in three out of the four she dropped the first set -- and simply refused to lose. It may go down as Sharapova's signature Slam run.

Generation Next kept it fresh

Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

Jack Sock reflects on his upset over Kei Nishikori in Shanghai
-- Courtney Nguyen

Both the ATP and WTA's future generations showed promise in 2014. That's not uncommon for the WTA, which has been dealing in youthful talent for years now, but the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Borna Coric and Jack Sock livened things up on the ATP side. 

Read some of our sit-downs with tennis' youthful stars:

Madison Keys, Jack Sock, Belinda Bencic and Naomi Osaka.

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