Tuesday December 27th, 2011

We continue recapping the most memorable moments, good and bad, from each month in 2011. January and February were still about figuring out what the year was going to bring. March saw a rattled Andy Murray, April produced Fed Cup drama and in May, Novak Djokovic thumped Rafael Nadal on clay … twice.  Nadal finally restored order on the red clay of Roland Garros in June, while July produced two first-time Wimbledon winners and the triumphant return of Serena Williams. The U.S. Open Series wrapped in August before an eventful U.S. Open in September, and Petra Kvitova capped her year in style in October. As the year dwindled, November was all about a forgotten guy named Roger Federer. The final month of the year is all about rest, recuperation and a whole lot of dancing. Since there's no tennis being played, we'll pull it back to five memorable moments. So without further adieu, the final installment of our monthly recaps:

BTB's Memorable Moments From December

5. Tennis Channel wins: For some fans, Tennis Channel's landmark victory against Comcast didn't feel like much of a big deal. Unfortunately, the die-hards are used to live matches being regularly unavailable on TV and have grown accustomed to tuning in to shoddy online live streams. But the casual fans are turned away from the game by the lack of easy access to match coverage.

This ruling, which is pending appeal, stands to change all that and grow the game in the United States with upwards of 50 million homes potentially receiving Tennis Channel. That's good news for the fans who were unable to get the service before, and also means millions of people who may otherwise never have been regularly exposed to the game will now click past it as they scroll their channels. Here's hoping the additional exposure will grow the sport of tennis.

And without the Tennis Channel, we wouldn't have the Bag Check series:

*****

4. Safin elected to Russian Parliament: It's not every day that a man who is known for repeatedly making controversial public statements and getting caught with his pants down gets elected to public office. Actually, that happens all the time. But this time it was Marat Safin, and somehow, that made it all OK.

3. Exo-palooza: If you can't stand tennis exhibition hijinks, then December was not a fun month for you. From Caroline Wozniacki's odd Serena Williams impersonation, to Kim Clijsters' half-hearted Serena Williams impersonation, to a whole lot of dancing by anyone and everyone capable of holding a tennis racket, December's numerous exhibitions definitely gave us a lot to digest.

*****

2. Margaret Court: If Court's anti-gay comments made one thing clear, it's that people really don't have a strong grasp on the concept of "freedom of speech." No government is attempting to silence or censor Court. She absolutely has the right and freedom to say whatever she wants publicly. But freedom of speech doesn't mean you get to say whatever you want without repercussion or public reprimand.

Court's comments -- she used her status as both a celebrity sports figure and religious authority to give an interview with an Australian paper encouraging Australians to vote against legalizing gay marriage -- were quickly criticized by Billie Jean King and Martina Navritilova, and the WTA put out a statement distancing itself from Court. Fans and commentators have quickly followed suit. Op-ed pieces appeared on TennisChannel.com and Tennis.com. Pundits such as SI.com's Jon Wertheim and ESPN's Brad Gilbert joined in the public criticism. A grassroots movement encouraged people to awash Margaret Court Arena with rainbows when the Australian Open kicks off in less than month.

It's hard to put into words how vehemently I disagree with Court's comments, which are rooted in hatred, celebrate inequality and encourage the denial of rights to a segment of society that has done nothing wrong other than to live their lives in a way that Court finds unappealing.

Again, Court has every right to say what she thinks. And those who disagree with her have every right (and responsibility) to denounce her.

1. The Spanish Armada conquers again: Amid a sea of tears flowing from an exhausted and shattered Juan Martin del Potro, Spain won its third Davis Cup title in four years, thanks to the the clay-court strength of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. Both overcame a spirited charge from Argentina's Del Potro, with Ferrer's 6-2, 6-7 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory on the tie's first day in Seville giving Spain a 2-0 lead heading into the weekend. Two days later, Nadal, who demolished Juan Monaco in his first match, clinched Spain's fifth title overall by rallying past Del Potro 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (0).

***** What'd we miss from December? Give us your favorite moments in the comments and we'll compile a readers' edition.

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