It's not often in the last several years that we've seen someone other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer celebrating a major title -- like Juan Martin del Potro did at the 2009 U.S. Open. (Zumapress)
We've spent much of the last few weeks reviewing 2011, and for good reason. It was a year that brought us streaks and breakthroughs and left us with plenty of questions going into 2012.
So what can we expect for the new tennis year? Can Novak Djokovic continue his amazing form? Will Andy Murray win a Grand Slam title? Can Serena Williams get through a season without some choice words for an officiating crew?
Unfortunately, I have no answers. There are just too many variables in play to answer any questions about 2012 definitively, which is obviously what keeps it exciting. So, while prognostication seems a futile endeavor, what I can tell you is what I hope to see in 2012 and my tennis resolutions for the new year.
2012 Hopes and Wishes
1. Except for Juan Martin del Potro, no one outside the Big Three has won a Grand Slam tournament since
2004 2005. If this trend continues, we're looking at a potential investigation by the Department of Justice into collusion and anti-competitive practices. So for the good of the sport, here's hoping someone other than Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer wins a major. Come on, fellas, let's spread the wealth. Let the little guys play, too.
2. As much as I do love the subsequent fundraising efforts and the comedic hijinks that they entail, please, no more natural disasters that require tennis players to rally together. That includes you, Louis Armstrong Stadium. Unless we discover an untapped oil reserve or a volcano underneath Flushing Meadows, I don't want to see a bubbling tennis court ever again.
3. A healthy Robin Soderling, Venus Williams and Alisa Kleybanova. Tennis is better when you're spoiling things for the rest of the kids. Get well soon.
4. I love a good one-hit wonder as much as the next person, but it'd be nice if at least one of the WTA's three first-time major winners in 2011 -- Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur -- backs it up and grabs her second Slam. Sophomore slumps are just a bummer to watch.
5. Maria Kirilenko commits to her all-court game and shows the WTA that if you are undersized but can find ways to get yourself to the net, you can be a top-10 player.
6. Larry Ellison continues his campaign for Greatest Tournament Owner Of All Time and introduces mixed doubles at Indian Wells. What's the point of making money if you can't spend it, right, Larry?
7. Here's hoping that tennis abandons this nonsense of allowing betting companies to sponsor tournaments. People are going to gamble, and that's their prerogative. But the sport doesn't have to go out of its way to endorse the practice.
8. Less squawking about grunting. Either empower the officials to do something about it or let's move on, accept that it's part of the game and focus on the tennis.
9. The WTA's digital media team did a great job in 2011 with its behind-the-scenes videos, which were cheeky, fun and entertaining. How about if the ATP follows suit and finds creative ways to inject more humor and irreverence into its videos? Fewer trite postmatch interviews, more stupid human tricks!
10. Del Potro has an injury-free year and leads Argentina to its first Davis Cup title. While we're at it, how about an Andrea Petkovic-led Germany, alongside Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges, winning Fed Cup? Let's end the year with some feel-good stories.
And now for my tennis resolutions, where I promise (read: honor when it's convenient for me to do so) to do my part to become a better member of the tennis community.
1. I shall seek context whenever I read a quote from a player or coach that seems derogatory toward another player, uses injury as an excuse for a loss or seems earth-shattering in any way. History tells us that more often than not it's much ado about nothing.
2. Addendum to Resolution No. 1: This shall not apply to Serena Williams, whose quotes are rarely helped or hurt by context. They're just wacky and entertaining no matter how you slice it and we should just accept them as such. Who else can seamlessly work Justin Bieber, Chipotle and a Hello Kitty backpack into a press conference?
3. I will not include a player's Twitter handle in any tweet that constitutes a scoreline ("Hey look! Here's the score from that match you just played! You lost!"), a written piece criticizing him or her ("Hey! Read this amazing article I wrote about how you're unfit and lacking passion these days!") or a story heaping praise ("Hey! You're an amazing sportsperson and super classy and I wanted everyone in the world to know that I told you that!").
4. I will remember how astonishing Djokovic's 2011 run was whenever I sit down to write about his potential (inevitable?) return to earth.
5. Unless they raise the topic themselves, I will not engage in any retirement speculation regarding anyone whose name contains the letter "R."
6. I will not harp on the fact that Arthur Ashe Stadium needs a roof. Of course it does. We all know that and it's never going to happen. So let's move on and just appreciate all the chaos the lack of a roof brings every year.
7. I will not try to make it too obvious that the French Open was my least-favorite Slam to attend as a fan last year. I tend to talk about it a lot. Similarly, I will do my best not to talk your ear off about how awesome Wimbledon was. Like I said, I will try. But they were.
8. I will cut Caroline Wozniacki some slack, even if she does seem to insist on parading her boyfriend around like a the Grand Slam trophy she has yet to win. (Doh! Broke that one.)
9. I will not be shocked if Federer wins another Slam or two and I will laugh heartily at anyone who is.
10. I will post fewer videos of Gael Monfils in hopes that he dials down the unnecessary acrobatics and actually starts exploiting his talent to finally stay in the top 10 consistently.
Sure, resolutions are made to be broken, but you can't fault me for making an attempt, even if futile, to become a better tennis fan and blogger. So raise your glasses of sparkling apple cider and let's clink to ring in a new year of this exciting and unpredictable sport. Now, let's get down to business.