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: 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 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.