Jon Wertheim hands out his 2015 awards and answers readers questions in his weekly Mailbag.
Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at email@example.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.
Unfortunately Steve Harvey was not able to make it as our emcee, as he is serving an ITF suspension and is banned indefinitely from hosting awards shows. So we have to do this ourselves. And without a teleprompter. A shout-out, though, to Nick Kyrgios. He was kind enough to perform the sound check and he’s made sure all the microphones are live.
Shall we begin? Because "tennis off-season" might be the biggest oxymoron this side of "anxious patient"—apparently the off-season falls on a Wednesday this year—we have only a few hours to squeeze in these 2015 honors.
First the cut and paste from years past: Before dispensing gifts to our winners, a detour into sappiness. If you get half as much pleasure—the guilty variety, to be sure—from reading this column as I get from writing it, we're all doing pretty well. Your questions and observations are reliably, thoughtful and informed and passionate, and please know that every last one—even the ones wishing me incurable athlete's foot—are read. Think of this as a sincere invitation to belly up to the bar in 2016 and we'll do it again. And we make a resolution to try and continue the podcasts as well.
Enough yakking: the votes have been certified by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Jack Valenti.
Ms. Colombia, the envelopes, please...
Men’s Player of the Year
Three Slams, the bell-to-bell top ranking, a winning percentage north of .900. Not even a discussion. Mirroring his season, it’s Novak Djokovic, all one-way traffic.
Women’s Player of the Year
Three Slams, the bell-to-bell top ranking, a winning percentage north of .900. Not even a discussion. Serena Williams, come on up.
Women's Breakthrough Player of the Year
We’ll go with Belinda Bencic, the new Swiss Miss who may be only 18, but whose ranking (No. 14) is even lower. She won a pair of titles and 41 matches this year, none bigger than a takedown of Serena Williams.
Men's Breakthrough Player of the Year
In this top-heavy era, it’s hard to get noticed. But keep an eye on Hyeon Chung, a bespectacled Korean who finished a spot away from the top 50.
Women’s Comeback Player of the Year
After years of compromised performance on account of her autoimmune illness, Venus Williams is healthy and, deep into her 30s, finished the year at No. 7. Ironically, Martina Hingis—Venus’ rival from the 1990s and now the world’s top doubles player—was our second choice. Another contemporary, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, would be our third choice. Adult coloring books for all!
Men’s Comeback Player of the Year
Benoit Paire was looking like another player whose results would never catch up with his potential. Injuries and indifference were undermining his progress. He lost in the first round of qualifying at the 2015 Australian Open. While the ATP swung through Indian Wells, where was Paire? He was playing Challengers in Europe. But as the year progressed, so did his self-belief. He beat Fabio Fognini at the French Open with an artistic display of tennis. He won early and often in the summer. In the fall, he beat Kei Nishikori (in Tokyo no less), reached two finals and finished the year ranked…No. 19.
Men’s Rookie of the Year
It’s never clear where to draw these lines, since there aren’t clear cut rookie seasons in tennis. But Alexander Zverev, 18, made a graceful transition from the juniors to the pros and is the youngest player ranked in the Top 100.
Women’s Rookie of the Year
Daria Kasatkina: The best player you’ve never heard of. But you will. The 17-year-old is ranked No. 75. And rising.
Men's Disappointment of the Year
Grigor Dimitrov. Expectation is continuing to trounce achievement. Current ranking: 28.
Women's Disappointment of the Year
There are skids and slides and slumps. And then there is what Eugenie Bouchard endured in 2015. A top five player in the fall of 2014, she is now ranked No. 48. With any luck, she will recover from her head injury and start 2016 as if the last 12 months were simply a bad dream.
Men's Upset of the Year
Novak Djokovic d. Rafael Nadal, 7–5, 6–3, 6–1, French Open quarterfinal. Not for the result, but the scoreline. It’s not often the No. 1 in the world is the perpetrator, not the victim, of the upset. It was jarring—and, for all intents, unprecedented—to see the King of Clay beaten so badly at Roland Garros. (Ironically Dustin Brown d. Nadal at Wimbledon was our second choice.)
Women’s Upset of the Year
Not even wasting the pixels.
Camila Giorgi beating Aga Radwanska at Radwanska’s home event in Katowice. Roberta Vinci d. Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals, perhaps the most momentous upset in tennis history.
Men’s Shot of the Year
We liked Yoshihito Nishioka when he heard he was 5'8". We like him more after this.
Women’s Shot of the Year
Not a great year for Ana Ivanovic, but give her props for this.
Men's Match of the Year
Stan Wawrinka defeating Novak Djokovic in the French Open final, 4–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4. There are few more beautiful scenes in sports than a tennis player zoning.
Women's Match of the Year
Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza storming back from 5-2 down in the final set to win the Wimbledon doubles final 5–7, 7–6(4), 7–5 victory over Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. A great match amid a greater atmosphere. And if you think they weren’t pleased, read this.
Men's Doubles Team of the Year
Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer. Strange transition year for doubles. Be interested to see the if Bryan Brothers—who failed to win a major for the first time in more than a decade—can rebound.
Women's Doubles Team of the Year
Hingis and Mirza. Threatening to achieve Serena/Djokovic levels of dominance.
Men's Memorable Moment of the Year
Djokovic is, understandably, crestfallen to have failed in his career-long quest to win in Paris, the lone major to elude him. Then this:
Women's Memorable Moment of the Year
Apart from the Slams, Serena Williams’s year was burnished by personal growth. Never more so than when she returned to Indian Wells. The crowd reaction?
But otherwise how was your day? Award
Arina Rodionova won a qualifying match on the same day….as her wedding.
Men’s Regrettable Moment of the Year
For the first half of the year Nick Kyrgios smudged the line between cocky and confident, color and off-color.
Then came this: [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9M3iKwKzHM]
Women’s Regrettable Moment of the Year
Women's Social Media Post of the Year
Nicole Gibbs, may have lost lots of matches, but she wins this:
Men's Social Media Post of the Year
Roger Federer and his day off. Somewhere twins cover their faces and say, “Dad, your love of emojis is embarrassing us.”
So Long, Farewell
The U.S. Open Grandstand Court, Stacy Allaster, Francesco Ricci Bitti, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, Jarkko Nieminen, BBC in Australia, Lleyton Hewitt, Mike Russell, Lisa Raymond, Flavia Pennetta, Patricia Mayr, ESPN at the French Open, Vince Cicero, Lagardere Tennis division as we know it, Grantland’s tennis coverage.
Men's Quote of the Year
We nominate Ernests Gulbis, a second-round loser to Nicolas Mahut:
Q. Specifically what would you do before meeting Nicolas?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I will sleep and I will eat specifically.
Runner-up: This exchange following Tomas Berdych losing in the fourth round of Wimbledon:
Q. How do you feel after that match? Do you feel in good shape going into the quarterfinals?
Berdych: Sorry? Excuse me?
Q. Do you feel your form is good going into the quarterfinals?
The moderator: He lost.
Berdych: Does he know right, or is he trying to make fun of me?
Q. No. Sorry, sorry.
Women's Quote of the Year
Venus Williams, on her sister:
What Happens When You Assume Award