17
Nov
10

The best of 2010?

Columnist Mark Staniforth dishes out the gongs to those who have impressed most over the course of a topsy-turvy 2010:

MEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR: RAFAEL NADAL

Nadal’s hat-trick of grand slam titles left him head and shoulders above the rest – and when the rest includes Roger Federer, that is quite an awesome achievement. Nadal dominated the European clay-court season heading into Roland Garros where he seized revenge over Robin Soderling in dramatic fashion. Wimbledon was a breeze, and by the time he triumphed at Flushing Meadows, Nadal seemed nigh on invincible.

WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR: VERA ZVONAREVA

Caroline Wozniacki may have ended the year at number one but her failure to reach a grand slam final spoke volumes for her inability to wrest control of a women’s game minus the injury-stricken Serena Williams. By contrast, Russian Vera Zvonareva reached two. She may have lost both times, but the immensely likeable 26-year-old showed plenty of fighting qualities the women’s game generally still sadly lacks.

BEST MEN’S MATCH

Another no-brainer: tennis will never see another match quite like John Isner’s Wimbledon clash with Nicolas Mahut, which lasted 11 hours and five minutes spread over three days, and consisted of 183 games, after the last of which Isner earned victory 6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6 70-68. Straight after the match, both players were presented with crystal bowls to commemorate their achievements.

BEST WOMEN’S MATCH

The returning Justine Henin was involved in some mini-epics at the start of the year but for sheer drama it was hard to beat Sam Stosur’s French Open quarter-final win over world number one Serena Williams. Stosur recovered from match point down at 5-4 in the deciding set and kept her nerve to serve out for an 8-6. Stosur went on to the final, where she lost to Francesca Schiavone.

BEST MEN’S PROSPECT: GRIGOR DIMITROV

In many respects it was the year that wasn’t, as none of the likes of Marin Cilic, Ernests Gulbis, John Isner or even Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych quite managed to muscle into top-level contention. Lower down the scale, former junior star Grigor Dimitrov continued to make promising progress, winning three successive summer Challengers and finishing the year ranked 114.

BEST WOMEN’S PROSPECT: PETRA KVITOVA

Petra Kvitova’s swashbuckling run to the Wimbledon semi-finals – beating the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki before pushing Serena Williams in a memorable first set – marked her out as a star of the future. Her post-Wimbledon form was not up to much, but third-round runs at Flushing Meadows and in Beijing suggest the 20-year-old has the stomach to shine on the big occasions.


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