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Nothing but Nadal in 2010

No room for dispute, 2010 was a banner year for Rafael Nadal.  The Spaniard captured three majors, regained the world number one ranking and completed the career grand slam.  As such, Nadal’s domination left no ambiguity as to who was the most outstanding player in 2010.  With the year at a close, here’s a snapshot of the stories which caught the headlines this foregone season.

After a slow start, Nadal found his footing on clay with his first calendar title at the Monte-Carlo Masters.  Subsequent to banking titles at the Masters in Rome and Madrid, Nadal culminated his clay campaign with his fifth big prize at Roland Garros.  At Wimbledon, the Spaniard defended his 2008 title to seize his second major at the All England Club.  Finally, at U.S. Open, with troublesome obstacles removed from his half of the draw,  Nadal reached his first final in New York.  Nadal stared down a strong challenge from Novak Djokovic to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy.  With a total of seven titles, Nadal topped his peers in 2010.

For Roger Federer, this year was a mixed bag.  After grabbing his sixteenth major in Australia, Federer had a fourth round loss at the Sony Ericsson Open to Tomas Berdych which sent him into a tailspin.  As defending champion at the French Open, Federer was beaten in the quarterfinals by Robin Soderling which ended an unprecedented streak of twenty-three consecutive semifinals at the majors.  Furthermore, defending champ Federer was ousted in the quarterfinals by Berdych at Wimbledon.  In fact, Federer’s ranking dropped to number three, his lowest since November 2003.  Yet, with his second title of the season at the Cincinnati Masters, Federer seemed again on the right road.  However, Federer failed to take advantage of match points in the U.S. Open semifinals against Djokovic and went down in flames.  After the New York fiasco, Federer resurfaced with a fresh coach, Paul Annacone, and won three of four finals including the ATP World Tour finals where he toppled Nadal.

The Australian Open appeared a turning point for Andy Murray.  Easily handled in the final by Federer, Murray could do nothing right with the racket for a while. Eventually at Wimbledon, Murray advanced to the semifinals only to be disappointed by Nadal.  With the defense of his title at the Rogers Cup, Murray seemed to be back.  But, another setback occurred at the U.S. Open where Murray was stunned in the third round by Stanislas Wawrinka.  In besting Federer in the Shanghai Masters final, Murray looked to be heading for a strong finish.  Yet, at the ATP World Tour Finals, Murray took another  downturn.  This was emblematic of the Scot’s tumultuous year which included a rupture with coach Miles Maclagan, a brief ceding of the world number four spot to Soderling and only two titles.

With solely two titles and a U.S. Open final appearance, Djokovic had a so-so year.  The Serb even ascended to number two for a bit, but finished at number three.  While individual success was sparse, Djokovic led his country to its first Davis Cup title.  Along with countryman Viktor Troicki, Djokovic mounted a brilliant comeback to stop France from a tenth trophy.

For the second consecutive year, Soderling earned a place in the final at Roland Garros.  Last year, by shocking Nadal in the round of 16, Soderling stamped his name into tennis trivia.  This time around though there was no surprise as Nadal exacted sweet revenge.  In the Paris Masters final, Soderling vanquished Gael Monfils for his biggest career title.  A few weeks later, Soderling announced that coach Magnus Norman and he were splitting up because the former wanted to dedicate more time to his family.  Thus, it will be interesting to see how Soderling will fare without the man who spearheaded his rise.

Despite no titles, 2010 was a breakthrough season for Berdych.  After a finalist showing at the Sony Ericsson Open, Berdych made it to the semifinals at Roland Garros.  Moreover, Berdych booked his first slot in the final of a major at Wimbledon.  Consequently feeling the weight of expectation, Berdych crashed in the first round at the U.S. Open and had a mediocre finish to his season.  With his highest career ranking at number six, Berdych will have to prove in 2011 that he was not a flash in the pants but the real deal.

At 28, David Ferrer, a former world number four, shot up from a ranking of 17 at season’s start to number 7 at year’s end.  The hardworking Spaniard claimed two titles and participated in the year ending championships in London.  Although compatriot Fernando Verdasco also terminated the season with two titles and as the world number nine, he missed out on the final dance.  Furthermore, unlike 2009, Verdasco performed poorly at the majors with a single quarterfinal showing at the U.S. Open.

With his triumph at the Sony Ericsson Open, Andy Roddick seemed to put all the elements together for a push to another final at a major.  But Roddick hit a low following a gut wrenching loss to Yen-Hsun Lu ranked 82nd in the Wimbledon round of 16.  Later, Roddick had an early departure in Washington.  As a result, for the first time since 1973, no American male was ranked in the top ten in singles.  Shortly thereafter, tests revealed Roddick was on the tail end of a bout of mononucleosis.  At the ATP World Tour Finals, Roddick was a shell of what he had been when the season began.

Several other veterans stood up in 2010.  Mikhail Youzhny demonstrated he still had game at the age of 28 with two titles.  The Russian was a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open and ended the year as the world number ten.  At 29, Jurgen Melzer reached his first career major semifinal at Roland Garros and had his best ranking at eleven.  Besides, Melzer and Philipp Petzschener won their first doubles major at Wimbledon.  Following hip surgery, with a title at the Legg Mason Classic, David Nalbandian proved once again he was a force.  Michael Llodra equaled his career high ranking of 23 and was essential to France’s run to the final of the Davis Cup.  In the final at Indian Wells, 31 year old Ivan Ljubicic upended Roddick for his tenth and loftiest career prize.

As a result of a wrist injury in the early months, Juan Martin Del Potro went from a potent threat to Nadal and Federer to being unable to defend his U.S. Open title.  After the Australian Open, Del Potro had surgery and needed months to recuperate.  Del Potro returned in October and played just two tournaments with prompt exits.  Thus, Del Potro the world number four last year finds his ranking in the cellar at 258 this month.

At Wimbledon, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut made history with the longest match ever.  In a first round match lasting 11 hours and 5 minutes over two days, Isner emerged as the winner edging Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set.  However, the next round, Isner was drained and went away in straight sets.

Carlos Moya, the 1998 French Open champion and former world number one, succumbed to age and a body which would not cooperate despite his desire to continue.  This November, Moya retired at 34 after winning twenty titles.

In doubles, Mike and Bob Bryan dominated with an unblemished record in finals at 11 including the Australian and U. S. Open titles.  Also, the two became the winningest team in doubles surpassing the previous mark set by Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde at 61. In addition, the Bryan brothers finished at number one ahead of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic.  Despite seven titles, amongst them the French Open and the ATP World Tour Finals, Zimonjic and Nestor decided to part ways at season’s end.

In conclusion, with the 2011 season just around the corner, there are a horde of interesting questions on fanatics’ mind.  Can Nadal accomplish the calendar grand slam?  Will Federer win another major or will 16 be all he wrote?  Moreover, can Federer wrestle the number one ranking from his nemesis?  Will Murray terminate the British drought at the majors?  Who will be the breakout star of this new season ?  Will Del Potro be healthy again and climb back to where he was in 2009?  With the Australian Open less than three weeks away, some of these answers will be come soon enough.

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