What better way to finish off our annual top-ten lists than giving out the player awards. 2009 was a hectic and exciting year on and off the court, with records broken and hot hookups, so bare with me as I try to make sense of it all.
Player of the Year (Male): This one's a no-brainer. After Rafael Nadal snatched the number 1 ranking away from him last Summer, Roger Federer came back with a vengeance, winning 3 of the next 4 majors, regaining his number 1 ranking, becoming just the 3rd man ever to complete the French Open-Wimbledon double, and most importantly, breaking Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam championships by beating Andy Roddick at the All-England Club. Off-court, Mr. Federer had a banner year as well, tying the knot with longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec, and having twins, Myla and Charlene.
Player of the Year (Female): Once again, a no-brainer. Serena Williams dominated the competition this year, triumphing at the Australian Open for the 4th time, and beating her sister in the Wimbledon final. She lost to the eventual champion in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros and the semifinals in New York, but she went out with a bang, going a perfect 5-0 at the WTA Championships in Doha, beating her big sister twice, as well as Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki. Off the court, Williams kept her longtime relationship with rapper Common going, while she expanded her fashion brand, continued her charity work, and expressed desire to move into the entertainment industry. Quite obviously, Serena is the ultimate woman.
Newcomer of the Year (Male): Although he has been a threat on the tour in recent years, 21 year-old Marin Cilic really made his mark on the tour in 2009. Winning two titles and massing a 45-20 record, the 6'6 Croatian shocked the world in defeating then number 2 Andy Murray at the US Open, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. He reached at least the 3rd round at every major, and finished the year with a ranking of 14.
Newcomer of the Year (Female): With her incredible runs at Wimbledon and the US Open, Melanie Oudin proved to doubters that the future of American tennis is in good hands. With wins over top players such as Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova, the 18 year old from Marietta, Georgia rose to fame and became a household name. She sits with a ranking of 48 right now, but look for the teeny tiny blonde to continue her ascent.
Grand Slam of the Year: Each major this year brought something different. One was all about ridiculous shotmaking and matches far into the night, while another was all about the upsets. One was implanted into the history books, while the final slam marked the installation of dangerous youngsters. In my opinion, my favorite slam, the Australian Open, was the year's most entertaining. Melbourne seems to always bring the highest level of play, perhaps because every player is fresh as can be heading in. The entertainment level is much higher than the other slams, and the matches seem to always be extremely thrilling. Roland Garros was also very exciting, but there is something about Oz that gets me every time.
Disappointment of the Year: Everyone wants an award, but definitely not this one, and the winner, or should I say loser, is Dinara Safina. The world number 2 was primed for success after 2008, and she ceased to reach the next level. She got obliterated in 2 GS finals, was completely and utterly embarrassed by Venus Williams in the Wimbledon semifinals and was ousted in the US Open 3rd round. She finished the year even worse, becoming the first ever number 1 player to lose twice to someone ranked lower than 180. She then relinquished the top spot to Serena. Hopefully, the pressure will be off in 2010, and the Russian will perform to the level we all know she can.
Best Dresssed: Hands down, Maria Sharapova was the style star of 2009. In a shortened year, she upstaged tennis' other fashionable stars like Serena and Wozzi to cement her status as the WTA's best dressed. From her comeback outfit in Warsaw, to her Navy Paris dress, to her striped ensemble in LA, and finally, her metallic silver and black get-up in New York, Shazza was, by a country mile, the fashionista of 2k9.
WTF of the Year: Most of us would kill to hit 76 aces in a match. Ivo Karlovic, on the other hand, would kill for a decent shot other than his serve. In a Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek, the Croatian fired that many aces, and........lost. Many of you wonder ow that is humanly possible, but it happened. You could look at this with the glass half full and embrace just how good Dr. Ivo's serve is, but I'm sure the majority do not look at this positively. First step to success for Karlovic: Learn how to hit a groundstroke.
Most Improved of the Year: After being a fixture in the top 30 but failing to make a mark, Robin Soderling showed just how dangerous he is in 2009. He shocked the world by beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open and reaching the final, but he continued his stellar tennis throughout the rest of the year as well, reaching the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the Round of 16 in New York. He was 1 spot away from qualifying for the World Tour Finals, but due to Andy Roddick's withdrawal, got a wildcard, beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to reach the semis.
Most Exciting of the Year: With his rowdy fist pumps, electric shotmaking, mind-boggling speed and loud personality, Gael Monfils most definitely brought entertainment to every tennis match he contested this year. He did the slip n' slide on every surface possible, and he ran down every ball, resulting in ridiculously long points. His night match with Rafael Nadal at the US Open was a thriller indeed, and the Frenchman clearly understands how to get a crowd involved.
Drama Queen of the Year: Jelena Jankovic usually wins this category, but she fell short this year. Her "woman problems" at Wimbledon weren't enough to upstage Vera Zvonareva and Serena Williams. Zvonareva went bananas in her night match against Flavia Pennetta at the US Open, smacking and punching herself, hoping somehow she would be able to convert one of her many match points. It didn't work. Neither did sitting on the court, crying, and ripping her leg tape to shreds. Serena on the other hand, went about causing a scene differently. Her New York outburst will surely be remembered as one of the craziest occurrences in tennis history. Other dramatic scenes such as her accusations that Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez cheated at the French Open catapulted the American to co-number 1 on this list.
Tell me what you think, and check back soon for 2010 predictions!