Tennis review of 2012
A look back at how the tennis year of 2012 unfolded, with Andy Murray winning the first major of his career.
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The 2012 tennis season proved to be a breakthrough campaign for Andy Murray, who ended Great Britain's 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion with a famous victory in New York, as well as winning Olympic gold.
There was also British success on the women's side with Heather Watson becoming GB's first WTA singles champion for almost a quarter-of-a-century when triumphing at the Japan Open in October.
Plenty of household names also shone during the calendar year, with the 'Big Four' in the men's game reinforcing their dominance over the rest of the field by dividing all four majors between them, although David Ferrer staked a serious claim for player of the year by grabbing seven ATP titles.
Novak Djokovic started and ended the year in style, picking up where he left off in 2011 with Grand Slam success in Melbourne and retaining his No.1 ranking for the second successive year with victory at the ATP World Tour Finals in November.
Djokovic and Nadal contested an epic Australian Open final at Melbourne Park lasting almost six hours - the longest in Grand Slam history - before the Serb prevailed for his fifth major title. The performance and on-court celebration which followed from the Serb was truly herculean.
At the same venue 24 hours earlier, Victoria Azarenka claimed the women's number one ranking after a stunning 6-3 6-0 demolition of Maria Sharapova. The Belarussian's 26-0 start to a WTA season was the best since Martina Hingis in 1997.
The clay-court swing followed a similar pattern to previous years on the men's side with Nadal ruling in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome and then the French Open to claim a record-breaking seventh title at Roland Garros, ending a seven-match losing streak against Djokovic in the process. The undisputed 'King of Clay' continues to rule on the red dirt.
There was a new name on the women's trophy, though, as Sharapova ended Sara Errani's dream run to become the 10th female to claim the career Grand Slam. It was to be the Russian's third and final title of the year, although she did add an Olympic silver medal to her trophy cabinet at Wimbledon.
Talking of Wimbledon, the hallowed turf hosted yet another famous Federer triumph in July. The Swiss maestro reduced home favourite Murray to tears after battling back from a set down to win their final 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4.
The win was a record-equalling seventh for Federer at the All England Club and put him atop the world rankings for the first time since 2010. Murray was to get his revenge, though, dropping just seven games to stun the Swiss in the Olympic final the following month.
Serena Williams began a sensational end to the season at Wimbledon, downing Azarenka in finals at SW19 and Flushing Meadows and Sharapova in the Olympic showpiece in between as she won 26 of her last 27 matches. Her heroics lifted spirits in her native America following Andy Roddick's retirement and a serious illness to Mardy Fish.
But it was Murray's magical moment in the Big Apple which stole the year for British fans in late September. His stunning 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 victory over Djokovic on Arthur Ashe sparked wild celebrations in his native Scotland and finally confirmed his destiny as a Grand Slam champion.
Murray's major breakthrough
Just when some started to doubt whether he would ever win a Grand Slam, the Scot finally produced the goods in the most dramatic of fashions in New York. Having led by two sets to love, Murray looked like he was set to become the latest victim of another Djokovic comeback as the world number one took the match to a deciding set. However, the British No 1 rallied back and broke twice before serving out the match and slipping into an incomprehensible daze, clearly unable to grasp the magnitude of the moment.
As if the entertainment of two sensational semi-finals was not enough, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal treated the crowd at the Australian Open to the longest Grand Slam final of all-time, clocking in at five hours and 53 minutes. World number one Djokovic, whose clash with Andy Murray in the semis finished just shy of five hours, eventually prevailed 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5, to claim his third successive major title and his fifth in total. It was a super-human effort to back up a sensational 2011, cementing his status as the game's leading player. For Nadal, it was a remarkable achievement just to be competing in the final, having feared he would have to pull out of the event the night before his first-round match due to a freak knee problem.
Murray's golden moment
Just a matter of weeks after his devastating defeat in the Wimbledon final, Murray was presented with the chance of revenge against Federer. With the support of a nation engulfed in Olympic fever behind him, Murray produced two of his best performances of the year to oust Djokovic in the semis and then dismantle Federer back on Centre Court. Having endured barren spells on the back of his previous Grand Slam final losses, the victory was evidence of a new mental fortitude. With Flushing Meadows on the horizon, Murray was armed with a new-found confidence that would prove to be invaluable.
Royal farce at Queen's
In the most bizarre moment of the year, David Nalbandian was disqualified from the final of the AEGON Championships at Queen's after injuring line-judge Andrew MacDougall by kicking an advertising board into his leg. The Argentinian was leading 7-6 (7-3) 3-4 before frustrations got the better of him after hopelessly chasing down a Marin Cilic winner. The incident left the line-judge in question with a bleeding shin and resulted in Croat Cilic being awarded the title. Nalbandian was consequently fined £6,400 by the ATP and had his £36,500 prize money withdrawn after being deemed guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct. Has apologised afterwards, saying: "I am very sorry, sometimes you get frustrated."
Undoubtedly the biggest upset of the season and one of the greatest in Wimbledon's history unfolded when unknown Lukas Rosol ousted two-time former champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic. The 100th-ranked Czech produced the sort of power and precision necessary to penetrate the Spaniard's infamous defensive game, making the watching world sit up in amazement. Nadal appeared to have turned the tide when he took the fourth set 6-2, but Rosol responded with an irrepressible display in the decider to dump out the second seed. The defeat prompted serious questions over Nadal's form and fitness, with fears over his long-running knee problems realised as he missed the remainder of the season amid a series of setbacks.
Federer - 'The greatest'
If questions still remained over Roger Federer's status as the greatest player ever to grace the game, they were answered with a seventh Wimbledon title in July. Already the record Grand Slam titles holder, the Swiss sensation levelled Pete Sampras' tally at SW19, coming from a set down to deliver Andy Murray another dose of major final heartbreak. The triumph also saw Federer regain the world number one spot, enabling him to usurp another Sampras record of spending the most weeks as number one. It was all the more remarkable that Federer delivered such a display at just shy of 31-years-old, beating two of his great rivals, Djokovic and Murray, in their prime.
David Ferrer's remarkable 2012 was capped with a ATP-high seventh title, ending his long wait for a Masters crown by triumphing in Paris. It was a crowning glory to the Spaniard's best-ever year, in which he was the only player to win titles on grass, hard-court and traditional red clay, even more impressive given he hit the seemingly dreaded 30 mark back in April. The success cemented Ferrer's status at the head of the chasing pack of the 'Big Four' and left him in a position where he could have actually overtaken compatriot Rafael Nadal in the rankings at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Watson ends barren British run
Fellow Brit Laura Robson may be considered the breakthrough act of 2012 but it was Heather Watson who managed to end Britain's 24-year wait for a first WTA singles title. The HP Open in Japan may not be the most high-profile of tournaments but winning it was enough to erase Sara Gomer's name from the history books. Watson managed the success in the most dramatic of circumstances, saving four match points before finally clinching victory in her final tournament of the year. It leaves us with an intriguing rivalry to look forward to in 2013 with Watson and Robson restoring the reputation of women's British tennis, with the former currently sitting four places higher in the rankings.
Roddick says goodbye
When Andy Roddick called a surprise press conference ahead of his US Open second-round clash with Bernard Tomic, most expected him to be pulling out due to another injury. Some even suspected that it would be another prank on the press, with suggestions he was just going to be presented with a cake to celebrate his 30th birthday. However, Roddick confirmed that he was calling time on his decorated career at the end of his run at Flushing Meadows, which was to be a fourth-round defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro. The big-serving American won ATP singles titles in 12 successive seasons, with 2003 the peak of his career when he reached world number one after winning the US Open, his only Grand Slam title.
Robson retires Clijsters
Questions over whether Laura Robson would ever realise her potential were answered with one of the biggest women's upsets of the year. Them 2008 Wimbledon girls' singles winner was supposed to play sub-plot to Clijsters' final fling at a tournament she had won in her three previous appearances. The combination of the Brit's blistering forehand, rock-solid backhand and stunning return game proved too much for Clijsters. The 18-year-old showed that it was no fluke as she then beat another Grand Slam winner, Li Na, in the third round, before running reigning champion Samantha Stosur close.